One of the things I love about God most, is His consistency. He doesn’t change based on His mood or a novel whim. He is consistent because He is utterly and entirely good, loving, and holy. He already knows what the best is and what the future holds, so why would there be a need to change? This unchanging consistency is something that we can see in the words of scripture. For example, Mark 12:28-31 says, “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” How does this show God’s consistency?
God knew all the way back in the time of Moses what the most important things to Him are. It’s not like He discovered sometime between the time of Moses and the time of Jesus that He wanted people to love Him with everything they had and for people to love each other. These were foundational truths from the beginning because God was loving from the beginning. The proof that God doesn’t change is right here in Jesus’ words. If things had changed or if God wanted something new to be known, Jesus would have spoken it right then, but he didn’t. Jesus quoted what was already written.
The truths concerning God’s nature and His desires were given to us from the beginning of scripture and repeated over and over again through the rest of the Bible. I think God used this method on purpose, because sometimes, it takes awhile for an idea to sink into our brains. God’s message doesn’t change, just the way it is delivered. The big take away from all of this is that God is trustworthy and reliable. When God promises something, we know He will follow through. When God says something, we know that He isn’t going to change His mind later down the road. This means our salvation, our hope for the future kingdom and the love that we’ve received are sure to stay that way. Let that thought live in your heart, encouraging you and lifting you up day by day.
I had an oppsortunity to teach the importance of keeping the Name of God holy a few weeks ago. A five year old was loudly saying “God” clearly showing that she was surprised by something that was going on. I helped her understand that because we love and respect God that we would never use His name this way. Thankfully that is the last time that she has expressed surprise in that manner.
But this experience reminded me of Moses. He was not only the person that was bringing the people the Law-he wanted them to understand and practice it. We may hear that we should not misuse the name of God, but when we really enter into a genuine, loving relationship with God, we would only use His name with sincere words from our heart.
In Deuteronomy 5, Moses summoned all Israel in order to recount the decrees and laws to them. He wanted the Israelites to learn them and follow them. He reminded the people that they were involved in a covenant with God. The Law showed the Israelites which actions were right and wrong. God wanted them to know how to live as His holy people. He wanted them to know how to interact with Him and others. He wanted them to “walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”
God still wants us to “live and prosper” today. We are His people, His family.
When we experience God’s love our motivation for doing what is right is produced from a place of love. (Deuteronomy 6) Christ later explained the greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus said, “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.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Now that Jesus has turned the tables against the Pharisees in their little word games, he turns his attention to the crowds and his disciples. He begins his final public speech and absolutely destroys the Pharisees. He rips into everything that the Pharisees do, calling them out for their pride and hypocrisy. He acknowledges that these men are the best minds when it comes to The Law; they know The Law backwards and forwards, but they are not good examples. In particular, he calls them out for neglecting the importance and weight of justice, mercy and faith. This is one distinction that sets followers of Jesus apart from followers of The Law.
Justice is the administration of law. Based on this definition, you would think that the Pharisees understood justice quite well. However, this definition has the connotation of the administration of law on the general population, not just in one’s personal life. What the pharisees got correct was righteousness in their private lives without achieving justice in their public life. Justice is law applied equally to everyone, while righteousness is law applied to yourself. The Pharisees look at themselves, see that they are following the law perfectly and commend themselves for it. The problem isn’t their piety, it’s their pride. God didn’t command them to follow the law so that they might puff themselves up and hold themselves in high regard, but rather to benefit all of society. This is justice. Righteous acts are not righteous because they benefit you alone, they are righteous because they benefit everyone around you.
Not everyone can follow the law as closely as the Pharisees. Those men were men who dedicated themselves to the reading of scripture day in and day out. Living the law is the only thing that they know how to do. When they look on the masses and see sin: adultery (John 8:1-11), blasphemy (Mark 14:64), greed (Luke 19:7)…what they fail to see are people. People who fall short. People who don’t live the same lifestyle as the Pharisees. The Pharisees know the scriptures, but they don’t seem to remember how God showed the Israelites mercy time and time again. Instead, they turn their noses up at the sin that they see and tell themselves that they are above that. The truth is, no man is above sin except for Jesus himself. The Pharisees poured over their scriptures to make sure that they washed their hands before meals and tithe even their small incomes. They strained their water for gnats. But they swallowed a camel instead. They failed to show mercy. They failed to show people the mercy that their God showed to them.
Love is at the center of Christianity. Jesus said in Matthew 22 that the two greatest commands are to love God and to love people. Apparently the Pharisees didn’t get that. They were too worried about appearing like God-loving individuals that they didn’t have the time to love God’s people. In doing so, they made all of their love for God worthless. If you only love God, you are neglecting one of the greatest commandments. It is as simple as that. Show your love for God by showing your love to His people.
Do you fast? I’ve done it once, a 30 hour famine…it was rough…of course the promise of pancakes afterward helped! 😉
Zechariah Chapter 7 dives into the question, to fast or not to fast?. “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?” The Israelites question whether or not they should continue to fast and grieve over the destruction of Solomon’s temple since the new temple was being built. God makes it clear that in this case fasting is essentially pointless. The Israelites chose to fast out of their own grief and sadness, they created that tradition not God. God quickly reminds them that there are more important, better ways to honor God than continuing their fasting.
The Israelites were following the tradition and rules of fasting that they created, but not really doing anything for their relationship with God. In the next couple verses God lays out some simple truths: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.” Zechariah 7:9-10
Plain and simple. These are things God desires for us to do, to be. This reminds me of when Jesus was questioned about what the greatest commandments in the Bible are. Matthew 22:37 Jesus answers, ”Jesus declares, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
How great it is to have a God that desires more from us than our earthly traditions. He is a God that wants us to love and serve him by loving and serving others. Jesus’ very message.
To Fast or Not to Fast… do you have the answer? Elleigh Dylewski