Monday, October 11, 2010

Classic Commandments

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It is funny how the older I get, the more I enjoy things from the past; for example, I love watching older movies, specifically musicals like Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music or The Wizard of Oz (can you tell I grew up in a musical home?). Their stories are timeless and they really draw you into the plot as if you’re one of the characters. I feel like anyone can relate to one of the characters and of course, it always ends ‘Happily Ever After.” The other day I was thinking about the characters on the Wizard of Oz and some parallels that can be drawn between the Tin Man, Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Lion and a couple “classic” verses in the Bible regarding a commandment given. This was not just any commandment, but one that Jesus said was “The Greatest Commandment.” It was originally stated way back in Deuteronomy 6 to the Israelites. A little background to preface the verse is that Moses is sharing the Ten Commandments to the Israelites (Deut. 5). He finishes with the ten main commandments and goes into a portion of his “sermon” on “The Greatest Commandment.” He preps the verse in 37 with the reasoning behind this commandment; that it is what God has commanded so that they may fear the Lord and that they may all live long lives (vs. 1-2). Moses also warns the people to be careful and hopes for the people to multiply greatly in the land that God has promised them. He uses the word “Shema” meaning—“Hear oh Israel,” or “Listen up—this is important!” God alone is Lord—there are no other gods—this concept is firmly spoken and repeated and followed by our classic commandment, (6:5) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. (6) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Verse six “on your heart” refers to a demand for a heart that totally loves the Lord” (ESV commentary). Following this verse, Moses goes on in chapter 7 describing how God feels about Israel:

7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest people, but it was because the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt….Know therefore, that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations and repays to their face those who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statues and the rules that I command you today.”


If I were to leave out that last portion of scripture and just plop the verse “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength,” I think you would react somewhat like, “Ah. Ok, I will do my best.” But when you put it into the context of that whole passage, God reveals WHY we should obey the commandment—not just because the Israelites will multiply or inherit the promise land, but because WHO God is! I love how he describes Israel as his “treasured possession,” and his reasoning behind choosing Israel was not because of anything they had done but because he wanted to save them from slavery. He describes himself as a “faithful God who keeps his covenant and steadfast love with those that love him and keep his commandments.” Interestingly enough, this commandment cycles its way back when Jesus is speaking to the Sadducees, Pharisees and his disciples in Matthew about the “Greatest Commandment.”

“34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40

After reading this verse, you may have a ‘deer in the headlights’ look and feel inadequate. Keeping with our parallel of the Wizard of Oz, you may feel a lot like the characters from Wizard Oz in the sense that you don’t feel like you have the heart, the soul, the mind (or the strength) to love the Lord. In fact, you may not even totally understand what these words even mean. Well let’s dissect these two verses a bit and try and get a better idea of what each component is about:

Love-In this passage, the translated Greek word “Agapao.” It is a verb that means “of persons-to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly,” The King James Version uses the word “Beloved.” Knowing this definition, it somewhat sets-the-stage for what we are to do to welcome and love God dearly.

Lord-This word is translated to “Kurios”-“he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he was power of deciding; master, lord-a possessor and disposer of a thing; the owner; one who has control of the person, the master; in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor; is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master; this title is given to: God, the Messiah.” Putting it with the verb Agapao—we are to welcome, entertain, to be fond of and love dearly the person we belong to; our master.”

Heart-Defined as “kardioa”- “organ in the animal body which is the centre of the circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of physical life. Denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life; the vigor and sense of physical life; the centre and seat of spiritual life (1) the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors; (2) of understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence; (3) of the will and character; (4) of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions; of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate.”

Now, the soul is often confused with the heart. What do you think the difference between heart and soul is? I asked a couple friends of mine this question; one of them said that “soul” refers to personality, humanity while “heart” refers to what is redeemed by Christ, can represent emotions. Another friend of mine pointed me in the direction of Aristotle’s tri-partite soul which goes into a lot of detail that my sweet little mind cannot totally understand (HA!) But, from what I do understand is that Aristotle believed that the soul was the very “essence” of a person and the intellectual part of the human soul is indeed eternal and seperable from the body. The whole “tri-partite” aspect refers to technical, prudential and theoretical. To be completely honest with you, I feel like until someone who thinks alone these same wavelengths stoops down and explains it to me, I would dare to say that in relation to our analogy, my pitiful attempts to understanding this would compare to the spinning of the Twister from the Wizard of Oz! HEHE! From what I have gathered, Aristotle’s definition of the soul is closely related to the Christian’s definition (please correct me all you thinkers before God strikes me please!  ) What is interesting to note is that scripture does separate the heart from the soul:

Deuteronomy 4:29 : But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 30:2,3: and(A) return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul,

Jeremiah 24:7: 7(A) I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD,(B) and they shall be my people(C) and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

Ok, ok, I know I am beginning to become confused as well so let’s peek at some commentary from the English Standard Version Study Bible on Deuteronomy 6:5

“That the Lord is alone is Israel’s God leads to the demand for Israel’s exclusive and total devotion to him. Heart…soul…might. All Israelites in their total being are to love the Lord; “ this is the great and first commandment (Matt. 22:38). In Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27, Jesus includes “mind.” In early Hebrew, “heart” included what we call the “mind” Might includes energy and ability.”

From Deuteronomy 30:1-2

“The context is exile, following from 29:28. The word for mind (Hb. Lebab) can also be rendered “heart” (see 6:5). The verse anticipates that God’s words (all these things) will enter the exiles’ hearts, leading them to return to God, or repent which means to change their thinking and behavior completely. All your heart and with all your soul.”

Commentary from 30:6 uses the analogy and Jewish custom of circumcision by saying “ This is a key promise in Deuteronomy, looking forward to genuine covenant participation (see Jer. 31:33; Ezek 36:26-27; Rom 2:25; Col 2:11) so that you will love. God’s changing of the heart enables obedience.

Is it beginning to make sense? There is no recipe for which part of you needs to love God—bottom line is the fact that it has to be ALL of you! I do encourage you though to seek out the deeper meanings of these passages because I feel like the more you look into it, the more you are able to recognize what it looks like in your life. One more parallel to the Wizard of Oz is recognizing that the characters traveled the yellow brick road to see who? The Wizard! Now, I’m not all about sorcery and magic fluff but you have to admit, it’s pretty cool that they go to a Wizard to get a “heart”; a “soul” (we’ll say Dorothy because she’s wanting to go home---get it?! HA! See how great this analogy is!); a “mind” and “strength.” Similarly, we must get these “things” from God. It was God’s word entering the hearts of the Israelites that led them to return to Him with everything their entirety. Have you done that? Have you recognized that you have been separated from God because of sin—not just because you told a lie once but that you are honestly not good from the time you’re born? Have you recognized the sin in your life as a means of separation from God and fulfilling your life’s purpose of being in a relationship with the God of the universe?

We have the ability to have a relationship; to love God with our entire being because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. You cannot save a part of yourself and give some to God—it has to be everything—just like the characters from the Wizard of Oz each received what they needed—including Dorothy going back to Kansas. Do you get it? Seriously, we were created to obey this commandment---nothing else in this life matters except obedience to this one commandment (and the others fall into line after it). It’s not a matter of “willing yourself” to it; it’s the obedience of recognizing the commandment God has spoken into your heart and following through by accepting his Son into your life as Lord and Savior. So often we as Christians get caught up in “Well, I accepted Jesus and I get so confused on everything that life throws at me, how do I make sense of it all?” Write this commandment on your heart and ask yourself in EVERY situation, “Am I loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength?”

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