Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

The Fourth Commandment


that if we rest for a day, things will still get done. Probably because we now have more energy and more focus and more clarity.
But not only are we letting God know we trust him to help us the other 6 days, we can use our Sabbath observance as a way to witness to our commitment to God to others. “Why can’t you do this or that on Sunday” someone asks us - “Because it is the Sabbath - a day of rest. A day for God.” And people will look at you like you have lost your mind and how archaic it is to actually take a day off and rest and what a spoil sport you are.”
We read in Romans 12:2:
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
God has given us a ‘holy’ day, a day set apart. A day where we as God’s people have permission to do something the rest of the world thinks is just strange - a day of rest.

Amen!

The Third Commandment


THE THIRD COMMANDMENT

Moses was taking care of his sheep. As with any other day he had taken his sheep out to pasture and was keeping watch over them, when he saw a fire burning and he went over to investigate what it might be. As Moses neared the bush he realized the bush was burning, but it wasn’t burning up. The fire was burning on the bush, but the bush remained intact. As Moses moved closer to see if he could figure out the problem, he heard a voice. The voice cried out, “Moses!”. Moses kind of looked around to see who might be calling him because it didn’t occur to him right off that it was the bush calling to him. Moses responded, “Here I am!” The voice came again - “Don’t come any closer to the bush, Moses. Take off your shoes for the ground around this bush is holy ground.” Moses realized this voice really was coming from the bush and it must be the voice of God so he took off his sandals and hid his face…. because he had been taught that to see God was to die. But God reassured him and said, “Moses, I am the God of your ancestors - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I have seen my people who are in captivity in Egypt. I have heard them crying to me because of the misery brought to them by the slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering.”
Just a brief review - Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of his people. His grandson Jacob had 12 sons and by a series of events ended up in Egypt where they were given the best of the land - the land of Goshen - to live in. for many years they had been protected and allowed to live their lives, but after several hundred years their protection was forgotten and they were turned into slaves. Their lives were extremely difficult and so they cried out to God for help.
Now back to Moses….. God in his voice from the burning bush tells Moses he wants to free his people from slavery but needs a human to do it for him and God has chosen Moses for this job. Now Moses is not thrilled by this idea and spends a great deal of time arguing with God about why he is not the person to do this. God counters each of Moses arguments. Finally Moses says, “But God, I don’t know your name. How can I go tell the people who sent me if I don’t know who you are?”
For the ancient Hebrews, your very essence was held in your name. Your name reflected your personality, your characteristics, your identity within your family and the society around you. If you remember we have several instances where God changes people’s names because their roles changed - Abram became Abraham when he agreed to God’s call to his life and the promises God made to him and the same thing happened with his wife Sarai who became Sarah. After Jacob wrestled with God, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel reflecting the change in Jacob’s view of himself and his understanding of his relationship with God. In the New Testament we read about how God tells people what to name their children - Elizabeth and Zechariah were instructed to name their miracle baby John who as he grew became known as John the Baptist and we are familiar with God’s directive to Mary and Joseph to name their child Jesus. Knowing someone’s name meant you knew about that person - their personality, their character - it meant you had a relationship with that person.
In our society today names are just that - names. We are named who we are because our parents wanted to honor a relative or a friend or because they just liked a name. There was no thought to the concept that the name would determine who that person became or of changing someone’s name because of a significant event that changed their character or their outlook.
Unless of course you are the subject of Johnny Cash’s song - A Boy Named Sue!
What Moses is really asking God at the burning bush is not so much what God’s name is, but who God is - what do I know about you God? Can I trust you? Will the people you are sending me to really know who you are or what you are about? I need your name God so they will know about you.


