The sixth term we see Scripture using of itself is judgment. The Hebrew mišpāt (H4941) is a masculine noun indicating a binding judicial decision that establishes a precedent. While the structure of American government is distinctively divided into branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—this was not the case in ancient times. When we see the word judgment we tend to think of something judicial only, but mišpāt is broader than that, indicating not only judging but also ruling.
Mišpāt is very common in the OT, appearing 417 times. Its first occurrence is in Gen_18:19, where God says of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment.” Here is the first mention in Scripture of the importance of teaching our children. What should we be teaching them? Certainly not humanism and evolution, but rather the things of God, morality, and the precedents of Scripture.
My personal passion for Psalms 119 takes me to it often, and we find mišpāt there no less than twenty-three times. The first occurrence is in Psa_119:7 : “I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments,” indicating that we praise God only when we follow the precedents set down in His Word. It is absolutely impossible to praise God fully unless His Word is our sole authority.
So not only does God’s Word give us precepts, as noted on February 18, but it also provides precedents. Just as an attorney will plead based on precedents to try to prove his case, the greatest schooling, the greatest lessons of life, the most important things we can learn (and then teach to our children and other believers) are the precedents set down in God’s Word. Tragically, many Bible interpreters ignore the precedents, the clear rulings of Scripture. One graphic example is the clear precedent in Scripture of the primacy of preaching. True biblical and expositional preaching (March 15) has all but vanished, being replaced by things that are “more appropriate to the modern mind,” it is argued, or “more appealing to the unchurched.”
Never has there been a greater need for “[declaring] all the judgments of [God’s] mouth” (Psa_119:13) than there is today, for it is only there we will find hope (Psa_119:43) and comfort (Psa_119:52) simply because those judgments are right (Psa_119:75).
Scriptures for Study: What else does Psalms 119 challenge us to do concerning God’s judgments (Psa_119:102; Psa_119:106; Psa_119:120, and Psa_119:164)?