Saturday, June 2, 2012

Justice for All

This quarter we will begin to look at a portion of “the Book of the Covenant” (see Ex 20:22-23:33) which follows “The Ten Commandments” (Ex 20:1-17). It is the oldest existing record of Jewish law and one of the distinct group of laws in the Pentateuch. Our lesson concentrates on Ex 23:1-9. These justice directives of God are available to all.
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment: “ (Ex 23:1-2) These are prohibitions given by God as part of the justice system. We must tell the truth. See the ninth commandment, Ex 20:16, which forbids damaging the character of another person by making statements which are not true. If a false report is spread it could damage a person’s reputation, cause divisions in the communities, and cause innocent persons to be indicted. We are also warned against becoming an accomplice for the wicked. God does not reward the wicked. If you hang with the crowd, even if it is just in thinking, do not allow them to persuade your beliefs towards evil (unrighteousness). If you are the only one in the crowd, you must speak for God.
“Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause. “(Ex 23: 3) There must not be automatic favoritism in the legal system for either the poor or rich. We must have blind justice administered with grace and mercy to all. John 1:14
“If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.”(Ex 23:4-5) Have compassion for people. In the Jewish community, the oxen and donkey was very valuable. If it strayed, you would bring it back to him even though he belonged to your enemy. If the person is trapped under that animal who is fallen from a heavy load, the just person is obligated to assist the person from under the animal. These are God’s laws. You can liken these situations to similar facts today. If you witnesses anyone, even your enemy, trapped under a car or in a burning building, you have an obligation to assist in some manner. God would not allow you to ignore the situation because the person was an enemy.
“Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. “ (Ex 23:6-7) The poor shall be allowed due process in their lawsuits. It would be corrupt to put the poor and vulnerable at a great disadvantage to fight their cause. They are given public defenders in today’s society and yet, many times, they are still left at a great disadvantage due to the great number of cases in the public defender's office. Many times it appears as if the case load is too heavy and must be reduced. There may be an innocent person caught up in the haste of the system. And God’s law is that you shall not slay an innocent person. Are they higher than God?
“And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.” (Ex 23:8) Another major Jewish law was the prohibition of taking bribes. Bribes are defined as gifts. “thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.” (Deut 16:19) Judges, administrators, legislators simply look the other way, misinterpret the law, forget evidence, do not allow evidence to be heard in cases, etc. when they take bribe. Do they not know that God is watching and He does not take bribes?
“Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 23:9) God hears the cries of the oppressed and the Israelites were strangers in Egypt. They were under bondage for 400 years and could relate to this prohibition. Likewise, any nationality that has been oppressed would understand God’s prohibition by His people to oppress and discriminate.
Although we are taught that God forbids treating others in an unfair manner, our society is plagued with masked injustice, pleasing one faction then another. God is NOT pleased with our favoritisms, divisions, and lies.
Written by Deborah C Davis

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