Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Best Rules Ever (Deut. 5-7)

SEAN - You don't like rules? Fine. I'll remember that when someone breaks your rule and jacks your car. But yours is a good rule - and God's are even better. The picture up top is of a group of young Orthodox Jews. These men love the commandments of the Old Testament, and recite the Shema (6.4-5) every day in their prayers. They "delight in God's statutes" (Psalm 119.16).

Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Learning the Ten Commandments
Quick: without checking, name all of the ten commandments. How did you do? I made it through other gods (5.6-7) and idols (5.8-10) before I stumbled over taking God's name in vain (5.11) and jumped straight to honoring the Sabbath (5.12-15) instead. For a lot of people the Big 10 are a lot like the Nicene Creed - everyone claims to follow it but no one remembers the contents; I'll often hear non-Christians say "I don't believe in God, but I'm a pretty good person, I follow the ten commandments." Really? You do? You worship the God of the Bible and you don't put anything else before Him (5.7)? That's a pretty astounding feat for an Agnostic.

The Most Important Commandment

First, Jesus calls the shema (6.4-5) the most important commandment in the entire Bible (Matthew 22.36-38) - so sit up and take notice! The commandment goes like this: 'Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. You shall love Yahweh our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.' In the Old and New Testaments, loving God means keeping his commandments (11.1; John 14.21). Second, there is a little theological dispute between Jews and Christians that comes up in this passage: non-Messianic Jews say that 'Yahweh is one' rules out the Trinity (it doesn't say, 'Yahweh is three!'), while Christians and Messianic Jews say that 'Yahweh is one' in roughly the same sense that Adam and Eve became one flesh (Genesis 2.24) - there's more than person involved, but they are somehow still one being. My Messianic beliefs, and a wide range of other parts of the Bible (from both Old and New Testaments), tell me that the second option is the right one. I'll send you some research if you ask for it in the comments section. Freebie: the word for 'God' in the Old Testament is actually a plural noun - it's actually the word 'Gods'. But the pronouns are all singular; it's like saying "Seans (plural noun) went to the store and he (singular pronoun) bought some milk." That kind of language shows there is something that's more-than-one, and yet there is still only one.

A Chosen People
God's commands are a blessing and a privilege. For Israel, these commands were signs that God had chosen His people and loved them - 'we got our rules straight from the Creator of the world!' - and for us they are a sign that God cares for us and hasn't left us to fend for ourselves. He's given us eternal wisdom in just 66 letters, poems, and short books, all wrapped up together into this bigger thing that we call the Bible. If you are holding one in your hand right now, it is a sign of God's faithfulness and care.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

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