The Scriptorium

Local Rule

Just leaders are essential. Deuteronomy 16.18-22

A Holy Community: Deuteronomy 15, 16 (6)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 128.1, 2
Blessed is every one who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways.
When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128.1, 2

(Fountain: There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood)
How blessed are they who fear You, Lord, who walk within Your ways!
Rejoicing in Your bounteous Word, they prosper all their days!
They prosper all their days, they prosper all their days!
Rejoicing in Your bounteous Word, they prosper all their days!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 16.18-22

1. What were the “judges and officers” supposed to do?

2. What promise did God attach to the faithful work of His judges?

Government in ancient Israel was intended to be primarily local. In each community, the people were to “appoint judges and officers” to maintain justice within the community (v. 18). It’s not clear how that appointing was done, but the goal was to have the wisest and best men ruling over local matters. When disputes arose, or questions about how to apply the Law of God, the people looked to their judges, assembled in the gates of the city, to resolve their issues and ensure the ongoing practice of justice (see Ruth 4 for an excellent example of how this worked).

The judges and officers assembled in the gates of the city so that the people could observe the workings of justice and be reinforced in their own understanding of how to live according to God’s Law.

Judges and officers were strictly admonished not to show partiality and not to let money influence their decisions (v. 19). Instead, they were to search out what justice required by turning to the Law of God and making decisions on the basis of all that God had revealed (v. 20).

It’s interesting again to see this admonition against idolatry mentioned in line with the appointing of local rulers (vv. 21, 22). It’s almost as if keeping idolatry from making any inroads to the community was a primary work of the judges and officers.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Here is a word of warning for today’s Church leaders of all kinds: “judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe…” (vv. 18, 19). We see little evidence of just judgment in our world; but surely, we should expect to see it in the Church. But do we? Did the people in the Old Testament? Or the New? Jesus certainly did not experience just judgment during His time on earth. He had many choice words about church leaders of His day: “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do… all their works they do to be seen by men… They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues…but woe to you… For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith… These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone… you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness… Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matt. 23.3, 5, 6, 23, 28, 33) Church leaders, for the sake of their souls and those of the people, are to “follow what is altogether just”. Just that. Just judgment and justice.


1. In what ways are the roles of church leaders today like the roles of judges and officers in ancient Israel?

2. What kind of people should churches “appoint” as leaders?

3. What is your role in making sure that just judgment and justice prevail in your church?

Justice is the quality of dealing with people fairly. Judges particularly were expected to reflect God’s just nature (32:4) by not dealing with the accused on the basis of discrimination, false witness, or hearsay. A bribe is any gift that might change the balance in favor of the giver, thus tipping the scales of justice (Ex. 23:8).
Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Notes on Deuteronomy 16.19

Help me to be alert to every opportunity to exercise justice toward my neighbors, Lord, so that…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 128.3-6
Pray for the leaders of your church and for the civil magistrates in your community, state, and nation. Ask the Lord to bless, guide, and use them for His good purposes.

Psalm 128.3-6

(Fountain: There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood)
Their homes with happy children bloom who fear Your holy Name;
their tables and their every room declare Your glorious fame!
Declare Your glorious fame, declare Your glorious fame!
Their tables and their every room declare Your glorious fame!

O Lord, from Zion send Your peace, and prosp’rous make our ways;
thus may Your blessings e’er increase upon us all our days!
Upon us all our days, upon us all our days!
Thus may Your blessings e’er increase upon all us all our days!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore