To Clarify God’s Law

The greatest need in the word today, is the teaching of the word of God. Now, as you read that sentence, I would imagine that you are probably puzzled or concerned about what I just said. There are so many problems in the world today, how can knowing what the Bible says, be our greatest need?

The reason that I can make a statement like this and mean it with sincerity, is because—after 41 years of devoting myself to the study of God’s word—I realized that all of the issues of human life could be solved if a majority of people on our planet believed and lived the things that are written on the pages of the Bible.

Many people are under the impression that the Bible is simply a very old book with lots of very old stories. Most of these tales are intended as a allegories, and metaphors.

In truth, the people who are described in the Old Testament are real individuals with genuine problems. Their lives are publicly displayed for us so that we might learn from their examples.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4

When we read the New Testament, we find that all of the statements and examples that are recorded, are commentaries on the people and events that have taken place in the ancient history of man. We know that these individuals are real people from the statements that are made in the New Testament. For example: Regarding whether or not Jonah is a real person, Jesus said this:

(Jesus speaking) The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:32

Regarding whether or not the flood really happened, Jesus said this:

(Jesus speaking) And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Luke 17:26-27

Every person from the Old Testament was specifically chosen for their unique circumstances, so that we might discover the things that they went through, and be encouraged. The Bible is brutally honest with us regarding the character and behavior of the individuals that it records. We are allowed to see these people with all of their sins and flaws and observe how God took them as they were and changed them into a new person, by coming into a personal relationship with Him.

Old Testament

Adam disobeyed God
Noah was a drunkard.
Jonah was obstinate
Moses had a speech impediment
Abraham was a liar, lacked faith in the beginning
Isaac was a liar
Jacob was a deceiver
Tamar was a prostitute
David was an adulterer and murder
Joseph was arrogant
Gideon was afraid
Rahab was a prostitute
Samson was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah was a failure in all his efforts
Elijah was suicidal
Naomi was a bitter widow
Job lost all his worldly possessions

New Testament

Peter was impulsive and quick tempered, easily changed his mind.
Simon was materialistic; his concerns were centered around money and property.
James was seemingly insignificant to most men, called “the younger.”
Andrew was very insecure; the brother of Peter, a loner, dependent on his family.
John was prideful, called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy those who opposed him.
Phillip was a perfectionist, a bit of a control freak, who was calculating and inquisitive.
Nathaniel was skeptic and opinionated. When he was told that the Messiah had been found; Jesus of Nazareth, Nathaniel said: Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Thomas, known as the “doubter,” was skeptical and cynical. A man very suspicious of the things people claim, wanting proof before he believed anything.
James, the elder, stubborn and unwilling to bend.
Matthew was hated by most people because he was formerly a Roman tax collector.
Thaddeus was a man who was constantly wavering between his beliefs and often had ulterior motives for what he did.
Judas betrayed Jesus, though he pretended to love Him and be His friend.
Paul was a former murderer of Christians, rich, influential and intellectual.

This chapter is devoted to understanding why the word of God is so important to us and how human traditions can often suffocate the freedom that God intends that we have.

Isaiah writes that the Messiah will condemn the leaders of Israel for their hypocrisy.

Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”

New Testament Fulfillment:

Matthew 15:7-9 “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

How could Isaiah predict, 700 years before Jesus arrival, the very words the Messiah would speak? How could he foresee the social conditions of an entire nation before it was revealed? Only a transcendent being from outside linear time, could describe events that had yet to occur. God, who knows all things, communicated these precise events to Isaiah, who recorded these prophecies, so that we might be able to validate the true Messiah when He arrived.

In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus speaks the precise phrase that Isaiah predicted in chapter 29:13 of his prophecy. When Jesus presented Himself to the religious leaders at Jerusalem, they listened to His words and witnessed His mighty miracles—all of which—were identical to every word spoken by all the Old Testament prophets.

Despite the massive evidence, the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah. He condemned the unbelief of the scribes and Pharisees and revealed that they are the very men who Isaiah had described in chapter 29:13.

Included here is the entire context of this meeting between Jesus and the leaders of Israel so that you can see why He was able to attribute their words and actions to a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Matthew 15:1-9 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

By the time Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, the elders of Israel had elevated their traditions above the Laws of God. Jesus scolded these men for their error. By elevating their traditions above what God had said, they made the law of God, ineffective.

