Thou Shalt Love The Lord Thy God . . .
With All Thy Heart
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matt. 22:34-40).
O n the Tuesday before his crucifixion on Thursday, Jesus was peppered with questions by those who sought an occasion to bring charges against him. Among those who approached Jesus was a lawyer who asked what is the greatest commandment of the law . Jesus replied by referring him to Deuteronomy 6:5. Moses wrote,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might (Deut. 6:4-5).
This section of Scripture was called the Shema ‘ because the first Hebrew word in v. 4 is the imperative form of shama ‘ , “to hear.” This section was chosen by the Jews long after Moses for recitation by every Israelite twice daily (S.R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy , 92). The first tractate of the Mishna begins with a discussion about when to recite the Shema ‘. When Jesus said that this was the greatest commandment, he was expressing a truth generally recognized.
The Shema ‘
The Shema ‘ begins with the expression of an important concept: “The Lord our God is one Lord.” One of the unique statements of the Old Testament revelation is the oneness of God. In a society which worshipped many gods, Moses wrote that there is only one God and all others deities are false gods and idols. Despite how plain a statement this revelation is, Israel did not fully eliminate the worship of other gods and the sin of idolatry until after the captivity. Between the giving of the revelation at Mt. Sinai and the captivity, Israel consistently had problems with the worship of other gods. Prophets such as Isaiah (700 B.C.) preached strongly against the idolatry of his day saying, “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (44:6). The psalmist wrote,
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not;
eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not;
neither is there any breath in their mouths.
They that make them are like unto them:
so is every one that trusteth in them (135:15-18).
This simple truth that there is only one God can only be known from revelation of God to mankind. Hermann Olshausen wrote, “The unity of God, which involves the fact that he is incomparable, contains the decisive reason why he is to be loved unreservedly—because everything worthy of love is in him” (Biblical Commentary on the New Testament , II: 190-191). In an age when tolerance is being expressed for every kind of religion, from Buddhism to Islam, that we not neglect this basic tenet of God’s revelation to man is important. There is but one God.
The Kind of Commitment that the Lord Requires
The Lord wants us to love him. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” God could have created automatons who responded to every button He pushed, but in this case man would be but a robot. He has given to mankind whom he created free will—the ability to choose either to obey or disobey Him. He, therefore, wishes that mankind love Him as a response to His conduct toward mankind.
There are so many reasons why one should love the Lord. Our very existence depends upon God. He is the one who made us (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7). Of all of his creation, only man is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Being in the image of God, man exercises dominion over God’s creation (Gen. 1:28-30). David was awed by man’s place in God’s creation—a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor and having dominion over the works of God’s hand (Psa. 8:3-9). God also sustains His creation, giving sunshine and rain through every harvest season (Acts 14:17); indeed, it is in Him that we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). God has provided every physical need for mankind.
But God also has provided mankind revelation to meet his spiritual needs. By giving a Law to Israel, God defined sin, showing the path of righteousness and life. He has shown mankind how to so live as to enjoy life on earth to its fullest. Because of man’s sin, God also provided a Savior for mankind. His propitiation for sin was a great sacrifice to Him—His own Son. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
God does not make an unrealistic demand when He requires that mankind love Him. Love is the only reasonable response to Him who has done so much for us.
The Lord wants us to love him with our whole being. In the statements that mankind should love the Lord, the verse enumerates how one should love him: “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” The essence of the statement is that we should love the Lord with every aspect of our being. Our lives should not be compartmentalized so that we manifest a love for the Lord on Sunday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. but during the rest of our week we live as though God means nothing to us. Some manifest this conduct. At the church building they manifest a show of piety but watch any and every kind of filthy movie, participate in filthy jokes, drink intoxicating beverages, dress immodestly and participate in lascivious conduct (from dancing to sexual foreplay), commit fornication, gamble, etc. Jesus labeled such conduct as hypocrisy (Matt. 23:25-28).
