Rev. Ronald C. Purkey, an ordained Baptist minister, claims no originality for this Bible study outline.
However, every Bible study posted on this website has been taught by Rev. Purkey.
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January 23, 2022
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:8-13
KEY VERSE: “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.” (Deuteronomy 16:18)
INTRODUCTION: Becoming a judge is a demanding, rigorous and expensive process.
1. The process includes specialized, post-graduate education at an accredited law school to earn a JD (juris doctor) degree, passing a state bar exam, completing a judicial clerkship, and practicing law by prosecuting and/or defending cases in court. Only at that point does a person stand a chance of being appointed or elected to the bench. The entire process often takes decades. The education, training, and experience a potential judge receives during years of preparation provide the necessary foundation needed to render good and right judgments based on laws.
2. But becoming a judge in the Old Testament in Israel was radically different from the process required today. But a necessary element for continuing as a judge remains the same as it did some 35 centuries ago -- a key issue in this week’s Bible study.
3. Remember that the civil and religious Laws of Israel are God’s helpful principles to govern mankind and society (see Deuteronomy 27:1-26:19). In Deuteronomy chapters 16, 17, and 18 we come to a section which deals with the regulations that would control a priest, and a prophet, and a king. These were the three main offices in the nation of Israel, in the theocracy which God had set up for these people. God laid down rules for each of these offices.
I. GENERAL GOALS: Regulations For Judges. (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)
INSIGHT: Deuteronomy chapter 16 concludes with commandments regarding judges.
(Deuteronomy 16:18) “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.”
1. The judges and officials were to be appointed from each of the tribes in all the towns the Lord God had given them. They were to judge the people fairly.
2. The courthouse in that day was not a building in the center of town or even in a courthouse square. Instead of being in the center of town, it was at the edge of town, at the gate in the wall around the city. The reason for that was that it was the place where all the citizens entered or left the city. It was the gathering place, just as the square is the gathering place in some of our little towns.
3. Knowing the human heart as God does, He warns against distorting justice, about respect of persons, and about accepting a bribe.
INSIGHT: The judges were to never twist justice or show partiality. They were never to accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly. They were to let true justice prevail, so that they might live and occupy the land that the Lord God would give them.
(Deuteronomy 16:19-20) “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”
4. Biblical Israel was a theocracy, meaning that the country had a form of government in which God served as the nation’s King. This meant that the nation’s civil leaders, its judges and officials, were charged with judging the people with righteous judgment (Deuteronomy 16:18) -- just as the Lord would.
5. As a nation in covenant with God, Israel was accountable to the law of Moses, the statutes and commands that God had given the people through his servant Moses. To break God’s holy requirements by, for example, accepting a bribe to pervert justice could cause Israel to forfeit the land God was giving them (Deuteronomy 16:19-20). God’s leaders -- those of yesterday and today -- are not to pursue selfish gain but to pursue….justice alone.
(Deuteronomy 16:21–22) “You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for yourself to the LORD your God. 22 You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the LORD your God hates.”
6. A grove was connected with idolatry and with sinful worship in that day. That was the reason they were not to make groves. It was in those groves that the altars and images and idols were made to heathen and pagan gods. You can see that this is very close to the worship of the Druids in Europe. Paganism goes in for that type of thing, and God is warning His people against it. Anything or any person we put in place of the God of the Bible is an idol.
7. The theocratic nature of Israel’s government is clearly seen in these verses. Moses suddenly seemed to change subjects from the duties of judges to forbidden forms of worship. But the two topics were intricately related because in Israel, even the civil rulers were responsible for guarding the nation’s purity of worship and punishing offenders. Moses put the leaders on alert to watch for violations of true worship (see Deuteronomy 16:21–17:1).
INSIGHT: Israel was the only theocracy ever ordained by God. And as much as some believers might wish it were so in the U.S.A., this country is not a theocracy. More importantly, our kingdom calling as the church is not to make it so. Nevertheless, we can (and should) call our civil leaders to account based on the righteous standards of God’s Word. If they refuse to acknowledge the objective standards of justice and righteousness set by the Creator, we can seek to replace them with leaders who will.
Getting It Right On The Inside
By Joe Stowell,
INSIGHT: We all have to get our hearts right with God and with others. Simply put, we need to get it right on the inside!
