Things new and old.
The Most Important Stipulation
“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Christians know the second part of this as the most important command because Jesus called it so (Mark 12:28-34). In reality, many had called it the most important command before Jesus affirmed it as such (see, for instance, the expert in the law in Luke 10:25-27). Although Moses didn’t call it the most important command, the conclusion is logical. There doesn’t appear to be any command more far-reaching in its applications in the entire Bible.
For the Jews of today, the more important part is probably actually the first part: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one.” To them, this is the most important prayer that they say. (If you’ll excuse the comparison, it is similar to the very important Islamic “Shahada” confession about Allah, although different in its traditional applications.) There is a trend among orthodox Jews to say this confessional prayer as their last words; more noteworthy, however, is its everyday use. Devout Jews say it daily as a prayer both morning and evening in literal obedience to the verses that follow it, which I dub the most important stipulation:
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, ESV)
Since the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Christianity has usually not focused on this kind of legal or ritual obedience which can be so important to other world religions, and so most Christians choose to leave behind the idea of putting a scripture-box on our foreheads. The spiritual act of loving God and your neighbor is, for us, the entire crux of the matter. But I have to wonder whether Christ has written God’s law on our hearts if we have no natural or new-born inclination to obey this further injunction of having his words which he commands “on our heart.” If we have no desire, walking, sitting, lying, and rising, to obey this “most important stipulation” of keeping our thoughts on God’s character and his commands, then do we even care about the first part about loving him with all our heart, soul, and strength? Is it possible to obey the first part of this passage without implicitly obeying the second?
The Race and the Goal
“I labour if that I may lay hold of that for which also I have been laid hold of by Jesus Christ.”… So then Paul took God’s purpose in calling, and Christ’s purpose in redeeming him, as being his great object in life. God’s aims and Paul’s were identical.
What, then, is the aim of God in all that He has done for us? The production in us of God-like and God-pleasing character. For this suns rise and set; for this seasons and times come and go; for this sorrows and joys are experienced; for this hopes and fears and loves are kindled. For this all the discipline of life is set in motion. For this we were created; for this we have been redeemed. For this Jesus Christ lived and suffered and died. For this God’s Spirit is poured out upon the world. All else is scaffolding; this is the building which it contemplates, and when the building is reared the scaffolding may be cleared away. God means to make us like Himself, and so pleasing to Himself, and has no other end in all the varieties of His gifts and bestowments but only this, the production of character.
—Alexander MacLaren, “The Race and the Goal”, The Wearied Christ and Other Sermons
Let the Fruit be Your Heart
God told them “be fruitful and multiply,” not “be fashionable and add.” Fruitfulness and spiritual abundance lead to influence that cannot help but multiply where there is hunger. Catering to listeners may lead to people who will join our Christian club, but the abundance ends there: a cool club.
The fruit (or harvest, Gk. karpos) of the Spirit is not followers; it’s us. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace… These are all things that happen in your character. The abundance we have is primarily spiritual.
None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…
Fruitfulness doesn’t mean the rest of the world joins us, but if many people wanted to, would we have enough of Christ in our hearts and character to have something to share with them? Are we spiritually abundant?
“I believe. Help my unbelief!”
This phrase has two possible meanings: either the man was asking Christ to enable him to believe, or he was asking Christ to help him despite his unbelief—that is, by answering his prayer and healing his son.
“Christ paid no heed in words to this confession of unbelief, but proceeded to do the work which answered the prayer in both its possible meanings. He responded to imperfect confidence by His perfect work of cure; and, by that perfect work of cure, He strengthened the imperfect confidence which it answered. Thus He educates us by His answers—His overanswers—to our poor desires; and the abundance of His gifts rebukes the poverty of our petitions, more emphatically than any words of remonstrance beforehand could have done. He does not lecture us into faith, but He blesses us into it.” (Alexander MacLaren)
Mistakes in the Bible
The Bible is full of mistakes…
The first mistake was when Eve doubted the Word of God
The second happened when her husband did, too
And mistake after mistake is still being made because people insist on doubting God’s Word
The Bible is full of contradictions…
It contradicts pride and prejudice
It contradicts lust and lawlessness
It contradicts sin, yours and mine
The Bible is filled with failures…
Because it is the record of people who failed many times
There was Adam
There was Cain
There was Moses
There was David and many, many others
But it is also the record of God’s never-failing love
(Source: “Mistakes in the Bible” by Winkie Pratney, found on moh.org)