King David: Model of Righteous Authority
King David was also an example of righteous authority.
David was God’s anointed one, a type of the Messiah. (In Hebrew, the word Messiah is Mashiach, which means anointed one.)
God set David on the throne when He removed Saul as king of Israel because of his disobedience. God chose David because he was a man after His heart who would rule Israel with righteousness and justice.
That’s not to say that David was a perfect man; as we all know, he took another man’s wife (Bathsheba) and then positioned her husband (Uriah) to be killed in battle.
Despite this brazen sin, David was also a God-fearing, humble man, and he did repent of this terrible transgression when Nathan the Prophet confronted him.
This quality is essential to righteous authority—a willingness to listen to a godly rebuke, and to repent and turn back to God.
The Gold Standard of Leadership
Parasha Shoftim details the appropriate behavior of a king of Israel.
The king wasn’t to gather for himself a bevy of beauties or piles of money.
Instead, he was to treasure the Book of the Law (Torah) and diligently read it. He was to fear the Lord and keep His laws and statutes.
“Only he [the king] shall not have too many horses for himself… And he shall not have too many wives… and he shall not greatly increase silver and gold for himself…. It shall be that when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah… It shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life, so that he will learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of the Torah… so that his heart does not become haughty over his brethren.” (Deuteronomy 17:16–20)
According to the Talmud (oral tradition), the king of Israel possessed two copies of the Torah: one that he kept in his private collection and one that he carried with him.
Today, 3,000 years later, the Bible still guides leaders in wise decisions.
In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revived a weekly Bible study session in his official residence for national and religious leaders, a practice initially started by the first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Holding the Torah in his hand, Netanyahu told the first group:
“I think in many ways it’s a parable for humanity because if the Jewish people were able through this vast odyssey in time to ford all the rivers, to cross the chasm of annihilation, and to come back to our ancestral homeland, to rebuild our lives, this means there’s hope for all humanity.” (CBN News)
Netanyahu is not the only leader to treasure Scripture.
When British monarchs are crowned, they are presented with a Bible along with the words, “We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing the world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the living oracles of God.”
Pray for Those in Authority
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2)
We need to pray that our government leaders and those in authority over us are wise, just, and righteous so that we may live in shalom (peace).
People in positions of power make mistakes that can have devastating consequences on the people they govern.
n the book of Exodus, we see a perfect example of this in the Pharaoh of Egypt.
All the Egyptians, even innocent men, women, and children suffered because of the hardness and stubbornness of Pharaoh’s heart.
Although people in positions of leadership and authority often have more privileges than the common man, they also carry greater responsibility. The greater a person’s position, the higher the standard required.
The book of James reveals that even teachers will be judged more harshly than others (James 3:1).
The smallest mistakes of our great Jewish leaders were severely punished.
Even Moses himself did not enter the Land because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God commanded.
King Solomon (Shlomo) understood this well. And because he did, he fervently prayed to God for the wisdom to discern right from wrong in judging Israel (1 Kings 3:9).
Shlomo asked God for a lev shome’ah, which literally means a heart that hears:
“So give your servant a discerning heart [lev shome’ah] to govern [shafat / judge] your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern [shafat] this people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)
Despite all the wisdom God gave to Solomon, his downfall was that he didn’t listen to the word of the Torah that forbids many wives (Deuteronomy 17:17).
In the end, King Solomon’s many foreign wives turned his heart away from the Lord to serve their foreign gods.
In order to make righteous judgments about people and situations in our life, we need to have a heart that both hears from God and is willing to submit to the Word of God.
Judgment is a strong theme running through Parasha Shoftim.
In the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant), Yeshua (Jesus) also spoke about judgment. He cautioned, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
Does this mean that we’re never to make any kind of judgment about anything or anyone?
No. Yeshua warned us to judge fairly, without hypocrisy and to examine ourselves first.
There’s a righteous kind of judgment that we’re expected to exercise carefully: “Do not judge according to appearance but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
In the end, however, God alone is perfectly righteous and just. Only He can achieve that flawless balance between justice and mercy.
“Surely the righteous [tzadik] still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges [shafat] the earth.” (Psalm 58:11)
We can be eternally grateful that through Yeshua’s death on the execution stake, we’ve escaped the judgment we so rightly deserve. Hallelujah!
We can be thankful, that in Yeshua, mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)