December 2012 • Volume XIV, Issue 8
Judge Not! (2)
In our last issue of the News, we considered the
judging that is not forbidden (and the righteous judging
that is required). We need now to consider the judging
that is forbidden: "Judge not, that ye be not judged"
We must not judge someone with regard to "adiaphora,"
that is, in things indifferent. Romans 14 and I
Corinthians 8 teach that this is a biblical category.
For example, if a person eats only vegetables it is not
per se sinful, so one should not judge or despise him or
her for it. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and
drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy
Ghost" (Rom. 14:17).
We must not judge in matters that do not belong to us or
enter into quarrels that are none of our business. "He
that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not
to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears" (Prov.
26:17). Thus Peter exhorts, "But let none of you suffer
as ... a busybody in other men’s matters" (I Pet. 4:15).
We must not judge without being aware of the pertinent
facts of the case. If it truly belongs to you to
adjudicate on a matter, you need to hear both sides (so
to speak) of the case. Without hearing both sides, you
are in no position to judge. Just because one side is
forward in presenting his or her view to you is no
guarantee that he or she is in the right. "He that is
first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour
cometh and searcheth him" (Prov. 18:17).
We must not judge other people’s motives. Do you know
who was guilty of judging someone’s motives in what is
perhaps the most famous biblical example of this sin?
The devil! Satan judged Job’s motives: "Doth Job fear
God for naught?" (Job 1:9). So wicked and hardened was
the devil in this evil that he made it a charge of sin
against holy Job, a charge Satan made to God Himself!
But the devil was dead wrong! Contrary to Satan’s
accusation (10), Job did not serve God for what he could
get out of it. He served God because he loved and feared
Him (1). God alone knows man’s secret motives.
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord
come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of
darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the
hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (I
We must not judge without mercy. Love requires us not to
impute evil motives to good actions. Love requires us to
put the best construction we can on doubtful actions. We
must not "make a man an offender for a word" (Isa.
29:21). We must also remember mitigating circumstances
and that we too are weak and sinful. "How would I have
reacted in that difficult situation? Maybe I, too, would
We must not judge out of hypercriticalness. Some people
love to judge, to criticize, to put down. They are
always looking for a fault which they promptly magnify
out of all proportion. They are glad when they have
something to criticize and they are sad when they can
find no fault for then they have nothing to say.
We must not judge out of self-righteousness. This is the
sin of the Pharisee in the Lord’s parable: "God, I thank
thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners,
unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast
twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess"
(Luke 18:11-12). When we put down others, it is often to
make ourselves look good and feel good, for when we are
pointing our finger at the sins of others, it is hard to
remember our own iniquities. If we are not confessing
our sins to God, and thereby experiencing forgiveness by
Christ’s cross and Spirit, this is a sort of substitute.
"I must have relief from the guilt of my sins, but I’m
not going to humble myself before the Triune God.
Instead, I’ll talk up how bad others are and then I’ll
not feel so guilty."
We must not judge as if we were the final judges. God
alone is the supreme judge and He judges according to
His Word (John 12:48). Our judgments are provisional.
Jehovah is the judge of all the earth and He is my judge
and your judge too. So we must never think or speak as
if our judgments are supreme and final.
Having seen the types of judging that are sinful, we
must also consider the sphere in which sinful judgments
are especially forbidden. Let us read three verses that
follow almost immediately after our Lord’s prohibition
in Matthew 7:1: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is
in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the
beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to
thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of
thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou
hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye;
and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out
of thy brother’s eye" (3-5). Your brother! Not so
much your physical brother, but your spiritual brother
(or sister) in the church!
Obviously sinful judgment is prohibited in all spheres:
family, home, workplace, school, neighbourhood, etc.,
but in Matthew 7 it is especially forbidden regarding
one’s fellow saints in the church. These are the ones we
should especially love (I Cor. 13:4-7) and so be least
judgmental about (Matt. 7:1-5).
But if we are not walking with the Lord, the exact
opposite is often true. We show patience and kindness to
almost everybody else, but we sinfully judge our
brothers and sisters in the church. These things ought
We must not judge unkindly the motives of our brethren,
or judge them rashly or unheard, or look askance at
every word or act. We must not be hypercritical about an
elder, a minister or deacon so that everything or most
things they do are viewed with suspicion or a jaundiced
eye. Nor must we judge them out of self-righteousness to
make ourselves look or feel good. Instead, as those
redeemed by Christ and "born again," let us "love one
another with a pure heart fervently" (I Pet. 1:22-23).
Moses’ Flight From Egypt
"And when he [i.e., Moses] was full forty years old, it
came into his heart to visit his brethren the children
of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he
defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and
smote the Egyptian: for he supposed his brethren would
have understood how that God by his hand would deliver
them: but they understood not" (Acts 7:23-25).
