There really should be a better title than that, I just don’t know how to write one…. it is a challenging question to answer.
The primary, most important commandment in all scripture is generally agreed to be int he following passage.
[Deu 6:4-6 NKJV] 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD [is] one! 5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
In Hebrew it is interesting to note the classic יְהוָ֥ה which isnt a title or the word LORd but the real name…
[Deu 6:4-6 WLC] 4 שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה אֶחָֽד׃ 5 וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃ 6 וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיֹּ֖ום עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ׃
Anyhow… the first part (the “Shema”) is a declaration, and call to submission. Even a simple look at a concordance is helpful on this. It is a call for a response. IT isn’t just a good idea, or a shout out to inform people of something. It is the most assertive, fully qualified attempt to get you to understand the nature of the person giving you directives, and whom you owe a response to.
There is also a lot of discussion about the word one, and what that means. If you want a fun headache, look up ECHAD and watch everyone get into a tizzy….
Verse 5 (in the english translations) explains, directly after a declaration of profound magnitude, that you are to love the person specifically. It isn’t clear whether it means qualitatively, quantitatively, both, or even something more. But from just a simple reading of it it is clearly a purposeful, intentional, deep, and broad context.
The bigger setting for the conversation
If we pull back a bit, there is a serious setup happening just few sentences previous
[Deu 6:1-3 NKJV] 1 “Now this [is] the commandment, [and these are] the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe [them] in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 “that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 “Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe [it], that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you–‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’
It is basically 3 verses, saying, in effect, “This commandment you are about to hear, and the following statutes, are key to the whole promise YHVH wants to give you. Hear them, Hear ALL of them, and submit to them”.
The word for hear is shema, and it carries with it hearing all, and hearing attentively and submissively. It carries with it the idea of attention, consent, agreement, yielding…
to hear (perceive by ear)
to hear of or concerning
to hear (have power to hear)
to hear with attention or interest, listen to
to understand (language)
to hear (of judicial cases)
to listen, give heed
to consent, agree
to grant request
to listen to, yield to
to obey, be obedient
Everything that comes after this must be vitally important. It took 3-4 verses to set up this piece of key information, and without it, you cannot have the promises Yahweh is talking about.
[Deu 6:5 NKJV] 5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Just taking this verse in English, on the surface, there is a lot to consider.
- This is a requirement. You SHALL (or MUST) do this.
- It is about LOVE.
- It is to comprise all of YOUR resource. You do it
The Bad Theology of this is so easy
This isn’t a bash about one faith or another. It is an attempt to define things more accurately, and implement them. In the christian doctrine, love is as much an idea or a feeling as anything. It even gets associated with intangible things such as patience, kindness etc… In reality, those are the outworkings of Love, not the love itself. Unless of course you think loving God is being patient with God? Kind to God? Self Controlled? Gentle?
It is also typically associated with something God does. However in this passage, this is something WE DO. We decide if we wnat to, and then we do it with what really is being expressed here, all of our ability.
This sounds like works! And it is. This sound like legalism…. and I would say in some ways you might be right. No one I know wants to be illegal in their walk with God right? Right?
But what is LOVE?
This is where things get seemingly weird, especially if you are used to a christian doctrinal paradigm. If someone says “I love God”, after first making sure you are talking about the same God (harder to do than you think), the question might simply be “How?”. Stop and think here what your answer is. How do you “Love God”? What do yu think it even is? As I mentioned previously, it isnt 1 Corinthians 13ing at God.
Love is far more about action than modern evangelicals feel comfortable with. It really is as much a verb as an adjective. Especially to Hebrew thought. It is closely tied together with Faith in that they are matter of the Heart, yet only get demonstrated through actions.
You can SAY you love your Wife or your Husband, but if you dont DO anything about it, you really dont.
Loving God is determined by God. God has a standard set, in this passage of scripture, in several other passages, and even in the “New” testament. Jesus says this directly
[Jhn 14:15 NKJV] 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
What commandments is Yeshua talking about? He didnt have a bible. And when he did get to read or hear it, it was at best the “Old” testament, quite possibly only certain pieces of it. A Torah scroll is expensive, even more so then. And not everyone could read. Scribes were very fortunate. They got to read AND study scriptures.
Yeshua was talking about the Torah. The apostolic writers get a disservice by beings translated to say “the Law”. They are the teachings of YHVH to the Hebrew people. Not the Jews, but the WHOLE nation. And these were 1st person, not teachings about what Yahweh said, but what Yahweh said.
Loving God = Keeping God’s Commandments
To go even deeper, lets use Jesus at his own words.
[Mat 5:17-20 NKJV] 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches [them], he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
If there is still a heaven and an earth, this is still in force.
The Vicious Circle
But it is now the Law of Love! We walk in Love! We “Love God and Love one another”.
Again.. how? God says Love is obeying. IF you love God, you will obey what God commands. God did say “Love your neighbor as yourself”. But when it comes to loving God, it is obeying God.
