Archive for category Love
In this days reading, the main focus is the results that come from following the commands of God or disobeying the commands. God forewarned them about the consequences of their behavior.
God blesses obedience, why? Jesus said that all the laws hang upon the first and second great commandments; to love God, with all of our heart, mind and soul, and the second is to love our neighbor. If then every law hangs upon these preeminent commands, then the purpose of the commandments is to teach the people how to love, which is what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1st Timothy chapter one. In addition, a natural consequence of knowing what is the good, and loving to do is that if I don’t do these things then I am doing things unloving or sinful. That is why Paul writes in Romans chapter seven that he learned what sin is through the law. In other words, when we learn what is right we also learn what is wrong, therefore the choice we make whether to follow the commands or disobey the commands determines whether we are following God or rebelling against God.
In the New Testament, the doctrine of Grace covers our failure to do what is right, however the purpose of Jesus commandments is still the same, to teach us how to love God and love one another. Remember Jesus said you can tell who are his followers by their love for one another (John 13:35). Even in 1st John when John writes about walking in the light and having fellowship with God (chapter 1), walking in the light is about practicing what is right, but when we fail we still have an advocate with the father who covers our sins by his sacrifice.
I wish we could care for the poor like God commanded Israel to do. God’s wisdom in commanding Israel to not reap the edges of their fields so the poor could gather food, accomplishes a number of things that a straight handout does not. It requires the poor person to work for their food, since they have to go into the field and pick the crop, as well as carrying it home and preparing the food. It allows them to maintain some dignity for themselves as well as prevent people from getting caught in a terrible cycle of dependence and entitlement that welfare handouts often create. That doesn’t mean that handouts aren’t always bad, especially for those unable to work such as widows, children and handicapped. The goal of helping others in need is godly and good but we don’t want to do for somebody what they can do themselves, we want to help them with the burdens that become too big for them to carry on their own. That is exactly what Gal 6:2-5 is teaching.
Honoring parents is important to God. Besides being the first commandment given with an accompanying promise, to live long on the earth, God commanded some strict punishment for dishonoring parents. If a child hit a parent (occurs in Feb 28th reading ex 21:15), cursed their parent, or became rebellious to their parents, they were to be executed. If we practiced this in our society we might have a smaller population. On the upside, if we practiced this, we wouldn’t have baby-boomers retiring in massive numbers for the next 18 years creating a huge strain on the Federal budget since the majority would have been executed in the sixties and seventies. On the downside, I might not have made it out of childhood myself, so I guess I will be thankful this wasn’t applied to me. But I hope I learn to be more respectful of my parents and prior generations.
I wonder if Deut 24:5 is the origin of the honeymoon period for newlyweds. It says a man cannot have any duties placed upon him, such as fighting in war, during the first year of his marriage. It says he must be free to stay at home and bring his wife happiness. I wonder in times of war if the number of marriages rose dramatically to try to get out of fighting? You know, kind of like the population of Canada rose dramatically during the Vietnam War.
As I read through the lists of sexual sins that Israel should not practice, I realized many of them were practiced by their own ancestors. Some examples off the top of my head:
- No sex with father or mother (Lot & his daughters)
- No sex with sister or half-sister. (Abraham)
- No sex with daughter-in-law (Judah & Tamar)
- No sex or marriage with sisters (Jacob with Leah & Rachel)
In Lev 18:24-30 we learn that these sexual sins God lists were being practiced by the nations around Israel as well as the nations of Canaan whom God was destroying by Israel’s hand. His warning for Israel was not to be like them. It is easy to get caught up doing things people around us are doing, but God’s commandments are given to guide our behavior and understand what pleases and upsets God. That’s why Psalms often refers to the law as a light to our path. and a guide to righteousness.
The LORD the God of Israel, Isaac, and Abraham is the God of gods and Lord of lords. I love this section where Moses explains this concept to Israel (Deut 10:14-11:1). Moses explains to Israel that God shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. How then is God’s guidance to Israel not partiality? Moses explains this as well; God loves the aliens, meaning those outside of Israel, and He defends the fatherless and widows, meaning He is actively involved in the lives of everyone. He loves all mankind unconditionally as proven by the love he has for the aliens as well as Israel. And we are not competing for God’s love either as children often do for parents love. He has enough love to share with all people, the only question for us is will we circumcise our hearts, or in other words, will we stop being rebellious children who want what we want when we want it and instead love God and love our neighbor? This is the ultimate challenge God presents to Israel, elevate the importance of others rather than the importance of our desires.
Yet, God will judge all mankind, those who have heard the word of the LORD as well as those who have not. So what advantage is there to hearing the word of God? Paul writes in the book of Romans that there is much in every way. But, Jesus also said that to whom much is given much is required, meaning the more we know the more is expected. In other words the standard by which we are judged changes depending on the knowledge and capabilities with which we are blessed. That also explains why James writes that not many of us ought to be teachers since we will receive a stricter judgment. God judges us on based upon what what we know and are capable of, not a fixed standard or a comparative standard, but a righteous standard for me and you.
Though the love of God is unconditional and the judgment of God always righteous, the blessings of God, are conditional. When we obey He blesses, when we disobey He curses. See Dt 11:26-32. We sometimes wonder why good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people, but often the time frame for blessing or cursing has a longer view than one’s life. For example, the blessing of Jesus was promised to Abraham through his descendants, but didn’t happen for approximately 1800 years. Likewise, the curse of exile from the land if Israel practiced idolatry took centuries to be fulfilled in Babylonian captivity. Ultimately the curse of being cast away from God for eternity is the final judgment we hope to avoid.
Remember God is always with you, walk with Him and He will make your way prosper. (By the way, prosperity isn’t always money)