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“And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” 1 John 3:23
Lord, if Your commandments are so hard, and if they are impossible to follow, then why did You give them? If all Your commandments do is show us our need for Jesus, then doesn’t that mean they wind up being irrelevant once we come to Christ? So, why do Paul and John and the other Biblical authors keep compelling us to obey and know Your commands? There must be something greater You intended through them.
What if Your commandments run deeper than superficial rules to follow? The Greek word for command is “entole.” And actually, these commands aren’t so difficult to follow. We follow these kinds of commands all the time in our daily lives. Think of it as a policy letter, a new traffic signal, a tax regulation. We just do them, well, unless we want to lose the policy or cause an accident or pay more to Uncle Sam than he already is asking for. I mean, when was the last time I sat at a traffic signal and thought, “Oh, Lord. I just can’t do this. This is too hard to go when the light turns green. I just can’t do it. How will I ever get through this?” That’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? And maybe it’s ridiculous to think that You don’t want us to understand and obey Your commands that teach us about Your character, that help us understand You better. Because every one of Your commands draws us closer to You.
It’s funny but Jesus, You said that if we love You, we will obey You. So, why have we been taught to disregard Your commands as though they are too hard and archaic and only for Jews? You obeyed them. Paul obeyed them. John obeyed them. I mean, what if I obeyed Sabbath worship? What would happen to me? Would I become a legalist? Really? Or would I just draw closer to You because I let Your Word teach me and bless me? Would I learn what it is in that way to stand in a different way than the world around me? Would I come to appreciate You in a deeper way and come to understand Your heritage in God in Your Jewishness a little better? Would I be a better witness to my Jewish brothers and sisters? Would I be a better witness to everyone because I loved Your commands and Your ways despite cultural differences?
Maybe the whole point is that You gave us every commandment so that we would come to know You in them. Maybe Your commandments, all of them, from the Old Testament and the New Testament, lead us to believe in You, in Who You are, and to actually know You and understand Your ways and what Your righteousness really is. Maybe they are not hard at all, unless I don’t want to submit. That always makes the task harder, when I just flat out don’t want to do something.
Now, this is just a side, but our family practiced obeying the Sabbath. And I loved it and grew and understood more of Scripture through it. And for every time I celebrated the Biblical Old Testament holidays, I grew to understand more and appreciate You in them. Sure, it’s not easy to arrange them since the world around me isn’t doing it that way. But every “inconvenience” I did arrange, wound up being a blessing I will not forget. And no, I did not become a legalist. I just became someone who wanted to understand You, Lord, more deeply and who wanted to understand Your Word better and know the importance of what You were sharing with Your people.
And John is telling us here that the commandments lead us to believe, to believe and place our trust in You. I mean, Your policy letter to us tells us all about You. But we can’t know all the things You’ve shared unless we check it all out. And we can’t experience it unless we obey it and follow through on the policy. Back in Deuteronomy 18:15 You told of the Prophet You would raise up, from Your people, and Your people would listen to Him. That’s Jesus, The Word of God according to John. This was told by Moses to whom the first part of the written policy was given. And Jesus, You are the whole policy from start to finish. Because the policy was in place from Adam and Eve until forever. Adam and Eve were already following Your policy before it was ever written.
Psalm 2:12 commands me to “kiss the Son, unless He be angry, and you perish from the way….Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Yes, I need to kiss the hand of the King. I need to kneel in submission and follow His policies. I need to live under the instruction and protection of Your policies because in them is life and safety. Is obedience really so bad? I actually think it’s a glorious thing.
God, You sent a cloud that overshadowed Jesus and some of His disciples that day, and Your voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son: hear Him.” (Mark 9:7) See, the Greek translation of this word, “hear” is “akouo” which is about hearing something audible. But the disciples didn’t speak Greek, and Jesus didn’t either. So the Hebrew word that was used is the stem “shm” which is where we get “shema” like in Deuteronomy 6:4. And it means more than hearing. ” It means all of the following: hear, listen, obey, converse with and understand.” (Skip Moen) So, here again, God is telling us we are to listen to and obey Jesus. I not only hear You, Lord, and the words You speak, but I see Your actions, and I am to obey and follow it all. As I follow Your example, I will only benefit from taking Your word to heart and practicing it in my life. That’s faith. If I don’t walk with You, how can I ever know You? If I don’t know Your ways, how can I ever live in them?
And Jesus, You reiterate God’s command. “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.” And who is that? You, Jesus. And the thing about You, God, is that You are always working, You are always active. But isn’t this telling us that You are always working through Jesus? Didn’t You even create the universe through Jesus? Weren’t all things made by Him? And isn’t this the work that You are desiring to bring to life in us, that we believe, that we understand and experience the creative and sustaining work of Jesus in our own lives?
It’s not just enough to believe in God. God said to believe in the Messiah He provided. To not believe in Him, is to not believe in God, because You would be taking one of His commands and calling it invalid. So what right do I have to call any of Your commands invalid? I mean, when someone denies You, Christ, why do I think I am any less defiant, if I deny the value of any other command?
There is a River of Life and a Tree of Life. And they are eternal. And we can drink from that river and eat from that tree. And we must drink and eat to know You. I must choose to sink my roots deep into that stream and suck up it’s sustenance. I must choose to reach out and pluck from the fruit of the tree. That’s part of the policy. Is it really so hard to see life and do what I need to in order to receive it? Is it so hard to draw near enough to take a drink? Is it so hard to continually draw near and spend time by the river? Is it so hard to reach up and grasp the fruit and to take it to my mouth and take a bite? Isn’t that what the commandments are all about? Aren’t they all about seeing and tasting and experiencing God and His goodness in Jesus?
