Commanded

The rabbis tell us there are 613 commandments in the Torah. These include 365 “Don’ts” and 248 “dos.” There can be roughly categorised and summed up in the Ten Commandments of Sinai.

Exodus 20 :

1 And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

This list can be divided in a few ways, but it is generally accepted that the first four pertain to our relationship with God, and the remaining six with our relationship with other people. An interesting alternative view is that the fifth is a transitional command, as it can apply to our relationship with “the Father” or authority in general terms. This view then notes that the tenth is a consolidating command for the fifth through ninth commandments as if you do not covet possessions, you want be tempted to steal, or not coveting a neighbour’s spouse will remove the temptation to adultery, etc.

This division of the commands into “divine” and “human” is seen in Jesus’ further consolidation of the expectations. In Matthew 22, Jesus says the following about the greatest commandment of the law:

Jesus replied: “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here we see the “God – Man” divide again. Jesus is presenting the words of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5) as the greatest command. The loving here is the Hebrew term “Ahavah” which means affection, but more than that was well. It unlike the Greek “love” which has many forms – agape, philos, etc., it can encompass all of them much as our English word “love” does. Our love of God is built on in Deuteronomy 10 where we are told it involves walking with Him, serving Him, and keeping His commands (see how this comes full circle). We can also deduce that we owe these “loves” to our fellows as well.

This obligation of Love of God and of man is recurrent in the New Testament. First Corinthians 13 tells us that of all the gifts we can receive from God, love is the greatest. Paul notes:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

He further notes that when all else passes away – love will endure.

John then takes this command or obligation to love, and very nicely:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

So we complete our journey – 613 commands to 10. The 10 to two. The two the a central word: Love.

Let’s do as we are commanded.


Padre

Commandments: Quotes and Reflections

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Commandments: commands, demands, imperatives, rules, or orders.  While the Hebrew Torah contains 613 commands, the tablets given to Moses contained ten.  These rules set literally in stone were to be the basis of the laws and social order of the nation of “chosen people.”

“If God would have wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments.” Zig Ziglar  These same rules have set the basis of the Jewish faith, and have left an indelible mark on Christian belief and  practice as well.  Jesus did indeed sum up the teachings of the scriptures in a short two point model, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’  (Matthew 22:37-39).” It is on the first of these (covered by Commandments 1-4 of the Tablets of Moses which I will focus on today.

The First Commandment recorded in Exodus chapter 20 reads, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me (verses 2-3).” God’s call here is clear.  He wants and expects an exclusive relationship with His people. Martin Luther (1483-1546) commented on the command’s purpose,  “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.” God, therefore, wants our focus and hearts to be with him.

The Second Commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20: 4-5),” was reflected on by Thomas Watson (1620-1686), “In the first commandment worshiping a false god is forbidden; in this, worshiping the true God in a false manner [is forbidden].” The true worship of God is to be spiritual (as He is), bowing down to images, or sub-par replacements is onerous to Him.

The Third Command reads, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” We live in an age where you can hear seven-year-olds on the street uttering “OMG.” Yet, this flippant disregard to God’s dignity is prohibited by the Creator.  I have a great respect for the Jewish practices of avoiding the use, much less misuse of His name.  He is often addressed as “Ha Shem” (The Name), and even when the English word in which we entitle Him is used, it is often rendered as “G-d.” [See my post on Moses’ name and the relation with YHWH].   Psalm 139:20-21 even goes so far as to equate those who misuse God’s name with murderers and God’s enemies.  Yet in our society, “Swearing and praying are the two most common ways to use God’s name (Ray Fowler).” What a sad reflection.

The Fourth Commandment,  “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God (Exodus 20: 8-10),” rounds out our commands relating to our relationship with God.  It really is straight forward.  He rested, He calls us to rest to refresh and to then go on.  

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The effort to honour this was evident in my hotel in Jerusalem.  The “kosher lifts” or “Sabbath Elevators”  made it so no one would cause a spark to be made by pushing the electric button of Sabbath.  While some Christians have commented that the rabbinical interpretations of the 4th Commandment exceed the intention, it is nonetheless noteworthy in its attempt to uphold God’s edicts.

What is more practically impressive in this age of open 24-7-365 is the sign I saw on a shop door in Tennessee next to its Sunday: Closed notification.  It read, The day is worth more than the dollar.”  What a wonderful application of god’s principles!

I hope that we all can take some time to reflect on the message of the “Love the Lord your God” commandments.  I pray that we seek to practice them, and show our appreciation of Him who gave them.

I hope to post on the “Love your neighbour” commands in the future.

Padre