OT516 – Psalm 38

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

Ten Commandments: Their Context

Everything that is spoken, is spoken in a context.  What is the context in which God speaks the Ten Commandments? His love for us.  To this point, note the parts of the outline below that I’ve put in bold print.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

We should not try to understand the Ten Commandments apart from their context.  Moreover, we need to distinguish their B.C. context from their A.D. context.  That is, we need to differentiate what Moses meant by them from what Jesus meant by them.  It won’t work to apply a B.C. understanding to an A.D. world.

Moses gave the Ten Commandments to ancient Israel approximately 1,500 B.C.  These commandments did not apply to any other nation until the time of Jesus.  Approximately 33 A.D., Jesus commissioned His disciples to carry His teaching to all the nations of the world.  This is the point in time during which the commandments of Moses to Israel became the commandments of Jesus to the whole world.  This is what made the Ten Commandments as taught by Jesus become law for the entire human race.  What had been limited to one nation became applicable to the whole world; what had been limited to behavior became applicable to the entirety of one’s thoughts.

Note that the pivotal event – Jesus sending His disciples to teach the world to obey Him – came only after Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead according to the promises of God as recorded in the Scriptures (specifically, the Old Testament).  Therefore, we should see that God did not command us to love Him and love each other until after He had dramatically demonstrated how much He loves us.

As our Creator, God had the right to command us to love Him and love each other without any further justification.  Does the pot tell the potter what a pot is supposed to look like?  Yet God did not command us to love until after He had justified His request by loving us with the greatest of loves.  For what greater love is there than laying down your life for the lives of others?  What more does anyone have to give beyond his life?  God gave His life for our lives.  Thus our Creator went way beyond what was required of Him to demonstrate His love for us.  Do I have to describe the pain of having your body nailed to a cross?

Get firmly in your mind that it was after He had been nailed to the cross, and after He had died from the experience, and after He been raised from the dead (without a single human being lifting a finger) that Jesus sent His disciples into the whole world to proclaim His forgiveness of their sins.  After!  Can there be any doubt that God loves us?

And so, having established beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt that the very essence of God’s character can be described as love, and that, specifically, He loves the human race enough to die for it, He – in that context – commands us to love Him and each other.  Is it too much of Him to ask?

We were made in God’s image.  God is love.  Therefore, we were made to love.  Modern society has so misused the word “love” that few people even understand it anymore.  Love is not a feeling.  Love is a decision – a decision to put the interests of another above your own.  The Ten Commandments tell us specifically how to put the interests of others above our own in ways that are important to how life takes place on this earth.  The Creator of life knows better than any of us what preserves life and what destroys it.

God is not commanding us to do anything that is bad for us.  Neither is He commanding us to do anything that He Himself is not willing to do.  More than that, God is not commanding us to do anything that He has not already done.  Never think that the Ten Commandments are too much for Him to ask of us.  Given that we are made in His image, they are the least He could ask us to do.

#####

This post concludes our study of the Ten Commandments.  I intend to gather the posts and make them into a short book, arranging the material into approximately 30 chapters so that it can serve as a month of daily devotionals.  This will allow you to return to it whenever you think it would help you to spend a month meditating on the Ten Commandments, refreshing your awareness of and sensitivity to them, so that you might better practice them before the One who loves you so.  When the book is ready, I’ll announce it through a blog post.

#####

If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Posted in Obeying Him | Leave a comment

OT515 – Psalm 37

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

Ten Commandments: Two Tablets; One Theme

We’re approaching the conclusion of our study of the Ten Commandments by continuing our review and summary.  Recall that when Moses presented these ten directives to the Israelites, they were written on two tablets of stone.  Moses was not explicit about what was written on one tablet versus what was on the other.  However, as we have seen, just reading the commandments reveals that they fall into two groups: those that deal with our interactions with God and those that deal with our interactions with each other.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

Throughout our study, we have drawn a distinction between the way Moses originally gave the Ten Commandments and the way Jesus interpreted them.  Since you and I are not ancient Israelites, Moses’ interpretation has no direct application to us.  We are wholly concerned with how Jesus wants us to understand them.

