The Law and the Prophets
“All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40, NIV). Mark 12:31b (NIV) “There is no commandment greater than these.”
- To the Jews this means that the entire Old Testament centres about these two Commandments (“love God and love neighbour as yourself”) – All the teachings in the Old Testament are summarised by these two Commandments (“love God and love neighbour as yourself”).
- These two Commandments (“love God and love neighbour as yourself”) combined all the Laws in the Ten Commandments:
- The first Four Commandments deal with man’s relation to God.
- The last six deals with man’s relationship to others.
- The “love for God and neighbour as yourself” must permeate obedience to all the other Commandments in the Law and Prophets (Matthew 22:40). The two Commandments are basic, touching all of life’s relationship. The precepts of the Law and the preaching of the Prophets are simply expositions of the two Commandments.
- We might add that the teachings of the New Testament’s Epistles reinforced Jesus’ declaration. If a person has a right relationship with God, he should have no problem relating to others.
- Love is the basis of obedience and relationship. In fact, all the Law is summed up in love – Romans 13:8-10 (NIV) “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the Law. The commandments, do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet, and whatever other, commandment there may be, are summed up ion this one rule: Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the Law.
Instead of giving the Pharisees a loophole that allowed them to obey one Commandment while ignoring the other 612 Commandments, Jesus gave them two Commandments that contained all the 613 Commandments. By this, Jesus puts aside the Pharisees’ multitude of meticulous rules and sub-divisions of the Scriptures. The Pharisees became entrenched in a system that they missed God’s Revelation in the Scripture.
When Jesus calls forth the Commandment to “love our neighbour as yourself,” the definition of “neighbour” is defined in the “Parable of the Good Samaritan – the “neighbour” is anyone who needs our mercy, anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, “love” is not merely emotion but a commandment to be obeyed. Leviticus 19 provides the 11 Practical Ways of “loving our neighbours as yourself,” each end with the Divine Declaration: “I am the LORD:”
- Respect for our Parents – Leviticus 19:2b-3a (NIV) “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. Each of you must respect his mother and father……I am the LORD your God.” Holiness is linked to our respect for our father and mother, which is the 5th Commandment (Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:3-6; Ephesians 6:1-4).
- Respect for the Elderly – Leviticus 19:32 (NIV) “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” God is concerned about the elderly (Isaiah 46:4; 1Timothy 5:1-2, 4, 8; 1Peter 5:5), and we should be, too.
- Concerned for the Physically Handicaps – Leviticus 19:14 (NIV) “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind but fear Your God. I am the LORD.” God is also concerned for those with physically handicaps. Jesus healed the blind and the deaf; we must help to protect them and enable them to live better lives.
- Concerned for the Poor and Needy – Leviticus 19:9-10 (NIV) “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien (stranger). I am the LORD.” God’s concerned for the “poor and the needy” is seen in the “harvest laws” (Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 23:24-25; 24:19-22; Ruth 2).
- Concerned for Strangers in our Midst – Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV) “When an alien (stranger) lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien (stranger) living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens (strangers) in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” God is concerned for the strangers, and He often reminded the Israelities that they had been strangers in Egypt (Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 25:23; Deuteronomy 10:19).
- Pay the Workers’ Wages on Time – Leviticus 19:13b, 14b (NIV) “Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight…..I am the LORD.”” Since workers were paid daily, any delay would cause hardship (Deuteronomy 24:14-15; James 5:4), and employers must never take advantage of their Employees.
- Rich and Poor Stands Equal – Leviticus 19:15, 18b (NIV) “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly…….I am the LORD.” Rich and poor stand equal before God and the Law, and justice must not be partial (see also Exodus 23:3), because God hears the cries of the poor when they are oppressed (Psalm 82:3-4).
- Do not Cheat in Business – Leviticus 19:35-36a (NIV) “Do not use dishonest standards where measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah (dry measure) and honest hin (liquid measure). I am the LORD your God.” We must be careful to have “just weights and measures,” lest we rob innocent people (Proverbs 11:1; 16:11; 20:10, 23; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10-11).
- Respect for Truth and Property – Leviticus 19:11 (NIV) “Do not steal, do not lie, and do not deceive one another. Do not swear falsely……I am the LORD.” The 8th Commandment states: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15); the 9th Commandment warns against “lying” (Exodus 20:16). Both are included in Leviticus 19:11. Respect for truth and property is the foundation for a just and orderly society.
- Do not be a Slanderer – Leviticus 19:16 (NIV) “Do not go about spreading slander among your people……I am the LORD.” “Liar and Talebearer” are a menace to public safety and peace, particularly if he or she is a lying witness in court.
- Do not Seek Revenge – Leviticus 19:18a (NIV) “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people……I am the LORD.” When someone offended us or hurt us, we need to seek clarification and not revenge. The word “grudge” (nafar) means literally “to watch for” and thus to bear malice in the heart towards the person who offended us. The Word of God commanded us not to do so – that is not to have grudge (or malice) in our hearts.
The Lawyer was impressed by Jesus’ answer. Mark records that he spoke approvingly of His words – Mark 12:32-33 (NIV) “Well said, teacher, the man replied. You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Thus, a critic of Jesus became His Admirers. In turn Jesus responded with words of kindness and hope – “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, you are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34a).