In the last News, I answered the original
question: "Was it right of Moses to kill the Egyptian in
the light of Acts 7:24-25 or was it murder?"
Since then, a Hungarian brother wrote that he would like
more light on the matter, especially because of the
narrative of the event in Exodus 2:11-15. The impression
is left in that passage that Moses fled Egypt because
the king had learned of his act of killing the Egyptian
and he was, understandably, furious. Indeed, the text
reads, "And Moses feared, and said, Surely the thing is
The difficulty is that Hebrews 11:27 tells us that "By
faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the
king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible."
Hebrews 11, equally inspired by the Holy Spirit who
inspired the narrative in Exodus 2 and who inspired
Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7, says
that Moses was not afraid of the king. We must accept
that and interpret the other passages in the light of
Let us come to the correct understanding of the whole
matter by applying the great Reformed principle of Bible
interpretation: Scripture interprets Scripture.
First of all, let us settle the matter that the killing
of the Egyptian was not murder and a violation of the
sixth commandment. Stephen makes this abundantly clear.
He expressly states that Moses saw an Israelite
suffering wrong; that he defended the Israelite; that he
avenged the Israelite and that he supposed "that his
brethren would have understood how that God by his hand
would deliver them" (Acts 7:24-25).
We ought to notice a few things about this speech of
Stephen. He was on trial before the Sanhedrin for
violating the Jewish law. He was recounting the history
of the nation. If he made mistakes in his narrative of
Israel’s history, the Sanhedrin would have pounced on
him and showed that Stephen did not even know the
history of the nation. But, apparently, they accepted
Stephen’s words as true.
Further, Stephen’s address stressed that the wicked
nation of Israel always was contrary and always opposed
God’s purpose. This emphasis in Stephen’s speech comes
to its climax in Acts 7:51: "Ye stiffnecked and
uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the
Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."
The accusation then of the Israelite who said to Moses,
"Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest
thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?" (Ex.
2:14) was sheer resisting of the Holy Ghost.
On the other hand, Moses was conscious "by faith" that
God had called him to deliver Israel from Egypt, as He
had promised already to Abraham (Gen. 15:13-14). And,
not only did Moses understand this, but Israel also
understood it. They knew what God had said to Abraham as
well as Moses did. They knew that the four hundred years
had expired. Moses killed the Egyptian because it was
the concrete evidence of what Hebrews 11:24-26 describes
as his choice by faith not "to be called the son of
Pharaoh’s daughter," but "to suffer affliction with the
people of God"—to whom the promise of Christ had been
Moses’ sin in killing the Egyptian was the sin of taking
the matter into his own hands and not waiting for God’s
direction and timing in what had to be His work.
When he realized that this particular Israelite wanted
no part of the deliverance of the nation from Egypt, and
when Moses also realized that his killing of the
Egyptian was known (as the text in Exodus 2 tells us),
he also understood that the nation would not rise with
him against their oppressors. It was the beginning of a
long series of events in Israel’s history that showed
how unbelieving Israel wanted no part of God’s work.
They rebelled against Moses repeatedly. They complained
constantly of lack of water, of their disgust at the
miracle of manna, of the difficulties of the way through
the wilderness and of their desire to return to Egypt
where there were melons, leeks and garlic. Right from
the start, they bitterly opposed God’s work of
delivering them from Egypt.
But we must go one more step back. Moses fled from
Egypt, as Hebrews 11 tells us, not because he feared the
king, but because he realized, by the reaction of his
brother, the Israelite, that he had been presumptuous in
taking it upon himself to deliver Israel at the time of
his choosing, instead of waiting upon the Lord. This is
the force and meaning of Hebrews 11:27: "By faith ... he
endured, as seeing him who is invisible."
In other words, his faith did not falter insofar as he
believed that God would fulfil His promise to Abraham
and deliver Israel. But he "endured," that is, he was
willing to endure the delay and wait on the Lord for Him
to choose His time, call Moses in His own way, leave
Israel in Egypt until they were ready to be delivered
and wait for Egypt to fill the cup of iniquity so that
their punishment and destruction would be clearly
manifest as just (Gen. 15:16).
This same sin afflicted Jacob who could not wait for God
to give him the birthright in His own time and way, and
who took matters into his own hands by buying the
birthright for a bowl of soup, deceiving his blind
father to get Isaac’s blessing and playing tricks in
Padanaram in an effort to get as much of Laban’s cattle
as he possibly could. It was only at Jabbok, wrestling
with God, that the Almighty showed Jacob that he could
not gain the birthright by his schemes and strength.
Jehovah would give it in His own time.
This is a sin that afflicts all of us. We take matters
into our own hands out of frustration with what seems to
us God’s delay and His indifference to what we desire.
We want things our way, at our time and by our strength.
It is in the awareness of this danger in our lives that
the Scriptures repeatedly admonish us to wait on the
Lord: "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he
shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord"
(Ps. 27:14). Prof. Hanko
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