Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Greatest Commandment

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

Moses’ first sermon ends at Deuteronomy 4:40. A few verses later (vv. 44ff.) we have the introduction to Moses’ second sermon, which is an exposition of the law of God, applying it to the new circumstances Israel would face in the land of Canaan. Moses began by reminding the people how God gave the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, rehearsing them with several slight changes that add a different slant to the fundamental law of God (5:1–31).

Chapters 6–11 offer a general exhortation to obey God, focussing on the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Moses began by calling on Israel to hear (vv. 3–4). They were to hear God and to hearken to Him alone.

Verse 4 is one of the most famous phrases in the Old Testament. It is so compact that it cannot be rendered into English by one simple phrase. The NIV provides four overlapping translations: 1) The LORD our God, the LORD is one; 2) The LORD our God is one LORD; 3) The LORD is our God, the LORD is one; 4) The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. Meditating on this verse, called the “Shema” because of the Hebrew word hear, the devout Israelite would become grounded in the fact that there is only one God and that this God is his God.

Since this God, the only God there is, has made Himself my God, the only possible response I can have is to love Him with all my being (v. 5). Jesus called this the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36–38). Not only does it rephrase the first commandment but it summarizes all the commandments.

If we love God with all our being, we will never disbelieve or disobey Him. For this reason, Jesus could say that all the law hangs on this commandment and the command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:40).

Read Deuteronomy 6:4–9. If we really love God, we will burn to see His holy law realized in our own hearts and in the lives of our children. We will put them on our hands (labor) and foreheads (thoughts), and on our doorframes (homes) and gates (civil government). Analyze whether you have made a thorough application of the commandments to your life as prescribed by God through Moses.