Friday, September 22, 2017

God Is Faithful

Moses:  6For you are a holy people, who belong to the LORD your God. Of all the people on earth, the LORD your God has chosen you (Israel) to be His own special treasure. 7 The LORD did not set His heart (love) on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8 Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you . . . . 9 Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands. 10 But He does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject Him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today. 12 If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the LORD your God will keep His covenant of unfailing love with you, as He promised with an oath to your ancestors (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). 13 He will love you and bless you, and He will give you many children. He will give fertility to your land and your animals. When you arrive in the land He swore to give your ancestors, you will have large harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil, and great herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. 14 You will be blessed above all the nations of the earth. None of your men or women will be childless (barren), and all your livestock will bear young. 15 And the LORD will protect you from all sickness. He will not let you suffer from the terrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but He will inflict them on all your enemies!” Deuteronomy 7:6-15 (NLT)

In Deuteronomy 7, Moses continues his farewell address to a new generation of Israelites before entering into God’s Promised Land. Sadly, the first generation of Israelites leaving Egyptian slavery repeatedly rejected God’s love, rebelled against His authority, ignored God’s moral commands, and even worshipped other gods (e.g., see Exodus 32:1-35; Numbers 14:9-12; Numbers 21:4-7; Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:7, 11-12, 16-17, 23-24; Deuteronomy 32:8-14; Psalm 106:24-27; Acts 7:39-43). Even worst, the first generation of Israelites did not trust and believe that the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was strong enough to give Israel the Promised Land (see Numbers chapters 13 and 14; Deuteronomy 1:32-40). The first generation of Israelites visibly witnessed God’s mighty hand and miraculous action to defeat the Egyptians and their gods and goddesses (e.g., Exodus 14:14, 25; Deuteronomy 1:29-31). However, the first generation of Israelites repeatedly disobeyed the living God. Because of their repeated unfaithfulness, disobedience, and rebellion, the first generation of Israelites wandered the wilderness desert for 40 years and eventually died in the wilderness (see Numbers 14:21-23, 28-30; Deuteronomy 1:35-38; Deuteronomy 32:13; Joshua 5:6). Now, a new generation of Israelites listened to Moses’ farewell address in Deuteronomy as they prepared to enter God’s Promised Land (see Deuteronomy 1:1-3, 5, 39-40).

On the border of the Promised Land, Moses encouraged a new generation of Israelites that the living God would be with and fight for Israel and give Israel victory over all their enemies (Deuteronomy 7:1, 17; see also Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 1:30-31; Deuteronomy 3:21-22; Deuteronomy 20:4; Deuteronomy 31:3). The LORD God was Israel’s Redeemer and Divine Warrior that fought and protected Israel (e.g., see Deuteronomy 1:30-31; Deuteronomy 6:21-23; Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 20-24; Deuteronomy 8:14-16; Deuteronomy 9:3; Deuteronomy 11:2-7; Deuteronomy 26:6-9; Deuteronomy 31:4). The living God was going ahead of Israel to destroy and defeat seven nations greater and mightier than Israel – the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites – to give Israel the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 7:1; e.g., see also Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:7-8; Deuteronomy 4:38; Joshua 3:10). Even more, the living God was using His people Israel to punish these wicked and evil nations of their sins (see Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 9:4-5; Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

Once in the Promised Land, Moses instructed the Israelites to destroy those wicked and immoral nations occupying the land and not submit to worshipping their gods nor following their immoral lifestyles (Deuteronomy 7:2-5, 16; see also Exodus 23:24). The LORD God would not permit intermarriage, political treaties, or any toleration to the pagan religions nor their idols of the land (Deuteronomy 7:3-4, 25-26; see also Exodus 23:32-33; 1 Kings 11:1-13). The reason was obvious: any link with those godless nations and their immoral religion would lead Israel into idolatry and undermine their wholehearted love, obedience, and devotion to the living God (see Exodus 23:24-25; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). The living God demanded Israel’s exclusive allegiance, love, and worship to Him (e.g., see Exodus 20:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:8-10; Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 13, 15-17; Matthew 4:7, 10; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37; Luke 4:8, 12; see John 14:15-16, 20-21, 23; John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 1:6). The foundation of the covenant relationship and the entire Holy Bible is to love the LORD God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength first (e.g., see Deuteronomy 5:7-10; Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 12-15; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37). The living God wanted Israel’s heart to be fully devoted to Him!

Then, Moses reminded Israel who they were in God’s eyes – a people holy to the living God (Deuteronomy 7:6; e.g., see also Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:9). The God of glory graciously elected Israel from all the people on the face of the whole earth to be His own chosen people and special treasure (see Deuteronomy 7:6). Through Israel’s devotion and obedience to the living God and His commands, Israel would be “a peculiar treasure” unto God and a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (see Exodus 19:5-6). The living God wanted to assure Israel would be a holy, wise, and righteous nation wholeheartedly devoted to Him as their only true God and obedient to His moral commands (Deuteronomy 7:6, 9; see also Deuteronomy 4:5-8, 35, 39-40; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Similarly, the living God has called the church (the new Israel of God) to be “the salt of the earth,” “the light of the world,”  “living and holy sacrifice . . . good and pleasing and perfect” like His Son, Jesus (see Matthew 5:13-16; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 2:14-15; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peters 2:5, 9-10).

Moses reminded Israel that the living God graciously choose Israel and poured out His covenant love upon Israel not because they were a larger nation than any others, for Israel were the smallest of all nations (see Deuteronomy 7:7). Deuteronomy makes clear that God chose Israel out of pure grace! The living God did not select Israel for their impressiveness, goodness, righteousness, or their faithfulness (see Deuteronomy 9:5, 24). Rather, the LORD God chose Israel because He loved them, and He had made absolute and unconditional promises to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give Israel a good land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 7:8; see also Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 10:14-15). Because of God’s grace and faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He brought Israel out of Egyptian slavery with such amazing power, His strong hand, and mighty miracles (Deuteronomy 7:8; see also Exodus 3:20; Exodus 6:6-8; Exodus 13:14-16).

As a recap, Abraham and Sarah were idol-worshipers in Ur of the Chaldeans (modern day Iraq) when “the God of glory” appeared to them (Genesis 11:27-32; Genesis 12:1-7; Joshua; 24:1-3; Acts 7:1-3). Upon their calling, Abraham and Sarah had no children; yet God promised Abraham that he and his descendants would be as numerous as the sands of the seashore and the stars of the heavens (e.g., see Genesis 13:16; Genesis 22:17-18; Genesis 28:14-15; Genesis 32:12). Abraham and Sarah believed God (see Genesis 15:1-7), and later they had one son, Isaac (see Genesis 21:1-7), and Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob (see Genesis 25:19-28). From Jacob’s twelve sons came the twelve tribes of Israel (see Genesis 29:31-35; Genesis 30:1-22; Genesis 35:16-18; Exodus 1:1-5). When Jacob’s family gathered in Egypt, there were seventy people in all (see Genesis 46:26-27; Exodus 1:1-5; Deuteronomy 10:22; Acts 7:14), but by the time they were delivered from Egypt, Jacob’s family had become a great and strong nation as God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 1:6-7, 9, 20; Exodus 12:37).

