“Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-5)
The ten commandments established general guidelines or principles for Israel’s relationship to God. The first few relate strictly to their relationship to God, while the others focus on the relationship to other people as being created in the image of God. In Matthew 22:36-40, The Scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus which was the most important law. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
If a man loves God as he should, he will care about others because they are in the image of God and were created by him. I John 4:20 declares, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” In fact, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love,” according to I John 4:8.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Gods word was to be the center of everything the Jews did. It was to be the main point of discussion, and of teaching their children, the last thing they thought about before going to sleep and the first thought in th morning. They were always to have a copies of the commands with them like an engraved bracelet on their wrist or on a headband where they would be constantly reminded what God expected. They were to post them on the doorposts of their homes and at the gates of the city to inform visitors of the standard that was expected. Visitors were to be held to the same standard as local people. Numbers 15:29 commands, “Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13 makes it clear why this was necessary. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ultimately, man’s only responsibility is to respect and obey God. He can only do so if he knows what is expected. The Christian is to give a similar amount of effort to learning what God expects. II Timothy 2:15 commands, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
In Joshua 1:8, God commanded Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” The Greek word for study and the Hebrew word for meditate both refer to concentrating on the ideas expressed. Only by taking the time to learn and fully understand will we be able to effectively implement God’s instruction.
“And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-16)
The time of greatest danger of turning away from God comes when life is easy and we are no longer conscious of our daily dependence on God’s action in our lives. Living in large cities and surrounded with an abundance of food and belongings, it would be easy to depend on the wells, fertile fields and herds of livestock and other people rather than on God, and to be distracted by what others considered most important allowing their relationship to God to fall by the wayside. If they were not careful they would turn away from God, even to the point of blaming and accusing him of interfering just as the had at Massah or Meribah, when they accused him of just bringing them out there so he could destroy them, or even not really being there, as Exodus 17:1-7 describes.
“Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, To cast out all thine enemies from before thee, as the LORD hath spoken.” (Deuteronomy 6:17-19)
Extreme diligence would be required to keep from forgetting what God had done for them when the problems were less pressing and the need for God’s intervention was less obvious. While it would be easy to forget, their economic and social state would be determined by their adherence to God‘s plan.
“And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you? Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand: And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes: And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.
And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.” (Deuteronomy 6:20-25)
While this generation had experienced God’s intervention on their behalf, future generations would not have that experience. Their attitude toward God would be based solely on the attitudes and actions the observed in the older generation. It would be critical that the older generation practice all the commands diligently to emphasize the importance to the young, but it was also essential that the reasons be explained. Only by diligent observation and practice would the younger generation perceive the importance of the commands.
Unfortunately, the modern church has not been diligent in obeying God, or in teaching the youth why we do so, with the result that most consider God‘s commands relatively unimportant. Christianity has become just a part of our tradition, rather than a way of life, because that is the way the older generation treated it. The next generation will undoubtedly take it even less seriously for the same reason.