Man’s being is divided into three categories in this verse, each of which emphasizes a different aspect of man’s nature: heart, soul, and mind. W. J. Deane said, “The expression means generally that God is to be loved with all our powers and faculties, and that nothing is to be preferred to him. It is difficult to define with any precision the signification of each term used, and much unprofitable labour has been expended in the endeavor to limit their exact sense. . . . It is usual to explain thus: Heart; which among the Hebrews was considered to be the seat of the understanding, is here considered as the home of the affections and the seat of the will. Soul; the living powers, the animal life. Mind; dianoia , the intellectual powers. These are to be the seat and abode of the love enjoined” (Pulpit Commentary: Matthew , 364). R. Tuck, in the same volume, says, “the heart, the centre of our being; the soul, the seat of the affections and desires; the mind, the home of thought and reason” (375). H. A. W. Meyer describes the heart as the entire sphere in which all the workings of the personal consciousness originate, the whole soul , the whole faculty of feeling and desire, and the whole understanding , all the power of thought and will, and must determine their operation (Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Gospel of Matthew , 384).
Let us distinguish these aspects of one’s love. The heart is the inner being of man’s consciousness. To love God with “all” of one’s heart indicates that the heart is not divided (as James speaks of one being double-minded, 1:8). It is wholly given in all of its being to God. When one makes a commitment to become Jesus’ disciple, he is not making a half-hearted commitment. He is making a commitment to love God with all of his heart. Nothing in his life means so much to him as loving God. The three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego , had this aspect of devotion in love to God correctly analyzed when they spoke to King Nebuchadnezzar saying, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Dan. 3:16-18). They were devoted to serve God regardless of what the costs to them were, even if that meant the loss of their own life. It was better to die in service to God than to live in disobedience! They indeed loved God with all of their heart.
According to the various authors, the soul is “the living powers, the animal life”; “the seat of the affections and desires”; “the whole faculty of feeling and desires.” The religion of Christ involves my affections. It is not a dead, lifeless religion in which we go through the motions of mechanical rituals. One’s affections and feelings are involved in his commitment to God. How could one sit at the foot of the cross and watch the soldiers drive spikes in the hand of Jesus without a tear coming to his eye? How could one hear the mockery of the Jewish leaders without his spirit burning within him? How could one witness Jesus’ last breath of air depart from his body and not feel the loss of his closest friend? If one loves God with all of his heart, how can one’s response to him be cold ritual?
Paul said that one’s sin causes the Holy Spirit to grieve (Eph. 4:30). Just as I care when I have hurt the feelings of my closest friend, my children, and my mate, so also do I care when I hurt the Holy Spirit. My sin tramples under foot the Son of God and counts the blood Jesus shed on Calvary as if it were common, ordinary blood. How could I treat one who died for me in this manner. I love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with all of my soul. Because I care about the feelings of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, how can I sin against them?
The mind is the intellectual powers of man. Christianity is not an unreasonable religion, a religion in which one must set aside his brain to be a devoted disciple. Rather, Christianity requires that one love the Lord with all of his mind. This involves the commitment to learn more about God and his revelation of his will to us. The psalmist expressed his devotion to learning God’s will when he said that the statutes of God are “more to be desired . . . than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (19:10). In the 119th Psalm, he expressed his devotion to the study of God’s word:
And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved (119:47).
Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage (119:54).
The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver (119:72 ) .
Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction (119:92).
O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day (119:97 ) .
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (119:105 ) .
Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold (119:127 ) .
Loving God with all my mind requires that one devote himself to learning God’s word and will. How can I truly love God with all my mind and never find time to read what He has written for me? When I fill my mind with every kind of learning except the learning of His word, how can I truly say that I love Him with all my mind?
Jesus will accept nothing less than this kind of love. The course of this series will emphasize how one manifests in his life the kind of love that Jesus requires of His disciples. You will be challenged to look at your life to see whether or not you have made that kind of commitment to the Lord. One’s love is seen by what he does, whether that love is directed toward a mate or potential mate or toward the Lord. If you find that your love has not been whole-hearted, for the sake of your own soul, do the soul searching required to empty yourself of every distracting item so that you can bring total devotion to God. He will accept no less.
From the Oct/Nov 2008 Truth Magazine