Then, Moses reminded Israel that the living God is the only faithful and awesome God of the heavens and earth (Deuteronomy 7:9, 21; see also Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). The LORD God faithfully keeps His continual love, mercy, and goodness to those who love Him and who obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9; e.g., see also Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10; 2 Chronicles 26:14; Nehemiah 1:5; Psalm 18:25). Nevertheless, the living God rejects and punishes those who hate Him and disobeys His moral commandments (Deuteronomy 7:10; see also Nahum 1:2-3). Therefore, Moses encouraged Israel to always faithfully love the living God and obey His moral commandments (Deuteronomy 7:11; see also Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

With our love and obedience to the LORD God and His commandments, Moses assured Israel that the LORD God would love, bless, and show mercy to Israel and make Israel into a great nation (Deuteronomy 7:12-14; see also Deuteronomy 28:1-14). The living God promised to make Israel fertile, bless Israel with children and grandchildren, and increase their numbers greatly (see Deuteronomy 7:13-14). Also, the LORD God promised to increase Israel’s crops, livestock, and animals, so that Israel will have large crops of grain, grapes, and olives, and great flocks of cattle, sheep, and goats (see Deuteronomy 7:13-14). Even more, God promised to take away all Israel’s sickness and not let Israel suffer any of the diseases the Egyptians suffered (Deuteronomy 7:15; see also Exodus 23:25). Moreover, the LORD God promised to make Israel blessed above all the nations of the earth (see Deuteronomy 7:14). All blessings and fullness flow from God’s gracious hand (see Deuteronomy 8:1-20). Thus, Israel’s devotion and covenant obedience to the living God was important to the nation’s present and future spiritual health and political future. However, privilege always brings responsibility, and Israel’s responsibility was to love and worship the LORD God only and obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:12; see also Joshua 23:9-11; Matthew 6:33). Though the covenant God made Abraham had few conditions, Israel was obligated to keep the covenant at Mount Sinai for the Abrahamic covenant to remain in force (see Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

Once again, Moses reminded Israel not to fear nor be afraid of their enemies or any other nation, whether great or small (Deuteronomy 7:17-18, 21; see also Numbers 14:9; Deuteronomy 1:29-31). The LORD God would fight for Israel and conquer Israel’s enemies; even nations more powerful than Israel as He did to the Egyptians (Deuteronomy 7:17-18; see also Deuteronomy 31:6). The living God brought His terror, mighty miracles, and strong hand upon the Egyptians and defeated them for His beloved Israel (Deuteronomy 7:19; see also Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:20-23). The LORD God Almighty promised to use His same miraculous signs and wonders, terror, strong hand, and outstretched powerful arm to go before His people Israel and open the way for victory (Deuteronomy 7:19-20, 22-23; see also Exodus 15:12-16; Joshua 2:8-11 Joshua 10:9-11).

The living God is a great and awesome God, and His gracious Presence was with Israel, as with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob  (Deuteronomy 7:21; see also Genesis 15:1; Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:15; Exodus 33:12-17; Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 1:5). Even more, believers of Jesus can also know that truly “the LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7, 11 NIV; see also Matthew 1:23; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6). With the living God on Israel’s side, no one would be able to defeat Israel (Deuteronomy 7:24; see also Psalm 118:6; Romans 8:31; 1 John 4:4). Truly, if Israel remained faithful and obedient to the living God, then “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn” (see Isaiah 54:17, KJV; see also Genesis 15:1). Therefore, Moses instructed Israel to be brave and courageous, but forever obedient to the living God (see Numbers 14:9; Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 31:6)!

For believers of Jesus, many people ask do these Old Testament promises of God apply to New Testament believers of God’s Son, Jesus. The answer is YES! Through our faith in Jesus, believers – rather Jewish or Gentile – become part of God’s family, a declared a descendent of Abraham, and become part of the church, which is the new Israel of God (e.g., see John 1:12-13; Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:6-9, 26-29; Galatians 6:16). The early church understood itself to be in a genuine succession of Israel and thus the inheritors of all the blessings promised to Israel (see 1 Peter 2:5, 9-10). All who are born again through faith in Jesus are “chosen in Him [Jesus] before the foundation of the world” (Deuteronomy 7:6; see also John 3:3-8; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Like Israel, the church is God’s chosen people and His treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (see 1 Peter 2:5, 9-10). Like Israel, the living God calls the church to love Him with our whole hearts, become a light to the lost world, and obedient to His moral commandments (e.g., see Matthew 5:14-16; Matthew 22:37; John 14:15-16, 20-21, 23; John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 1:6).

One day, the church will become the bride of Christ, adorned in bright and pure white with her righteous acts, and “priests of God and of Christ”(see Ephesians 5:25-29; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 19:6-8; Revelation 21:2, 9; see also Proverbs 31:10-31). At Mount Sinai (Horeb), God promised the Israelites that if they would obey His voice and keep His commandments, they would become to Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6; see also Isaiah 61:6; 1 Peter 2:5, 9-12; Revelation 14:12). Corporately, the church is a kingdom with Jesus as Ruler and individually as priests.

References
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Dr. Loyd Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Your First Love

Moses:   4 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (might, power). 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NLT)

Deuteronomy 6 is probably one of the most important and most quoted chapters of the entire Holy Bible. In this chapter, Moses teaches the people the importance of wholehearted love, devotion, obedience, allegiance, and commitment to the LORD God of their first true love. Even more, the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior also quoted from Deuteronomy 6 to explain the first and greatest commandment of the Holy Bible – loving God first (see Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27-28). Even more, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6 to defeat Satan’s temptations and reveal His total devotion, allegiance, trust, commitment, and worship to His Father, the living God (see Matthew 4:7, 10; Luke 4:8, 12, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, 16). All faithful believers of Jesus are to do likewise – faithfully trust, love, and worship Jesus’ Father, the living LORD God (see Philippians 2:1-2; Hebrews 12:2).

