I want to introduce an important principle that will help us get more from our study of God’s love. The principle is this: God’s commandments are windows into His nature. Every commandment He has given us reveals something to us about His nature. I’m speaking specifically about His ethical demands. Yet, even the various ordinances concerning clean and unclean (i.e. in Leviticus) can at least let us know that there are some things God considers clean and some He considers to be unclean. (I’m not going to get into the culture relevance or modern application of all of these things because it’s not pertinent to this particular study).
So, what do the commandments of God tell us about who He is? To answer that question let’s contemplate the heart of God’s ethical demands: the Ten Commandments. We’re all probably very familiar with these commands. For millennia multitudes have used these commandments as their moral compass. In fact, many of us have lived with a healthy fear of God our whole lives because we are aware of these rules. So we fully understand that God says, “Do not steal,” “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not make or worship idols.” But, why? Why “not steal?” Is the point of this commandment to produce this attitude: “I will not steal because we are not supposed to steal?” No; there is more significance to these commands than just an ethical code of conduct; they speak to us of God. But in order to understand what they are saying, we first need to have an understanding of the context within which they were given.
The Purpose of the Commandments
The LORD’S goal for Israel is evident from the beginning of their recorded history. From the first recorded encounters between God and the nation of Israel it was clear: God wanted a relationship. Consider His activity on their behalf. He guided them to where He dwelled, determined to dwell in their midst, and was bringing them to the place where He would establish His name. The establishing of a covenant relationship is the context within which the Ten Commandments (and many other commands) were given. Let’s look at a few verses:
“In Thy lovingkindness Thou hast led the people whom Thou hast redeemed; In Thy strength Thou hast guided them to Thy holy habitation.” (Exodus 15:13)
They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God. (Exodus 29:46)
“But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. (Deuteronomy 12:5)
The Ten Commandments begin with the statement, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2) Notice, this doesn’t say “If you perfectly obey Me in all things you will qualify for a relationship with Me. I will then be the LORD your God.” Israel received these commands having already experienced the redemption of the Lord. They were already in covenant with their Creator. He said, “I am the LORD your God.”, not “I will be the LORD your God”.
The Lord redeemed them, and immediately following this, He gave them the commands. He was seeking to preserve this new covenant relationship. The purpose of the commandments revolves around helping the redeemed ones maintain a relationship with God. Through His commands God sought to form Israel to become a people with whom He would establish an ongoing harmonious fellowship. Because of the nature of who God is, this would require guidelines which governed their behavior. Simply put, there are some things with which God is incompatible. Other attitudes and actions are conducive to God’s abiding presence.
My wife gave a wonderful description of this one Sunday morning during communion. She was discussing the holiness of God, that attribute which is the full expression of every one of God’s characteristics. And she shared a definition of God’s holiness from a book she was reading at the time. It described God’s Holiness as being “an essential goodness”. And then it said, “God’s goodness is incompatible with evil.”
Through the giving of the commandments God sought to preserve a people who would dwell with His presence. In Numbers 6:22-27, the high-priest of Israel was told to invoke the Name of God upon the people:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
Where God’s people are conforming to His nature, God is able to be in harmony and in fellowship with His people. When the covenant people are being transformed into a reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven, there God’s Name can be invoked upon them without bringing forth judgment. Where sin is part and parcel of the society, God’s presence becomes a means of judgment.
The priests were called to careful consecration: “Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.” (Exodus 19:22) Israel was called to be a set apart nation of priests that God might dwell among them.
Peter wrote of this principle: For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17) Judgment begins with the people of God.
Since that is the case, we see the loving necessity of the commands. Without them, the people of God can not dwell with God. He cannot have fellowship with a nation of thieves or adulterers. His motivation and activity and theirs would be diametrically opposed. Consider this verse: “… for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14b) God cannot be the lovingly-loyal covenant partner of a people who walk in sin.
What the Commandments Reveal
In the Ten Commandments we see some things with which God is incompatible, some things He desires and esteems, some things He loves and values. What of the commandment “Do not steal?” What does this command reveal about God?