When Jesus was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?” He replied:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
–  Matthew 22:37-40

We might have expected Jesus to name one of ten, but instead He gave us two commandments that reinforced the natural organization of the ten.  Thus in Jesus’ words above we see the ten directives summarized into two, as demonstrated in the following outline.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

It is the two summary commandments that should be the focus of our attention. The groups of four and six just help us better understand what the two mean.

The two great commandments are not prohibitions (“Thou shalt not’s”).  Rather, they are exhortations (pro-positives).  And their common theme is love.  Therefore, love is the great commandment.

Before asking us to obey these commandments, Jesus demonstrated to us how they are to be obeyed.  That is, He lived the perfect life.  He loved until the end.  He loved to the limit.  And beyond.

The ministry of Moses was not for you and me.  Moses ministered to ancient Jews.  Most of us are not Jews, and none of us are ancient.  What makes Moses’ words relevant to us are the life and teaching of Jesus.  Let us therefore take to heart what Jesus has said about the commandments.  He confirms to us why they came in two tablets, and He shows us their common thread.

The common thread is love.  Love is the power to fully keep the ten commandments – in the way that Jesus taught us.  Remember that Moses warned against murder, but Jesus warns against the thoughts that lead to murder.  Moses warned against adultery, but Jesus warns against the thoughts that lead to adultery.  And so it is with all the commandments.  Moses’ version of the Ten Commandments warned against the fruit of sin, whereas Jesus’ version warns against the seed of sin.  Love is the only power strong enough to keep such seed out of your heart because only love cares enough to resist sin in all its forms and sizes.

Therefore, you and I cannot be content to avoid the act of murder; we must keep hate, bitterness, and resentment out of our hearts.  We cannot be content to avoid the act of adultery; we must keep thoughts of lust out of our hearts as we would keep a snake out of our house.  And so on with all the commandments.  This is the way of love…for God and for man.

The commandments of Moses in the mouth of Jesus – this is the voice we hear and follow.  Two tablets, one theme…and one Lord.  This Lord is Jesus, and He famously said:

Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?
–  Luke 6:46

Let us live in such a way that He never has need to ask us this question.

Tomorrow will be the concluding post in our study of the Ten Commandments.

#####

If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Posted in Obeying Him | Leave a comment

OT514 – Psalm 36

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

Ten Commandments: Review of #1 through #10

Now that we’ve covered all of the Ten Commandments, let’s go back through them one by one and see how they say something collectively beyond what they say individually.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

To assist our review, I’ve used simplified language in the list below.  Also, I’ve used bold print for one of the words to demonstrate similarity and contrast.

  1. No other gods.
  2. No idols.
  3. No vain names.
  4. Keep the Sabbath.
  5. Honor father and mother.
  6. No murder.
  7. No adultery.
  8. No stealing.
  9. No false witness.
  10. No coveting.

Notice that most of the Ten Commandments are given as prohibitions (anti-negatives).  Only two are exhortations (pro-positives), and they fall in the middle.  “Keep the Sabbath” (#4) is the culminating point of the commandments having to do with our interactions with God, while “Honor father and mother” (#5) is the gateway to the rest of the commandments which have to do with our interactions with each other.

Appreciating this structure to the Ten Commandments helps us understand how the commandments fit together into an organic whole.

Remembering that “Keep the Sabbath” (#4) according to Jesus is living life for His sake instead of for our own, notice how the first three commandments pave the way to it.  We are to have no gods but the one true God (#1), no idols for the one true God (#2), and no meaningless names for the one true God (#3).  In other words, the first three commandments are all about making sure we have the one true God properly in view.  (Although the Ten Commandments first appear in the Old Testament, it is by the New Testament that we know that the one true God is Jesus Christ our Lord.)