Deuteronomy 6 begins with Moses, a faithful servant of the living God, instructing a new generation of Israelites about to enter God’s Promised Land the importance of wholeheartedly and faithfully loving, honoring, and obeying God and His moral commandments (Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 6; see also Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Joshua 24:14-15; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Moses assured the people that reverence and obedience to God and His commandments would bring God’s blessings, life, and prosperity now and for generations to come (Deuteronomy 6:2-3; e.g., see also Genesis 17:1; Genesis 26:5; Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 32:46).

The Ten Commandments are the central requirements of God’s covenant given at Mount Sinai and are the heart of morality for all generations (see Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21). Even more, the Ten Commandments summarize what the LORD God requires of His people concerning faith, worship, and conduct. The living God wanted to protect life from murder, respect marriage as holy, protect private property from theft, honor the truth, maintain order in family life, and set aside a day for worship of Him as their only God (e.g., see Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Deuteronomy 32:35; Matthew 19:16-19; Romans 12:9-21; Romans 13:8-10).

Jewish rabbis counted 613 individual statues in the Old Testament Law given by the living God through Moses. However, the heart of God’s Law is found most famously in the Ten Commandments, also known as the Ten Words or the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 5:6-21; see also Exodus 20:1-17), and most concisely in the Shema from Deuteronomy 6 (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). All other statutes, regulations, and ordinances of God (approximately 613) and the Old Testament Prophets are interpretations and applications of God’s Ten Commandments and the Shema. The Ten Commandments Moses gave in Exodus 20, repeated at Deuteronomy 5, reaffirmed by Joshua at Joshua 24, and explained by Jesus Christ on the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew chapters 5 through 7 summarize the central core of morality, faith, and worship for all generations. The very essence of the Law and Prophets is the truth that there is only one God, who is the Father of Jesus, and we must love, honor, and worship Him FIRST and obey His moral commandments (e.g., see Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 13; Matthew 4:10; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37; Luke 4:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6).

Next, we are to love one another and be good, righteous, and kind to others (Deuteronomy 6:18-19; e.g., see also Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43-48; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 6:27-36; Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35; John 15:17; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14). Love does not harm to its neighbor, but good (e.g., see Proverbs 3:3; Romans 13:10). The living God describes love as “patient and kind . . . not jealous or boastful or proud or rude . . . does not demand its own way. . . not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. . . does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT). Amazingly, the definition of love describes the living God and the fruits of the Holy Spirit (see Exodus 34:6-7; Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Scriptures reveal the disastrous natural consequences and judgments that follow for those who violated God’s covenant – the Ten Commandments – by worshipping other gods and hurting others (e.g., see 2 Kings 17:7-23; 2 Kings 18:9-12; 2 Kings 21:12-15; 2 Kings 23:26-28; 2 Kings 24:3).

Moses reminded a new generation of Israelites that faith, reverence, and obedience to the living LORD God would make Israel into a great nation in a glorious land “flowing with milk and honey” as the LORD God promised their forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 6:3, 10; see also; Exodus 3:8; Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 26:9, 15; Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 31:20). The living God is faithful, and He wanted to be Israel’s protector and provider (e.g., see Exodus 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:9, 12-15; Ezra 8:22; Psalm 7:10). God’s gracious and unconditional promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob gave Israel ownership of God’s Promised Land, but Israel’s faith and obedience to the LORD God guaranteed their possession and enjoyment of the land (Genesis 15:18-21; see also Exodus 6:8; Exodus 33:1; Deuteronomy 1:8, 11, 21, 35; Deuteronomy 9:5, 27; Deuteronomy 29:13; Deuteronomy 30:20; Deuteronomy 34:4).

Forty years earlier, the living God had come down from heaven to rescue Israel from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey (see Exodus 3:8). However, the first generation of Israelites leaving Egyptian slavery repeatedly rejected God’s love, rebelled against His authority, and ignored His commands for right living (e.g., see Exodus 32:1-35; Numbers 14:9-12; Numbers 21:4-7; Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:23-24; Deuteronomy 32:8-14; Psalm 106:24-27; Acts 7:39-43). The first generation was in the camp of God, but their hearts and minds were still in Egypt. Because of their repeated disobedience and rebellion, the first generation of Israelites wandered the wilderness desert for 40 years and eventually died in the wilderness (see Numbers 14:21-23, 28-30; Deuteronomy 1:35-38; Deuteronomy 32:13; Joshua 5:6). Now, a new generation of Israelites listened to Moses’ farewell address in Deuteronomy as they prepared to enter God’s Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1-3, 5, 39-40).

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses taught a new generation of Israelites the heart of the Law and the entire Holy Bible. Moses instructed Israel:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV)

Moses instructed Israel to always recognize and acknowledge with our entire being that there is only one true and living God, the God of Israel, and we must love and worship Him only with all our heart, soul, mind, intellect, power, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; see also Matthew 22:27; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). The LORD God is the only LORD of heaven and earth, and we must love the LORD and the living God must be our first love (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; e.g., see also Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 86:10-11; Isaiah 44:6; Acts 17:22-29; Ephesians 4:6). This great commandment requires a heart that totally loves the LORD God first. Amazingly, Deuteronomy 6 anticipates the new covenant, when the living God’s commandments will be truly and effectively written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34; see also Deuteronomy 30:6-8).

Monotheism — belief in only one God — was unique to Jewish religion because many ancient religions believed in many gods (see Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Kings 8:60-61). Moses instructed the people that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God and King of the whole earth, and He is the only true God (see also Psalm 47:7; Zechariah 14:9). Israel and later faithful followers of Jesus Christ are to be God’s kingdom people – a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (see Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:5, 9-10; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6). To love the LORD God is to be His loyal and obedient servants. God has raised up many leaders and faithful prophets to continually remind not only Israel but the entire world that the LORD God of Israel is the only true and living God alone, and He is God over all the kingdoms of the earth (e.g., see 1 Kings 18:30-39; 2 Kings 19:15-19; Nehemiah 9:5-6; Psalm 86:9-10; Isaiah 44:6; Jeremiah 10:10-12).

Later, Jesus Christ repeated Moses’ instructions from Deuteronomy and instructed His disciples to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (see Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27-28; quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5). According to Jesus Christ, loving God with all our heart, minds, and strength is the first and greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:37-39). This command, combined with the command to love your neighbor (see Leviticus 19:18), fulfills and embraces all the Old and New Testament (see Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 6:31; John 13:34-35; John 15:17; see also Romans 13:8, 10; Galatians 5:14; Colossians 3:14; James 2:8)! If you love the LORD God with a total heart commitment and love you neighbor as yourself, you are doing right and perfect (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 5:43; James 2:8).  

