To understand God’s Way, then, we need to understand what God means by the word justice. First, of course, God’s Law as revealed in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) enumerate God’s basic tenets of righteousness and justice. Many Christian teachers have found and taught that the Mosaic laws that follow the Ten Commandments are actually case laws that fit under one or more of the specific principles encapsulated there. Jesus, however, reduces the ten great commands even further by summing up the first five in the great command, “love God,” and the last five in the equally great command, “love men.” One cannot understand what it means to love God unless he knows the first five of the ten commandments. When one loves God, he will not breach those commands. He will have no other god than God, he will make no idol to worship as God, he will not take the Name of God in vain (hold himself out to be a Christian or believer, yet hypocritically disobey God’s commands), he will honor the Sabbath (walk in the rest of God), and will honor his mother and father. Neither can one know what it means to love men unless one knows the sixth through tenth commandments. If one truly loves his fellow man, he will not murder him, nor commit adultery with his wife or seduce his son or daughter, nor steal from him, nor lie about or to him, nor covet his property.
Jesus summed up the ten commandments in two principles of conduct. He did this because He found that men missed the heart of the Law when they reduced it to mere precepts to obey. For example, one could keep himself from stealing from another, but yet could also, without technically disobeying a commandment, maintain an attitude of stinginess toward those in need. This is why Jesus declared to the Pharisees: “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mat. 9:13), and again, “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Mat. 12:7) Jesus was only quoting what should have been a very familiar old testament verse when he said this which reads, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
Burnt offerings were made according to the Law of Moses for the worship of God. The Law demanded that they be made at particular times and on a regular basis. These sacrifices were required to maintain atonement and right standing of the people before the Lord. The Book of Hebrews teaches that these blood sacrifices were to be continually made until Jesus’ one offering of Himself put an end to their necessity. Yet, Hosea declares that God would rather His people had learned mercy and knowledge of Him, instead of making sacrifices to Him! It is this seeming contradiction that leads some people to believe that the God of the Old Testament, sometimes called Jehovah, is Jesus’ Father, and that Jesus is the God of the New Testament. Further, these people believe that God’s ways have changed from old to new covenant. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus Himself is the God of the Old Testament. Whenever men saw God in the Old Testament, they saw Jesus in a form of flesh. No one has seen the Father and lived. Jesus’ disciples saw the Father in Jesus. They never saw the Father directly. Isaiah calls Jesus “Child,” “Son,” “Mighty God,” and “Everlasting Father” all in one verse! (Is. 9:6) Yes, Jesus is the God of the Old Testament and about Himself, He proclaims, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6 (ESV) If the Lord does not change, neither does His Way change. This means that Jesus’ focus upon mercy rather sacrifice was not a change of God’s ways from Old Testament to New. Rather, it was a continuation of the unfolding of the revelation of the Great God of the universe. Here we move from the strict structure of the Law to the heart of the Law. But, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 (ESV) Jesus’ teaching here leads to an important and necessary principle for understanding the Scripture, Old Testament Law is to be maintained unless it is modified by the New Testament; it is not automatically repealed unless repeated! Thus the Law remains relevant in understanding God’s Way!