Authority, Justice, and Men

Quoted from:

Systematic Theology – Authority
Authority, Justice, and Men
Professor: Rushdoony Dr. R.J.R.

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[Rushdoony] Thus saith the Lord “Ye shall seek Me and find Me when Ye shall search for me with all your hearts.” Jesus said “blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Let us pray.

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I wonder how many people search for God with all of their hearts?
More than my cynical heart accepts, I bet.

God’s Holy Spirit can accomplish more than I can dream.

After all, the Christian Church is growing quite a bit outside of the West. There really are people – poor people in the main, but not only they – who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

God listens to the humble.

And, He acts on their behalf, when they call out to Him.

This is very good.

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“8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose; 9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: 10 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: 11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. 12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.”

God in His law stresses repeatedly the untrustworthiness of men. As a result in the courts of law according to scripture, which has set a pattern for many nations, corroboration of evidence was necessary for conviction. According to Deuteronomy 17:6-7 there had to be two or more witnesses, this law is very strongly stressed, more than once, as witness in Numbers 34:30 and in Deuteronomy 19:5 it is made clear that it applies in any case for any crime. The New Testament also stresses this requirement of corroboration. In cases Ecclesiastical as well as civil and criminal, as witness Matthew 18:16, John 8:17, II Corinthians 13:1, I Timothy 5:19, and Hebrews 10:28. In other words the Bible makes clear that no man, however important, however great his position and authority in the realm, can convict anyone by his testimony alone.

This distrust of authority goes through the law. In our text the law deals with appeals in courts. First these appeals were up to Moses, later to the governing judge, and then to the king. In Exodus 18:21-23, Numbers 11:16 & 17, and Deuteronomy 1:12-17 are some of the texts that deal with this matter. But there was more to this, beside the system of appellate courts the Supreme Court, final court of appeal, had to have sitting on the bench at least three men of three classes. One, a priest who knew the law and ruled in terms of it; another a Levite, also one who was the educator of Israel, and knowledgeable in the law, and the third the civil judge. Moreover the priest and the Levite dealt with the problem cases and the application of God’s law to the particular case. For example verse eight cites cases between blood and blood, in other words was it man slaughter, or was it murder? Between plea and plea and stroke and stroke Exodus 22:1-15 for example gives us illustrations of these: theft, embezzlement, and other cases involving restitution, what kind of restitution. Moreover the decision of the Supreme Court was always final, and failure to obey was punishable by death. This was a Supreme Court as God provided for it in Israel.

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Some outtakes:

  • God in His law stresses repeatedly the untrustworthiness of men. As a result in the courts of law according to scripture, which has set a pattern for many nations, corroboration of evidence was necessary for conviction.”
  • “… the Bible makes clear that no man, however important, however great his position and authority in the realm, can convict anyone by his testimony alone.”
  • “This distrust of authority goes through the law. In our text the law deals with appeals in courts. First these appeals were up to Moses, later to the governing judge, and then to the king.”
  • “… the Supreme Court, final court of appeal, had to have sitting on the bench at least three men of three classes. One, a priest who knew the law and ruled in terms of it; another a Levite, also one who was the educator of Israel, and knowledgeable in the law, and the third the civil judge.”
  • “Moreover the decision of the Supreme Court was always final, and failure to obey was punishable by death. This was a Supreme Court as God provided for it in Israel.”

Evidence is a must – and that evidence cannot be the word of one man.

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Now in modern terms we would call this checks and balances, and of course it was clearly the influence of Old Testament law that led to our system of checks and balances, however we have a more radical kind of check and balance then the constitution provides. In the constitution it is between three separate branches of government, but here within the judiciary as elsewhere, (but that’s not our concern now) there were checks and balances. Three types of judges had to sit on the court. The judges also were covenant men, as were the priests and the Levites. Now it is true this law was often disobeyed in the history of Israel. In fact it was later ruled that disobedience to the words of the scribes was more serious then disobedience to the words of the Torah. In other words, the lawyer had greater weight than God. This was the development of Phariseeism. As George Horowitz in the Spirit of Jewish Law points out, in fact Horowitz says that Psalm 119 verse 126 which reads “it is time for Thee Lord to work, for they have made void Thy law” was totally reinterpreted and turned upside down to mean “it is time to do something for the Lord, so make void the Torah.” In other words, the plain meaning was set aside pragmatically by the Sanhedrin, and yet the Torah was formally held to be beyond tampering with. Now it was this development that gained the wrath of our Lord, it was the heart of Phariseeism. Of course we have had like developments in this country with regard to our constitution.