Some people question the validity of the Trinity (Godhead) – God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and God the Spirit – and whether we can worship Jesus because of Deuteronomy’s command: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (see Deuteronomy 6:4, KJV). However, the Holy Scriptures reference the Trinity at various locations (see e.g., Genesis 1:1-3; 26-27; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:16, 26; John 16:13-15; John 20:21-22; Romans 15:16, 30; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 4:4-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 1 John 4:2, 13-14; Jude 20-21). The clearest image of the Trinity was revealed at Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist where Jesus, God the Son, was anointed for His public ministry by God the Spirit, descending as a dove, with God the Father’s declaration from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, which whom I am well pleased” (see Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).

There is one living God, and He exists in three Persons – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Spirit (e.g., see John 17:3, 11, 21-23; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). This doctrine of one God that exists as three Persons is known as the Trinity, the Godhead, or the Triune God. God the Father is presently living on His throne (e.g., see Isaiah 6:1; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:2) and God’s Son Jesus is presently at the living God’s right hand (e.g., see Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33). The Spirit of God also known as the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost was sent directly from God the Father and His Son Jesus (e.g., see John 14:26; John 15:26). God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (also known as the Holy Ghost) are equal in nature but different in role, duties, and relationship. The Holy Spirit receives direction and instructions from both God the Father and God the Son and the Holy Spirit carries out the unified will of both the Father and the Son. The distinctive roles typically have God the Father willing, Jesus the Son completing, and the Holy Spirit applying the work of the Son (see e.g., Genesis 1:1-3, 9-10; Roman 8). Yet, there is a Oneness with Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (see e.g., Deuteronomy 6:4; Nehemiah 9:6). Jesus is the most definitive revelation of the Godhead because the fullness of God lived in Jesus (see e.g., John 1:1-5, 14, 18; John 14:8-9; John 20:28, 31; Acts 2:36; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:15-20; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:1-4).

God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are One, and they are LORD (e.g., see John 10:30, 38; John 14:9-10, 20, 23-24; John 17:3, 11, 21-23; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Ephesians 4:4-6). In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is often called “Lord” (e.g., see Matthew 12:1; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 17:4; Mark 2:22-23; Luke 6:5; John 13:13; John 21:7, 20; Acts 1:6; Acts 2:36; Acts 10:36; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:39; Romans 10:9). Everyone who believes and calls upon the Name of LORD from their whole hearts and obeys God’s righteous commands are One with Jesus, Jesus’ Father – the LORD God, and the Holy Spirit and will be saved (see John 3:15-18; John 14:23-24; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-13; 1 John 3:23-24). Jesus is God, and He is One with His Father, the living LORD God of Israel (e.g., see John 1:1; John 14:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:1-3). 

Next, Moses taught the people to always teach their children and children’s children to faithfully love, honor, and respect the LORD God and obey His moral commandments with their whole hearts (Deuteronomy 6:7; see also Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 11:18-19; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Nurturing the faith of children through God-centered teaching is one of the greatest privileges and obligations of parenthood. Moses encouraged Israel to explain, teach, and discuss the living God and His righteous commandments to their children and future generations so they and their children will incorporate God and His commandments within their hearts and live god honoring lives (Deuteronomy 6:7-9; see also Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

Moreover, Moses reminded Israel that when the LORD God bring them into the good land He promised their ancestors – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the people must never forget the LORD God and His goodness in graciously giving the land to Israel (Deuteronomy 6:10-12; see also Deuteronomy 8:10-11). The living God was about to give this new generation of Israelites all the Promised Land He promised to give to their ancestors – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 1:8; see also Genesis 13:14-15; Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:7-8; Genesis 26:2-5; Genesis 28:12-15; Genesis 50:24; Deuteronomy 30:19-20). In the Promised Land, the living God would graciously give Israel vast wealth and great cities full of good things — cities they did not build, wells they did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees you did not plant (Deuteronomy 6:11; see also Joshua 24:13; Nehemiah 9:24-25). Moses warned Israel to always wholeheartedly and faithfully love, worship, and honor the living God and not worship the other gods of the nations (Deuteronomy 6:13-14; see also Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8). The living God, who is Creator of the heavens and earth, is a jealous God, and He will not share His people’s love and worship with any false gods nor idols for the living God will have no rivals (Deuteronomy 6:15; see also Exodus 20:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:8-10; Deuteronomy 32:16-26). As Moses taught and Jesus later reminded Israel, the living God required the people’s FIRST AND WHOLEHEARTED love, devotion, worship, honor, and obedience to Him and His moral commandments (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 13, 16-17; Matthew 4:7, 10; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37; Luke 4:8, 12; see John 14:15-16, 20-21, 23; John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 1:6). The living LORD God loves you (see John 3:16).

Finally, Moses taught the people that our wholehearted love of God and obedience to His moral commandments reveals our righteousness and goodness in God’s eyes (Deuteronomy 6:18, 25; see also Genesis 18:19; Psalm 37:3-7, 30-31). Moses equated faithful compliance with the covenant – the Ten Commandments – to righteousness (see Deuteronomy 6:25). Our righteous acts are not “a works-righteousness” but a response to our love for the living LORD God. The LORD God’s finger personally wrote the Ten Commandments, which is the essence of God’s covenant with Israel, and these are the commandments of God (see Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Exodus 34:1, 27-28; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:1-4). Obedience to the covenant – the Ten Commandments – is our expression and response of faithful devotion to God and saving faith (see Habakkuk 2:4).

Even more, our love and obedience to the living God and His commandments will bring God’s blessings, provisions, and protection (Deuteronomy 6:3, 18, 25; see also Hebrews 13:5-6). All blessings flow from the living God (see Deuteronomy 8:1-20). Obedience and reverence before the LORD God are the keys to God’s continued blessings, our righteousness, and leads to life (Deuteronomy 6:24-25; see also Leviticus 26:3-13; John 15:7-10; Ephesians 3:16, 19). Israel would be able to defeat their enemies because the living God would fight for and protect them (Deuteronomy 6:19; see also Exodus 23:28-30; Deuteronomy 11:22-25). The living God is filled with great power and mighty miracles, and He blesses all those who love and obey Him (Deuteronomy 6:20-24; see also Romans 10:11-13). Our wholehearted love and obedience to the LORD God leads to life and righteousness while disobedience and dishonoring of the living God leads to death and destruction (e.g., see Deuteronomy 6:25; Deuteronomy 8:19-20; Deuteronomy 11:16-17, 27-28; Deuteronomy 30:19-20). True faith – which means trust, dependence, and allegiance to the LORD God with our whole hearts – leads to life, salvation, and righteousness now and eternally (e.g., see Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 32:45-47; Romans 10:8-10).

