Today we read what inspired and provided Jesus with His answer about the greatest commandment. He quotes God Himself in His answer.
I don’t know how many times I have read OVER this passage and never noticed what was right in front of me. Maybe it was because of the attitude I was “trudging through” this book with on previous occasions too. I read the passages and grasped what I believed was the general meaning but it never registered on me until two nights ago when reading it again EXACTLY what was said here. THIS is where Jesus got the second of what He said was the greatest commandment.
God fleshes out that commandment here. The last time we met I noted that the content of the text covered the first five commandments and the relationship we were to have with the Father and our earthly parents. Here God finishes with the remaining commandments. After this section there is only one commandment remaining to be expounded upon; “You shall not commit adultery.” He saves that for later. It is NOT forgotten.
When preparing Israel to care for their “neighbors” God looked to the future as well as the present. His first instructions in our reading for today deals with crops. During this time the people of Israel were early in their wandering days. They wouldn’t have fields, crops, and vineyards for some time. But that didn’t preclude God speaking to them about that future time. I think having the instructions up front might also have been a good thing because then He didn’t have bad behavior to correct. They were a clean slate in this area. They would begin their nation with this practice firmly in place. They would be prepared to care for the poor and the sojourner from the beginning.
After establishing this new foundation for the future, God addresses things that are impactful immediately. Stealing, dealing falsely, lying, slander, and swearing falsely were things that had immediate application. I’m not insisting that they were doing these things presently but, knowing people, they probably were instances of this within the camp. Moses and the elders wouldn’t have had any call to judge between people if everyone was living as God wanted them to and dealing rightly with one another. We know from previous reading that Moses spent a LOT of time dealing with the more serious issues between the people and the elders spent probably as much on the smaller things. I think this was God telling the people to “shape up!”
When it comes to the blind, deaf and poor I believe God was speaking for the future again. When the people came out of Egypt we are told that there were none among them who stumbled (Psalm 105:37). To me this means that NONE were sick, deaf, blind, feeble or too old to manage the journey. But they wouldn’t remain this way forever. In fact, the entire first generation would die during their wanderings because of their sin. God was preparing the people to care for their future brothers and sisters in need. He looked ahead and planned for what was to come.
God could have blessed His people with incredible health and kept disease from EVER striking them. But they lived in a fallen world, just like we do. Part of this world is that there is going to be disease, deformity, disability and even death. His people experience it as much as any other people; even His Spiritual children. The difference is where their final hope is placed, but that’s a topic for another day.
In ALL that God shared, in our small section of His overall address to Moses, He summed it up with the same words that Jesus would use hundreds of years later. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 18b). Why? Because HE IS LORD! He is their Lord and He is our Lord. And if You are His you will seek to honor and obey His words. It is that simple and that complicated. Love because He loved.
God’s Law isn’t simply some HUGE list of dos and don’ts. It’s a love letter to His children of His BEST instructions on how to live a happy life. Yes, there is a LOT of rigid structure in His initial “letter” to His children but there was ALWAYS a reason and purpose to all He included. We probably STILL have a lot of learning why and what for in the future but we can PLAINLY see today that His EXACT words and meaning still translates hundreds of years later and rang true for Jesus. And those same words are STILL His instructions to us today.
Father God, thank You for opening my eyes to the quote that Jesus used. He didn’t even say, “As it is written” like He did other times He quoted the scriptures. He simply repeated Your heart; His Father’s heart for man.
Thank You Jesus for loving me MORE than just a neighbor. Thank You for loving me as Your sister. Thank You for introducing me to Your Father. Help me live up to even a portion of Your example. Help me to love my “neighbor” just like You demonstrated every day. Mr. Rogers had NOTHING on You!
Thank You Holy Spirit for breaking down the commandments into understandable and applicable pieces. You “fleshed them out” in this section by giving concrete examples. You brought them to a point where NO ONE can say, “but I didn’t think it meant…” You clearly illustrate what loving your neighbor looks like.