Elsewhere in scripture we see that God is a giver. He’s not a stealer. In fact, He’s the very fountain of generosity. What does the act of stealing come against? It militates against love doesn’t it? Paul cut right to the chase in Romans 13:8b-10 where it is written: “…he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
In the commandments it is as if God says, “I want you to understand these things about me. Listen, I want you to be in harmony with Me as a nation, therefore, do not steal. I am a God who honors others. I do not take that which is not Mine. I am a God who gives. I am a God who labors in order to bless.” That’s what God is like. That is what the command reveals. Stealing is incompatible with God’s wonderfully giving nature.
What about the edict against adultery? What does that reveal about God? God says, “I am faithful. I am dedicated to you in a deep and ongoing way. This commitment is serious, it can’t easily be broken. Therefore, I want you to be faithful. You will not know Me in My faithfulness unless you are faithful also.” The commandment “Do not commit adultery” shows us that our God is a faithful God.
What does, “…love one another just as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12) reveal about your God? Certainly, God’s love can be seen in Yeshua perfectly fulfilling the commandment to love as brothers. The Incarnate Son of God, He who fulfilled the command to love His neighbor, commanded us. This reveals that God is willing to be the pattern for how we are to love others. It reveals that He does love us. It is a doorway into fellowship with Him as we love those He already loves. This is amazing; we and God will be loving the same people.
God’s commandments concerning brotherly love are reflections of the glory of God’s love for us. Along with the rest of God’s commands, the injunctions to love one another as brothers are windows into God’s intentions towards us. They are insights into His activities with us. These commandments are opportunities to stir us to faith in His intentions. They help us perceive and understand His activity. As we receive faith in these matters, that faith will instigate us towards communion with Yeshua and releasing His activity through us.
Take a second and think about this: what does the command, “Abide in My love.” (John 15:9b) show you about God? It’s obvious by this commandment that He really loves us. It’s also obvious that He really desires that we experience this love. Not only that, He wants this to be an ongoing experience! Our God wants us to experience, in an ongoing way, the reality of His love for us!
He is a loving God who wants us to know His love. Love wants the best for the beloved, therefore knowing His love will greatly benefit us. Our knowing His love will delight Him, for He is looking for a people upon which He may lavish His affection. Is He also showing us that He wants to abide somewhere, too? Why has He commanded us to love Him with all our hearts?
God dwells in an environ of love within the Trinity’s interaction. He desires to dwell in the midst of our love also! That is why we’re commanded to put the priority into practice: “You shall love the LORD your God…” (Deut. 6:5; Matthew 22:37) Dwelling in love is important to the One who has commanded us, “Abide in My love.” (John 15:9b)
Now let’s consider what the context of the commandment, “Abide in My love” (John 15:9b) show us about God. This commandment is given within the overall imperative to abide in Yeshua. One reason God desire us to remain in relationship with His Son is so that we would bear fruit. Bearing fruit is vital to the believer. Please read the following section:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. ” (John 15:1-5)
Since He loves us, He is giving us a key to having fruitful lives.
Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. (John 15:9)
The Lord specified, “Abide in My love.” It’s an obligation. It is a commandment. It is something to which we should say, “Yes, Lord, I will obey You in this.” This imperative should not be divorced from His desire for us to abide in Him and bear fruit. Abiding in Yeshua’s love is not a shortcut; it is Messiah’s prescribed path of true spiritual development!
The Lord is saying, “I want you to bear fruit but I want you to bear real fruit, not imitation fruit. Here’s how: “Abide in Me. That’s how you will be fruitful; through abiding in Me you will bear the fruit I desire.”
As we examine the commandments of God, we see both His ultimate goal for us (to dwell in eternal and unimpeded fellowship with Himself), and we see into the very heart of God. The commandments are windows into God’s nature. Let’s dare to believe that the commandments are speaking to us, and seek to embrace the truth that is being revealed.
by David Harwood, 2004
Consider meditating on the command to abide in the love of God, and what this wonderful command reveals about God’s heart towards you.
Please follow this up by reading Exhortations as Windows into Jesus’ Love for You