“And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers.”
(Deuteronomy 7:12 ESV)
Deuteronomy 7:12-8:9 contains a long list of blessings that God promised to Israel in exchange for obedience to Torah. These blessing should be understood to apply to the nation as a whole and not necessarily to every individual within the nation. In order for the nation to be blessed in these ways, many more individuals than otherwise must be blessed as well, because a nation is a group of individuals connected by blood, culture, tradition, and religion. As you narrow your focus to a single community, family, or individual, however, you cannot necessarily say that this person is well because he kept God’s commands and that person is not well because he did not. The entire book of Job refutes the idea that a person’s spiritual state can be determined by his physical state.
None of this is to say that it does not matter how we behave. It matters quite a lot. Thou shalt love yourself is not one of the two greatest commandments, but rather love God and love your neighbor. We love God primarily through our obedience. We obey His commands because we love Him, not because He promised to give us stuff.
As we love God, we love our neighbor—and here is the answer to so many difficult questions—also by keeping God’s commandments. The truth of this statement is obvious in some commandments, such as care for orphans, widows, and the indigent, but it is harder to discern in commandments such as those that concern lepers, sacrifice, diet, and sexual morality. This passage draws them all together. If we, as a people, a collection of individuals, obey God’s commandments, we, as a people, will reap the benefits of collective obedience, and what is more loving of a neighbor than to bless him with good health, financial prosperity, and many children? If we want our families to be healthy and productive, then we ought to live holy lives and teach others to do likewise.
This is an abbreviated list of the things that God promised to Israel in return for obedience to Torah:
- God’s faithfulness
- Steadfast love
- Fertility and children
- Productive farms and ranches
- Good health
- Military victory over enemies
- Peace within the nation’s borders
What blessings are within our power to grant our neighbors by our behavior!
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2 Replies to “613 Ways to Love Your Neighbor”
This may sound a stupidly basic question – but as believer in Yeshua from a non-Jewish background what basic things could I do this Saturday / Shabbat to start to honor G-d?
Although men have written volumes on what we should and shouldn’t do on the Sabbath, God didn’t give us a lot of specific instructions. The primary thing is to rest from labor and arrange for all those who depend on you and work for you to rest as well. In other words, don’t engage in any work or business requires other people to work.
Most people don’t keep the Sabbath or even care. They mow their lawns, they clean house, they wait tables at the diner… That’s their business. I hope they still honor God the best they know how and I hope God blesses them for it. On the other hand, I still try to avoid doing things that will add to their workload. If I can do a little bit to help others keep the Sabbath–even if they don’t know it–I think I’m doing a better job of keeping it too and honoring God along the way.