The Living Word for Sunday, October 25, is a Bible study based on Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; Matthew 22: 34-46; 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8, the set readings used across denominations that have liturgical services (Revised Common Lectionary). Published a week early: the idea is to become familiar with the Scriptures during the week before the Sunday service, and so receive more from hearing the readings in church and the preaching/teaching ministry. We recommend that first you read the whole Bible passage as it stands and ask the Holy Spirit to begin speaking to you from the text. Then, re-read and dig a little deeper with the notes and reflections. Reference: TLW 42A.
Theme: Kingdom holiness according to the Great Commandment
See also an article linked to this post Understanding… Holiness and the Great Commandment
OT: Leviticus 19:1-12 — God’s people must learn the priority of relationships of love to take into their new land
Together with Psalm 1
NT gospel: Matthew 22:34-46 — Jesus restates the law for the kingdom with the profound simplicity of the Great Commandment
NT letter: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 — Paul defends the holy integrity of the message he brought, validated by strong opposition
Leviticus 19:1-12 — God’s people must take His values into their new land
The commandment “Love the Lord Your God” must also mean loving others
1-2 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
“Be holy because I… am holy” — a call to serve God, becoming like Him, distinct in His essential nature and ‘otherness’. Also committed to acting like Him.
15 ” ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.
“Do not show partiality” — a legal system that aspires to holiness will apply the same righteous justice to all regardless of their standing in the community.
16 ” ‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord.
“Spreading slander” — malicious gossip, literally trading harmful rumours, undermining the ‘one family’ sense of Israel’s community.
17 ” ‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so that you will not share in their guilt.
“Do not hate… but love” — as in verse 18. “Rebuke your neighbour” in a spirit of mutual accountability.
18 ” ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.’ “
“Love your neighbour as yourself” — quoted by Jesus, Paul and James, and the foundational principle for ethics in both OT and NT.
• For further study, see Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8-9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers…
“Blessed” — fortunate or happy. The psalm contrasts the very different outcomes for two classes of people, the godly who distance themselves from evil, and know the happiness of God’s favour; and the ones who scorn the need to live right in God’s sight, who face destruction.
2 …but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.
“Delight” — used elsewhere of gold or something of great value; so treating God’s word as treasure.
“Law of the Lord” — specifically the laws of Moses, Exodus to Deuteronomy; we might speak of taking delight in God’s word.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.
“Like a tree… whose leaf does not wither” — Jeremiah paints a very similar picture in Jer. 17:8
4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
“Like chaff” — which has no value or substance and is easily blown away, as a cleaning of impurity.
5-6 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
“Therefore” — signals a conclusion; for the wicked, the possibility of judgment in this life, but especially not being able to withstand God’s wrath when He judges, while for the righteous, the promise of God’s protection.
SUMMARY The Ten Commandments were direct and clear — but some expansion was needed to provide the practical moral and relational teaching the Israelites needed. They had come out of an abusive, and far from God-fearing, situation. They were destined for a new life as the people of God, but that involved resisting the influences of a notoriously corrupt and immoral land. As the account of the wilderness years shows, they were carrying a lot of unhelpful emotional baggage, and it would take a generation before they were free to fulfil God’s plan for them.
APPLICATION This passage is taken from Moses’ expansion of the first commandment (Deut. 5:6-10) into more specific moral teaching, broken down as the five relational commandments:
- Be different — set apart to God, distinct from the ways of Egypt or Canaan
- Be fair — treat everyone justly
- Be truthful — especially when speaking about others
- Be accountable — helping each other live right
- Be loving — generous-spirited when things go wrong and able to love others without condition.
Jesus referenced this whole teaching in the one phrase from v. 18: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Love for one’s fellow human being — the meaning is inclusive and broad, not a narrow view of ‘neighbour’ — is also love for God, because it honours Him.
QUESTION How well do the expectations we pick up from our church or chapel reflect this set of values?
Matthew 22:34-46 — Great Commandment simplicity answers the question
Jesus then tests the Pharisees on their knowledge of the Messiah that David prophesied
34-36 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
“An expert in the law” — or one of “the scribes of the Pharisees”, Mark 2:16, and cf. Acts 23:9.
“Tested Him” — thinking Jesus, a mere Galilean, could be caught out on the detail of the law. The Pharisees’ morality was based on knowing countless minute rules and regulations.
37-39 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.
“Love the Lord… love your neighbour” — Jesus gave a simple but deeply profound reply, that kingdom life comes down to sincerely loving God, and therefore loving each other. This call to ‘love God, love others’ is often called the Great Commandment principle.
40 “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
“These two commandments” — the scope of God’s demands in all Scripture are summarised by the Shema saying, as familiar to Jews as the Lord’s Prayer is to Christians, Deut. 6:4-5; and another well-known saying from Leviticus, Lev. 19:18 (also above in OT reading). Each depends on the other: Love for God is insincere without the dimension of God’s compassion and mercy, and love for others is insubstantial unless rooted in love for God, the source of love.