So someone says “Im fulfilling the Law by love” and the questions is “How do you know what you are doing is actually LOVE?”. Is it a feeling? Is it an idea? Is it charismatic experience or signs and wonders? Is it proper theology and doctrine?
Can you prove it? Because one day, God will prove it:
[Mat 7:22-23 NKJV] 22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
That word lawless is a real key. In greek it is anomia, the negative of nomia. Nomia is from nomos, which meand laws or commands. In Hebrew it is Torah. In the Greek Septuagint (the greek “Old Testament”) Nomos is the word used for the Hebrew word Torah: commands, laws etc…
If you PRACTICE not keeping Gods commands, God will prove to you you dont love God.
Deeper down the Rabbit Hole
At this point, another real crisis happens. It is all about doing things. Figuring out calendars, keeping feast days, keeping sabbath etc… YOu find a lot of the Torah doesnt even apply to you, and the parts that do are sometimes hard to adapt to, others are wonderful like justifying taking holidays off int he middle of the week!
But it easily descends into a set of outward behaviors. The behavior themselves become crucial. And now it becomes easy to differentiate between those who do it, and not (at least in your mind). Even deeper who does it right nor not.
Much of christian rhetoric talks about the New Testament being about “Grace”. Or even about “The heart”, as in “The letter of the law vs the spirit of it”. The thoughts or actions at the expense of the actions themselves.
However, go back to the original verse… it talks about Heart. Whole Heart. In fact, when you realize this, the “Old Testament” is so full of heart oriented obedience it isnt sever-able.
Yah wasnt looking for an outward obedience, even from the beginning. God was looking for Heart oriented obedience.
It is EVERYWHERE.
So assuming I havent lost you yet, and you even maybe agree with me that Love is Obedience, it becomes all the more clear that Obedience isnt what God wants. God wants a HEART CENTERED obedience. Willful, Intentional, Whole HEARTED obedience to Gods directives. Whether they are about doing something (like caring for widows, resting on Sabbath etc..) or not doing something (stealing ,cheating, lying etc…).
In fact, the famous “Sermon on the Mount” by Yeshua had always been to me about this incredible transition from the “letter” of the “law”, to the “heart” of it. Until I realized that all he was doing was reminding them that originally, the commandments were about the heart and had turned into a rabbinic, doctrinal driven version based on doing it all right on the outside. Jesus wasnt making something new up, Jesus was calling for the depth Yahweh had asked for. It isnt enough to jsut not kill your neighbor. The obedience to not murdering God looks for was not in the actions, but in the HEART.
Breaking Torah commands is a HEART issue first. Readjust this little piece with this idea in mind….
[Mat 5:20-22 NKJV] 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
The Promise for the Heart
Now this is hard territory. This idea of heart felt obedience was there all along. Our own wickedness jsut turned it into an outward thing so we didnt have to come to grips with the real problem. We separated obedience in action, from heart posture. But they wer never separate to God. In fact, the amazing thing is, Torah shows us our hearts, and explains to us what God is like, what God expects, and when we miss it. But Torah was never designed to fix the problem itself. In and of itself, it isnt the power to change your heart. You can become so good at behavior modification, you can get to the level of obedience to the law on an action level. And once you trust in your ability to perform the do and do nots, it becomes very hard to believe you missed something.
But way before Yeshua, back back into the Torah, and then later the prophets, we see the hints of the solution. Moses calls it “circumcision of the heart”. Not just the cutting of the outside, but then inside. Later on it gets associated with God working on and in us. We start hearing about the Spirit of Yah doing things inside us, where we begin to desire to obey from within. We WANT to find ways to obey.
This promise was talked about by Jesus, and the apostolic writers too. It doesnt do away with the commands, it fills them up full. It takes over where the Torah seems to stop. Torah shows us God, and Gods heart. The Spirit of Yah births us anew inside. It starts a process of conversion the ends up with a new life.
This is the HEART PART. Now righteousness isnt JUST a behavior coming from an outside source of direction (i.e. the letter), but the underlying heart of the matter out to the behavior.
This is salvation. This is Yahweh being the Master of your Life. It is repentance, by turning TO God, and Gods own Spirit changing you inside. The Spirit that made the Torah, is the Torah inside you.
This is the difference between believing in God, and repentance. It says in the book of James that demons believe God is one, but they dont do anything to change themselves about it. If we dont repent, we are just like them. But once we do…. the very life of God becomes the difference.
So many “Old Testament” verse mean so much more, and make so much more sense to me now. And Im just catching up with these ideas. Nothing was done away with like so many believe. The renewing of the covenant is now the delivery of the life of God to the inside of us so that we may LITERALLY obey with our whole heart!
I dnt think I have even come close to a good explanation of this concept and what it mean to me. Late night stumbling through writing in crazy circles trying to explain something internal doesnt do it justice. I can only hope something in this will spark soem light on to a trail and you will run down it as fast as you can! Until then, I want to pursue joy filled, heart felt, obedience. Not because I have to obey, but because I get to, and want to. Because it is life itself fromt he inside.
[Deu 6:24-25 NKJV] 24 ‘And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as [it is] this day. 25 ‘Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.’