Matthew 15:3- 6 Jesus answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”

The Greek word used here by Jesus for tradition is paradosis—that which is handed down. The Traditions of the elders were established procedures for how everything in the life of a Jew should be accomplished. A great example of this is seen in the comments of the elders regarding Jesus disciples who did not wash their hands before they began eating.

Matthew 15:1-2 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

If we carefully examine what the Pharisees are saying, we find that it was not any disagreement over the Laws of Moses; it was their traditions which were at issue.

Where the Traditions of the Elders came from:

One of the major reasons for the captivity of the Jews in Babylon for 70 years, was their constant disobedience to the commandments of God.

The Lord commanded Israel that for every six years they plowed, planted, and harvested the land, they should allow it to lay fallow on the seventh year. God promised that He would give three years of harvest on the sixth year so that there would be sufficient supply to last through the seventh year of rest.

Exodus 23:10-11 Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow.

Leviticus 25:21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.

For 490 years, Israel failed to let the land rest. Because the land had not been allowed its Sabbath for 490 years, Israel owed God a land-rest-debt of 70 years.

God warned Israel, through Jeremiah the prophet, that if they would not honor Him and listen to Him, they would be destroyed by a foreign nation. Nebuchadnezzar was permitted by God to take Israel captive and remove the best and brightest young men from their land and carry them back to Babylon for 70 years. This is the exact period of time that was owed to God for the land rest that Israel had failed to observe. God put the entire nation into captivity to serve another nation, simply because they had failed to give one year, in seven, to rest.

If we should ever think that the commandments of the Lord are optional, we might think again, considering what God did to Israel for their disobedience.

Learning from mistakes

After 70 years of exile, the leaders in Jerusalem wanted to ensure that their former errors were not repeated. Ezra set out to educate the people of Israel on how best to follow the laws of Moses. He did this by founding the school of the sopherim, who were later known as the scribes.

The primary function of the sopherim school was to thoroughly explain the laws of God to the people. We see an example of this in the Book of Nehemiah Chapter 8:

Nehemiah 8:1-3 Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.

Nehemiah 8:1-3 was the beginning of the sopherim, who later became the Bible teachers of Israel. When Ezra died, the leaders of Israel felt that an exposition of the Laws of Moses, called the Torah, was insufficient. They proposed a new guideline known as, the fence or the hedge, that should be built around the existing 613 Laws of Moses. The purpose of the hedge laws were to act as an early warning system to prevent someone from actually breaking one of the Laws of Moses. As a person would break through one of the hedge laws, they would realize that they were very close to breaking an actual law of God.

The leaders of Israel also developed what they called the Pilpul Logic which originated from the idea behind what happens when a person eats a hot pepper. As spices enhance the taste buds during a meal, these hedge laws would serve to heighten a person’s sensitivity to sin. Although these additional laws were sincerely conceived to heighten awareness of what God required, their establishment added a mountain of laws for the people to keep.

The fence laws and the Sabbath

Concerning the Sabbath; over 1,500 fence laws were instituted to guard against any possible violation which might take place regarding the day of rest that God had commanded. Moses stated that on the Sabbath, no person could plant, harvest, thresh, winnow, or store any crop.[1] The leaders of Israel added to these prohibitions, the Pilpul Logic, by stating that a person could not even walk on the grass of a field during the Sabbath. The reasons given were simple:

If while walking through a field, a stray stalk of wheat might be stepped on. This stalk might separate a grain of wheat: This would break the law of harvesting, which would in turn, break Law of Moses concerning the Sabbath. Further, if one of the grains of wheat were to fall into the edge of your garment and later the wind would blow that grain out of your garment into the air, this would be a violation of winnowing, which would also break the law of the Sabbath. If a grain of wheat should blow out of your clothing, a small bird might see the seed and eat it, then you would be guilty of storing wheat on the Sabbath.

This is why the Pharisees were so upset over what they viewed as a callous disregard of Jesus’ disciples, in walking through a field of wheat on the Sabbath.