And God answers Moses - my name is I AM. “I AM who I am” is what God says. What he meant was he is the God who was, who is and who always will be. He is the God of creation and the God of eternity. He is THE God and there is no other except him.
God’s name reveals the ultimate power found in who he is.
When the name of God is written in Hebrew it is
יהוה. It is pronounced in Hebrew Yahweh and later when translated into Latin and then English became Jehovah - both of which you have probably heard before.
The name of God leads us to the 3rd Commandment. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Our first thought usually when we hear this commandment is a rule to tell us not to swear. And certainly what we call cussing - using the Lord’s name in vain - is an element of this commandment and something we all know we shouldn’t do. But the commandment is so much more than simply just telling us not to cuss. The commandment is about using God’s name at any time that disrespects God the things of God. It is any time we use God’s name in a superficial or shallow way - it is thoughtlessly throwing God’s name around.
After they received this commandment, the ancient Hebrews were so worried they would use God’s name incorrectly, they quit using God’s name at all. Whenever they would read scripture and they came to the word Yahweh instead of saying Yahweh they would say the word Adonai which was a Hebrew word for ‘My Lord’. By saying Adonai they were acknowledging the verse they were reading was about The God, but they didn’t say his name just in case they said it incorrectly or unworthily.
I have a personal story about that - somewhere when I was very young in Sunday School, evidently my Sunday School teacher had taught a lesson on this commandment and I took it very literally. I was scared to teach to say “God” and when someone around me would say it I would flinch worried something was going to happen. Even during worship I was a little concerned about how God’s name was just thrown about…. I was in high school when I talked to a minister who was over our youth group and he helped me have a more healthy understanding of what the 3rd commandment was all about! But even to today, in the pervasive use of OMG, causes me to cringe a bit.
But it is exactly the use of OMG and other slang phrases where ‘God’ is used that this commandment addresses. God is not a name to be tossed about without any thought or any meaning. God’s name is always to be used in the context of respect and honor. We really need to think before ‘God’ comes out of our mouth.
There is another aspect to this use of the word ‘God’. Think about a court of law and during a trial what does the person say before they testify? They put their hand on the Bible and say they will tell the truth, “So help me God”. Literally this is an interpretation of the 3rd Commandment - if we are going to use God in the context of telling the truth then we had better tell the truth - we dishonor God if we say we will tell the truth in God’s name and then don’t.
The commandment also addresses the idea of doing things in God’s name for the wrong reasons - you go on a mission trip in God’s name but do it only so you will look good; you do the work of the church not because it is doing something for God but so that you can say, “Look what I did for the church”; you become a leader in the church for your own glory or your own power; you try to use God as the foundation to get money for yourself instead of for the work of God.
Anytime we talk about God and it is not in the context of honoring or respecting who God is - The Creator, The Almighty, our Redeemer and Sustainer - it is an inappropriate use of God’s name and we are breaking this commandment.
But as God’s people we would like to know why, why is this so important to God. It is because God knows us and knows that we need to always be reminded; we always need to remind ourselves of who God is in respect to who we are. It is awfully easy for us to become self important, to want to
elevate ourselves to the position of God, and if we start using God’s name in a frivolous way then that is how we start to think of God - God goes from being the one who makes us fall on our knees in honor and respect to something that is just ordinary - just something that is HoHum. And we understand the danger in that.
This commandment tells us to think before we speak and to consider our motives before we do something in the name of God.
Amen!