There is a curious passage in the Talmud (the body of Jewish civil and religious law) which says that Moses gave 600 commands or statutes to the Israelites. As these commands might prove too numerous to commit to memory, David brought these statutes down to eleven at Psalm 15. Then, the prophet Isaiah reduced these statutes from eleven to six in his chapter 33:15. The prophet Micah further reduced the commands to three in his writings (see Micah 6:8), and then the prophet Isaiah further reduced the commands once more and brought the commands down to two (see Isaiah 56:1). From these two commands from the prophet Isaiah, the prophet Amos reduced God’s commands to one (see Amos 5:4). Finally, the prophet Habakkuk taught, “The just shall live by his faith” in God (see Habakkuk 2:4, KJV). Similarly, the apostle Paul also taught the church to live by faith in the living God as originally taught to Abraham (see Genesis 15:6; John 3:36; Romans 1:16-17).  Everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD God will be saved (see Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13).

References
Amplified Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987).
Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989). 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Covenant People

23 “But when you heard the voice (LORD God) from the heart of the darkness, while the mountain was blazing with fire, all your tribal leaders and elders came to me. 24 They said, ‘Look, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and greatness, and we have heard His voice from the heart of the fire. Today we have seen that God can speak to us humans, and yet we live!’ . . . 29 Oh, that they (Israel) would always have hearts (and minds) like this, that they might (reverently) fear Me and obey all My commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever. . . . 32 So Moses told the people, ‘You must be careful to obey all the commands of the LORD your God, following His instructions in every detail. 33 Stay on the path (walk) that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.’” Deuteronomy 5:23-24, 29-30, 32-33 (NLT)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 5, the LORD God through His servant Moses gives the people of Israel the heart of His laws. In Deuteronomy chapters 1 through 4, Moses gave a new generation of Israelites a history lesson and a farewell address before they entered God’s Promised Land after 40 years of wilderness wandering (see Deuteronomy 1:1-4:43). Sadly, the first generation of Israelites leaving Egyptian slavery repeatedly rejected God’s love, rebelled against His authority, and ignored His commands for right living (e.g., see Exodus 32:1-35; Numbers 14:9-12; Numbers 21:4-7; Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:23-24; Deuteronomy 32:8-14; Psalm 106:24-27; Acts 7:39-43). Because of their repeated disobedience and rebellion, the first generation of Israelites wandered the wilderness desert for 40 years and eventually died in the wilderness (see Numbers 14:21-23, 28-30; Deuteronomy 1:35-38; Deuteronomy 32:13; Joshua 5:6). Now, a new generation of Israelites listened to Moses’ farewell address in Deuteronomy as they prepared to enter God’s Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1-3, 5, 39-40).

Before given the heart of the laws, Moses once again remained Israel how the living God fought for Israel and defeated King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan, two Amorite kings east of God’s Promised Land (Deuteronomy 4:46-47; see also Deuteronomy 2:24-37; Deuteronomy 3:1-11; Deuteronomy 7:2). God gave this conquered land east of His Promised Land to the tribe of Gad, the tribe of Reuben, and the tribe of Manasseh, a descendant of Joseph (Deuteronomy 4:41-44; see also Deuteronomy 3:12-20). The land east of God’s Promised Land refers to what is now known as the kingdom of Jordan, or traditionally the Transjordan (see Deuteronomy 1:1). Also, Moses instructed the people of Israel to set apart three cities east of the Promised Land for anyone who accidentally killed someone could flee for safety (see Deuteronomy 4:41-43).

Beginning with Deuteronomy 5, Moses issued to Israel the Law of God, also known as the covenant or promise, for Israel to do and obey (see Deuteronomy 5:1-26:19). As a reminder, the living God first gave Israel His righteous commands after His gracious deliverance and redemption from Egyptian slavery (e.g., see Exodus 6:1-14:31; Exodus 13:3; Exodus 20:2; Exodus 29:46; Psalm 81:10). Originally, the LORD God made a covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb) (Deuteronomy 5:2; see also Exodus 19:5-6). At Mount Sinai, the living God spoke to Israel face to face from the center of the fire (Deuteronomy 5:4; see also Deuteronomy 4:12; Exodus 19:16-19). Moses acted only as an intermediary or mediator between Israel and the living God (Deuteronomy 5:5; see also Exodus 20:18-21). In Deuteronomy, Moses is reaffirming the covenant given to the second generation of Israelites about to enter God’s Promised Land.

The heart of Law is found most famously in the Ten Commandments, also known as the Ten Words or the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 5:6-21; see also Exodus 20:1-17), and most succinctly in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Many biblical scholars liken the Ten Commandments to the United States Constitution. In fact, the rest of the Old Testament builds on what took place at Mount Sinai with the giving of the covenant. Exodus chapters 20 through 23 contain the actual covenant – a treaty or promise between God and Israel (see Exodus 20:1-23:19). The Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20, repeated at Deuteronomy 5, reaffirmed by Joshua at Joshua 24, and explained by Jesus Christ on the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew chapters 5 through 7 summarize the central core of morality, faith, and worship for all generations. All other laws of the Holy Scriptures are interpretations and applications of these primary principles. Jesus Christ our Savior also taught His disciples to obey His Father’s Ten Commandments and the demands of the Shema (see Matthew 5:17-20; Matthew 22:37-40) as an expression of love, commitment, and faithfulness to His gracious Father, the living LORD God (see John 14:15-16, 20-21, 23; John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 1:6). The essence of the covenant - the Ten Commandments – is to love, faithfulness, and obey the LORD God which leads to life, salvation, and righteousness (e.g., see Genesis 15:6; Leviticus 18:3-5; Matthew 19:17; Galatians 3:6-9). The covenant given at Mount Sinai is the outgrowth and extension of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants (see Genesis 17:9)

From Mount Sinai, the living God proclaimed His covenant – the Ten Commandments – to Israel through His servant Moses that Israel must obey (Deuteronomy 4:13; see also Exodus 20:1-Exodus 23:19). The LORD God’s finger personally wrote the Ten Commandments, which is the essence of God’s covenant with Israel (see Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Exodus 34:1, 27-28; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:1-4). Though many of the subsequent laws that were given to Israel at Mount Sinai are no longer relevant, what God’s finger wrote on tablets of stone – the Ten Commandments – are indeed God’s will for all time for all people – Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles).