Thus when God gives us the provision of Deuteronomy 17 verse 8 – 13 he does not give us an infallible means of preventing injustice. What we do get is a dilution of human authority to protect the judicial process. Now in terms of these things we must make certain observations. First, as we have already seen even a God provided law cannot prevent injustice. On the human level there is no infallible justice, man is a sinner and he perverts the best possible law structure as Phariseeism did. The Sanhedrin turned the law upside down and gave man’s word priority, the rational was “well God’s in heaven and we’re here, and we see the situation better than God does.” But a yardstick which is a rubber yardstick is no yardstick at all.

Second, having said that we must observe that the history of Israel is without equal in antiquity; in fact is compared to a great deal that has followed since, it is without equal. Despite periodic dereliction it had a remarkably long history of justice. God’s law was a break on the sin of man. The Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus met illegally; pragmatism had by then become the order of the day. All the same, even given that the high point of injustice in all history, there was still a residue of sound thinking and justice in the Sanhedrin because when the apostles shortly after Pentecost were brought before the authorities, Gamaliel spoke judiciously and gained the release of the apostles as Acts 5:33-40 tells us. The tyranny of the pagan states was constant because they did not have God’s law, and that respect in Israel, having this law it was always possible and it happened. But man stood up to the authority and said as our Lord supremely did that they were wrong, that there was a higher law than their word.

Then third we have called attention to the fact that this law provided a form of checks and balances. The three kinds of justices made sure that the perspective of God’s law was maximized. But this was not all, the work of the prophets was as a spokesmen for the covenant law, as the defenders of the covenant people in terms of the word of God. And so the word of the prophets was “Thus saith the Lord” to kings and to people, to judges and to priests. To this day where the church exercises its prophetic task there is a check on injustice, and we have to say that our condition is largely due to the failure of the church to be prophetic. The Bible tells us that where priest and prophet go astray, there too will the people go astray. We read for example in Isaiah 28:7&8 concerning false priests and prophets, that they also have erred through wine and through strong drink are out of the way. The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they stumble in judgment, for all tables are full of vomit and filthiness so that there is no place clean. The very people who should lead the nation in righteousness or in justice are filthy pigs Isaiah says. The tables which should be places to eat and to keep strong in God’s service are tables of filth. Jeremiah makes a like indictment. He says that instead of justice the priests and prophets manifest sin, according to Jeremiah 23:11 that the false leaders give the people what they want to hear.

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“Now it is true this law was often disobeyed in the history of Israel. In fact it was later ruled that disobedience to the words of the scribes was more serious then disobedience to the words of the Torah. In other words, the lawyer had greater weight than God.”

Unbelievably but truly, the lawyers always work to crown themselves as The Most High if there are no greater force around: military men and bankers being their main competition, but occasionally the priests also compete for power.

Rather than follow the example of these ego-swollen and desperate men, we should follow the example of Jesus Christ, who, after gaining total authority, places it at the feet of the Father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

I COrinthians 15:20-28, English StandARD VERSION

“The tyranny of the pagan states was constant because they did not have God’s law, and that respect in Israel, having this law it was always possible and it happened.”

Christians are to be weary of the incompetence of the robed lawyers (judges) and suited lawyers (politicians) who rule us.

After growing weary of the arbitrary laws of corrupt God-haters, we are to seek, master, and put into effect the Law of God, as suits our station and position in life. God is not a revolutionary, but a builder: as we grow in ability and obedience, we will be given the proper level of authority from His hand.

That is not today. That is not even two decades away. But if we do not weary but push forward on the holy path, filled with the Spirit of God, disciplining ourselves under the Law-Word of Christ, the day of earned and lawful authority will come.

First in private. Then in public.

The three kinds of justices made sure that the perspective of God’s law was maximized. But this was not all, the work of the prophets was as a spokesmen for the covenant law, as the defenders of the covenant people in terms of the word of God. And so the word of the prophets was “Thus saith the Lord” to kings and to people, to judges and to priests. To this day where the church exercises its prophetic task there is a check on injustice, and we have to say that our condition is largely due to the failure of the church to be prophetic.