Mark 2:23-24 Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

The Mishna

About 200 A.D., Rabbi Judah Hansi completed the fence laws and various other teachings and combined them into what we know today as the Mishna.[2] Later, a commentary on the multitude of these laws was added, called the Gemara. When all of these documents are combined together, they are called the Talmud. The Talmud was the final authority for every law and the correct interpretation of these laws.

The Pharisees taught that when God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai, He gave him two laws. The written law, called “the Laws of Moses,” as recorded in the Old Testament; and the “secret law,” also called “the oral law.” Moses passed these oral traditions down to the elders of Israel—vocally, as they were prohibited from writing them. These secret laws would not be revealed until a need arose—at the proper time; this is, according to the Mishna.[3]

Moses received the oral law from God on Mount Sinai and delivered it to Joshua, who delivered it to the elders of Israel, followed by the Judges. The Judges gave these oral traditions to the Prophets and the Prophets delivered them to the sopherim of Ezra’s day.[4]

By the time Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the traditions of the elders had developed the same authority as the Word of God. This is how the traditions of men, over time, came to outweigh and overrule the Words of God.

The Yadim

In this greatly expanded edition of the Laws of God, there was an entire treatise called the Yadim, which described the things which must be done during ceremonial purification. You could pour water over one of your hands during a single rinsing, but not two hands during the same rinse. If a person were to pour water over both hands at one time, he was considered, unclean.

This issue of hand washing was a subject of great concern for the elders of Israel when they questioned Jesus about the practices of His disciples: “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread?”

The Scribes and the Pharisees would go to great lengths to make certain that they correctly washed their hands before eating—yet their hearts were hard and callous and completely unprepared for the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus arrived with all the credentials of the Messiah, the leaders of Israel were unprepared to receive Him; primarily because they were heavily weighed-down with so many traditions. These men had hands that were washed—while their hearts remained defiled. Jesus observed their hypocrisy and often scolded these religious leaders of Israel. It was for His opposition to their traditions and false religion that the Pharisees hated Jesus so vehemently.

If you want to experience true wrath from someone, just question the authenticity of their confession of faith.

I have a particular sensitivity towards those who claim to be followers of Jesus while openly criticizing and publicly maligning other Christians. These individuals often make their negative comments, against Christian Authors by way of a review on Amazon.com. Rather than writing a private note to the author regarding their disagreement with what has been written, they choose a public form of redress for the whole world to see. When those who are outside of the church, see those who claim to be a part of the Christian church—tearing each other to pieces, this often moves them away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ very quickly. Who wants to be a part of a church that bites and devours each other?

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Jesus said that the way in which the world will know that we belong to Him—is by the love that we have for each other.

John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As followers of Jesus we should be kind, tenderhearted, gracious towards each other. When people in the world see our love and kindness, they will be attracted to this love and be drawn into a relationship with Jesus, themselves.

When I wrote in opposition to these negative comments to encourage the writers that the cause of Christ would be better served if we did not criticize each other in an open forum, I was added to the victims’ list. The scoffers turned on me and began to write grievous remarks about my comments.

I soon discovered that those who seek to sow seeds of discord amongst believers, care not what God thinks of their behavior, though they claim to belong to Him. There is one thing that the Lord hates above all others—regarding the behavior of those who claim to belong to Him: creating division within the body of Christ; by public—verbal or written hostility.

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 (#6) a false witness who breathes out lies,(#7) and one who sows discord among brothers.

When criticizing the Pharisees, Jesus made a clear distinction between the commandments of God, found in the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Halakic traditions of the elders.[5] Jesus’ condemnation of these men was due to their willful ignorance of the word of God, strictly for the sake of keeping their traditions.

People will, many times; justify their behavior—trumping their traditions over what is just, right, and fair.

I live on a small island in the Philippines. We have encountered, on a few occasions, the local people who are extremely loud and disrespectful to their neighbors, and then justify their rudeness by saying: “It is our tradition.” Any tradition which violates the peace and serenity of another human being is an incorrect tradition.

The biggest problem that Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees was their insistence on keeping their traditions instead of meeting the practical needs of the people.

On the Sabbath, the traditions of the Elders, prohibited a person from rescuing an animal who was trapped, or to help a sick or dying person. No work could be done on the Sabbath; therefore, the work that someone might do to help another person or an animal in distress, was prohibited. Jesus told the Pharisees that the purpose of the law of God was to benefit man, not to make his life more miserable.