Once we have the one true God in proper view (#1, #2, #3), we are to live our daily lives in devotion to Him instead selfishly for ourselves (#4).  Living our lives in devotion to Him means serving our neighbors…and that leads to the commandments that follow.

The rest of the commandments begin with the commandment that we first encounter in life, assuming our parents know the Ten Commandments.  It is by “honoring father and mother” (#5) that we best learn the rest of the Ten Commandments.  The job of our parents is then to teach us to not to kill (#6), commit adultery (#7), steal (#8), lie (#9), or covet (#10).

To honor father and mother properly is to lay the proper foundation for treating other people with the sort of respect and care that the remaining commandments require.  Each successive commandment builds on that foundation.  At the most basic level, we learn to respect life (#6), which lays the foundation for honoring marriage (#7), which lays the foundation for respecting the property rights of others (#8), which lays the foundation for speaking the truth in love (#), which lays the foundation for being content in life (#10).

Just as the first three of the Ten Commandments put us in the best position to obey the fourth, so the fifth commandment puts us in the best position to obey the remaining five.

The more you think about these commandments, the more you’ll appreciate how they’re organically related to each other.  Even more important is the fact that only by giving them some thought will you have a decent chance of obeying them.

#####

If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Posted in Obeying Him | Leave a comment

OT513 – Psalm 35

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

Ten Commandments: Summary of #5 through #10

Having given you a preview of the fifth through the tenth commandments (Ten Commandments: Pre-Summary of #5 through #10) before I addressed them individually, it’s now appropriate, having covered them individually, to summarize them…and to show the thread that holds them together for us.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

Let’s begin our review of commandments five through ten as Moses gave them.  Through this lens we can see that they basically require us to honor our parents, which means obeying them while we are growing up, and living in a way that brings credit to them as adults (#5), and this would include not being a burden or bother to other people (#6-#10).

Think about those last five commandments (#6-#10).  If I don’t murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet what someone else has then I will not have brought shame on my parents.  Those commandments cover the major areas of human interaction in which problems occur.  Thus keeping them means that my life won’t have become a problem to someone else’s life.  My parents will not be shamed.

Whereas Moses’ focus was that we should seek to not be a negative for others (not be a subtraction to their lives), through Jesus these commandments blossom into more than just the avoidance of evil.  They become the practice of good. That is, we should seek to be a positive for others (an addition to their lives).  Rather than merely avoiding being a curse to others, we should seek to be a blessing to them.

With Moses, it was more of a “live and let live” approach to life. With Jesus, it becomes a “lay down your life for the sake of others” approach.  For this reason, Jesus’ extolled the behavior of the good Samaritan who interrupted his own life to serve someone else’s interrupted life.  With Moses, it was about not interfering with the lives of others as you sought to live your own life; with Jesus, it’s about giving up your own life so that you can live completely for the benefit of others.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that living according to Moses’ view would make us uncaring toward others.  I’m speaking comparatively; I’m sharpening the distinction between the two.  Moses gave the commandments more as directions to avoid doing wrong to a neighbor, whereas Jesus interpreted them as essential aspects of actively doing good to neighbors.

To make His point, Jesus summarizes the human-interactions commandments (#5-#10), if we can call them that, as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and also as “Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”  These two statements represent the same summary principle being viewed from opposite perspectives.  Let me explain.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” begins with thinking about how you treat yourself and then projecting that same level of care outward toward others.  It says, “the love you naturally show yourself, show others, too.”  For example, self-preservation comes naturally to us.  Jesus is saying that we should seek to preserve others just as we seek to preserve ourselves.

“Treat people the same way you want them to treat you” begins the opposite way – with thinking about what you want coming toward you from the outside and then letting that shape what proceeds from within you outward toward others.  It says, “The love you want shown you, show to others.”  For example, you hope people will do good to you, so you should do good to them…even if they don’t live up to your hopes.

Because these are just two different perspectives on the same principle, they will result in the same motivations and the same behavior.  That is, whether you “love your neighbor as yourself” or “treat others the way you want them to treat you,” the outcome will be the same.