1. I love the story of Jonah! It’s full of drama and important life lessons. After stubbornly refusing to do God’s will, Jonah finally preached a revival service in Nineveh that would have made him one of the most successful missionaries of his time. When the people repented and turned from their wicked ways -- and when God relented and turned from His anger against them -- you would have expected Jonah to rejoice. Instead, he was angry that God was merciful. Why? Although he was finally obeying God by doing the right thing in the right place, he was deeply flawed on the inside.
2. Like Jonah, if we are not careful, we can be spiritually “looking good” on the outside, but far from God in our hearts. He is most interested in what we are like on the inside. His Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12). With it, He performs divine surgery to remove the greed, dishonesty, hatred, pride, and selfishness that live in the deep shadows of our hearts.
3. So the next time the Holy Spirit convicts you and asks you about your bad attitude (see Jonah 4:4) -- listen carefully. Surrender and let Him change you from the inside out. – Joe Stowell, Our Daily Bread, June 4, 2012
INSIGHT: In the theocracy, they were to refer their cases to the priest or to the judges whom God would put over them. In a theocracy they should never have had a king. We know that later on they asked for a king and God granted their request. Remember Psalm 106:15: “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” This was said of their experience in the wilderness, but it is a truth for all time.
If God would answer many of our prayers as we pray them, it would be the biggest mistake in the world. God is gracious and many times refuses our requests. He does that for me, and I’m sure He does that for you. However, God yielded to Israel’s request for a king. In fact, way back here -- before they were even in the land -- He was laying down regulations for their king.
(Deuteronomy 17:8) “If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses.”
1. If two men disagree on an important matter, how is it to be solved when evidence seems to be equally impressive on both sides?
(Deuteronomy 17:9-11) “And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. 10 You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the LORD chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. 11 According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.”
2. Because the Law didn’t cover every situation, disagreements were to be taken to the priest. Then the people were to abide by the decision given. Disobedience to the judgment of the priest was to be punished with the death penalty.
3. The only instance we have recorded of this being used is in Haggai 2:11. I’m sure there were many instances like this. If the Law specifically covered an issue and dogmatically gave a ruling about it, then, obviously, there was no need to take the matter to the priest. If, however, a matter had to be taken to the priest or the judge for a decision, that decision was final and was to be obeyed.
(Deuteronomy 17:12-13) “Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.”
INSIGHT: This passage says that anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD God must die. In this way Israel will purge the evil from Israel. Then everyone else will hear about it and be afraid to act so arrogantly.
4. As for cases that a local judge felt were too difficult for him to decide, Moses instructed the people to set up something of a supreme court at the central sanctuary in the promised land. There the case would be heard by both the religious and civil leaders, the Levitical priests and the judge who [presided in a given] time (Deuteronomy 17:9). Their verdict would be final. Moses emphasized this by stating repeatedly that the parties involved in the case must do exactly as instructed, without exception (Deuteronomy 17:10-11). The leaders were ruling on God’s behalf, so judgment had to be followed. No appeals would be heard. Anyone who failed to listen to the priest or the judge would pay the consequence: death (Deuteronomy 17:12).
5. People who love the God of the Bible keep His commandments – and one of God’s predominant commandments is LOVE! If a Christian does not have the Lord’s love prompting his actions, he has the wrong motivation. Fairness and compassion toward others will define the life of anyone who truly LOVES the Lord! If God controls you on the inside, you’ll be genuine on the outside.
INSIGHT: Read Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
God next provided instructions for that momentous day when Israel would become a monarchy. That switch in governmental approach, however, wouldn’t mean that God ceased to be Israel’s King. Rather, the divine King would rule through a human king. The Lord would still bless the nation, as long as the king obeyed him and upheld his law. Israel’s history demonstrates that their kings were, for the most part, failures. It would require God himself coming in human flesh to be the King that Israel needs.
In its early years in the promised land, Israel would be ruled by judges and priests. But the book of Judges reveals how imperfectly that system would work. Eventually, Israel would clamor for a king like all the nations around them (Deuteronomy 17:14; see 1 Samuel 8:4-5).