The 2nd Commandment

The 2nd Commandment

The story of the ten commandments begins with disaster and the breaking of the 2nd of the 10 commandments. Moses was up on the mountain receiving the 10 commandments when the Hebrew people down below got tired of waiting for Moses to return from his time with God. So in their impatience, they decided they were going to make their own god - a god who would be before them; a god they could see and, they thought, would lead them. They give up their gold jewelry, melt it down and form it into a shape of a calf and they begin to worship it. The worship turns into a big party and as God says, “They are out of control!”
Now God, is mad. He is as bad as he has ever been. You know those pictures of people’s head exploding they are so mad, that is how mad God is. And what he wants to do is to just send down a giant lightning bolt and kill them all! God says, “I’m going to wipe them all out and start again!” But Moses quickly says, “Whoa God! Let’s take a step back. Let’s stop and think this through…..” Moses says to God, “What will people think if you destroy your own people? What will the Egyptians think of you if you went to all that trouble to rescue these people from them and then you just destroy them? How will that look? Remember God, these are
your people.” So God takes a deep breath and realizes Moses is right but he isn’t going to let them off the hook either. He sent the priests to kill 3,000 of them and then caused them all to be sick with a plague.
God takes the worshipping of idols very seriously.
There are 2 great passages in the book of Isaiah which talk about idols - they are sort of tongue in cheek type stories that put what an idol actually is in perspective. (Read Isaiah 46:5-7and Isaiah 44:12). Both passages remind us that idols are made by humans and they can’t do anything cause they are just gold or wood. The idols are worthless…… yet it is so easy for us to give our allegiance to idols.
Maybe what we need to do is understand the definition of worship….. to worship is to give value to something; to make it worth something. When we come to this church on a Sunday morning for worship - we are sacrificing our time and our resources to come here to show that we value God; we want to take our time and our effort to give back to God a piece of ourselves. We come to worship God. The purpose of worship is not for ourselves, but for God. Now we do receive a blessing from worship; we leave feeling good or refreshed or renewed - but that is not the purpose of our being here - the purpose of our being here is to worship God. We don’t come so that we get something, we come to give something to God.
The stories in the Old Testament are filled with moments of worship. You will be reading a story about an Old Testament character and all of a sudden it will say, ‘and so and so stopped and worshipped God’. Doesn’t mean that the character quickly organized a worship service like we are use to, it just means that the character took a moment to stop and honor God, to give value to God for something, to let God know God was important to them. And the Bible ends with stories of endless worship. When you read the book of Revelation, about every third chapter stops amidst all this horror happening and has a chapter where everyone is worshipping God. They bow down and sing praise songs and just let God know how important he is.
The second commandment is all about worshipping God - about giving God value - and about not giving that same kind of personal commitment; that same kind of praise and glory to something else.
Because God knows how easy that is to do. God knows how easy it is for things to slip into our lives and we begin to worship whatever that thing is before we know it. In fact a lot of the regulations God puts on the people in the Old Testament are because he knows how easy it is for us to begin to worship things instead of the Almighty God. And what else God knows is that the only thing that will truly fulfill our lives, the only thing that will bring us peace and joy and comfort - is the God of the Bible; the God of Abraham and Issac and Jacob; the God of Jesus Christ.
When God brought the Hebrew people into the promised land after he had freed them from Egyptian slavery, he told them to wipe out everyone who lived in the land. Kill them all. Sounds horrible to us - but God sees it as an act of love.
Because the promised land is full of idol worshippers; full of people who do not know of and God knows will not follow God. And what God knows is that if his people, as faithful as they are, move into a territory full of idol worshippers it won’t be long until his people have abandoned their worship of God and began to worship the idols of the nation. So what happens….. God’s people do not wipe out all the people in the land and it is not long before God’s people have abandoned God and begun to worship the idols of the people who lived in the country. Just as God predicted. What God then tells us is this - look at your life. What is it that stands in the way of your full worship of God? What is it that pulls you away from God and from the church? It is not necessarily anything that is bad and it certainly isn’t stone statues standing somewhere, idols for us are the things that are around us all the time, Just like the people living in the promised land with their idols..
Jesus says in Matthew 6: 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money - or for that matter anything else.
The 2nd Commandment reminds us - as humans we cannot serve 2 Gods - we cannot give our hearts to God and to anything else because the anything else is going to win out every time.
But the 2nd commandment has one more component to it…
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
There is an eternal component to this commandment. God is pointing out that what is important to us is reflected on those around us - God uses children here but this really applies to anyone who associates with us. What God is saying is this - people can see what is important to us. People can see where our loyalties lie. If people see that God and thing things of God are sort of what is left over after the other important things in our lives - then what kind of witness is that? But if we are willing to put the things of God first and people, and our children, can see that God takes priority in our lives, then we are truly living out the witness God has called us to do. We can influence our children and the people around us just by giving God worth and value in the decisions we make and the priorities we set. And that can affect people for generations to come. Amen!

