The heart of the Bible lies in the simplicity of its core message.
There are two great summaries in the Bible of the conduct that
God expects of mankind. To believers in Messiah, one of them comes to the surface of our thinking rather easily.
Matthew 22:35-40 – And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” He said to him, “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. “This is the greatest and most important command. “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
According to Yeshua, to love God and to love our neighbor is the summary of all of the Law and the Prophets. However, there is another summary in the Old Testament that was spoken to the nation of Israel during one of their most turbulent times in their history.
The second of the great summaries of conduct that God expects of people occurred just prior to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. A prophet by the name of Micah was tasked with lining out the sins of the nation as a witness against them of the impending judgment of God. The book of Micah is one long condemnation of their idolatrous and ungodly practices. Yet, even amidst the darkness of their actions, Micah provides a glimmer of insight: they ultimately knew the right thing to do but insisted on their own ways instead. He ironically presents their case as sarcastically asking, “What does God expect of us? Sacrifices of our animals or even the first born of our children?”
Micah 6:6-7 – What should I bring before Yahweh when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin?
To this foolish complaint, the prophet Micah provides the bedrock of God’s just judgment:
Micah 6:8 – Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is Yahweh requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah then states what they already knew but were choosing to ignore. They were simply to perform true justice, to seek after merciful interactions with one another, and to be humble in their godly walk. Is this not saying the same thing as “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself?”
Micah could say that God had shown them what was good and what Yahweh expected of them, because he already had during the time of Moses.
- Deuteronomy 6:5 – “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
- Deuteronomy 10:12 – “And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God ask of you except to fear Yahweh your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship Yahweh your God with all your heart and all your soul?
- Leviticus 19:15 – “Do not act unjustly when deciding a case. Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly.
- Deuteronomy 5:20-21 – “Do not give dishonest testimony against your neighbor. “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
- Leviticus 19:18 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.
When Yeshua stated the greatest commands, he was simply quoting Moses. This then, demonstrates how this simple principle of loving God and loving one’s neighbor is consistent throughout all of Torah: from Moses, to the Prophets, and into the New Testament with the teaching of Yeshua. This is the very basis, and the goal, of all biblical teaching.
If we are truly to love our neighbor, we must act in just ways, doing what is right by them according to God’s Word. We must also love them by demonstrating mercy when it is in our power to do so. And we must act in these ways with humility because of our respect and honor for God as we seek to walk in his ways.
1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
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