Mark 2:27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

After the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus for not instructing His disciples how to properly wash their hands before eating, Jesus tells these men:

Matthew 15:3-7 “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites!”

The Verses of Scripture that Jesus was quoting from, were laws commonly known to the leaders of Israel:

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

Deuteronomy 27:16 “Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ”

Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother…

The English verb cursed, used here in Matthew 15:3-7, is too restrictive in defining the true meaning intended. The Greek word that was originally used in this text was kakologeo, meaning: to insult, to speak evil of, or to revile.

When Jesus said: but you, the meaning is quite emphatic. Jesus was stating that they had neglected their responsibilities which were required by the word of God, because of their closely guarded traditions. The purpose of the law of God—required children to care for their parents in their elderly years. Because of the traditions which were held by the leaders of Israel, they had negated the word of God. The money that could have been used to care for and support their parents, could be dedicated to God, called korban. Under this tradition, a person could use the money, which had been dedicated to God, for their own personal use while withholding it from their parents. In essence, it was a legal loophole that allowed people to escape the responsibility of caring for aging parents.

When the scribes and Pharisees condemned Jesus and His disciples for not washing properly before eating—a law which God had never given—Jesus informs them that their contrived law of korban had made, ineffective, the laws of God.

This Halakic tradition created a law that commanded the washing of hands, while eliminating the need to care for the needs of their aging parents.[6]

Jesus condemned these leaders of Israel for their hypocrisy, and in doing so, fulfilled the words of this Prophecy from Isaiah 29:13. It is clear that Isaiah was writing about the men who were now standing before Jesus, condemning Him for not keeping their traditions, while breaking the law of God by the same traditions. In doing so, the words of Isaiah’s prophecy were fulfilled:

“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”

The true intent of God’s law was to change our hearts and bring us to repentance. We would then become humble, gentle people who would love the Lord and other people. By understanding God’s heart for people, those who would come into an awareness of His word, would develop the same kind of heart that God has. Instead, men instituted their own laws, which they hold-higher than the words of God, and put heavy burdens on the lives of people. The people then vainly worship and follow God because they do not understand Him, nor what the purpose of His laws were in the first place.

This is the common flaw of religion in the present world. People go to church and follow the traditions of that particular church which they attend, without any knowledge of what God has really said in His word. Many of the leaders of the Christian church today are not teaching what the Bible says. Instead, they are teaching what the current traditions of men are. As a result, the worship which people offer to God is empty and meaningless, to themselves—and to God.

One of the purposes of the Messiah coming to earth, was to clearly define the true meaning of God’s law.

Isaiah 42:21 The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will exalt the law and make it honorable.

We see this principle demonstrated, repeatedly, by Jesus in His confrontations with the Pharisees and other leaders of Israel.

(Jesus speaking) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:17-48 (UKJV)

The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is found in Matthew 5:17-48. As Jesus takes the leaders of Israel through a list of 7 points in the Law of God, He tells them:

You have heard that it was said… But I say to You…

The Pharisees had developed their own interpretation of the law of God, which was described as their traditions.

Jesus informs the leaders of Israel that their understanding of the law was not correct. In saying this, He was elevating His authority above all other authority. Only God has the right to make laws and the ability to correctly interpret those laws. This is a seldom noticed section of scripture which really speaks to the true identity of Jesus. By stating, but I say to you, Jesus is claiming that He is God, the architect of all laws.

Isaiah writes that upon the arrival of the Messiah, He will clearly define and explain what the true meaning of God’s law, is. Perhaps none of the elders of Israel who had read this verse of prophecy really understood its correct meaning. It certainly appears that Isaiah was describing the law as being misunderstood until the arrival of the Messiah; He would exalt the law and make it honorable.

It was not until Jesus arrived as the Messiah, and spoke these words to the Pharisees, that anyone correctly understood their intended meaning. By His authoritative exposition of the scriptures, Jesus identified Himself as the author of these laws.

The Pharisees had interpreted the law of God as external. Jesus brought us to an awareness that God is most interested in the inner person—the heart—where the will and the emotions reside.