The First Commandment

The First Commandment

Sometimes we underestimate how really smart God is. And I think sometimes we are too critical of the expectations God has for us. We read a commandment or some directive from scripture and think “I can’t believe God expects that of me!” But sometimes we aren’t really reading what God is saying and we need to take a step back instead of just reacting to what we think we hear! As we look at the wording of the First Commandment, I want you to think about what God is really saying to us.
One of my seminary professors was also an archeologist. I learned a lot about what archeologists do and how the system works in the archeology world. Of course it is like most professions where you have to work your way up from the person who lays on the ground with a little brush and and slowly brushes away the sand and the dirt making sure that nothing is missed or damaged…. from that you gain more responsibilities and you become the one who receives the treasures found in the ground and work on cleaning them up and then you become a cataloger who keeps track of all the finds and does research to find out about a particular item. Eventually, with enough experience and enough education and enough letters after your name, you become responsible for an entire archeological site as my seminary professor did. The locations of these places where digs take place usually mean someone with lots of money ‘buys or leases’ the land from the country where the dig is taking place and the archeologist in charge can work in this area as long as the country they are in allows them and as long as the funding stays put.
My seminary funded my professor who ran a archeological site in Israel - and as a result we have one of the premier museums of artifacts at the seminary!
Where this is going is that Dr Tappy found something very interesting as he was supervising this dig in Israel - which was actually a large portion of a town full of houses of the ‘everyday Hebrew people’. It was a Hebrew town and he got a glimpse into the normal life of a Hebrew. But what he found was really interesting…. in the Hebrew house, the people who lived with the 10 Commandments, the people who knew the first commandment to be “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” - these people had shelves full of little gods….
In the culture in those days, for those who were not Hebrews and did not have the Almighty God to care for them, it was the custom to have a god for every need. And to represent those
gods you would have a little figurine to represent the god of whatever you needed. So if you wanted to catch fish you would have a little figurine to the ‘catch more fish god’ and if you wanted to have safe travels on your vacation you would have a little safe travel on your vacation god - for whatever need you had, you had a little god on your shelf. If you came up with a new need - your tomatoes weren’t doing so well so you would go to the store where they sold little gods for your shelf and you would buy whatever you needed and take it home and then pray to that god for your tomatoes. Eventually you would accumulate lots and lots of these little gods which served whatever need you had……
And the Hebrews, even though they knew they were to only worship the Almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had decided to hedge their bets and ‘just in case’ the Almighty God didn’t come through with a particular need, they had their little back up gods to go and worship and pray to.
Let’s look at the wording of the 1st Commandment:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:2-3. It is interesting in this commandant God first points out which God he is - Hey People - remember me? I


am the God who brought your forefathers out of Egypt, out of that horrible life of slavery, who brought you through the wilderness, who gave you this land to live in. I am the God your have been taught about all your life.”
That is the first portion of the commandment and sitting here in this sanctuary in the midst of worship we think - ‘Yes. That is who God is. God, the creator of the world, God the creator of me, God the provider of our salvation through his son Jesus Christ. I know who God is.” And we do, when we are sitting here. But what happens when we leave and go out into our every day lives, are we really any different that those Hebrews who looked to little statues for help and security?
What is your first reaction to a need? Is it prayer or is it action? Is your first thought when you need something to go to God or is it to find a solution to the problem? Go to the store and buy what you need? Ask your financial advisor or your banker? Call a Hot Line or go to a website? Buy or download a self-help book?
Book stores aren’t that popular anymore but if you go to one, gauge the self help section of books as compared as to the other section of books….. or google self-help and see what you come up with. It is amazing the amount of ‘self-help’ opportunities out there that don’t mention anywhere relying on God, or bringing the need to God.
We aren’t really any different than those Hebrews of thousands of years ago. We just have a more educated approach to where we look for help…. The ancient Hebrews went to the cupboard and found the proper little wooden god and asked it for help - we go to books and resources and ‘experts’ for the same reason.
Back to the first commandment:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:2-3
God has identified himself and at the same time reminded the Hebrews of what it meant to get out of slavery. The Hebrew would then immediately think about the wilderness journey where they learned what it meant for God to take care of them and provide for them. And that is what God wants. When God says I am the Lord your God he wants us simply to remember who he is - God is the creator and God wants nothing more than for us than to go to him first with our wants and our needs and our problems and our questions. Doesn’t mean that the solution may not be a book or a person or a website that God will send us to.
Notice how the commandment says - don’t have any other gods
before me. That before is a key word and notice how the word ‘gods’ is plural. What God knows, and this is where I started with reminding us how really smart God is, and how God is not only smart but he is also realistic. God knows that the human heart will lead us to things other than God. God knows that we are so easily swayed by the things that are around us all the time. God knows that we will have other gods. But what he is saying is “I realize that you will go to other things beside me for your help, but I want to be first. Come to me first - let me be the number one God in the face of all the other avenues of help you can receive. Consult me before those other gods.
Remember this Psalm (Read Psalm 121).
This first commandment reminds us who we are and who God is. We are the people of God. There is a verse in the book of Revelation that says that we are:
his called, chosen and faithful followers. Revelation 17:14. And that is all God really wants from us… he wants us to remember who he is and who we are…. He is our God and we are his called and chosen and what he wants from us is to be faithful followers.
God says: I am the Lord your God. I have called you, I have redeemed you in the blood of my son Jesus Christ, I have gifted you with my spirit who lives in you and what I want from you, is to put me first. Amen