From Mount Sinai, the LORD God declared to Israel the following:

6 “I am the LORD your God; I brought you out of the land of Egypt where you were slaves. 7 You must not have any other gods except Me. 8 You must not make for yourselves any idols or anything to worship that looks like something in the sky above or on the earth below or in the water below the land. 9 You must not worship or serve any idol, because I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. If people sin against Me and hate Me, I will punish their children, even their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 10 But I will be very kind for a thousand lifetimes to those who love Me and obey My commands. 11 You must not use the Name of the LORD your God thoughtlessly, because the LORD will punish anyone who uses His Name in this way. 12 Keep the Sabbath as a holy day, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You may work and get everything done during six days each week, 14 but the seventh day is a day of rest to honor the LORD your God. On that day, no one may do any work: not you, your son or daughter, your male or female slaves, your ox, your donkey, or any of your animals, or the foreigners living in your cities. That way your servants may rest as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there by His great power and strength. So the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. 16 Honor your father and your mother as the LORD your God has commanded you. Then you will live a long time, and things will go well for you in the land that the LORD your God is going to give you. 17 You must not murder anyone. 18 You must not be guilty of adultery. 19 You must not steal. 20 You must not tell lies (falsehood) about your neighbor. 21 You must not want to take your neighbor’s wife. You must not want to take your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female slaves, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (NCV)

First, the LORD God commanded Israel never to worship any other god but Him (Deuteronomy 5:6-7; see also Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Jesus Christ has also commanded the church to worship, love, and serve His Father, the LORD God FIRST (e.g., see Matthew 4:10; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37). The very essence of the covenant – the Law – is the truth that there is only one God, who is the Father of Jesus, and we must worship Him FIRST and ONLY (e.g., see Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 13; Matthew 4:10; Matthew 6:33; Luke 4:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). The living LORD God and His Son Jesus Christ are One (e.g., see John 10:38; John 14:10-11, 20; John 17:21). The true and living God is reigning, sovereign, omnipotent, and omnipresent (Revelation 4:1-11; Revelation 19:6; see also Exodus 15:11; 2 Chronicles 6:14, 18; Isaiah 6:1-8; Ezekiel 1:26-28; 1 Timothy 6:15-16).

Next, the living God commanded Israel never make and worship any idols, including worshipping any images, whether of birds, animals, or fish (Deuteronomy 5:8-9; see also Exodus 20:4-5; Deuteronomy 4:15-18). The Holy Scriptures forbid the making of idols or setting up any images or sacred stones to worship (see also Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-18). The LORD God is a jealous God, and He commands Israel’s wholehearted love, affection, allegiance, and worship first and exclusively (Deuteronomy 5:9; see also Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14). God will not share His worship with another. The living God warned Israel that worshipping other gods, craves images, or idols would lead to His anger, punishment and wrath on them and their descendants (Deuteronomy 5:9; see also Exodus 20:5). At Mount Sinai, the living God entered into a covenant or marriage with Israel, and idolatry was a breach of that marriage covenant and the equivalent of adultery (see Exodus 19:1-6; Jeremiah 31:32). However, the LORD God promised to shower His goodness, mercy, and love on Israel and their descendants to a thousand generations for those who love Him and obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 5:10; see also Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 7:9). The sins of one generation have aftermaths for generations to come (e.g., see Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7). God does permit the sad consequences of those sins to affect future generations, physically, mentally, and spiritually (see Exodus 34:7). The impact of David’s sins with Bathsheba on his children is a classic example of sins’ consequences (see 2 Samuel 11:1-13:29). The living God forgave David after his sins with Bathsheba, but David paid the penalties! The good news of the Gospel is that through faith and belief in God’s Son Jesus we are grafted and adopted into God’s family line with all His inheritances (e.g., see John 1:12-13; John 3:3-8; Romans 8:14-16, 21; 1 John 5:1-5).

Next, the LORD God commanded Israel never to misuse His Name to make a promise they do not intend to keep and never to use His Name thoughtless, profanely, and vulgarly nor as a magic charm (Deuteronomy 5:11; see also Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12). The LORD God’s Name must be kept holy and respected. Using God’s Name under oath to defend a dishonest or false statement, as well as cursing and swearing, are ways of dishonoring the LORD God’s Name. Jesus Christ also extended His Father’s command on the Sermon on the Mount regarding oaths (see Matthew 5:33-37). However, we can always use the LORD God’s Name in praise and worship because the LORD God is our praise and our song (see Exodus 15:2; Deuteronomy 10:21). The LORD God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, and His Name must always be honored and respected (see Deuteronomy 10:17, 20-21).

The LORD God’s Name represents His character, nature, and very goodness (see Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:5). Truly, the living God is patient, forgiving, good, and full of compassion and mercy (see Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:17-18; Psalm 145:8-9; Nahum 1:3; James 5:11). The living God does not stay angry forever but delights to show His mercy and compassion (see Micah 7:18). Moreover, the Name of the LORD is a strong tower, and everyone finds safety and salvation in the LORD’s Name (see Proverbs 18:10). Everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved and adopted into God’s family (see Joel 2:32; John 1:12-13; Acts 2:21; Acts 4:10-12; Acts 10:43; Romans 10:12-13). The LORD God richly blesses all who call on Him (see Romans 10:12).

In the Fourth Commandment, the LORD God commanded Israel to observe the Sabbath and keep the Sabbath day holy (Deuteronomy 5:12-16; see also Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath day celebrated God’s rested after the work of creation (see Genesis 2:1-3). The living God wanted Israel to work the other six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath dedicated to the LORD God, and everyone – men, women, Jews, aliens, servants, employees, and animals – must rest (Deuteronomy 5:13-15; see also Exodus 16:23-30; Exodus 20:9-11; Exodus 31:13-17). The living God made Sabbath for all His creation to rest (see Genesis 2:2; Exodus 23:12; Jeremiah 17:21-24; Mark 2:27-28). The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day of the week.

For centuries, some scholars debate whether the Sabbath applies to the church to obey. Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament for the church to obey except the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated after the day of Pentecost. However, the Sabbath day is part of God’s covenant that equally applies to all people – Jews and non-Jews (see Matthew 5:17-20). Even more, all faithful believers of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has rest in Jesus (see Matthew 11:28-30). Today, many faithful believers of Jesus honor the Sabbath on Sunday, the first day of the week (e.g., see Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25). Sunday is called the “Lord’s Day” (see Revelation 1:10). On the first day of the week, God the Father through His Holy Spirit resurrected His Son Jesus Christ from complete death (see Mark 16:9; Luke 24:13-15; John 20:19; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Every Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from complete death for all believers’ salvation and redemption. Whether you rest on Saturday or Sunday, the Fourth Commandment of God emphasizes the importance of devoting one day in seven to the living God in worship and service. Every day belongs to the LORD God!  

