Deuteronomy 17:2-13 – The Lost Art of Seeking the Truth

Posted: February 19, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 17:2-13

Requirement for Several Witnesses

I remember watching the movie, “All the President’s Men”, in which Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portrayed the real life reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who broke the Watergate scandal and subsequent cover-up that brought down the Nixon presidency. Back in those days, newspapers were king. In those days, there was no instant news. There was no CNN. There was no Fox News. There was no instant social media. Newspapers would come out once a day (though some papers had afternoon editions) and pretty much every household subscribed to the newspapers. In those days, newspapers had the luxury of time. Because of that luxury, newspapers had the tradition of verifying news stories from multiple sources. It was expected and required. It was also a good thing. It was in that atmosphere that Woodward and Bernstein broke open all the illegal activities conducted by the Committee to Re-Elect the President (or CREEP, as was its acronym). As part of the process, each and every story they wrote about the scandal, they had to verify their original sources with multiple corroborative sources. The White House could say that the stories were not true but the evidence of corroborative sources was so overwhelming that the stories had traction. With each revelation that was corroborated and corroborated again, the nails began to be placed in the coffin of what was the presidency of Richard Nixon. The evidence was so overwhelming that President Nixon resigned his office in August 1974 right in the middle of his second term as President.

 

Fast forward to today, we have cell phone videos. We have Instagram. We have 24 hour news cycles on television. We have instant access to what’s going on in the world. Is it necessarily a good thing? I begin to wonder. Now, there is no time for newspapers, television stations, networks, etc. to verify news sources to corroborate a story as being true. We see it. We form and opinion. We report it. There is such a fundamental breakdown in journalistic standards in our nation and the rest of the world that we no longer can trust what we see and read as news. It used to be that the news providers would police themselves with what they called journalistic standards where by their own professional integrity that they would only report what they knew and had verified to be true. No longer is that true. We the news consumer must determine for ourselves what is true and what is not. Now, the news outlets seem to be outlets for whatever political agenda that their news agency supports. CNN is known to be quite liberal. Fox News is known to be quite conservative, for example. You can watch the same news event on each of these international news outlets and come away thinking very different things. Even the news agencies, once the bastions of impartiality and “just the facts” have become part of the polarized political landscape in which we live.

 

We the general public are to blame as well. We take our cell phone videos and stir up millions with our selective reporting of news events. We also knee jerk react to what we see. We do not expect that the truth will prevail anymore. We form our opinions and react to the news regardless of what the facts of the situation truly are. Police shootings are automatically the fault of the police and the facts of the case are no longer a relevant thing, only the spin that we put on things is relevant. We manage our own truth now. Journalistic standards are no longer necessary only political spin is. It is a reflection of the fact that we no longer care about absolute truth anymore as a society. We makes me happy is my truth. What makes you happy is your truth. We no longer care or believe that there are absolute truths in life. As a result, the media is a reflection of our society. We only read and listen and watch those news agencies that support our brand of the truth.

 

This morning as I was reading this passage, I thought about how tough it was for Woodward and Bernstein to crack open the Watergate scandal (so much so that it required a two hour movie to summarize it) and how different today’s knee-jerk journalism is from that. How we go about determining the truth today is far from biblical and that’s what came to mind when I read Deuteronomy 17:2-13. Let’s read it now, together:

 

2 If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the Lord gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God in violation of his covenant, 3 and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, 4 and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. 6 On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.

 

8 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the Lord your God will choose. 9 Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. 10 You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the Lord will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do. 11 Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. 12 Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. 13 All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.

 

In this passage, we see that a person was not put to death on the testimony of one witness. On the witness of two or three, a man or woman could be condemned and then sentenced to death. This process protected the rights of the accused person two ways. First, by requiring several witnesses, it prevented an angry individual from stirring up a mob mentality with false testimony. Second, by requiring the accusers to participate in the execution of the court’s judgment, it made them think twice about accusing someone in an unjust manner.

 

Shouldn’t we be that way as Christians in the world in which we live. We must discern the real truth from political spin. We must have the discernment not to participate in mob mentalities. We must have the discernment not to be ready to stone those who do not believe in the same manner that we do until we have corroborated the facts. We are commanded by the Bible not too quick to judge. It is upon this basis that our court systems were developed. It was under this basis that all of our system of government was built so as to prevent the mob from destroying our country just because they believe something to be true when the truth might be something different. We may hate our court systems for letting criminals go free over technicalities. But I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said that it is better for a 100 criminals to go free than for 1 innocent man to go to prison. We have become a nation that no longer cares about the truth. The truth is what I frame it as. Let us not be participants in this mentality and let us as Christians lead to way in changing our nation into a nation that seeks the absolute truth and not just our version of it. Absolute truth comes from God and everything else is just opinion.

 

We must not be a people who participate in knee jerk reactions and opinions taken as truth. We, of all people, should seek truth, the absolute truth. We should be the ones that seek it and find it. We are children of God who have been given the benefit of the doubt. We were actually rightfully convicted by our sin and condemned to the death known as hell if it were not for the action of Jesus Christ to take our punishment for us. We were redeemed and set free from our punishment. Therefore, it is biblical for us, to seek the truth and not join the mob just because the mob is large. Jesus was crucified as part of God’s plan but on the human side of things, He was crucified by public opinion. We must have discernment and a willingness to find the truth and corroborate it. We must not join the bandwagon because everyone else is. We must stand for the truth. We must seek it. We must find it. We must not be the like mob that crucified Jesus unjustly. We must honor Jesus by seeking truth always, not just that which is easy – following the mob’s perception of truth, their spin of the truth. We must be willing to stand up for what is right and true even if the media spins the truth, even if the mob determines its own truth.

 

Amen and Amen.

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