Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them. (Exodus 21:1)
The Torah is the standard of righteousness. But it is also the rule of justice (mishpat, משפט). The laws of the Torah are just, and their implementation is the administration of justice. mishpatim (משפטים), a word that means “judgments.” It is primarily a list of commandments and guidelines for the exercise of righteousness and justice.
Righteousness can be understood as the fulfillment of all legal and moral obligations. In the juridical sense, it is a state of innocence.
Justice can be understood as the fair administration of authority, rightly deciding between contestants, rightly rewarding and rightly punishing.
The twin concepts of righteousness and justice are at the very center of Torah, Messiah and the Kingdom of Heaven. Abraham was originally chosen because he would teach his children after him in “doing righteousness and justice.” (Genesis 18:19) The Scriptures tell us that God loves righteousness and justice, (Psalm 33:5) that He desires them more than sacrifice (Proverbes 21:3) and that His very throne is founded upon them, for it is written in Psalm 97:2, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.”
The king’s primary function is to dispense justice and righteousness in Israel. Second Samuel 8:15 tells us, “David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” The Psalmist says, “The strength of the King loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” (Psalm 99:4) When Israel practiced justice and righteousness, she was blessed, but when she strayed from justice and righteousness under the influence of wicked kings, the prophets rebuked her. “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level,” (Isaiah 28:17) the LORD declares through the prophet Isaiah. The Psalmist prays for the Davidic King, saying, “Give the king Your judgments (mishpatim), O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice.” (Psalm 72:1-2) When the Queen of Sheba visits King Solomon, she blesses God with a beracah that would be appropriate to apply to Messiah:
Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the LORD loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness. (1 Kings 10:9)
As we grapple with the laws of Torah, we are seeking to understand the foundation of the throne of God. When we read the Torah’s laws, we are reading about the administration of King Messiah, the ultimate champion of justice and righteousness.