I remember studying for my first driver’s test. I’d asked the officer at the DMV when I picked up the book (no internet back then) what I should focus on. His reply was not comforting: “Everything between the covers” he said.
“How am I supposed to remember all this?” I thought.
You may have wondered the same thing about Israel earlier this year when you were reading through the Pentateuch. The Rabbis believed there were 613 precepts in the Old Testament. How was anyone supposed to remember them all, let alone keep them all?
And so, at various points in the Old Testament, there are places that narrow the focus to “just the essentials.” The Ten Commandments was just such a place. Micah 6:8 is another as is Isaiah 56:1. So also is Psalm 15, narrowing the law of God to ten statements: Walk blamelessly. “Blameless” has to do with “completeness,” a wholeheartedness that is not hypocritical. Do what is right, doing what God would do. Don’t say or do things that are hurtful to or about others. Honor people who live honorable lives, and stay away from those who do not. Keep your word. Help the needy without expecting repayment, and never bend the truth – especially not for money.
It’s surely a shorter list than 613 commands, but it’s a great place to begin.