“And God spake all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord thy God,
which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’”
(Exodus 20: 1, 2)
When asked what the greatest commandment of the ten was, Christ responded, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30, 31)
But how can someone command love? How can an emotion be required of a human being? Well, first of all, if we can fully understand what love is in its truest sense, the saying becomes less burdensome. And in fact, it should not be burdensome, as declared in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.” Love is more than just an emotion. It is a commitment. It is a covenant. It is a conscious decision to be dedicated to someone, and to be willing to do what is best for that person.
With Yah, it just so happens that doing what is best “for” Him is actually doing what is best for US. For this reason, the Decalogue is worded as it is, as commandments, with all the “thou shalt”s and the “thou shalt not”s. They are an important part of the covenant we have with the Father, not because He demands it as some arbitrary form of obedience, of course, but because if we don’t have these “works,” it is generally indicative that we do not have a Christlike character. And it is character which will decide our final destiny for good or ill.
When Yahshua came to explain the words of His Father’s will more clearly, in both letter and spirit, He showed us a perfect life – a life that directly resulted from direct communion with His Father, and from keeping perfectly His law. For He said, “And He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.” (John 8:29) The measure of our character is what we do. Just as “faith without works is dead,” (James: 2:20), so Yahshua taught that being able to remain within the presence of the Father is dependent upon doing by faith “those things that please Him.”
And the Father made it plain what things please Him in the words of the commandments. And yet, Christ came to magnify the Law, did He not? He came to make it honorable, says Isaiah in chapter 42 and verse 21. So what exactly does this mean? As always, the answer is not only in the Word, but in the “words.” Take a look at the first one, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) A command, right? Well, maybe not only a command.
The wording is very significant, because it does not say “Have no other gods before me,” but “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Suppose I say to you, “You will not take this $20.00 I have set before you on this table.” You can certainly take that as a command, and would be right to do so (it’s MY money after all). But at the same time, suppose I add something to that. Suppose I said to you, “If I lock you out of this room, you will not take this $20.00 that I have set down on this table.” Now that’s not just a command, it’s a surety. It’s a promise. Your access to the money is restricted, and therefore it is impossible for you to make off with it.
Let’s use a more fitting example. Suppose I visit someone who is in prison. If I have some authority over this person, I can say to him, “You will not desire freedom.” If this person was dedicated to me, and if he saw a good reason for not wanting to be free – although I can’t imagine what that would be – he might just no longer desire freedom. HOWEVER, if I say to this person that is behind bars, “If I set you free, you will not desire freedom.” Oh! What a different meaning it takes on! What a blessed promise it has become. Of course this person will no longer desire freedom if free. It’s just good sense.
Now, if Christ came to magnify the law, then we can’t leave Him out of the Decalogue, can we? Let’s see what they become, though, when looked at through the “lens” of His life and death: Commandment one becomes – “If I shalt set thee free in Christ, thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Commandment two: “If I shalt set thee free in Christ, thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image...” They are no longer commandments! They are promises, assurances of a blessed freedom from self and from sin. And what is this, but the Victory?
The sixth commandment, for example, which would now read, “If I shalt set thee free in Christ, thou shalt not kill,” speaks no longer of just actions, but also of motives. And did not Yahshua say, “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies.” (Luke 6:27) Christ taught that hatred is the same as murder, lust the same as adultery, insincerity the same as bearing false witness. Therefore, if we read the sixth and other commandments through Christ’s name, we see that we WILL not do these things. Not only are we not supposed to do them, but we will not do them, who are within the body of the Redeemer.
“If I shalt set thee free in Christ, thou shalt not steal.” If we are living a Christ-like life, with His character, how can we even consider the possibility that we will ever deal unjustly with anyone? It isn’t a matter of keeping or breaking the Law anymore, is it? It is a matter of having or not having the nature of Yah, which will itself forbid the flesh from carrying out these evil deeds. No longer do we struggle with doing or not doing. Just as in my earlier example, it is as if we are locked out of the room with the $20 bill. And John concurs with this assessment: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9) Now we see what this means: it is a surety.
We know we will NOT do these things, because we are promised that as long as we remain in communion with the Father, we won’t. We are truly justified by faith, if we can understand this. For it is no longer truly I that live, as Paul says, but Christ who liveth in me. (Gal 2:20)
Yahshua taught that the whole of the Law and the prophets hung upon two things: love of the Father, and love of one’s fellow man. It really is that simple – If we love the Father, we will automatically keep the first four commandments. It will be natural for us, because we now have His nature. If we love our fellow man we will keep the last six. Again, we keep them not because we are merely supposed to. It’s not a duty anymore, but for those in Christ, it is our nature, our character. Thus, we are no longer under the Law. It really is that simple – the commandments are not burdens, but promises, blessed assurance that we know the Father, and He knows us. And if this be the case in our lives, that is cause for rejoicing, for another of His promises is, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) Amen.
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