Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Excerpts from Leon Morris, The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment, pp. 17-20[1]

     It must be emphasized that, whether the judgment be that of the Lord or that of men, it is
fundamentally dynamic. Basically judgment is the process whereby one discerns between the
right and the wrong and takes action as a result. There is dispute between two, a determination
as to the rights of the matter, and then―action. The dynamic character of the word must be
stressed. It is not an intellectual activity carried out in academic detachment. It is not an exercise
in balancing evidence. It is an activity of discrimination and vindication. He who does mishpat
seeks out the wrongdoer to punish him, and the righteous to vindicate his cause.        
     Judgment is not confined to legal matters. Indeed, we could go so far as to say that the really significant use of judgment begins when it is separated from all legal and governmental functions and applied to conduct in general. Judgment is a quality of action. Again and again men are urged to ‘do judgment and justice’, to ‘judge justly’ and the like.
     These are not exhortations to enter the legal profession. They are ways of driving home the truth that, in their ordinary lives day by day, men must exercise the quality of judgment, of
discrimination. This does not mean simply that they are to discern right from wrong. They are to
do that, but to ‘do judgment’ means that they will also actively pursue the right. Mishpat denotes a dynamic ‘right-doing’. This is not right action in general, but specifically right action as the result of discrimination. There is always the fundamental thought of distinguishing between the right and the wrong. But there is always also the added thought of decisive action as the result of that discrimination.
     …Such passages regard the doing of judgment as one of the basic requirements laid by Yahweh on His people. And He lays this requirement on His people because He is essentially just, just in His
inner being. Justice is not a matter indifferent, but one of passionate concern. Because judgment
matters so intensely to Yahweh it is integral to the religious life of those who call themselves by
His name. The man who does judgment has a due regard for law, not for law in general, not for
some abstract concept of ethical uprightness, but for the law of Yahweh. Judgment represents the
discharge of his obligation to Yahweh.

 “God does not leave men to produce mishpat from their own resources. He gives them the help they need, so that He may be thought of as the Author of mishpat in men. Thus in the specific case of Solomon, the people saw ‘that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment’ (I Kgs. iii. 28). Jehoshaphat can say to his judges, ‘ye judge not for man, but for the Lord; and he is with you in the judgment’ (2 Ch. xix. 6)… It is abundantly clear that mishpat is not simply the result of human striving. When it appears in men it is the gift of God.”

[1] Leon Morris, The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment. London: The Tyndale Press, 1960; my underlinings inserted to highlight the character of biblical justice as active, decisive, and dynamic.

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