Jesus and the 10 Commandments

Jesus and the Commandments


From the time of their birth, Jewish children began hearing and then reciting what was known as The Shema.
Let us read this together:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Every day from the day of their birth to the day of their death, Jews repeated this passage every morning when they first got up and every night right before they went to bed. The passage is in the book of Deuteronomy right after Moses reads the 10 commandments to God’s people. The verse which follows the Shema says:  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.to teach this to your children. Deuteronomy 6:6-9. By God’s directive, the 10 commandments are to be lived every single day; they are to be talked about and they are to be taught to the children. The Shema was believed to be a summary of what the law was all about so would serve to remind the Jew about the law and how important it was to follow the rules God laid down for them.
Jesus grew up in a Jewish household and as a young Jewish boy he would have had a very scripted upbringing. The education and training of Jewish boys was very strict and adhered to in a specific way. He would have heard the Shema twice a day from the time he was an infant and would have started reciting it himself as soon as he was able. He would have heard the adults speak about the law every day as they were directed; his mother would have started telling him Bible stories from the day he was born and was carried around in the sling the Hebrew women used to care for their infants as they went about their daily chores.
There is not doubt Jesus would have been steeped in the law of Moses and would have included the Shema in his daily life. Yet when Jesus began his ministry, the Law and the following of the law became one of the big questions asked of Jesus repeatedly and in different contexts. And Jesus always insisted on the continued relevance of the commandments and the necessity to continue to make them an important part of our lives.
All of the Gospels tell us a story of a man who is known as the rich young ruler. This young man comes to Jesus and falls on his knees in front of Jesus and says: Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life” Jesus looks at this wealthy man and says “You know the commandments. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother….(Mark 10:17-19). Here clearly Jesus is reminding the young man the necessity of following the Law - the 10 Commandments. The young man comes back to Jesus with: “But I have followed these all my life.” and Jesus answers “Fine. Now go and sell all you have and give it to the poor.” The scripture reminds us that the man was very wealthy - and the rich young ruler then leaves Jesus acknowledging he just can’t do that - he cannot part with his wealth.
A couple point about what Jesus is saying here. Notice Jesus only listed the second half of the commandments - the ones which are actually the easiest to follow. The ones we know are wrong and the ones that are easily identifiable - murder, stealing, theft - we know those are wrong and we can pretty much have enough self - discipline not to break these rules. The ones Jesus did not mention are the hard ones because Jesus knew this young ruler couldn’t and hadn’t been following those rules: Though shall have no other gods and don’t worship idols. By not being willing to give up his wealth to follow Jesus, the young man was simply saying ‘my wealth is more important to me than following Jesus; my wealth is the god I put before the one true God; my wealth is the idol I

worship.” Right here Jesus is reinforcing the importance of knowing and following the commandments.
The 10 Commandments were also the topic of conversation between Jesus and a Jewish lawyer. The Jews knew and lived the absolute authority of all the Ten Commandments, along with all the other levitical laws that had been imposed on them, some from the biblical account in Leviticus and some of them added by the Jewish authorities. But a topic of conversation among the Jews had arisen which they debated often and is now being asked of Jesus, “was there any priority among the 10 Commandments, was one of the commandments more important to follow than the others; was their an order to the commandments of importance; was one or more commandment the main one to have to follow.” Can’t you see the Jewish men sitting at the city gates - just like men use to sit at Barber shops and discuss the topics of the day - debating whether there was a main commandment and which one was it? Now they asked this of Jesus - partially

