Daily Devotional


How the Law Hangs

by Simon Whitton

36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

Jesus was not introducing new laws here or revoking previous commandments.  He was reminding the people of the following two laws from the Torah:

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Deuteronomy 6:5-6 (NIV)

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people,
but love your neighbour as yourself.

Leviticus 19:18a (NIV)

The Ten Commandments may be more renowned than the two commandments, but the two are even greater than the ten.  For it's out of the two that the ten were formed, and that is why Moses had two tablets of stone, not one.

Five of the Ten Commandments are more detailed laws about loving God:

  • You shall have no other god's before me
  • You shall not make an idol
  • You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God
  • Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  • Honour your father and mother [1]

  • The other five commandments are more detailed laws about loving your neighbour:

  • You shall not murder
  • You shall not commit adultery
  • You shall not steal
  • You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour
  • You shall not covet your neighbour's...

  • The ten are an outworking and clarification of the two.

    9 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 in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
    10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    Romans 13:9-10 NIV

    The scriptures elaborate further on the Ten Commandments with the lesser known 613 commandments, which are also known as 'The Law of Moses'.[2] These laws are scattered throughout the five books of Moses and include such laws as returning lost property to your neighbour:

    "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off,
    be sure to take it back to him.

    Exodus 23:4 (NIV)

    Finally, there is the 'tradition of the elders', which is where the 613 commandments were expounded by men into about 1500 rules.

    2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"
    3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?

    Matthew 15:2-3 (NIV)

    It is vital that we understand the hierarchy of the law.  Not because we are justified by the law, but because it emphasizes the supremacy of the two greatest commandments.

    Let's turn from the legalism of hundreds of Biblical laws to the simplicity and authority of the two greatest commandments on which all the law hangs.  Let them guide your conduct so you may fulfill the whole law.

    Let no debt remain outstanding,
    except the continuing debt to love one another,
    for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

    Romans 13:8 (NIV)

    Spend some time in prayer...

    Footnotes:

    [1] Parents are symbolic and representative of our relationship with God
    [2] You can read the 613 commandments here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/613_commandments

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