Christ was asked about the practice of men being able to write out a letter of divorce and then throw their wives out. This reply was the result.
In this verse, Christ is clear that this commandment was not a gift to the people or a proof of their superior nature.
Instead, the law that Moses gave was proof of the hardness of their hearts. God gave them the law they could accept instead of the better law they should have been living which was to become one flesh and to care for each other.
Years ago, when reading about commandments, and this verse, it struck me that in Matthew 5:18 Christ also says:
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.Matthew 5:18
The law that was originally given by Moses may have been flawed and given to a flawed people yet Christ was not expunging the law but fulfilling its true purpose by his coming and calling people to care for each other in love.
So Christ flat out stated that parts of the law existed not because they were eternal but because the people were so hard of heart that they needed the laws or commandments that they were given. Those were their commandments.
In looking at practices and commandments in our own time, these specific words from Christ gave me pause.
We are told to liken scriptures unto ourselves. That means that when we look at the laws and commandments we have, we ought to look for perspectives of where Christ would take us if we softened out hearts.
It is an important perspective — the implication that parts of the commandments and guidance we operate under we have only because we are too hard of heart to act as God really would want of us.
It cannot be only those in the past who suffered from hard hearts and willful blindness and who did not care or love one another enough.
I thought of that again with the verses that the recent Come Follow Me lesson focused on. In Micah, the prophet calls out reliance on commandments and wealth instead of following the heart of the law.
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
That is, God wants justice, mercy and humility.
The lesson asks us to take those verses in parallel with a conference talk that refers to the scholar Hillel. He was challenged to explain the law while standing on one leg.
The speaker stated:
Hillel may not have had great balance but accepted the challenge.
He quoted from Leviticus, saying, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Hillel then concluded: “That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”Citation
He simplified all of the law to the great commandment, as Christ would also do, that of loving our neighbors. He expanded that by pointing out specifically that love excluded doing hateful things to our neighbors.
I’ve taken a long way to set up a few simple questions.
What do our readers think that we do in our day that is hateful because of the hardness of our hearts?
What do we do that is hateful that we try to blame on God’s commandments instead of showing that we value loving mercy and walking humbly?
And can we truly judge anyone else but ourselves and be fair or just?
What do you think?