The Fifth Commandment of God moves us from our relationship to the LORD God to living out that relationship with other people, beginning in the home (Deuteronomy 5:16; see also Exodus 20:12). The LORD God commanded Israel to honor their father and mother and that honoring their parents would lead to a long and prosperous life (see also Matthew 19:19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Galatians 6:1-4). Jesus Christ specifically judged the religious leaders for disregarding the Fifth Commandment of God to obey their many man-made rules not from His Father (see Matthew 15:3-4; Mark 7:10). As God’s Son Jesus Christ stated, the LORD God commanded everyone to love Him FIRST and also equally love our neighbors (see Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). True religion begins at home with loving, caring, obeying, honoring, and respecting one’s father and mother (e.g., see also; Exodus 21:15, 17; Leviticus 19:3, 32; Deuteronomy 27:16; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 23:22; Proverbs 30:17; Ephesians 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:1-2).

In the Sixth Commandment, the LORD God commanded Israel not to murder (Deuteronomy 5:17; see also Exodus 20:13; Matthew 19:19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11). All human life must be honored because God made all humans in His image (see Genesis 1:27; Genesis 9:6). The LORD God is the Giver of life (e.g., see Genesis 2:7; Zechariah 12:1; Acts 14:15; Acts 17:24-25). Jesus Christ also explained that hateful anger against anyone breaks this commandment, even if someone has mistreated you (see Matthew 5:21-22). Anger is the moral equivalent of murder because murder often begins with hateful anger in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-26; see also 1 John 3:14-15). The Holy Scripture speaks against taking revenge or bearing a grudge against anyone (see Leviticus 19:18; Proverbs 20:22; Romans 12:17-19; Hebrews 10:30). All sin usually starts from a wrong desire or thought within the heart (see James 1:13-15). Instead of anger, Jesus teaches that we must continually seek love, peace, and forgiveness from our hearts with all people, even our enemies (see Matthew 5:23-23; 43-48; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 6:27-36; John 13:34-35; John 15:17; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13). Moreover, God differentiated accidental killing from deliberate murder. If someone accidentally killed someone, the living God provided the people of Israel three cities east of the Jordan River, where they could flee for safety (see Deuteronomy 4:41-43). However, intentional and deliberate murder required death because God made all humans in His image (see Genesis 1:27; Genesis 9:6; see Exodus 21:12-14; Leviticus 24:17).  

Also, the LORD God commanded Israel not commit adultery the Seventh Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:18; see also Exodus 20:14; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11). The living God places a high priority on the holiness of marriage between a man and woman, and He wanted to protect the marriage covenant (e.g., see Leviticus 18:20, 22-23; Deuteronomy 22:22; Malachi 2:15; Hebrews 13:4). The LORD God hates divorce because of the destructive nature divorces cause on the family household (see Malachi 2:16). Even more, sexual sins also bring God’s judgment, destruction, and devastation on oneself (see Proverbs 6:32). The living God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (e.g., see Leviticus 20:10-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 22:15). As with all sins, LORD God can graciously forgive sexual sins (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), but He does not promise to interfere with sin’s painful consequences (e.g., 2 Samuel 12:13-14; Proverbs 6:20-35; Galatians 6:7-8). Even more, Jesus Christ also warned that anyone who looks at another person lustfully has already committed adultery with one’s heart (see Matthew 5:27-30).  

Moreover, the living God commanded Israel not to steal from others in His Eighth Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:19; see also Exodus 20:15; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9). The LORD God wanted His people not to steal, take away, or defraud one another (see also Leviticus 19:11, 13). Instead of stealing, the living God wants everyone to work, doing something useful with one’s own hands, so to share with those in need (see Ephesians 4:28).

In the Ninth Commandment, the living God commanded His people not to tell lies and falsehoods (Deuteronomy 5:20; see also Exodus 20:16; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9). The LORD God places a high priority on truth and honesty (e.g., see Exodus 23:1, 7; Leviticus 19:11-13), and He forbids all forms of lying, deception, falsehood, slander, and trickery (e.g. see Deuteronomy 19:16-20; Proverbs 10:18; Proverbs 12:17; Proverbs 19:9; Proverbs 24:28; Titus 3:1-2; James 4:11; 1 Peter 2:1). In essence and action, the living God – the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit – is Truth (e.g., see Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16; John 4:24; John 14:6, 17). God wants His people to also be known by truth (see Zechariah 8:16; Ephesians 4:15, 25; Colossians 3:9, 15). However, the devil and his evil cohorts are all liars, murderers, and deceivers, and there is no truth in the devil and his evil followers (e.g., see Genesis 3:4; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3). The LORD God will bring His wrath and punishment on those who practice falsehood and tell lies (e.g., see Proverbs 19:5, 9; Proverbs 21:28; also Revelation 21:8, 27; Revelation 22:15).

Finally, the living God commanded Israel not to envy, desire, or covet another person’s spouse, nor envy another person’s home, land, servants, oxen, donkeys, nor anything else another person owns (Deuteronomy 5:21; see also Exodus 20:17; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11). Not only can such jealous and envy make us miserable, they can also lead us to other sins such as adultery and stealing. Thus, the Apostle Paul encouraged the church to be content of God’s blessings He has given us (see Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6, 8). The living God promises to provide all our needs, and He will never leave us and never forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5). Notably, the other Commandments concerned actions, but the final Commandment deals with one’s thought life. As mentioned earlier, all sin usually starts from a wrong desire or thought (see James 1:13-15).

The question many New Testament believers of Jesus ask is whether the covenant given to Israel still applies to today. The answer is YES (see Matthew 5:17-20). As New Testament believers, Jesus taught His disciples to practice keeping God’s direct commandments and to teach them to our children (e.g., see Matthew 5:19; Matthew 15:3; Matthew 19:18-19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20). Jesus taught that the greatest and first commandment of the Law and the Prophets is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (see Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27-28; quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Then, Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; quoting Leviticus 19:18; see also Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36; Romans 13:9). All the Old Testament –the Law and the Prophets – hang on these two great commandments from Jesus – to love God and love one another (Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:40; Luke 6:31; John 13:34-35; John 15:17; see also Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14). Love does not harm to its neighbor, but good (see Romans 13:10). Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the covenant – the Ten Commandments (see Romans 13:8, 10; Colossians 3:14; James 2:8)! If you love the LORD God and love you neighbor as yourself, you are doing right and perfect (see Matthew 5:43; James 2:8).

In his New Testament letters, the Apostle Paul repeatedly taught the church to be imitators of God and live a life of full allegiance to God and love and goodness with others (e.g., see Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 5:1-2; Titus 2:14; quoting Leviticus 19:18). Moreover, the Apostle Paul encouraged the church to stay free of all adultery, sexual immorality, murder, lying, falsehood, theft, greed, jealousy, drunkenness, anger, covetousness, and envy because these actions are improper for God's holy people (e.g., see Romans 13:9, 13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5, 8-9; see also Exodus 20:13-17; Deuteronomy 5:17-21). According to the Apostle Paul, no such evildoers will have any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:6; see also Revelation 21:8, 27; Revelation 22:15).

