The Things Well Pleasing to God 


These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, says the Lord. (Zechariah 8:16-17)

We find in various texts of the Old Testament exhortations on how we are to live, such as we see in the above Zechariah text (see also for example Deuteronomy 10:12-13 and Micah 6:8). All 613 laws of Torah are not always mentioned nor are do they represent all of the virtues God encourages, as we see in the above quote. There were ‘simpler’ exhortations which mention fewer requirements but still tell us there are behaviors which God blesses and others which are not acceptable to Him. Even Christ Himself summed up all 613 laws of Torah in two laws: love God and love neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The beginning of Genesis with Adam and Eve in Paradise also had a rule for the first two humans which made no mention of Torah. Following God’s commandments has been a challenge to humans from the beginning. Orthodox biblical scholar Theodore Stylianopoulos comments:


There is more to the story of Genesis. Paradoxically, a crafty serpent, working by deceit, appears in a perfect garden. Although innocent and pure, the first parents knowingly abuse their freedom and succumb to temptation. They persist in their self-deception and guilt, choosing to hide rather than to admit and correct their evil. Soon evil passes on and engulfs humanity as Cain murders his brother. These subtleties suggest that evil and suffering involve larger and mysterious aspects beyond human understanding. The Genesis story, which is the story of humanity throughout history, conveys a twofold message. On the one hand, men and women are universally culpable and suffer self-inflicted wounds. On the other hand, they are also caught up in an incomprehensible tragedy, helpless before the mystery of evil, which they perpetuate in spite of their lofty dignity and noble intentions. Nevertheless, God’s care toward his weak and wayward creatures does not cease. Even after the expulsion from Eden ‘the Lord God made garments of skin for the man and for his wife, and clothed them‘ (Genesis 3:21).


The book of Deuteronomy takes a less nuanced approach to evil and suffering. Deuteronomy expounds at length the principle of retributive justice: in this life good is rewarded and evil is punished.  . . .  The concept of retributive justice answers a profound human need for intelligibility and stability in the universe, in opposition to absurdity and chaos.  . . .  The acute problem with retributive justice is that, as the book of Job demonstrates, too many good people suffer and too many scoundrels prosper in this world.  . . .


In the prophetic books of the Old Testament, the same basic principle of just rewards and punishments is fundamental and applied to Israel as a nation. The prophets raised their voices against the domination of the weak by the strong, the exploitation of the widow and the orphan, the mistreatment of stranger, and the worship of idols; they censured Israel for its wickedness and moral decadence. Their righteous indignation was particularly directed against the leaders of the people – the kings, wealthy landowners, and priests. (ENCOURAGED BY THE SCRIPTURES, pp 165-166)


God ever encourages us to move toward the Kingdom of Heaven by the choices we make in our lifetimes. It isn’t necessary to know all of the laws of the Old Testament to do God’s will for obviously at various points in the Scriptures more concise lists of what God expects from us are offered to us to make it possible for us to choose life, namely, God the giver of life.


I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days… (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)