“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them.” (Exodus 21:1)
In response to the people’s request that Moses speak to God directly and communicate back to them what was required of them, God gave Moses different “judgments” that are considered as connected to the Ten Commands given to them previously. In Judaism it is understood that there is no demarcation between the Ten Commands and these; they are all an expression of His character and His will for His people. Furthermore, all of His commands demonstrated His Will for the nation and for the individual, whether it addressed the physical aspects of life or the spiritual — everything is connected.
As for Moses, he was to teach the people the true meaning of these commands. More than just declaring them, he was to take the time to help them understand what was intended by each of these instructions. In fact, the phrase “set before them” could be understood as literally saying, “place within them,” meaning it was to be in their hearts and not just their heads. As for the people, it as their duty to hear and to heed — to internalize these instructions and see them as more than just written words. It was needful for them to take these instructions to heart so that they might truly “hear and obey.”
This concept — that the Word of God is to be internalized and not just memorized — is one that runs throughout the Scripture. From the beginning, God has not desired to rule over a religious people but to have a people who show proper respect for His rule by hiding His Word in their heart. In other words, He has always desired to have a strong relationship with His people. He desires to rule in our hearts, first and foremost, and not just our heads.
For our part, because we love Him, we obey Him. For us, His Word should be much more than just ink on paper; it is a way of life that sets us apart from the world and declares our devotion to Him. Whatever is precious to our heart will penetrate our mind and, consequently, determine how we think and what we meditate upon. In turn, how we think will determine what we do and what we don’t do. So then, it is imperative that we hide His Word in our heart and, likewise, that we meditate upon it day and night. If we do this, our deeds and good works will bring glory unto our Father.
Blessings and Shalom,