When the people came to become God’s People, it was strictly prohibited to sacrifice to the pagan gods. God’s laws were often broken, and as a result the Lord God permitted the people’s own sins to overtake them. They were tormented by serpents, and put into exile, they lost their victories in battle, and the people became slaves to other nations. God’s punishments were just and consequential:

“…for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper.” (Romans 1: 21-26; 28)

While in human foolishness, there appeared to be little enactment of the consequences of breaking God’s law, the consequences of disobeying God’s laws were and are in reality very real and very serious:

“See, I have today set before you life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the LORD, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and ordinances, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)

Jesus sums up the Law in two statements:
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)

 A good measure of our moral character is found in how we treat a stranger. People often find it easy to treat their own flesh and blood well, but God commands us to have a concern for others – including the stranger. The widow and fatherless child were the weakest and most vulnerable members of society in the time of Jesus. In an unrestrained, survival-of-the-fittest society, they would be the first to suffer abuse and destruction. God commanded that they not be afflicted. Interest was prohibited on loans made to the poor and the taking of collateral had to be reasonable. The fact that one’s garment could be used as collateral shows that these were loans, with repayment expected and secured with collateral. They were not gifts but loans, as fitting the culture of the time. However, Jesus reminded the people to have mercy, even in the exacting of what was rightfully theirs.

When we become God’s people, we must set aside our old selves to become truly His people. There has to be a change in the old ways. We cannot retain our identity as being slaves to idolatry and sin, but must embrace our new identity as a people of God. The Thessalonians distinguished themselves because they received the Word and faced it with joy of the Holy Spirit. When the Thessalonians received the Word of God from Paul, they responded to it by leaving their idols, and they gave themselves fully to serve the living and true God. We are called to truly live out the commandments of God in the same way.

The opponents of Jesus worked hard to embarrass Him but left unsuccessful. The question was intentioned to trap Jesus, hoping to make Jesus show neglect for the law.  Jesus refuted his detractors with simplicity and poise. He defined the totality of the law in simple terms, by highlighting its core principles: Love the Lord with everything you have and love your neighbour as yourself. When we do the first commandment more and more, the second will come naturally.  As we love God more and more, we will be filled with love and it will overflow to others. We must focus first and foremost on loving God.

By : Genevieve Tay