The church of our forefathers failed to do her job. So, we live in our cursed and contemptible position.

Lets repent of the sin of our forefathers and of our own sin, and return to the way of the Lord.

The way of cultural victory over evil people, and over the serpent that stands behind them.

In time, and on earth.

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However such evil authorities flourish because the people want them. God told Isaiah 39 and 10 that “this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord which say to the sears ‘see not’ and to the prophets ‘prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.’” In other words what scripture tells us is that people will get the kind of leaders (in church, and state, and education, in every sphere) that they want. God says that men want leaders to speak smooth things and to prophesy lies. We saw in Micah 2:11 what God says of a false and traitorous people. That if a man who walks in the spirit of falsehood lies and says “I’m going to prophesy that the best solution for all problems is wine and strong drink, he shall be the favored prophet of the people.” The lower the message the greater the appeal Micah says. People get the leaders they want. People want leadership in terms of their character, and the same is true everywhere and in all generations. A people will be ruled by an authority which confirms to their faith and character. The attempts to resolve the matter by legislative and judicial reform, however good those reforms, without a like reform in the faith of the people will always be futile. In other words God’s appellate court was not designed to eliminate justice, rather it offers justice to a people who want justice.

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The transcription is accurate. However, I believe that Rushdoony misspoke here: he intended to say “God’s appellate court was not designed to eliminate injustice; rather, it offers justice to a people who want justice”

—<Quote begins>—

The world today is plagued as it has so often been by injustice. People talk about wanting justice, but they only want it when it suites them, when it’s for them. They find it much easier to live in an unjust world. Their attitude is one of hypocrisy. Men agree that justice is good, but they are more comfortable without it. We have the kind of leadership we deserve. In fact one may say as I often have, we have better leadership most of the time then we deserve. All over the world our leadership is weak, some of it is outright evil, but the tyranny of evil is not strength, and all over the world we have weak leaders because we have weak peoples; they prefer people of a like character to theirs. They prefer people who give forth the kind of message, of strong drink as salvation. Now that’s a caricature, but it’s the truth also. Anyone who heard some of the campaign oratory at the convention knows that anyone with any common sense knew the fallacious nature of what was said. But people loved it, the media loved it, and they will demand more because people want leadership in terms of their character.

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“However such evil authorities flourish because the people want them.”

We must repent and change our hearts, and our actions.

Then, we must lead all that is under our authority to repentance and a change of heart, and a change in our ways.

That is how life and a future will return to our land, as well as justice, prosperity, and children.

“People get the leaders they want. People want leadership in terms of their character, and the same is true everywhere and in all generations. A people will be ruled by an authority which confirms to their faith and character. The attempts to resolve the matter by legislative and judicial reform, however good those reforms, without a like reform in the faith of the people will always be futile. In other words God’s appellate court was not designed to eliminate justice, rather it offers justice to a people who want justice.”

Merely reforming the courts and the legal system, alone, is not enough.

For victory to last, our hearts and minds must be reformed as well, reformed into a useful, clean, strong tool in the hand of God.

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If the people truly wanted justice, we would have it. If the people want a strong president we would get one. Men least of all desire a just social order, because it would require them first of all to be just. Thus in the world today we have the prevalence of exactly what people want. S

C.S. Lewis once said heaven is the habitation of those who say to God “Thy will be done” and hell is the habitation of those to whom God says “thy will be done.” A beautiful statement of the case which I love to repeat because it is so true; and God is saying to men today “thy will be done. You want the kind of leadership that you are creating? Very well, I shall give it to you, and you will have injustice and tyranny with it.” In brief God’s law provides justice and authority for those peoples who want it. Let us pray.

Oh Lord our God Thy word is truth and Thy word makes provision for those who seek Thy face; who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who love Thy kingdom and are ready to say “Thy will be done.” Oh Lord our God give us grace day by day so to move that Thy will may be done in our lives and through us in our communities and nations. Bless us to this purpose, in Jesus name amen.

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“God’s law provides justice and authority for those peoples who want it.”

Let’s get it, in a lawful and God-pleasing fashion, and in Christ’s Name.

Amen.

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