Jesus is making sure we understand Him by communicating to us the same commandment in different words.  He’s paraphrasing Himself.  And He also giving us detail so that we don’t go astray from His fundamental meaning.  By that I mean, for example, that no one can say he loves his neighbor if he’s hating him, stealing from him, lying to him, etc.  This should be self-evident but there are people today who, for example, justify the normalization of homosexual and honor “same-sex marriage” on the basis that Jesus said “Treat others as you want to be treated” – as if Jesus taught nothing about sexuality and just wanted to be sure everyone was being equally licentious.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Treat others as you want to be treated” include keeping the Ten Commandments because they summarize the Ten Commandments.  In fact, if there were no other commandments, those two summary commandments would be practically meaningless.  That is, they work as summary commandments but they would not work as standalone commandments.  As standalone commandments, they would amount to “Doing whatever you think is right is acceptable to God as long as you let everyone else do what they think is right” – in other words, “Let everyone do what is right in his own eyes.”  That would be anarchy.

To sum up the summary, Jesus gives shape and direction to the commandments having to do with human interaction (#5-#10) by summarizing them as “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Treat others as you want to be treated.”  At the same time, He gives substance and meaning to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Treat others as you want to be treated” by the detail of the fifth through the tenth commandments.

#####

If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Posted in Obeying Him | Leave a comment

OT512 – Psalm 34

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

Ten Commandments: #10 – No Coveting

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we’ve come to the final one.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

The shorthand way of expressing the tenth commandment is to say “Don’t covet,” but God gave it to Moses in a fuller form.  Here it is:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
–  Deuteronomy 5:21

It would not be off the mark to say that God was commanding the ancient Israelites to avoid wanting to “keep up with the Joneses.”  Given how many people are still trying to keep up with the Joneses in modern times, this commandment demonstrates both the universality of the sinful nature of human hearts as well as the timelessness of God’s wisdom.

There is an obvious connection between the tenth commandment and the eighth.  In this regard, the eighth commandment is “Don’t steal someone else’s stuff,” while the tenth commandment is “Don’t even obsess over someone else’s stuff.”  Let your neighbor enjoy what is his; you enjoy what is yours.

The positive way to express the intent of the tenth commandment is “Be content.”

Contentment does not come to us naturally.  On the contrary, it is natural for a child to want all sorts of things that are his neighbor’s.  And, of course, some people become adults and live a long time without ever learning how to be content.  Indeed, contentment must be learned.

Contentment is not the absence of ambition, for in the words of Jesus and throughout the Bible we find laziness condemned.  You can simultaneously be goal-oriented and content, but you have to learn how to do this.  That means practice.  That means trial and error.  The key?  Start by making contentment a goal.  (I frame it thus because in this day and age there are a lot more goal-oriented people than there are contented ones.

Moses preceded Jesus by about 15 centuries.  The Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were intensified by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (a different mount, but a mount nonetheless).  The tenth commandment is a hint of what Jesus would bring to the anti-murder (#6) and anti-adultery (#7) commandments: that is, a focus on inward thoughts and intentions and not just outward actions.

Adultery is a lack of contentment regarding sex.  Gluttony is a lack of contentment regarding food.  The love of money is a lack of contentment regarding money.  God created us so He knows that sex, food, and money are necessary to our lives.  He doesn’t expect us to do without them, He just expects us to content with reasonable amounts of them.  Is that too much for Him to ask?  Would you enjoy giving birthday presents to a child who is never satisfied?

Beyond being content with what God has given us, our avoidance of coveting enhances our love of neighbor by making room in our hearts to be happy for our neighbor about what he has.  And why shouldn’t we be happy for our neighbor?  The more he has, the less he has need for anything of ours.  If there is some upside of having a needy neighbor, it escapes me.  The better off the Jones are, the happier we can be for ourselves…as well as them.

Happy indeed is the man who can not only be happy when God gives him something, but who also experiences happiness when God gives his neighbor something.

#####

If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Posted in Obeying Him | Leave a comment