With Authority comes Responsibility

Deuteronomy 17

Jerry A Collins




v        What does it mean to make a just judgment?

v        When in authority how should I discipline others?

v        What qualifies one to have authority with God?


We have all seen people who misuse their authority. If you find yourself in a place of judgment or a position of authority, remember that you are responsible to God for what you do, and how you decide! Contrary to the way we think, whenever we are given any kind of authority, that authority is not so we can Lord it over others. Husbands think they can do this with their wives; Pastors with churches; Parents with kids; Employees with employers. Our use of authority must always be tempered with the sense of responsibility we have before God as we exercise it. Authority is simply another life situation we are responsible to God for having and using. In Israel, authority meant responsibility—responsibility to prevent impure worshipping practices in the land; that false worshippers were executed because they threatened the very existence of the land; that just judgments were made in disputed and difficult cases; that authority was exercised in dependence upon God. So what can we learn about what we should we do when in a place of judgment or authority?


Notice that the judgment is made against a ‘detestable thing’ vs 1, 4 and ‘the evil’ vs 2, 7. On one hand, this refers to impure worshipping practices 6:18-7:1 and on other hand to idol worshippers 2-7.

First, vs 2, it is something that takes place in the towns of Israel. So, this immediately brings the whole covenant relationship with God into play vs 2 ‘transgressing the covenant’. This is something that can affect their relationship with God and even the very existence of the nation. So this is a serious breach—similar to 13:5 where false prophets instead of false worshippers are discussed.

Second, vs 3, this is idol or false worship God says He detests. Specifically, it is serving other gods and worshipping them. It is not just a petty recognition and nod toward these gods, but a commitment to them—an allegiance and acceptance of these. Which gods? The gods of the sun, the moon, of any heavenly hosts—Astral worship forbidden in 4:19. The honoring of inanimate objects in the skies. God had even commanded the opposite of this.

Third, if anyone witnessed such a charade vs 4, it was to be investigated thoroughly and proven to be true. The ensure against a capricious judgment, two or three independent witnesses were required. A guilty verdict meant execution vs 5. The witnesses were first to cast stones, followed by all of the people vs 7. These requirements were safeguards against injustice and perjury. The participation of the whole community meant a collective rejection of other gods and commitment to purging it’s influence from the land vs 7. This was against something God hated so the people were acknowledging they hated what God hated. The problem is often that we do not hate what God hates. We instead want to accommodate or make room for alternatives or other understanding but once thoroughly investigated God’s thinking on subject, thru study of scripture, then judgment must follow. Today, we too, are responsible to make judgments about what God hates. When we confront a believer it must be about sin—something in the life God hates, not just a personal preference of some kind. The idea is that the believing community is aware of what God hates and confronts, judges and disciplines so God’s concerns are addressed.


There will be differing and difficult situations that will require making a judgment upon vs 8. Because Moses won’t continue to be there, if the judgment is too difficult, the judge should go to the Levitical priests for help in judgment vs 9. The point is that the Priests function to clarify how the Law related to the case vs 10-11. It was ‘according to the terms of the law’ vs 11 that they were to render a verdict—not  some arbitrary solution. This solution was sought for at the Temple where the Priests of Israel served vs 10. All of this to remind them that God was behind all of the judging and verdicts. It was His will that was to govern the decisions. It was before Him hat the verdicts were rendered. No one could act in cavalier manner or personal vendettas or arbitrary decisions. God’s Law, His Word, was the final arbiter in all the judgments. Now, if you resisted the priest, you were resisting God! God makes it clear that he priests and judges were acting on his behalf and  their  decisions   were   binding vs 10 ‘be careful to observe according to all that they teach you’ and vs 11 ‘you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the rite or to the left’. Not everyone will like the verdict and some will be presumptuous and not listen vs 12-13. This was ‘contempt of court’ and a capital offense. Notice the Priest and Judge ‘stands there to serve the Lord your God’. Today, the Word of God continues to be declared and is basis of judgments we make. Again, people will not like it—teachers tempted to compromise it. But God views His Word as truth. It is the only basis upon which we make judgments. Not my preferences, cultures perspective, or peers pressure.


Moses recognized once settled like other nations, Israel would desire a king—someone in authority—even  tho God already was vs 14. There were specific qualifications and behavior.

A. Not by intrigue 14-17 (1) God will chose their king vs 15. So must be a member of the covenant community not a foreigner. This choosing was usually directed thru a prophet (1 Sam 9-12; 1 Sam 16). This would mean confidence that God would choose person appropriate and gifted to be king. An Israelite raised in land under the Law was foundational to this choice. (2) No entanglements, plotting or schemes to rule. First, cannot multiply horses for himself. This meant his army mainly infantry so significantly weaker than enemy’s army of chariots and cavalry. To get horses meant returning to Egypt where they were available—that land of slavery and unthinkable. So, no dependence on military strength but on he Lord alone. Second, cannot multiply wives vs 17—because kings entered into foreign political alliances this way, if the king followed the Lord, the Law, no need for these. Additionally, foreign wives introduced foreign gods all the way into the palace, the dynasty and would ruin the nation—which is exactly what happened under Solomon! Third, cannot multiply wealth vs 17. Gives false sense of security, promotes greed and pride!   NB: These conditions: (1) gave clear limitation of power to avoid tyranny and danger of assuming Lord’s rule over the people. (2) To keep them true to God with complete allegiance to Him. (3) Kind is model Israelite for the nation. The King is a servant of the Lord God just as the judge and the Priest. Solomon broke all 3 conditions (1 Kgs 10:14-15, 23, 26-28; 11 :1-6).  B. But humble before God 18-20  The king should hand copy the Law, read it, do it so he can learn fear, obedience, humility and succession. The king should never believe he is bigger than the Law. We are accountable to God for how we use any authority we may ever be given.

1. When you are in place of judgment among your children, at work, between friends, 1st make thorough inquiry. Don’t just take one person’s view no matter how much you trust them. Discipline is based on what God hates not what you hate.

2. When in position of authority in business, civic club, school, religious institution, govt, keep in mind: a. group may insist on job and titles for you b. you’re here because of God’s plan—sovereignty, not will—desire c. don’t use it to obtain power over others d. read, study, keep truth of Bible daily e. don’t become proud of anyone or anything.