The living God gives all believers in His Son Jesus the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to obey His commandments (John 3:3-8; see also Joel 2:28). Through faith in Jesus, God now writes His covenant on our hearts – this is the new covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-21; Ezekiel 36:24-27; Hebrews 8:8-12; Hebrews 10:16). In other words, the God’s transforming Spirit gives believers new hearts to obey God and His good Law through our faith in His Son Christ Jesus (e.g., see Acts 1:4-5; Acts 11:16; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:30-31; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-13). Under God’s new covenant, God’s covenant is now engraved inwardly onto believers’ hearts and minds, and it is no longer on stone tablets (2 Corinthians 3:3-4; e.g., see also Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-21; Ezekiel 36:24-27). The Holy Spirit works inside believer to activate our consciences, influence our motives and desires, and make us want to obey God (see Romans 8:2, 5). Now doing God’s will is something believers genuinely desire with all our heart and mind (see Romans 8:1-17; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Galatians 5:22-26; Philippians 2:12-13). Through faith in God’s Son Jesus, believers are born again into God’s family and receive God’s divine nature within which enabled believers by the Spirit to obey God’s commandments and live godly lives (see 1 John 3:1-9).

The living LORD God spoke His Ten Commandments from the heart of the fire, surrounded by the clouds and thick darkness that engulfed Mount Sinai (see Deuteronomy 5:22-24, 26). These Ten Commandments were directly and personally spoken and written by the living God on two stone tablets and then given them to Moses to give to the people to obey continually from their whole hearts (Deuteronomy 5:22, 28-29, 32-33; see also Exodus 32:15-16). On Mount Sinai, the living God revealed His glory and greatness to Israel when giving His Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:24). Obedience to God’s Ten Commandments would lead to a long and prosperous life and God’s blessings (see Deuteronomy 5:32-33). The Ten Commandments were God's standards for right living. The rest of the Old Testament and into the New Testament reveals the tragic consequences and punishment that occurred because of violating God’s Ten Commandments.

Sadly, during Jesus’ years on earth and even today, many religious leaders are guilty of taking away from God’s Law – the Ten Commandments – by replacing God’s Law with their own traditions and rituals that were not given by God (e.g., see Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:1-13). Such rules and regulations may seem holy, but they are legalism. Jesus rebuked these religious leaders for adding to God’s laws (see Matthew 23:1-4).

However, the sacrificial system of the Old Testament based on the forgiveness of sins through the shedding of blood has been fulfilled in Jesus’ sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross (see Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death became our final and perfect sacrifice for human sins through faith in Him — past, present, and future (see Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 10:1-10; Hebrews 13:11-12; 1 John 2:1-2).

In Romans 10:4, the Apostle Paul states, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, NIV). This statement is simply but ambiguous. How is Jesus Christ the end of the Law? The Greek word for end is “telos”.

So some scholars argue that Apostle Paul means that in Jesus Christ we see the perfect fulfillment of the Law because Jesus Christ lived up to the purpose and goal of the Law perfectly (see Matthew 5:17). In this respect, this interpretation would mean that the Law was aimed at bringing us to Jesus Christ and that He came to fulfill the Law and thus gives the Law validity. At Matthew 5:17, Jesus Christ said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17, NIV). Yet other scholars argue that while the Jews tried to earn their righteous by keeping the Law they failed; Jesus Christ obeyed the Law completely by the Spirit and the letter. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the end of the Law in the sense He has fulfilled the Law and the Law is powerless to save.  On the other hand, some scholars argue that Jesus Christ brought an end to the Law because Jesus Christ’s advent or arrival brought the Law to humans and the Law has no more validity after Jesus Christ arrived. Yet, this interpretation is not likely because the Apostle Paul continued to follow the Law of God even after his Damascus Road experience with the risen Christ. So, it is highly unlikely that the Apostle Paul interpreted Romans 10:4 that the Law was shut down after Jesus Christ’s arrival to earth in human form.

The Greek word “telos” can mean either (1) “termination,” “cessation,” or (2) “goal,” culmination,” “fulfillment.” Most scholars believe that Jesus Christ is the goal, culmination, and fulfillment of the Law. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (see Matthew 5:17) in the sense that He brought the Law to completion by obeying perfectly the Laws’ demands and by fulfilling the Laws’ types and prophecies.  Even more, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in the sense that He gave the Law its full meaning. Jesus Christ emphasized the Spirit of the Law and not the mere external acknowledgment and obedience. 

Based upon the entire teaching of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul probably means that with the coming of Jesus Christ, people do not have to make oneself righteous with by the Law (see Romans 6:14; Romans 7:4, 6; Ephesians 2:15). With the coming (advent) of Jesus Christ, the Law no longer justifies or declares one righteous before God because the saving work of Jesus Christ has brought to a close any attempt to attain righteousness by way of the Law. The Apostle Paul probably did not mean at Romans 10:4 that Jesus Christ’s arrival abolished or shut down the Law (e.g., see Romans 7:7).

Throughout the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul states that he is establishing the Law and that the Law has value for all people (e.g., see Romans 5:20-21; Romans 8:3-4; Romans 13:9-10; see also Galatians 3:24-29; 1 Timothy 1:8). The Law reveals the mind of God and the intentions of God. Besides, the Apostle Paul never preached in the book of Romans that there is no validity to the Law. Instead, the Apostle Paul reveals that justification or righteous comes to EVERYONE WHO BELIEVE in Jesus Christ and this statement of Apostle Paul is repeated throughout Romans (e.g., see Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:21-4:25).

According to the Apostle Paul, faith in God’s saving activity in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection obtains righteousness. The kind of righteousness God requires is wholeheartedly seeking Him as the true and living God (Romans 10:13; see also Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). Sadly, some Jews had established many rituals, customs, and traditions in addition to God’s Law to try to make themselves righteous in God's sight. But, human work such a trying to obey the Law, no matter how sincere, can never be a substitute for the righteousness God freely gives to EVERYONE by faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living within a believer’s life, the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled (Romans 8:4). According to Apostle Paul, through our faith in Jesus Christ God sends true believers His Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2, 5). The moment one believes from the heart that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ); one also receives the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the unmistakable evidence of salvation (see Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 3:16; I Corinthians 6:19–20). God’s Holy Spirit gives believers the power and strength to live and obey God (see Romans 1:16-17).

References
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Pub., 2012.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of the New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).