How to Develop & Maintain Our Spiritual Security System
Parsha Shophtim - Debarim/Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
We are bombarded all the time. In this world, there is a non-stop attack on our set-apartness. Unless you live in a cave or a virtual vacuum, then you undoubtedly have felt the effects. I’m talking about the spiritual effects from the nations around us, from the peoples who don’t serve YAHUAH and obey His Torah.
In this week’s Parsha Shophtim, Moshe continues to prepare the people for their crossing into Eretz Yisrael and teaches them several ways to remain set-apart in Kena’an. He tells them how to guard themselves against the ways of the surrounding nations so that they do what is right in the eyes of YAHUAH and not what is evil in the eyes of YAHUAH.
In the opening verses of the Parsha, Moshe says:
Deb/Deut. 16:18-20 “Appoint judges and officers within all your gates, which יהוה your Elohim is giving you, according to your tribes. And they shall judge the people with righteous right-ruling.
(19) “Do not distort right-ruling. Do not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.
(20) “Follow righteousness, righteousness alone, so that you live and inherit the land which יהוה your Elohim is giving you.”
You can take this literally or symbolically. Literally, when YAHUAH establishes a set-apart community, then there should be judges and officers appointed to help ensure that the community is peaceful, orderly, and obedient to YAH’s laws. They should be honest, wise, and impartial individuals who pursue righteousness at all times.
On a different level, this addresses our individual lives. We have to establish boundaries and appoint “judges” and “officers” at our gates. In other words, we determine what we allow and don’t allow into our lives and into our beings.
This applies to the words we hear, the things we see, the objects in our surroundings, and even the people we associate with. Things enter through our eyes and our ears and affect our mind, spirit, and being. We must be mindful of what we allow because these things could potentially have a negative spiritual effect on us.
We have to pay attention to what we subject ourselves to through television, movies, radio, books, articles, the internet, and conversations. Be mindful of the objects and people we allow into our midst.
Because of the world we live in, we may not always be able to stop things from coming near to us, but we determine what we let in.
You can’t stop someone from knocking on your door, but you control who you let in, who stays, and who doesn’t.
We have to set boundaries and be the judge at our gates. Examine every matter. Search it out diligently.
Is the matter an abomination or not?
Is it something that is right in the eyes of YAHUAH or evil in the eyes of YAHUAH?
Is it clean or unclean?
Set-apart or profane?
A blessing or a curse?
Be scrupulous, and judge every matter.
Surely, not everything and everyone around us is evil. However, some things are, even if they don’t appear to be. Therefore, we have to diligently search it out.
As for those things that don't fall squarely into the “evil” category, the gray areas, if you will: judge those, too.
It may not be “evil” but...is it for me?
Some things are for the nations. Some things are just not for us.
Also, consider: Will this be a blessing to me? Will it build me and benefit me spiritually? Or will it bring me down spiritually?
This is a personal question, and we have to be honest with ourselves. One thing may have a stronger negative effect on one person than on another. Judge honestly.
We also have to judge with impartiality. We can’t bend the rules and allow something just because it pertains to something or someone we like. Nor can we allow it just because we receive some other benefit from it (bribe). If it is not right in the eyes of YAHUAH, then it’s not right.
On the same note, if something is right, then we must judge it as such, even if - for some reason - we don’t like it. What’s right in the eyes of YAHUAH is right.
ENFORCING THE LAW
If we judge a matter and it’s found to be not of YAHUAH, then we must become the officer. We have to enforce the law of YAHUAH.
The unclean, profane, unrighteous, and evil matters must not be allowed into our lives. As officers, we stand guard and make sure they don’t enter.
The things that do manage to enter, we “arrest” and remove from our lives.
Some things must be put to death. These are things that are spiritually toxic. They spiritually sicken us and eventually lead to our spiritual demise. Those things must be removed and “put to death.” Let them be as non-existent to us.
If the matter is too hard for us to judge, then we’re instructed:
Deb/Deut. 17:8-11 “...you shall rise and go up to the place which יהוה your Elohim chooses,
(9) and shall come to the priests, the Lewites, and to the judge who is in those days, and shall inquire. And they shall declare to you the word of right-ruling,
(10) and you shall do according to the word which they declare to you from that place which יהוה chooses. And you shall guard to do according to all that they instruct you.
(11) “Do according to the Torah in which they teach you, according to the right-ruling which they say to you. You do not turn to the right or to the left from the word which they declare to you."
If we don’t know whether something is okay or not, then we ask someone who is more knowledgeable in Torah and the set-apart ways of YAH. We go to a higher court with higher judges than ourselves.
We’re told not to act arrogantly:
Deb/Deut. 17:12-13 “And the man who acts arrogantly, so as not to listen to the priest who stands to serve there before יהוה your Elohim, or to the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Yisra’ĕl. And let all the people hear and fear, and no longer do arrogantly."
YAHUAH wants us to listen to and respect leadership. This Parsha discusses judges, officers, priests, Levites, prophets, elders, and kings. Moshe assured Yisrael that after he’s gone, they won’t be left without guidance. There would be many people to lead and guide them on the right path. They must be respected, and we cannot act arrogantly.
If we need help, we only need to ask.
The main message Moshe was delivering was to not take on the ways of the people around us.
They serve idols - money, materialism, self, etc. - but we serve YAHUAH alone.
They seek to be in control (using mediums, spiritists, sorcery, witchcraft, etc.) - but we are perfect before YAHUAH, submitting to Him and having complete belief and trust in His sovereignty and goodness.
They hate, murder (not just physically), and disrespect others, but we love, respect, and show kindness to all.
These things may sound obvious to us, but unless we set boundaries and put judges and officers at our gates, then the ways of the nations can and will sneak in.
It happens because even though we may have boundaries, sometimes we leave the gate open. Even though we may have judges, sometimes our judges turn a blind eye. Even though we may have officers, sometimes our officers take a day off.
We get lax. We get weak. We let things slide.
Slowly, we start acting like everyone else. We become more and more concerned about our self, our money, our possessions, etc. We begin to take on their way of thinking, behaving, speaking, and doing.
Slowly, the things that are good in the eyes of YAHUAH - praying, studying, showing kindness, keeping Shabbat, etc. - start slipping away.
Slowly, we show less and less concern for YAHUAH and for others.
Slowly, we find ourselves not where we’re supposed to be spiritually.
It all starts because we don’t guard our gates properly - judging what we allow into our lives and removing what doesn’t belong.
TIME FOR BATTLE
The real danger is that if we leave our gates unguarded long enough, then something that is not of YAHUAH may take up residence within us. It becomes a bad habit or addiction, an ingrained behavior, a deep-seated belief, or a particular mindset or way of thinking.
When that happens, we may have to go to battle.
If we decide to do away with it and we're able to remove it peacefully, then all is well and good (Deb. 20:10-11).
But if we struggle with being able to let go, if it fights against us, then we must wage war against it (vs. 12-13). We have to fight to remove the unclean, the profane, and the evil from us.
We are encouraged:
“...‘Hear, O Yisra’el: You are drawing near today to battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not fear, or tremble, or be afraid before them, for יהוה your Elohim is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’" (Deb/Deut. 30:3-4)
Undoubtedly, we all have something we have to do battle with. It may be difficult to change our habits, character traits, and ways of thinking, but we are able to overcome. We must not be afraid and think “there’s no way I can change.”
Be strong and courageous. Continue to fight, and YAHUAH will deliver us.
May we all be diligent to guard our gates and be strengthened to enforce the law of YAHUAH within our lives and upon our own beings.