A man may never commit adultery in his life; but all men, at some point, have looked at a woman with lust. Most people will not take the life of another human being; but Jesus said—to be angry with a person in our heart is the same as committing the physical act of murder.

Everything that we do begins within our heart. As we think, our emotions are stirred deep within us. Many times, long before a person ever carries out an action; he has already contemplated what he will do within his heart. There are occasions when a person has not taken time to consider his actions and simply reacts during a particular event. Even what appears to be impulsive actions, often have come from a prior moment when a person has pondered and considered what they wanted to do when provoked.

God looks at the heart first to see why we say and do things, before judging our actions. It is not enough to be righteous externally. We must endeavor to change our heart and also make it obedient.

This should have come as no surprise to the leaders of Israel. Upon the establishment of David’s throne, God chose a man who did not appear, to most people, to be anyone special. God, however, was looking past the physical appearance and into the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

The knowledge that God is looking into our heart in determining his judgment of our actions, will either give us a great deal of comfort or cause us tremendous despair.

For the person who has a heart after the Lord and genuinely wants to please Him, this will come as good news. No matter how much we may love the Lord, we will always fail to be the person, externally, that we hope to be. Our sin nature will often cause us to fail; and when we do, we become discouraged. To know that the Lord looks past our failures and sees into our heart, understanding that we genuinely want to please Him, this knowledge can be a great source of comfort and encouragement.

Conversely, the person who is trying ever so diligently to do all the right things outwardly, while in his heart he is not really interested in pleasing the Lord—to discover that God looks at the heart; this knowledge will cause considerable discomfort. If the Lord can see into our heart, then we cannot fool Him. He knows when we are sincere and when we are just going through the motions, without a true heart of love for Him.

One of the wonderful accomplishments of Jesus while He was here on the earth was to show us who God really is; to open our eyes to His true intent and purpose for creating the laws He instituted.

The Pharisees loved to exercise judgment in cases of adultery, Sabbath breaking, hand washing and defilement with sinners. However, they neglected the greater requirements of the law: Justice and mercy. Jesus taught that the heart of God’s law is mercy. The laws of God were made to be a blessing and a help to man, not a burden and a curse.

People who have been trapped in a repeated cycle of sin carry such a heavy burden of guilt in their heart. What they need is a way out. They need someone who can forgive their sins and give them a new start. The person who is trapped in a vicious cycle of physical or emotional abuse in their marriage does not need to be told that they must endure that abuse for the rest of their life. They need mercy.

Jesus taught us as the Messiah, the true intent of all the laws of God. No one had even a glimpse of what the law really meant until Jesus came and explained it to us. There has never been another human being like Jesus who so thoroughly explained to us what God’s purposes were when He spoke to us concerning God’s law.

Jesus simplified and summed up the entire purpose of the law of God with this:

Mark 12:28-31 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

There is only One God, and we are to love Him with every fiber of our being. Secondly, we are to love other people with the same kind of love and consideration that we show ourselves. The entire heart of God’s law is centered on Love. If we love someone sincerely, then we will always want to do those things which please that person. No one will have to tell us what to do because it will be written on our heart. We love, therefore, we do our best to please and to honor those who are the objects of our affections.

John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

Many people read this verse as a scolding from Jesus; if we truly love Him, we will obey Him. This is not at all what Jesus meant. The Lord was trying to explain to us that if we are in love with Him, then it will be very easy for us to do what He says. Those people whom we love, admire, respect, and long to be with; we will want to do those things that please them. The key in obedience to the Lord is to fall in love with Jesus, so deeply, that you will naturally want to please Him in all you say and do.

If we would just follow this greatest of laws—to Love the Lord above all other people and things, and love others at least as much as we love ourselves—then we could all live in complete peace and harmony. Only when Jesus returns to earth to rule over all men will Love be the banner over us all.


[1] Exodus 34:21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.
[2] Tractate Shabbat
[3] All of this information is available in the Tractate Avot, Tractate Berachot, Tractate Sanhedrin, Tractate Yevamot and Tractate Eruvin.
[4] Tractate Avot 10:1
[5] The legal part of Talmudic literature, an interpretation of the laws of the Scriptures.
[6] The collective body of religious laws for Jews, including biblical law (the 613 mitzvot) and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.