In the previous article, we learned the Bible says that human beings are wonderfully made by God. Today’s article focuses on how we should ‘love God.’
Get on your favorite mobile device or computer, go to a Bible study site like biblegateway.com, search for the phrase “love the Lord your God” and count the number of times that phrase appears in the Bible (The very popular New International Version says “love the Lord your God” appears 13 times in the scriptures. The New Living Translation says this phrase appears 10 times in the Bible.)
One of the principles you learn when searching the Bible for answers is “if God says it more than a few times to the people, it must be important to God and therefore important to us.”
The first appearance of “love the Lord your God” is in the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the Bible. Moses has led the Jews out of captivity in Egypt and has received the commandments and laws of God. The 5th chapter is where the Ten Commandments are recorded in Deuteronomy and in the 6th chapter we find Moses using the familiar phrase “love the Lord your God.” He says: “(4) Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. (5) And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (6) And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, New Living Translation)
Wait a second! Isn’t “love” an emotion? Actually, it is more than an emotion. It is also a commitment. God has set some parameters for us and they include the world “all.”
“All your heart” is the emotional part you are looking for. “All your soul” had two meanings in Aramaic and Hebrew, which were the common languages in ancient times. One definition says “all your soul” is a reference to “your inner most being” or “all that is within you.” The other definition says “all your soul” means you must be willing to “love God to death”, which implies a sacrificial love.
If “all your heart” and “all your soul” are measured as inward traits of love, then “all your strength” must be an outward display of our love of God. And yet it is only mentioned once (in Deuteronomy 6:5) in the Old Testament and does not appear again until we read the gospels of Mark and Luke in the New Testament portion of the Bible.
It is Jesus who reaffirms the importance of loving God with all your strength in one of many of his debates with the religious leaders of Israel. Mark 12:28-30 tells us: “(28) One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ (29) Jesus replied,’The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. (30) And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.’ ”
Apparently, the teacher of religious law was so impressed that he agreed with Jesus and replied by repeating these words to all who were listening to the discussion. This action could also be considered an offering to God, because both Jesus and the teacher were verbally expressing their love of God as Moses had instructed the Jews in Deuteronomy 6.
But Jesus took it a step further. Loving God with “all your strength” meant literally taking on all the ills, evils and sins of mankind and defeating them in one sacrificial act at the cross. We’ll cover this aspect of love in the next article.
May Jesus Christ, who loved God and us so much that He died and rose again so we can live, cover you with peace on the eve of Thanksgiving.