Exodus 20:1-3; Matthew 22:34-40
Giving God His rightful place in our lives is the key to godly relationships.
A. Connect to My Experience
Rules are a part of life. I need to explain that these lessons are written months ahead of when they will be used. I can tell you that one of the units for the Fall series of 2021 is on The Patriarchs. The lesson writers had no clue that we would be in a health crises this Fall. So the following questions take on a little different meaning now that we are in a health crises. These questions really need to be discussed in a group setting, but I am on hold. As you read and think about these questions, remember the situation that we are in now. What an awesome God we serve, to have these questions ready for us at this time.
o Do you tend to be a rule follower or rule breaker? Explain.
o What is your general disposition to rules? Do you see them as life giving or life draining? What do you think has shaped this pattern in you?
o Are there situations in which you tend to follow the rules more than you do in other situations?
o What are those situations?
o Would you be more inclined to follow a rule if you had a relationship with the person giving it? Why or why not?
o Are all rules and guidelines necessary? If not, how do we determine which rules and guidelines we follow and which ones we ignore?
Many people seem to have had enough of rules. And, too many people associate “God” with “rules.” In today’s session, we come to see that God’s commandments are meant for our good and they come to us in relationship.
Many see the Ten Commandments as a list of moral guidelines that are applicable for any group of people. However, as we begin to study them, something that immediately stands out is that they appear in a specific narrative context: The author of Exodus clearly describes God establishing a covenant with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai (see Exod. 19). God summoned Moses to inform him that the people were not permitted to come up the mountain because of God’s holiness (vv. 16-25). The commandments established Israel’s part of the covenant. Thus, the Ten Commandments must be understood within this covenant context.
B. The First Commandment (Read Exodus 20:1-3)
Our first passage begins not with a list, or the beginning of a list, but with a history. God has redeemed a people out of Egypt, out of slavery, and is leading them into a new, Promised Land.
Why is it important that we don’t separate verse 2 from verse 3? (It tells us who God is and why He is to be worshiped only.)
Verse 2 reminds us that God led the people out of Egypt, out of the place where slavery was the modus operandi (a way or method of doing something). This was the way of life.
Why do you think God began with this statement? (God was the God who brought them out of bondage and was to be their God.)
Having led the people out of bondage, why would God begin life together with these people through the giving of laws? Imagine if there were no laws today. What would life be like?
God intended for these commandments to be a guide. They were to be a guide for being in relationship with God and others. There is a reference to slavery in verse 2 and the command to have no other gods in verse 3. This refers to the people wanting freedom. Freedom is found only in serving the one true God; serving other gods always results in bondage.
The first commandment, v.3, describes absolute loyalty to Yahweh (Ex. 34:14 NLT) "You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you".
Prior to Israel’s crossing into the promised land, Moses reiterated this commandment, known as the “Shema” ([sheh-MAH]; so-called after the first Hebrew word translated “hear”): “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5). And what does all mean?
C. The Greatest Commandment (Read Matthew 22:34-38)
Both Matthew and Mark include similar scenes when Jesus was asked a question about the first or greatest commandment. This happened immediately after Jesus dealt with questions from some Sadducees about marriage and the resurrection (see vv. 23-33; Mark 12:18-27). Mark’s gospel suggests that Jesus responded well to the inquiry (see 12:28), which prompted additional questions from “one of the teachers of the law” (v. 28). However, Matthew’s account indicates nothing about the positive response, other than that the crowds were “astonished at his teaching” (22:33).
One of the lesson writers writes: “I recall being asked which of the Church of the Nazarene’s 16 Articles of Faith I felt was the most important. I went on to explain how I felt they were all connected and one couldn’t be elevated over the others. The person pressed a bit more asking me to reconsider my response. Similarly, most of us feel uncomfortable saying one part of God’s law is more important than another. However, the words of Jesus help us put the commandments’ importance into the right perspective.”
o For Jesus, why do you think the love of God and the love of neighbor are the greatest commandments?
o In Jesus’ own life, what did it look like for Him to love God with all His heart, soul, and mind?
o What Bible stories come to mind when we consider examples of Jesus’ love toward others?
The command itself calls for loving God with all one’s being. Three prepositional phrases with identical beginnings (with all your . . .) emphasize how one is to live out that love for God. The phrase with all your heart underscores how a response to God will come from the center of one’s being, which includes not only one’s emotions but the core of one’s thought and existence. The phrase with all your soul or “with all your life”† stresses that one’s response will come from the basis of one’s own life. The phrase with all your mind highlights all one’s will and thoughts.
D. The Greatest Commandment Part II (Matthew 22:39-40)
Jesus says that love includes and embraces all the commandments. In fact, the term “the law and the prophets” is a term often used to refer to all Scripture. What Jesus really says is that all Scripture hangs on love for God and love for one’s neighbor. The sum and substance of all that God has said and done is LOVE. And LOVE of God and LOVE of neighbor. (Rom.13:10b NLT) Love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
How does loving God enable us to love others?
How does our love for others point to our love for God? (See 1 John 2:1-11.)
In what ways do “all the Law and the Prophets hang” on these two great commandments? (The two commandments to love God and love others unlock the meaning of the rest of the commands. Hebrews 8:10.) This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Conclusion: You have probably noticed that LOVE is the key word in our lesson today.
How can we show biblical love to our brothers and sisters in Christ? How can we show such love to the world at large?
According to Jesus, love of God and love of neighbor are the two commandments on which all the Law and the Prophets hang, a traditional reference to the Hebrew Scriptures. All Scripture truly hangs on the love commands. Jesus showed the lawyer—and us—what that looks like.
Sing with me: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.
Refrain: Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus love me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
Verse 4: Jesus loves me still today, Walking with me on my way. He’s prepared a home for me, And someday His face I’ll see. Refrain.
Oh Father God. I ask that you would open our eyes to the ways in which we can love You and others in a deeper way through the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.