Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV)
One day as Jesus was reasoning with the Jewish leaders a scribe asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:29-30 ESV)
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which in Jewish tradition is known as the Shema. Reciting the Shema is a reminder that God is the true God and a pledge to love him whole-heartedly. The words of the Shema are written on a parchment called a mezuzah, placed in a container and affixed to the doorposts of a house. As the Jewish worshiper passes through the doorway they are to touch the mezuzah, then kiss the fingers of the hand that touched it. This is done as an expression of love for God and his word.
The first and greatest commandment lies at the very heart of Godward worship. If we do not recognize God as the only absolute God and fail to be consumed (mind, will and emotions) with love for him, our hearts will be divided and our worship void of substance.
Speaking of the Pharisees and scribes Jesus quotes Isaiah saying, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:8-9 ESV) These Jewish leaders had a form of godliness but loved the praise of men (Matthew 23:1-7). Their allegiances were divided which, even though they recited the Shema, disqualified them from observing the most important commandment.
To love the Lord with all your heart means that you have no other gods before him (Deuteronomy 5:7); your heart is not divided in its loyalties; you have no greater love interests. To love the Lord with all your soul is to love him with every breath or with the very center of your personality. To love the Lord with all your strength (might) means to love him vehemently. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word vehement is characterized by forcefulness of expression or intensity of emotion, passion, or conviction.
There are times in our lives when our hearts seem to get fragmented. Sometimes life’s circumstances draws our attention away from what is most important; we lose focus. It could be that at times our hearts become divided between career, hobbies, family or friends and our commitment to love God above all.
King David prayed, Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11 ESV) In part David asked God to make his heart undivided in showing reverence to God’s position. His prayer was a plea to be reminded that God is God and besides him there is no other (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39).
At times we too need to have our hearts reminded of what is most important. God is one and so our hearts should be one, undivided in our allegiance and love for him.
Do you have a vehement love for God? Do you have an undivided heart?
Scriptures for meditation:
Exodus 3:20; 34:14