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Background Considerations

  • The idea of Covenant – Political treaties from the ancient Near East between unequal parties which typically consisted of: a note of the sovereign’s benefit to the vassal; stipulations for maintaining a good relationship; curses (for violations) and blessings (for loyalty); sacrifices to confirm the deal; concluding statement of relationship – the Bible writers utilized this as a model to illustrate how God, the sovereign, relates to his people (even in the format of the decalogue).
  • Loyalty (hesed) – Commitment to an agreement, steadfast love, integrity in a relationship.
  • Obedience – an integral part of a relationship with God and not seen as the means to impress God nor as a vending-machine means of squeezing rewards out of God.
  • Sense of responsibility to God (and with this, to humans)
    • role and position of TORAH in the Old Testament – Torah’s call to responsibility is based on God’s saving action and his gift of instructions for meaningful and productive life. Torah in the Old Testament is never seen as a burden, is not viewed as a means of impressing God, is celebrated more than the possession of gold, even fine gold.
    • vocabulary of responsibility (Old Testament) – worship/service (avodah); steadfast love/loyalty to agreements (hesed); justice, both courtroom and social (mishpat); righteousness, especially in how we treat others as God does (tsedeqah).
    • vocabulary of responsibility (New Testament) – justice/righteousness (dikaiosune); love (agape, phileo); worship/fear (phobeomai).

Relevant Biblical Passages

  • Decalogue – Demands on human response to God based on God’s initiative in rescuing us.
  • Deuteronomy 6:1-9 – The nature of God’s commands and rewards; the “Shema,” or “Hear, O Israel,” which calls for recognition of God as one Lord and for whole-hearted love of God and incorporation of the principles of Torah into every aspect of life.
  • Amos 5:4, 6 and 14-15 – Combination of return to justice and fairness in our treatment of others and God’s “maybe,” God’s mercy.
  • Micah 6:6-8 – Reduction of responsible life to: accomplish justice (mishpat); love loyalty (hesed) and walk in humility with God.
  • Matthew 22:34-40 – The two great commands of complete love for God and for fellow human beings.

Contributions to the Study of Forgiveness

  • Loyalty means pursuing a responsible life towards others, maintaining integrity. It also means knowing where to turn for forgiveness when things don’t go well.

Lessons for Life

  • How far in life can a person go without a sense of responsibility and integrity? How far is it worth going without these characteristics?

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