A Law of Love in Hearts
“I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it.”—JEREMIAH 31:33.
1, 2. (a) What will we now consider? (b) How did Jehovah manifest himself at Mount Sinai?
IN THE preceding two articles, we learned that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face emanated rays that reflected Jehovah’s glory. We also discussed the veil Moses wore. Let us now consider a related matter that has meaning for Christians today.
2 When Moses was up on the mountain, he received instructions from Jehovah. Assembled before Mount Sinai, the Israelites witnessed a stunning manifestation of God himself. “Thunders and lightnings began occurring, and a heavy cloud upon the mountain and a very loud sound of a horn, so that all the people who were in the camp began to tremble. . . . And Mount Sinai smoked all over, due to the fact that Jehovah came down upon it in fire; and its smoke kept ascending like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain was trembling very much.”—Exodus 19:16-18.
3. By what means did Jehovah give the Ten Commandments to Israel, and what did that nation come to understand?
3 Jehovah spoke to the people through an angel, providing what has come to be known as the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:1-17) Hence, there could be no doubt that these laws were from the Almighty. Jehovah wrote those commandments upon stone tablets—tablets that Moses shattered when he saw the Israelites worshipping a golden calf. Jehovah again wrote the commandments upon stone. This time, when Moses came down carrying the tablets, his face emitted rays. By then, all would understand that those laws had enormous significance.—Exodus 32:15-19; 34:1, 4, 29, 30.
4. Why were the Ten Commandments of great importance?
4 The two tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written were placed inside the ark of the covenant within the Most Holy compartment of the tabernacle and later the temple. The laws they bore set out the core principles of the Mosaic Law covenant and formed the basis for the theocratic administration of a national government. They gave evidence that Jehovah was dealing with a specific people, a chosen people.
5. In what ways did God’s laws to Israel reflect his love?
5 Those laws revealed much about Jehovah, particularly his love for his people. What a precious gift they proved to be to those who obeyed them! One scholar wrote: “No moral system ever humanly formulated before or since . . . can approach, much less equal, or excel, these ten words of God.” Concerning the Mosaic Law as a whole, Jehovah said: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”—Exodus 19:5, 6.
A Law Written in the Heart
6. What law has proved to be of more value than laws written on stone?
6 Yes, those divine laws had great value. Did you know, though, that anointed Christians possess something far more valuable than laws written on stone? Jehovah foretold the making of a new covenant unlike the Law covenant made with the nation of Israel. “I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, did not personally impart a written code of law to his followers. He sounded down Jehovah’s law into the minds and hearts of his disciples by the things he said and did.
7. To whom was “the law of the Christ” first given, and who later embraced it?
7 This law is called “the law of the Christ.” It was first given, not to the nation of natural Israel, who were the descendants of Jacob, but to a spiritual nation, “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:2, 16; Romans 2:28, 29) The Israel of God is made up of spirit-anointed Christians. In time, they were joined by “a great crowd” from all nations who also seek to worship Jehovah. (Revelation 7:9, 10; Zechariah 8:23) As “one flock” under “one shepherd,” both groups embrace “the law of the Christ,” allowing it to govern all that they do.—John 10:16.
8. What was a difference between the Mosaic Law and the law of the Christ?
8 Unlike the natural Israelites, who were bound to the Mosaic Law by birth, Christians remain under the law of the Christ by choice, factors such as race and place of birth being irrelevant. They learn about Jehovah and his ways and yearn to do his will. Having God’s law “within them,” written, as it were, “in their heart,” anointed Christians do not obey God merely because he can punish those who disobey; nor do they obey him solely out of a sense of duty. Their obedience is rooted in something more fundamental and vastly more powerful, and those of the other sheep are similarly obedient because of having God’s law in their hearts.
Laws Based on Love
9. How did Jesus indicate that love was the essence of Jehovah’s laws?
9 The essence of all of Jehovah’s laws and regulations can be summed up in a single word: love. That has always been and will always be an essential part of pure worship. When asked which was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus answered: “Love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” The second was: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He then said: “On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40) Jesus thus indicated that, not just the Law with the Ten Commandments, but the entire Hebrew Scriptures were based on love.
10. How do we know that love is central to the law of the Christ?
10 Is love of God and neighbor also central to the law in the hearts of Christians? Absolutely! The law of the Christ involves a heartfelt love of God and includes a new command—Christians are to have self-sacrificing love for one another. They are to love as Jesus did, and he willingly laid down his life in behalf of his friends. He taught his disciples to love God and to love one another, just as he loved them. The outstanding love they show toward one another is the main identifying quality by which true Christians can be recognized. (John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 13) Jesus even instructed them to love their enemies.—Matthew 5:44.
11. How did Jesus demonstrate love for both God and mankind?
11 Jesus set the perfect example in showing love. As a mighty spirit creature in heaven, he welcomed the opportunity to advance his Father’s interests on earth. Apart from giving his human life that others might live eternally, he showed people how they should live. He was humble, kind, and considerate, helping those burdened down and oppressed. He also imparted “sayings of everlasting life,” tirelessly helping others to come to know Jehovah.—John 6:68.
