It Depends

What does it mean for anything to depend upon something else? Is it contingent upon a choice or outcome? Or is it a dependence that fully relies upon the other, so much so that independence is impossible.

One Word –

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:40

Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 39, 40; Matthew 22; Mark 12

Big Idea –

Let’s take a moment to put what is happening within its larger context of the LORD’s appointed times – specifically Passover. Jesus has made what we refer to as His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Riding the colt into the city amid the shouts of “Hosanna!,” Jesus fulfills the shadow picture the Jews had rehearsed for centuries. As our High Priest, Jesus comes into Jerusalem to offer Himself as God’s Passover Lamb.

After the lamb was selected and brought into Jerusalem, it would be brought into the Temple for inspection by the religious leaders. This was to insure that the lamb was perfect without any spot or defect. Matthew 21:23 tells us that Jesus was in the Temple being challenged by the religious leaders and teaching the people in parables. Each time Jesus answered their questions the people marveled at His insight. Finally, they stopped asking Him anymore questions (Mat. 22:46). The inspection of God’s Passover Lamb had concluded; Jesus was perfect. In the end on the morning of the Passover, Pilot would speak the very same words spoken by the High Priest “I find no fault in Him”(Jn. 19:6 KJV).

Now, lets look at the inspection of Jesus regarding the Law. I particularly like how Matthew sets this up. Since the Sadducees were silenced and unable to find fault in Jesus’ response to their question, the Pharisees – experts in the Law – got together to ask Jesus the perfect question. Remember, their intention was for Jesus to show negligence in His words so they would have a reason to accuse Him. So one of them stood and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law” (v.36)?

We are familiar with Jesus’ response. The greatest commandment is that we love the LORD our God completely, and the second is like it; we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus then says, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

What does it mean that all the Law and Prophets “depend” upon these two commandments?  From the Greek kremannymi, often translated in modern English versions “depend,” is also translated as “based on.” The idea is that all the Law and Prophets are summed up in these two commandments. Thus we often think that if we love God and our neighbor that’s all we need to do because we have obeyed all God’s commandments.

I think there is a better way of understanding what Jesus is saying. Kremannymi literally means hang (as is the KJV translation). It is the same word used in Acts 5:30 describing how Jesus was killed by “hanging him on a tree.” When understood in this way, Jesus is telling us that everything in the Law and Prophets hang upon these two commandments.

This is a subtle but significant difference in how to understand what Jesus is saying. Rather than being a summation of the commandments fulfilling them all, they are the ‘poles’ upon which everything else written hangs. Without these two greatest commandments all the Law and Prophets fall to the ground broken and  meaningless. Thus the these two commandments support or hold up the rest. Put simply, all the Law and the Prophets cannot stand independently because everything written has no meaning if it is separated from the two greatest commandments.

This helps me begin to make sense of commandments and things in the Old Testament that I though were meaningless or had no application for our lives today. All the Law and Prophets explain or show me how to obey the two greatest commandments. I have no way to knowing how to live a holy life (or God’s expectations of me) until I see that the purpose of what was written down in the Law and Prophets is to teach me how to love God and my neighbor.

Now don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m saying we need to obey the commandments to earn salvation. No, we are saved by grace through faith, it is God’s gift to us. But being saved and knowing God’s immeasurable love for me, I want to respond with loving obedience to Jesus who is my LORD and Savior.

Therefore, one of the simplest ways to begin to understand how everything hangs upon the two greatest commandments is by looking at the Ten Commandments. These are not just random religious and moral laws. Rather they hang or depend upon the greatest commandments teaching me how to love God and my neighbor. The first five commandments hang upon or explain the greatest commandment: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (v. 37). The last five commandments hang upon or explain the second: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v.39).

By the way, in Mark 12 a Pharisee or “scribe” replied to Jesus’ answer saying, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (vv. 32-33). When Jesus saw that this one had answered wisely He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34). Some believe this may have been the young Saul of Tarsus who was being trained as a Pharisee by Gamaliel.

Exemplify –

I believe all scripture, including the Old Testament, is given to train or teach us how to live righteously through obedience to the greatest commandments. Therefore I want continually allow the Holy Spirit to teach me obedience in spirit and truth to everything that hangs upon those two simple but of utmost significance of commandments.

Yes to Yield –

LORD Jesus, forgive me for the ways in which I have disregarded Your Word by not understanding how the Holy Spirit wanted to use it to teach me how to live a holy and righteous life. I confess some things are still difficult for me to understand. But rather than try to figure everything out, empower me to live in obedience to those commandments I do understand. I want to fully express my love to You and my neighbor, so help me to properly hang Your word upon these greatest of commandments through obedience.

If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

The Ten Commandments

God has some expectations for you and me. But are the Ten Commandments more than words carved into stone tablets and hung on the walls of our homes and churches?