because they were really curious what he would say and partially because they wanted Jesus to say something the Jewish leaders could use to have him arrested. So the Jewish lawyer looks at Jesus and says, “Jesus, what is the greatest commandment? which commandment is first of all?”.
Jesus, has he usually does, doesn’t answer the question directly but asks the Jewish lawyer what he thinks and the Jewish lawyer quotes the directive from the Shema - Love God and from Leviticus 19:18 Love your neighbor. And Jesus says “
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:40. Jesus says what we in the modern way of looking at the 10 Commandments have said which is the summary Jesus gave doesn’t replace the 10 Commandments, but it does sort of boil them down into something easy to remember. “Love God and love your neighbor” is certainly a lot easier to recite than listing all the 10 Commandments. What we have done then, in the modern way of looking at Jesus’ words and their relationship to the commandments is to use Jesus’ two directives to categorize the rules. There is two lists, the list which reminds us to love God and the list which reminds us to love our neighbor. How do we love God - we put him first, we don’t worship anything else , we use his name correctly and we put aside a day to worship him. How do we love our neighbor - we honor our parents, we don’t murder anyone, we are faithful to one another, we don’t steal from one another, we don’t lie to one another and we don’t despise our neighbor because they have something we want. I think Jesus’ summary makes it much easier for us to understand what the 10 commandments are all about.
Later Jesus is on a mountain where a great crowd has gathered and he begins to deliver what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus delivers all the ‘blessed ares” and continues with some more information -
reminding us we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Then he says: “
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:17-19
Jesus came not to replace the law, but to fulfill it - ‘fulfill it’ means he is going to live the law perfectly for us. Jesus is going to do what we are not capable of doing - living up to the standards God has set before us.
Just one of the many things Jesus did for us….. but he never says, “I will follow these rules perfectly for you so you don’t have to……” Listen to what he does say: as long as heaven and earth exists, not the smallest detail of this law was to be ignored. Jesus was saying that as long as their are people, as long as their are followers of God, the law still applies and the people of God are to strive to live as God has directed them.
But not only are we to follow them, we are to continue the directive from the Shema where God tells his people to teach ‘them’ the commandments to the children - Jesus reinforces that. See what is says - it speaks more in the negative - not ‘teach your children’ but woe to you if you don’t teach your children! And Jesus reminds us of the answer to the Jewish lawyers question - which one is the greatest commandment?
Jesus says they are all equal, nothing written in the commandments is less important than another part.
That is kind of difficult for us however who live in this age of sentencing during court cases. You get a life sentence for murder and 6 months for stealing. But not in God’s eyes Jesus teaches us…. In God’s eyes dishonoring your parents is just as bad as murder and not honoring the Sabbath is just as bad as stealing….
Jesus reminds us all the commandments are important and we need to try to follow them all as best as we can.
There is one more important aspect of the commandments Jesus gives us. Jesus reminds us the importance of the commandments is not in following the commandments to the letter - it is the attitude and the intent of the commandment that is important. Jesus expands these commands to be much broader that we think of them at first glance - Remember Jimmy Carter’s famous statement in a interview with Playboy magazine ,
"I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.” He was made fun of a lot for that statement - but he was dead on. This is exactly what Jesus said, “If you wanted to do it in your mind, it is just as if you did it physically.” The attitude and intent. The desire of adultery is breaking the commandment just as if you had done it. Take murder - murder is much more than physically killing someone. Think of how easy it is to murder someone in spirit. Something you say to them that wounds them deeply and changes their view of themselves and what they are capable of doing - killing someone’s self esteem so they never look at themselves the same. Words can murder someone….. Attitude and intent.
Jesus wants us to know that there is much more to loving God and loving neighbor than not breaking in their homes and stealing their jewels, but what we think and how we treat each other is really crucial to our loving God.
Jesus grew up learning and living the commandments and Jesus challenges us to remember to do the same - learn them he says, live them he says, and then he tells us teach them to others. Just as the young Jewish children learned to live these commandments every moment of their life, Jesus tells us to do the same. Amen!!