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 neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. – Matthew 22:37-40
2 I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
3 You must not have any other god but me.
4 You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.
5 You must not bow down to them or worship them.
7 You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
8 Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
12 Honor your father and mother.
13 You must not murder.
14 You must not commit adultery.
15 You must not steal.
16 You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
17 You must not covet.
The story is told of some city folks driving through a rural area encountering a sign at a restaurant. It read:
If our food, drinks, and service ain’t up to your standard . . . please lower your standards!
In athletics, business, industry, military, etc., it is common practice to set performance benchmarks for achievement to support specific desirable behaviors. Setting standards as goals of performance inherently has challenges. Decisions have to be made as to how high and rigorous they should be. On the one hand, they can be low and readily attainable. Or they can be very high, even perfect. In which case goals are set that can never practically be reached.
In the kingdom of God, we do not have to wonder about what the Father’s standards are. He has clearly stipulated them in the Word of God. The standards which He has provided are perfect, absolute standards. Some of His laws are easily doable. For example, being truthful, not stealing or coveting, honoring parents, etc. Other standards are impossible for people to meet without His assistance.
For example, “You must be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). What human could possibly be as holy, good, and righteous as the Father? Dealing with scriptural standards often presents conundrums that are difficult to navigate.
No matter how hard individuals try or how well people perform, they fall far below the standards outlined in the Word of God.
Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Everyone has failed. No one can that they have obeyed His commandments without messing up. Suppose for a moment that some individual was able to keep all but one commandment. Surely the Father would grade on a curve and they would be approved. Regrettably, that is not the Father’s grading system.
James 2:10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.
If we break only one commandment, we still are as guilty as if we had broken them all. The Father’s standard is absolute perfection. For people living in the modern age, this hardly seems fair. In fact, it is repugnant.
REFLECT & PRAY
“Collectively, modern mankind has said, “We have no sin,” and “We have not sinned.” Unfortunately, many preachers and churches have bent under that social pressure and largely avoid the “s” word. . ..” (Karen H. Jobes).
Father thank You for Your very high and lofty standards. Thank You for encouraging me and enabling me to strive to live by them. Thank You for forgiving me when I fail and fall short. Encourage me to continue to the end.
Sin, which is falling short of the mark, debases the person responsible. We may try to rationalize and excuse our behavior, even cover it up, but the Father still knows what occurred (Genesis 3:8-13).
Why is the idea of sin so objectionable to people? Sin implies moral accountability to the Father. We prefer to be autonomous and responsible to no one.
Most modern societies denigrate the Scriptures. Modern cultural norms no longer accept Absolute Truth. Consequently, any such claim regarding Absolute Truth is categorically rejected. Those believing in absolutes are labeled arrogant, mean-spirited, outdated, and foolish. When sin is not dealt with, it encourages more sin.
Ecclesiastes 8:11 When a sentence is not executed at once against a crime, the human heart is encouraged to do evil.
This has happened many times in the history of the human race.
Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
Because there was no king in Israel, no final human authority, people rebelled against God and acted out what was in their hearts. They lived following their own “truth.” They did as they desired without restraint. Rather than keep the law of God, people became a law unto themselves. The Father’s response was twofold showing both His justice and His grace and mercy. On the one hand, He judged and punished the people’s sins, on the other hand, He forgave their sins.
Some may ask why these things happened. Nehemiah provides the Father’s answer and perspective. Nehemiah records his prayer to the Father some 600+ years later. Although the Father enabled them to take possession of the promised land through miraculous intervention, they departed from Him. Rather than remember and honor the Father for all of the great bounties he had received, the people forgot Him. Overt rebellion and sin generate collateral damage.
26 But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They turned their backs on your Law, they killed your prophets who warned them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies.
27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who made them suffer. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In your great mercy, you sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies.
28 But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times!
29 You warned them to return to your Law, but they became proud and obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen.
30 In your love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit, who warned them through the prophets. But still they wouldn’t listen! So once again you allowed the peoples of the land to conquer them.
31 But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!
Never in human history has any other people group had such marvelous advantages and privileges as the nation of Israel. Yet they abandoned the Father and went their own way. Such is the depravity of fallen human DNA. People are heavily predisposed to depart from the Father, the living God, and go their own way. People accommodate themselves to the mores and values of the world around them.
Why does this occur? It begins when people decide to ignore the law of God. His Truth no longer matters to them and is tossed aside and ignored. His Truth is exchanged for their own “truth.”
Life today in many ways parallels the age of the Judges. Many have stopped taking the Father seriously. As far as they are concerned, His standards no longer have any moral authority over them. Soon moral chaos ensued and human institutions have begun to break down. This trickled down into common everyday life. Goodness and wholesomeness faded and were replaced by chaotic anger and cruelty. Despite it all, the Father remains steadfast in His love. He reluctantly disciplines, but never abandons the children of the King.
The current state of affairs is only temporary and it too will pass. The Father is still active in the world. He triumphs (Revelation 22:12-21).
© Dr. H 2022