41-42 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is He?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
“The son of David” — the Pharisee group gave the conventional answer that the Messiah would be a royal descendant of King David.
• For further study, see 2 Samuel 7:12-14; Psalm 89:4; Isaiah 11:1, 10; Jeremiah 23:5.
43-44 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘
45 “If then David calls Him ‘Lord’, how can he be his son?”
“David, speaking by the Spirit” — The Pharisees would have recognised this as one of the important messianic texts, and David’s psalm as a whole as a divinely inspired prophecy. The beginning verses of Psalm 110 are quoted more in the NT than any other OT passage.
• For further study, see Acts 2:34-35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13; 2:8; 10:12-13; Revelation 3:21.
“The Lord said to my Lord” — the first Lord refers to Yahweh (God) and the second “my divine master”. So who, to King David, would be above him as “my Lord” except a divine Messiah? Therefore David’s descendant (who we know is Jesus) would have a more prominent role and title than even His most exalted ancestor, David. The point is, the Messiah is unique.
46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
SUMMARY The religious leaders, desperate to catch Jesus out, this time test Him on His knowledge of the law, and to trap Him in their ongoing and rather legalistic debate about which strand was the most important. Jesus answered the ‘laws for the sake of laws’ Pharisees by going to the heart of what the law was actually about — loving God and loving others. He quoted them two of the best-known sayings, one of which every Jew would have recited daily, putting it alongside another which challenged the exclusivity they had created for themselves.
APPLICATION Jesus wasn’t about to engage with a debate on fine points — He was bringing in the kingdom of God, and giving them opportunity to recognise the king of that kingdom. His teaching is that the kingdom of God cannot be experienced by following a list of rules. It only comes by our renewed, realigned hearts and priorities.
QUESTION On another occasion, Jesus was asked what loving one’s neighbour meant, Luke 10:25-29. How does having a renewed heart and a kingdom perspective change the way we understand this call?
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 — Speaking the gospel into strong opposition reveals its truth
Paul reminds hearers of the holy integrity of the message he brought
1-2 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in the face of strong opposition.
“Treated outrageously” — Paul and Silas are writing this together and reflecting on being beaten and put in prison stocks, violating their rights as Roman citizens. This was the occasion when the joy of the Holy Spirit sustained them and empowered them to sing God’s praises through their pain, Acts 16:22-30.
“In the face of strong opposition” — undeterred by brutal treatment in Philippi they took the gospel into the Thessalonica synagogue over a series of Sabbaths and experienced hostility and false accusations of treason there, Acts 17:5-7.
3-4 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
“Trying to trick you” — the word is related to bait, one of the three accusations made by detractors. Romans suspected what they regarded as eastern cults — Jews and Christians — of immorality and a desire to seduce women away from their husbands’ religions.
5-6 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.
“We never used flattery” — Paul preached that everyone was a sinner who needed to be saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, hardly a flattering message. And his whole focus was on what God wanted to do, not attracting praise or gaining a personal following.
7-8 Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
“We were like… children” — not meaning immature, but straightforward and without guile in their lives and in how they presented the gospel.
“We cared for you” — Paul didn’t just preach and teach, he ministered through sustained, caring relationships.
SUMMARY The Thessalonians had heard how brutally Paul and Silas were treated in Philippi before coming on to their city. Some of those opposing the message of new life in Jesus found opportunity in this to blacken their reputation, which we learn from the historical account in Acts 17. Paul writes to address these residual grumblings, making it plain that he had no profit or gain in coming to Thessalonica. It was a personal, relational, caring involvement for him, a sharing not just of the message of the kingdom, but a demonstration of its values in the scars that he and Silas carried from the abuse they had received.
APPLICATION Why was Paul putting himself through this? “Because we loved you so much, we cared for you, “ he explained. And this was his message. There was no hidden agenda, no profit motive, no dishonest persuasion. Just a desire to share the truth of God’s love, loving Him in return — and loving others with His love.
QUESTION How much do we act shy of telling the good news of Jesus, and our need to receive Him as the Saviour who delivers us from our sins by His sacrifice on a Cross? If Paul experienced opposition in this, what should be our expectation in this day and age?
PRAYER Almighty and majestic God, as we come to You in Jesus we are reminded from these Scriptures that you call us to be holy because You are holy.
We are sorry for the complicated way we have gone about responding to this call — as if holiness is a badge of merit that we earn.
As You have first loved us, we receive Your love — and set out to give it away to others. Help us to hold on to the simplicity of Your teaching, showing ourselves to be Yours in heart and action, as with Your help, we live it out.
To the glory of Your Son Jesus we pray. Amen.
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