One Word –

And God spoke all these words, saying . . . Exodus 20:1

Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 19, 20, 21; John 11

Big Idea –

When we think about the Ten Commandments, we often imagine the two stone tablets engraved with God’s Law upon them. Doesn’t stone tablets mean their old and fixed – set in stone to borrow a pun. I mean no one chisels a note to a friend (few even write on paper); instead we send a text or email. For some commandments on stone tables may also means they are outdated. Even the US constitution is said to be a “living document,” so the intent written takes on new meaning for our modern lives. So how can these ancient commandments written on stone be relevant to our lives today?

I think our mistake is only thinking of the commandments as being carved in stone. When the commandments were first given by the LORD, they were spoken!

Read again Exodus 20:1;  “And God spoke all these words, saying.” What follows in the next sixteen verses were no ordinary words. They were the spoken words of God from Mt. Sinai to His people.

After the people heard all these words, saw the thunder and lightning, the mountain covered in smoke and heard the sound of the trumpet everyone was completely terrified trembling before God. In great fear the people cried out to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” (Ex. 20:19).

Moses replied, “Do not fear.” Stop for a moment; that’s the understatement of the day. Did you notice they saw thunder? When you come before God and the LORD speaks to you things are not ordinary. I dirgress: Moses continued, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Ex. 20:19). In other words, “Don’t be afraid as to turn away from the LORD for God is proving you as His people – those who fear Him yet walk with Him without sin.”

Is that as clear as mud for you? Now let me unpack what I think that all means.

Simply put, God spoke the Ten Commandments because His desire was that they be written upon the people’s hearts. With God’s words within them, they would live them out in their day-to-day lives walking in obedience with the LORD. And isn’t that the intention of the New Covenant promised by God? “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

And now back to my digression that “the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning” (Ex. 20:18). One Jewish midrash on this verse says God’s voice thundered and was seen or understood best by the people, each one according to their ability. Children of all ages, adult, the elderly, male and female all stood before the mountain and witnessed the same thing, but each saw it in a way he or she could personally understand or comprehend it.

I think the rabbis make sense of this unusual language showing us that God wanted to write His commandments upon the hearts of His people Israel so His voice was not just heard but seen or understood. And so I’ve got a little stone replica of the Ten Commandments on my mantle; perhaps you have them framed or on a plaque. But the real question for us to consider is this: ARE THE LORD’S COMMANDMENTS WRITTEN UPON OUR HEARTS?

Exemplify –

My heart can be cluttered with worry and so many things I think are important; it’s time for some heart cleaning to make certain God’s commandments are clearly seen with nothing to block them from sight.

Yes to Yield –

LORD Jesus, I’ve never heard Your voice thunder – unless I just wasn’t listening and thought it was only a storm. Speak to me afresh, even with the still small voice of Your Spirit writing the words of Your Commandments upon my heart. Give me insight that I can see and understand them living and walking in obedience to Your perfect plan. Forgive me for the clutter that fills my heart and life. Holy Spirit empower me to cooperate with You doing the chores of spiritual housecleaning that You know is needed.

What Are God’s Ten Commandments?

If you’re like me, you probably know the Ten Commandments, right? But what is our perspective or traditional view of the Commandments given by God at Mt. Sinai?

I naively thought everyone saw them the same way. I mean we’re all reading the same list and how hard is it to count to ten anyway? Well it’s not the counting, but where we decide to put the number of each commandment with its emphasis or our interpretation/understanding of them.

Did you know there are three major ways people look at the commandments? These traditions or religious perspectives are Jewish, Catholic and Protestant. I grew up a Protestant, so that’s the right view isn’t it? Or is it?

If as I shared above that the LORD wants to write His commandments upon our hearts, then what are God’s Ten Commandments? What is God’s perspective? Our perspective will go a long way toward what we think the LORD requires of us according to His commandments.

I’ve come to have a great appreciation for the traditional Jewish version of the Ten Commandments. If your a Protestant like me, or even a Catholic, I’m not saying the Jews have the right perspective. However, let’s at least acknowledge that they received them 2,000 years or more before our traditions even started, so maybe it’s worth taking a look at God’s commandments from their point of view. (See the chart below for a comparison.)

The biggest difference between the Jewish and Protestant perspective is that our first two commandments are combined into the second on the Jewish list of ten. So what do the Jews say is the first commandment? “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex. 20:2).

The first commandment is actually a positive affirmation of the LORD’S love and provision. God has redeemed us and we belong to Him; as Paul said “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Just as God redeemed Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, the LORD has redeemed us from our bondage to sin. Jesus paid the price on our behalf; we belong to Him.

God loves us and purchased us as His own. If you believe that, then you must also believe God has the authority to tell us how to live – these divine expectations are the Ten Commandments (just to name a few).

Ten Commandments - Jewish Catholic and Protestant.jpg

If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.