If there arise a matter too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke…
We can imagine a condition of human society in which wrong-doing would at once declare itself by some visible pain or sign. We can imagine a condition of society in which God would himself step forth and punish every offence against truth or virtue. But then, men would lose the benefits of moral training which the present system ensures. This necessity for men to take part in the administration of justice brings large advantage.
I. HUMAN INTERESTS OFTEN BECOME VERY COMPLICATED. The interests men have in property, liberty, reputation, often become very involved. This arises largely from the operation of selfishness. Every item which will add to a man's self-importance he will sue for by every process of law. This comes from the neglect of the comprehensive precept, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Another great difficulty in the administration of justice arises from men's untruthfulness. The day will dawn when a stigma of shame will brand the man who withholds or violates the truth. If now, in every judicial inquiry, the whole truth, pure and simple, were forthcoming, decision and verdict would be a simple result.
II. THE MOST HOLY WILL BE, CAETERIS PARIBUS, THE MOST SAGACIOUS. The man who lives nearest to God will obtain the most of God's wisdom. He will be free from base and selfish motive. He will be the most trusted by his fellows. He will have fullest access to God when intricate questions have to be solved. "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God." "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." But pretended piety will serve no practical good.
III. EVERY JUDGE AMONG MEN ACTS SPECIALLY IN THE STEAD OF GOD. To be the administrator of justice, to adjudicate between right and wrong, is the highest office which men can fill. No position is more responsible; none more honorable. For all practical purposes, his decision must be regarded as the decision of God. Otherwise, there will be no termination to litigation and strife. From the verdict of the highest human judge, there is but one court of appeal, viz. the court of heaven. Without doubt, many judicial decisions on earth will be reversed by the Great Judge of all. This is sweet solace to the injured now. Yet it is nobler to suffer wrong at the hands of men than to resist by violence. For the present, we are to accept the sentence of the judge as absolute and obligatory. Our feet must diverge neither to the right hand nor to the left.
IV. CONTUMACY IS CRIME, PUNISHABLE BY DEATH. To despise the verdict of the judge is to weaken the authority of the State - is to sow the seeds of anarchy and ruin. Defective administration of law is better than none. "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry." Yet, if contempt of human authority be accounted a capital crime, how much more criminal must be contumacy against God!
V. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT HAS FOR ITS END THE GOOD OF THE COMMUNITY. It is an advantage to remove from the circle of human society a pest - a firebrand. The authority of law, the sacredness of justice, are set on high in flaming characters, and on all classes of the community the impression is salutary. Reverence for constituted authority is strengthened, and unbiased minds learn the heinous wickedness of disobedience. The effect is virtue, order, peace. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;
WEB: If there arises a matter too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within your gates; then you shall arise, and go up to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose;