There are times I read something and it just stops me. It is like something that flies out in the road in front of you that forces me to slam on the brakes. I often don’t know why the thought halts me at first but the intrigue and curiosity are there. That happened to me today with 2 Chronicles 19:7. It reads, “Now let the fear of the LORD be on you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” The words were spoken by Jehoshaphat, King of Judah while he was living in Jerusalem. He was an “okay” king. It was common during the reign of a king for God to evaluate him through a prophet or seer. In this case, Jehu was given that task, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is on you. There is, however, some good in you . . .” 2 Chronicles 19:2-3)
Apparently Jehoshaphat had a good heart but he lacked either wisdom or fortitude when it came to king Ahab of Israel. In chapter 18, the two kings ally themselves to go into battle. Ahab initiated the conversation and Jehoshaphat responded with, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.” (v. 4) Ahab brought in 400 prophets who all agreed they should go into the fight. In a humorous encounter, Jehoshaphat asked, “’is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of? The king answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’” WOW! It kind of sounds like the babies are running the nursery. As you can imagine, the rest of the story is predictable. Micaiah said it would be disastrous if they went to war but the kings ignored him. Chapter 18 ends with King Ahab dying in battle. In light of the decision to go to battle despite the word of the prophet, Jehu made his statements about Jehoshaphat.
To his credit, he paid attention and made some very worthwhile steps. One of them was to appoint judges to settle disputes. In his charge he reminded them that their job was to be a reflection of the character of God. They were to judge carefully for three reasons. (1) There is no injustice in God. This literally means there is no wickedness or depravity in Him. He is never enticed to do what is wrong and He never has an evil or self-seeking motive. The end result is He does what is right because it is right. (2) There is no partiality in God. This literally means he never lifts one person up above another. He doesn’t see nationality, stature, wealth, beauty or authority when it comes to judging. We all stand before God as individuals and we all stand as equals. (3) There is no bribery in God. This literally means He does not accept gifts as a means for administering justice. He cannot be bought off.
You have probably heard that our justice system is based on the Judeo-Christian ethic and this is a good example of what that means. It does not mean that everyone is a believer in Christ but it does mean that our understanding of government and civil life is derived from the principles taught in the Bible. We have a saying that is supposed to guide our judges, “Justice is blind.” That notion came from the principle that judges should have no self-seeking motives, should not show partiality and should never receive money in exchange for conclusions. It makes many of us angry that we appear to be moving away from this safety net. I am sure the temptations are stronger than any of us can imagine but we desperately need Judges who are nonresponsive to political pressure while being acutely responsive to the constitution. As people who care, we need to continually pray for those who sit as judges in our society because they are vital to the well being of all of us and when they reflect these core principles dimly, we all suffer.
It would be easy to stop there and leave the responsibility on those who serve judicially but I think the reason I stopped at the verse so abruptly is that judges are reflecting publicly what all of us should be reflecting privately. There is a very personal side to this as we evaluate ourselves. I found myself asking some very strategic questions:
- Are my motives more self-seeking or do I sincerely want to do God’s will?
- Am I willing to do what is right simply because it is right?
- Would I do this even if I got nothing out of it?
- Do I see all people as equal and equally accountable?
- Is money too big a motivation for me?
- I know I need to make money but am I willing to sacrifice morals, ethics or convictions in order to obtain financial gain?
I found these to be a good check in the system of my life. Today as I pray for our judges, I am also going to ask God to make me a better reflection of His character.