12. Why can it be said that love of God and neighbor are inextricably linked?
12 Love of God and neighbor, in fact, are inextricably linked. The apostle John stated: “Love is from God . . . If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:7, 20) Jehovah is both the source and the very personification of love. Everything he does is influenced by love. We love because we are made in his image. (Genesis 1:27) By showing love to our neighbor, we demonstrate our love of God.
To Love Means to Obey
13. If we are to love God, what must we first do?
13 How can we love God, whom we cannot see? The crucial first step is to get to know him. We cannot truly love or trust a stranger. Thus, God’s Word encourages us to get to know God by reading the Bible, by praying, and by associating with those who already know and love him. (Psalm 1:1, 2; Philippians 4:6; Hebrews 10:25) The four Gospels are especially valuable, for they reveal the personality of Jehovah as reflected in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Our desire to obey God and to imitate his personality grows ever stronger as we come to know him and appreciate the love he showed for us. Yes, love of God involves obedience.
14. Why can it be said that God’s laws are not burdensome?
14 When we love individuals, we are in tune with what they like and dislike, and we conduct ourselves accordingly. We do not wish to displease those whom we love. “This is what the love of God means,” wrote the apostle John, “that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) They are not burdensome, nor are they numerous. Love guides our way. We do not need to memorize an extensive code of rules to direct our every act; our love for God guides us. If we love God, it is a pleasure to do his will. We thus gain God’s approval, and we benefit ourselves, his direction always working for our good.—Isaiah 48:17.
15. What will move us to imitate Jehovah? Explain.
15 Love of God moves us to imitate his qualities. When we love a person, we admire his qualities and seek to be like him. Consider the relationship between Jehovah and Jesus. They were together in heaven for perhaps billions of years. Deep, pure love existed between them. So perfectly did Jesus resemble his heavenly Father that he could say to his disciples: “He that has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) As we gain knowledge and appreciation for Jehovah and his Son, we are moved to be like them. Our love for Jehovah, along with the help of his holy spirit, will enable us to “strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe [ourselves] with the new personality.”—Colossians 3:9, 10; Galatians 5:22, 23.
Love in Action
16. How is love for God and neighbor demonstrated by our preaching and teaching activity?
16 As Christians, we allow our love for God and neighbor to motivate us to share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. In so doing, we please Jehovah God, “whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) We can thus find joy in helping others to have the law of the Christ written in their hearts. And we delight to observe as their personalities are transformed to reflect the divine qualities of Jehovah. (2 Corinthians 3:18) Really, to help others to come to know God is the most precious gift we can give them. Those who accept Jehovah’s friendship can enjoy it throughout eternity.
17. Why is it wise to cultivate love for God and neighbor rather than for material things?
17 We live in a world where material things are greatly valued, even loved. Yet, material things are not everlasting. They can be stolen or consumed by decay. (Matthew 6:19) The Bible warns us: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:16, 17) Yes, Jehovah will remain forever, and so will those who love and serve him. Consequently, does it not make more sense to cultivate love for God and for people than it does to pursue the things of the world, which are at best only temporary?
18. How did one missionary demonstrate self-sacrificing love?
18 Those who pursue love bring praise to Jehovah. Consider Sonia, a missionary in Senegal. She studied the Bible with a woman named Heidi, who contracted HIV from her unbelieving husband. After her husband died, Heidi was baptized, but soon her health failed, and she was hospitalized with AIDS. Sonia relates: “The hospital staff did their best, but they were few in number. Volunteers from the congregation were called on to take care of her needs at the hospital. The second night, I stayed on a mat next to her bed and helped to care for her until her death. The doctor in charge said: ‘Our biggest problem is that even relatives often abandon family members when they know they have AIDS. Why do you, who are not related, not from the same country, not even the same color, agree to put yourself at risk?’ I explained that to me, Heidi was really my sister, as close as if we had the same mother and father. Having come to know this new sister of mine, I found it a pleasure to take care of her.” Incidentally, Sonia suffered no ill effects from her loving efforts to care for Heidi.
19. Having God’s law in our hearts, of what should we take advantage?
19 Many examples of self-sacrificing love may be found among Jehovah’s servants. No written law code identifies God’s people today. Instead, we see the fulfillment of what is written at Hebrews 8:10: “‘This is the covenant that I shall covenant with the house of Israel after those days,’ says Jehovah. ‘I will put my laws in their mind, and in their hearts I shall write them. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.’” May we ever cherish the law of love that Jehovah has written in our hearts, taking advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate love.
20. Why is the law of the Christ a priceless possession?
20 What a joy it is to serve God along with a worldwide brotherhood that displays such love! Those who have the law of the Christ in their heart enjoy a priceless possession in this loveless world. Not only do they enjoy Jehovah’s love but they also delight in the strong bond of love in the brotherhood. “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” Though Jehovah’s Witnesses reside in many nations, speak many tongues, and represent many cultures, they enjoy religious unity that is without equal. This unity brings Jehovah’s favor. Wrote the psalmist: “There [amid a people united in love] Jehovah commanded the blessing to be, even life to time indefinite.”—Psalm 133:1-3.
Can You Answer?
• How important were the Ten Commandments?
• What is the law written in hearts?
• What role does love play in “the law of the Christ”?
• In what ways may we display our love for God and neighbor?
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The Israelites had laws written on tablets of stone
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Christians have God’s law in their hearts
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Sonia with a Senegalese girl at the 2004 district convention