Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 3

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." (Luke 10:25-28 NASB)

The Jewish faith has a wealth of beautiful ritual that is highly symbolic. Even if you could not read Scripture for yourself, you could find much truth in the watching of and participating in the rituals alone. So it is for most liturgy that takes it origins in Scripture and the commands found there. There is beautiful truth stored within. 

The problem comes when the rituals and liturgies become routine. When we can repeat them as a matter of rote, we can easily lose sight of the truth they express. The Lord's Prayer is one of those sections of Scripture that has been repeated so often that we can easily lose sight of the fact that we are praying the same prayer Jesus prayed, in the same way Jesus prayed it. That is a profound thought. To do what Jesus did is incredibly hard, but in this one thing, He made it easy. With our rote, we've taken what He made easy and, in some ways, trivialized it. When we look at that passage in a fresh way, the lessons are astounding, aren't they?

The lawyer who came to Jesus mentioned a similar passage in his response to Jesus. He quoted from Deuteronomy 6. The passage begins with a commandment to listen and carefully obey all the commandments God had given, in order that "it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly." It goes on to say that, if they were obedient, God would bless them in the place where He was giving them cities they didn't build, houses that were full of good things they didn't fill, cisterns they didn't dig, vineyards they didn't plant. They would eat and be satisfied. 

Contentment. Obedience would lead to contentment. The men in Moses' time recognized that contentment in such a place was a worthy goal and they started by doing what God said. They were to teach the law to their children, talk of it morning and night, bind it as a sign on their hand and on their forehead, and write it on the doorposts of their houses and gates, so they memorized Scripture and repeated it twice a day. They wrote it down and placed it inside mezuzahs on their doorposts. They placed it inside leather bindings around their heads. The words they recorded were these:

Hear, Oh Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, 
and with all your soul, and with all your might. 
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

The entire Shema refers to a group of Scriptures that include Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41, and make up the prayers that are repeatedly daily. (They prayed the Scripture, a practice we do well to emulate.) There is tremendous truth in these verses and, as Jesus indicated, the entire law can be summed up in them. I've posted the Shema in a separate post (http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-shema.html) for you to read. 

Why is this important? If we understand the perspective of the lawyer and that of Jesus, it becomes much easier to understand the Scripture. These men had known these verses all their lives. Jesus made it clear, however, that it was not enough to know the words of God or to speak the words of God. "Do this and you will live," He said. We must also do the words of God, as the doing is a demonstration of both our love for our God and our faith in His words. 

It's important for us to remember that Jesus "paid it all" but He still expects us to obey. It's not optional. Do this and live.