Commandments (Isaiah 48:18)

If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:18

These words are from God to Israel, but I think they could just as well be said by God of some Christians.

We have a tendency to pick and choose which scriptures we are going to pay attention to and the non-believers notice this. If we had a ready answer for those who ask why we apply some portions of The Law — prohibitions on sexual immorality, for example — and not others — say, the prohibition against wearing garments of mixed fabric — then we would be in a much better place. But we do not often have that answer. And non-believers notice.

Worse, we bicker over a question answered by the apostles not long after Jesus ascended into Heaven. And non-believers notice.

In reality, I can either take the whole counsel of God or none of it. I cannot pick and choose which passages I will apply to my life, no matter how much I might like to. There is, however, consolation in that complete application. God promises that paying attention to His commandments results in peace … like a river, And … righteousness like the waves of the sea. If I take the whole counsel of God, I am promised peace and that I will be righteous. How? The whole counsel of God points to Jesus. He is woven into every book of The Bible. Having read The Bible cover to cover multiple times, I can say that with confidence. I could not say that if I had not paid attention to [God’s] commandments.

My alternative, since I should examine all options, is no peace. God says, in verse 22, that there is no peace for the wicked. It is a contrast between the blessings that fall on those who are mindful of God’s commandments and the lack of blessing that meets those who spurn God’s instruction. If I want peace — real, bone-deep, spiritual peace — then I must pay attention to God’s commandments.

By commandments, I am not talking about the Decalog; the Ten Commandments, nor am I speaking of the book of Leviticus or even Deuteronomy. Jesus said that all of that content is summarized in two commandments: (1) Love the LORD, my God, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and (2) Love my neighbor as myself. I have not arrived on either commandment, but I try to be mindful and to repent when I fail and to rely on God’s grace and strength to do what needs to be done to bring me to the place where I fulfill these commandments. Or, as Paul wrote, forgetting what lies behind, I press forward in the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. When I actually do live out God’s commandments, the non-believers notice that, too.

Father God, let me not take only the commandments that are easy. Let me, instead, take all of Your commandments to heart. Please pour Your Spirit into me so that I might walk in them.

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