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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Ninety-Fifth (Love God)

I hope you had a wonderful week! How did Yehovah bless you this week? Make sure you take a moment to thank Him. That's one of the ways we show we love Him! We're actually going to look at that this week: how we love God.

To start, let's go to the beginning. We've looked at love before and found that we're told to love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). The word for love there being agape, which is the unconditional kind. Whether it be from a lack of knowledge or purposeful ignorance, some like to point to these verses (Matthew 22:37-40) as a replacement for the commandments, but did you know our Messiah was quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus?

When Israel needed a reminder of the commandments of Yehovah (Deuteronomy 5:7-21), this time it was coupled with loving Him (Deuteronomy 6:5). In fact, loving God was mentioned in the Old Testament many more times after this, and the majority of the time it is in conjunction with keeping His commandments. Oh, and you know that second part of Jesus' words? Yeah, the love your neighbor part. Did you know that was also a quote from the Old Testament? (Leviticus 19:18)

No, Jesus was not just summarizing the ten commandments into two new ones, He was quoting Old Testament commandments that already existed. The thing is, those commandments were given by God to summarize the commandments He had already given! In other words, He was not replacing His commandments, just like Jesus was not replacing His commandments.

There's a group of Christians out there that look at scripture as a progression of different ways Yehovah "dealt" with man. While this may be the picture you get when you read verses like those listed above, you have to keep Yehovah in mind in order to get the big flick, so to speak. What I mean by that is you have to remember that He is unchanging (Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Hebrews 1:12).

You see, God didn't just decide to give the commandments as a different way to "deal" with man, or as a new way to make sure man did the right thing. The commandments were His expectation for man starting with Adam and Eve in the garden. Israel had spent an extended amount of time as slaves in Egypt, surrounded by Gentiles and likely prevented from loving God the way they were taught by their forefathers.

They were surrounded by heathen rituals and beliefs for hundreds of years and needed to relearn God's expectations from scratch. It's easy for us to read Exodus and say, "man, God just delivered them from slavery, God is literally talking to Moses right now, and they're going to go make a golden calf idol?! What were they thinking?!" But when you're reading through it you forget that they were under bondage and that's all they knew.

Just look at Christians in the United States, for example. While we are not in bondage like the Israelites were, we are surrounded by heathen rituals and beliefs and bombarded by them everywhere we look. News articles, tell-a-vision shows, movies, magazines, books, all promoting Satan's lies. And now you have churches celebrating homosexuality, and all the other letters of the alphabet, compromising on values to be "inclusive," and even avoiding the truth on topics like abortion because they're too "controversial." And that's not even because it was forced on them like it was the Israelites!

So, did God change His mind from Adam and Eve and give the ten commandments, and then change His mind again to get rid of them with Jesus? Or was His expectation of us that we follow them from the beginning and He provided reminders of those expectations with Moses and again with Jesus? If you break down the ten commandments, you'll see that the first four are about loving Yehovah and the last six are about loving your neighbor (with your father and mother being your closest neighbor!). (Exodus 20:3-17, Romans 13:9)

In Leviticus 19, God had to remind the Israelites again, and this time provide more specificity in requirements. Was Yehovah okay with them cursing the deaf or blind before He told them they "shalt not?" (Leviticus 19:14) Was He okay with them hating their brother before He told them they "shalt not?" (Leviticus 19:17) Of course not. But if you look at scripture in chunks instead of as a whole that's exactly the picture you'll get. And I submit to you that this is just as bad, if not worse, than the legalism of the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked (Matthew 23:23).

But what of this other "chunk" of scripture many like to speak of? Namely, what of the fact that these commandments were given to the Israelites at the time, and not to us "Gentiles?" Surely that means God deals with us differently, or has different expectations for us than them because He never appeared on a mountain to a Gentile and gave these commandments. To this I ask, what was the term given to describe the Israelites? That's right, holy people, God's people, or the chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 1 Kings 3:8, 8:16, 2 Chronicles 6:5, 6:6, 6:34, Psalm 33:12, 105:43).

What is the term given to us as believers in Christ? Care to guess? Yes, we are called chosen, too! And no, that term is not limited to the New Testament! God Himself called us His chosen. In a chapter addressed to the people of Jacob, also called Israel, God said He would give drink to His people, His chosen, the people He formed for Himself. He said this while pointing out that Israel, despite being His chosen, were not honoring Him or satisfying Him (Isaiah 43:20-24). This is a direct reference to the people He would choose as His ekklesia, His church, His called out (1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 16:18).

Did we replace Israel, as some claim? The premise of the replacement question shows a very near sighted view, again clearly focused on viewing scripture in chunks rather than as a whole. God is not a respecter of persons. He does not care whether you're of Israel, of Columbus, of Washington, or of any other lineage. You are His chosen if you love Him. And if you love Him you keep His commandments (John 14:15, 14:21, 15:10, 1 John 5:2, 5:3, 2 John 1:6). All of them (Matthew 5:19).

We (believers in Christ) are grafted into His tree since the original branches (Israel) were broken off due to unbelief (Romans 11:7-24). That tree was rooted in love of Him from the very beginning. The rejection of God in human form as the Son, Jesus Christ, was the final show of not loving Him resulting in their getting removed from the tree for a time, but as we saw in Isaiah He already had Gentiles in mind almost a millennium before His Son. In fact, He gave grace to Noah and his family before the chosen people Israel because he was just and walked with God (Genesis 6:9).

So you see, it was never about the law or not the law. It was, and is, about love of Him. And love of Him begets love of your neighbor because He created them, too! To not love them is to not love Him. As you pray and let the Holy Spirit lead you into how to love God, take a moment to read through Leviticus 19:9-37. With some other things thrown in, these are the more specific commandments given about loving your neighbor. Yes, every neighbor regardless of lineage or beliefs. Obviously, every possible circumstance you could encounter can't be listed, but this is a good start to make sure we're on the right track!

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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