In John 6, Lord, You said this to Your disciples who were having a problem with Your teaching. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not.” The fact is that Jesus, You represent the totality of all Scripture. It’s not just about the words You were just speaking then. YOU ARE THE WORD! All your words, all Scripture is spirit and life. Why? Because You are shone forth, You are represented in every word of Scripture. That’s why Paul wrote to Timothy that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Lord, Your idea here is probably really hard for us to understand because our education system is so different. We’re like computers where information is continually put in and collected and then we pop it back out. But that’s not what You are looking for. The whole Hebrew model of education is totally different from that. The Rabbi was the source and he picked the students who really wanted to learn. He looked for the ones who wanted to absorb what he had not only through word, but by their deeds too. He was looking for someone who would take on his lifestyle and thoughts and attitudes and actions. It wasn’t about information transfer at all. The pupil would become everything that the rabbi embodies and then he would have reached full maturity. He was to become a xerox image of the teacher. He would love what he loved, take the stand that the rabbi took, believe the words and act accordingly in the same manner as the rabbi. There would come a point where you wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the two. And that is still Your desire for each believer. Because You are our Rabbi and we are Your pupils.
See, that’s what believing represents to You. So as I look back at my life, am I believing? Am I really becoming a mirror image of You in my words, my deeds, my life actions, my thoughts? Whatever You thought on any subject, is that what I think now? However You acted, is that how I’m acting? And the wonderful thing is that You give me all these other Biblical examples to look at also. And as they followed You and made Your words their own and Your ways their own, I get to see what being a disciple looks like in real life. I get to see what believing looks like and acts like and talks like.
But just like that day in Capernaum, some followers and some people just don’t want to submit to some parts of You. Maybe they don’t want to take the time to wait to learn, or it’s just uncomfortable, or weird for them. I don’t know why. But there comes a point where we all have to decide if we are going to let You be our Rabbi. Am I going to totally take on Your ways? Am I ready for that change and that level of trust and that letting go of myself? And You ask me the same question, “Will you also go away?”
What’s my answer, Lord? I can’t go away either. Because I believe that You have the words of eternal life. And I believe and am sure that You are that Messiah, the Son of the living God. You are the embodiment of His Word. You are the One that is Good and if I want to enter into You, into Life, I will keep the commandments, because I want to hold fast to You.
Lord, I have no desire to be a legalist. But I do want to come to be indistinquishable from You. And I am so grateful for every opportunity You give me to grow to know You more, and understand You more, and think like You more, and act like You more. And I’m so grateful that You use all of Your Word to make me complete and whole and furnished and equipped in You for everything that You will ever call me to.
So, what I do with Your commands, Lord, means everything to what I believe about You. I mean, if I’m going to say You are good, then my life ought to agree with that by demonstrating the goodness of Your Word in my life, the goodness of Your commandments. Entering life is all about entering You. As I enter Your commandments, any of them, I’m showing what I really believe about You. I’m showing I trust You so much that I trust all of Your Word. I mean, You are the One who told me by Your own words to keep Your commandments. You’re the One who told me by Your own words that I must trust You to know God. Your policy is just all about You. It’s all about making and explaining how I can know You and experience You. Your policy was there in the beginning before anything was written down in man’s handwriting. Then, during Moses’ time, You started to write it for us on tablets of stone.
And I have to think about that. Why did You etch the “ten commandments” in stone hewed out of the mountain by Your own finger? Because they were just rules to follow? Or was it because even then You wanted to demonstrate before all people that You have the supernatural power and ability to tear down mountains and things established in stony places and put Your ways inside something that was once empty of Your ways? If You can write Your ways in stone that You hewed out of a mountain, then surely You can write Your Word in a once stony heart.
In Jeremiah 31:33, God shares His goal for His children. “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts: and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” He wants to etch Himself deeply in my once stony heart. Why? So that I can know the LORD for myself. So that each of us can know the Lord for ourselves from the least of us unto the greatest of us. Lord, You never intended for Your words to be superficially written. They were always meant for us to take deep within.
Deuteronomy 30 tells us “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. .. But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live …” And Paul reiterates in Romans 10 that Jesus is the goal of the Torah (the Old Testament Scripture) for “everyone who believes.” When Moses wrote about righteousness, He was telling us all about You and how to be Yours and trust and live in You. This is what Paul said Moses was saying, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach: that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.'”
Lord, is Your Word engraved in my heart? Is Jesus supernaturally having His way in me. Am I allowing Him to write His story, His ways, His loves, His desires in my heart? Am I living in it? Am I living in Him? Is He that close that we are becoming one? Am I seeing the beauty and glory of Christ in every word, in every command? Have I really begun living? Do I really know You? Am I keeping Your commands? Is the love of God truly in me? Am I in You? Am I trusting in Your word, because it’s who You are? Do I find my hope in Your word? Because it’s where You are found. Your life and lovingkindness are found in Your word; is that where I am found? Is Your word my delight? Because it’s the only way You will become my delight. Do I long after it? Because if I do, then I am longing after You. Yes, You are not just all over Your commandments. You are in them and they in You. And they are not hard. They are beautiful because they shine from You. Make me beautiful in You as I demonstrate my trust in You by obeying Your commandments for the shear fact that You are beautiful in them and I just want to love and live in Your beauty.