“Happy are they who follow the teaching of the Lord.” Psalm 119:1
Dear Redeemer Family:
For this month I picked the above text for a couple of reasons. First, I thought it would be ironic. It is the first verse of the longest psalm. Psalm 119 has 176 verses. I thought that it would be good for the shortest month; February. Second, it can also be translated, “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” I liked the above translation better. It’s shorter. And third, as we finish January and move into February, the Gospel lessons are mostly going to be from St. Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest “teaching sermon” that Jesus gave us.
The Bible is filled with teachings and lessons. In the Old Testament, everyone thinks of the Ten Commandments as an example, if not the main example. As far as the laws of God, during the time of the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews added up all of the laws in the Old Testament, and came to a sum total of 613. Most Jewish groups still maintain that number. But Jesus sums them all up into one (and a second that is like it), which is in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:4-5): In the NRSV, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone (not a particularly good translation of “The Lord your God is One.”)” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” In that, all of the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets are summed up. And, of course, the one that is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I like it better. It’s shorter. You don’t have to remember 613, nor 10, nor even 2, just one really.
I’ve always thought that if we could just hold that one commandment in front of our eyes at all times, there would really be no need to teach the 10 Commandments anymore, let alone the 613. And then reinforce it with the one that is “like it,” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I believe that if we could just pull that off, human society would be a whole lot better. But, on the occasions when I have brought this idea up, I get shot down. A pity.
So, let us this February (and end of January) look to how Jesus explains and expounds of his understanding of the Commands of God. Let’s pay attention to what he says in the Sermon on the Mount, for that is what the Sermon on the Mount is, and explanation of what God wants of us. Or, if you wish a shorter explanation, read Micah 6:8. It sums up all of the prophets. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Those are words to live by.