In advance of that day, Moses specified that Israel’s king had to be an Israelite and not a foreigner (Deuteronomy 17:15). Moreover, he must not acquire many horses -- which would require going back to Egypt in violation of God’s command (Deuteronomy 17:16). He was also not to acquire many wives or acquire very large amounts of silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:17). And, most importantly, he was to write a copy of this instruction for himself and read from it all the days of his life so that he would not turn from this command (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
Later, King Solomon would be called the wisest man who ever lived. However, in his sinfulness, Solomon broke all of these commandments for kings by accumulating horses in the thousands, seven hundred wives who led his heart astray, and wealth that could not be counted. (Just because a person has access to wisdom doesn’t guarantee he’ll use it.)
Obstacles to Obedience
Dr. Charles Stanley
Read: 2 Kings 5:11-17
INSIGHT: Obedience is a powerful action that can unleash God’s glory in ways beyond our imagination. Yet obeying is often difficult because our desires are being put to the test. Sometimes we’re afraid that by doing what the Lord says, we’ll end up losing what’s important to us. But choosing not to obey may actually cost us the very thing we desire most.
Using Naaman as an example, three obstacles initially kept Naaman from following God’s instructions -- and almost prevented his miraculous healing from leprosy.
1. Pride. As a high-ranking official, Naaman feared obeying would cost him his dignity. Conversely, his servants had the wisdom to see pride was robbing him of life. How often do we balk at doing what God says, for fear of looking foolish?
2. Self-centered expectations. Naaman was furious when his very specific expectations weren’t met. We, too, often get angry at the Lord when He doesn’t comply with our demands. But if we really want His perfect will, we absolutely must “let” Him do things His way.
3. Unbelief. Because Naaman’s faith extended only to his own vision of how he’d be healed, he initially didn’t see how obeying would cure his leprosy. It took the faith of his servants to help him see the truth: that obedience was key to unlocking God’s answer to his greatest need.
INSIGHT: The call to obey often uncovers strongholds from which the Lord wants to free us. When we choose to respond in faith, He reveals Himself to us in a new way that strengthens our trust in Him -- because ultimately, our greatest need is to know the Lord better. – Adapted from Charles Stanley, In Touch Ministries, November 25, 2018
CONCLUSION: What have we learned from our Bible study of Deuteronomy 16 and 17 today?
First, Be Honest: Knowing the human heart as God does, God warns against Judges distorting justice, about respect of persons, and about accepting a bribe, and other wrongs. Don’t do it! Get your heart right with God and others. Do the right thing.
Second, Don’t Practice Presumption: God’s Word reveals God’s will and we must not go beyond what God permits. To transgress (Deuteronomy 17:2) means to “cross the line,” which is presumptuous sin. God says, “Thus far and no farther!” and we must obey. That obedience applied to sentences of judgment (Deuteronomy 17:8–13). Disobedience to the judgment of the priest was to be punished with the death penalty. The sinner who challenged the judgment of God’s appointed leaders was destined to die. “Hear and fear!”
Third, Don’t Be Prideful. Israel did ask for a king, and God gave them Saul (1 Samuel 8–10). We do not know whether he obeyed, but we do know that he failed to obey God’s will (1 Samuel 15). His successor David was a man of God’s Word, but David’s son Solomon committed many sinful acts (see1 Kings 10–11). There was great prosperity for a time, but then the nation divided and turned from God.
INSIGHT: Common citizens, priests, judges, and kings -- all had an obligation to submit to God’s Word and obey it. The higher the position, the greater the responsibility. “Hear and fear!”
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: “If God controls you on the inside, you’ll be genuine on the outside.”
REFERENCES: References used in these Bible studies are the Moody Bible Commentary, J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible Commentary: (www.ttb.org), the Scofield Study Bible, the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge Bible Outlines, Dr. Lee Roberson’s Sermons, Dr. Charles Stanley: (http://www.intouch.org/), Don Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Women’s Study Bible, The Bible Reader’s Companion Ed. 3, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version, Dr. Tony Evans (https://tonyevans.org/), KJV Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament ed. 4, Dr. David Jeremiah: (http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/), Dr. Cliff Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Dr. Robert Jeffress’ Pathway to Victory (https://ptv.org/), Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the Old Testament, Dr. Alan Carr’s The Sermon Notebook (www.sermonnotebook.org), With the Word Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s “Be” Series: Old & New Testaments, Radio Bible Class Ministries (http://rbc.org/), selected illustrations and other references.
REV. RONALD PURKEY’S OFFICE
E-mail: Ronald Purkey