You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
– Leviticus 19:17-18 NASB (emphasis added)
Yesterday I mentioned that the law of the Lord for the ancient Israelites was found in the first five books of the Bible. This law prescribed how the Israelites should live collectively and individually. It was their Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and legal code combined.
Genesis was mainly the history of Israel and the human race. Deuteronomy was largely a recap of the law. Therefore, the statutes and ordinances that made up “the Law” (as it was often simply called) were largely found in the three intervening books: Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. These books can make for very tedious reading, not just for modern folks but for ancient ones as well.
This law of Moses included the Ten Commandments, but also included some 603 other commandments as traditionally counted by the Jews. The Law also contained associated provisions and prescriptions such that the whole of it could be very intimidating. It was long, and it was detailed. Therefore, when Jesus was conducting His ministry in Israel, it is perfectly understandable that someone would ask Him to summarize it. We might have asked Him this way: “What’s the bottom line?”
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:35-40 NASB (emphasis added; all caps words are quoting Old Testament)
Notice that Jesus was only asked for “the greatest” commandment, but actually gave the two greatest commandments – thus implying that the first could not be properly understood without coupling it with the second.
We do not have to interpret the Old Testament – we accept Jesus’ interpretation of it.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, You understand the Old Testament. Therefore, we want to see it through Your eyes. We will not think we can love You without also loving our fellow human beings…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.