READ: Deuteronomy 6
BACKGROUND: This little passage in Deuteronomy is one of the most powerful passages in the entire Bible. It’s a section known as the Shema. And in Old Testament times, all of God’s people had the Shema memorized by heart, and they would recite it every morning and every night. Also, many of them would wear the words of the Shema in a bracelet or a headband, and many of them very literally painted the words above the doors to their houses so that they would be reminded to recite them every single time they entered or exited their house.
THINK: This is the passage that most succinctly sums up the entire Bible. The entire point of our existence as human beings. It’s the most important commandment that God gives us in the entire book, and it gives us a picture of why he created us in the first place, why he stepped into human history to save us after we sinned, and what the world is meant to look like! That’s a lot to get out of a few short verses, but let me explain:
Shema – the name for this passage – is the Hebrew word for “hear” or “listen” and it’s the 1st word of verse 4. Shema Israel! Hear this! Listen Up! What’s coming next is important! And so the reason it’s called the Shema is not just cause that’s the 1st word but also because it’s a constant reminder of the importance of the words that follow. Listen up…cause this is big! And what is so big? “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.”
There are 2 major things here that we need to understand:
The LORD is one.
We were created to love Him with everything we’ve got.
This passage is probably better translated “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” but it’s the same idea either way. That God is the only God. And that was kind of an earth-shattering idea to a lot of people in in Old Testament times. Most of the cultures had an entire pantheon of gods – a sun god, a moon god, a rain god, a fertility god, a war god, a love god, and the list goes on and on and on – and so when they heard about the God of Israel it really didn’t even bother them. They just added him right on to their big long list of gods, but in the Shema, the nation of Israel is reminded that God is God alone – that he is one – that there are no other Gods.
So, it was important – in the context of the polytheistic ancient world – for Israel to be reminded of this. But it’s not as important for us today, right? Cause we believe there’s only one deity, we don’t buy into all that mumbo-jumbo about a sun god and a rain god and all kinds of little gods. He’s the only God in our world…or is he? Is he the only God in your world, the only thing to which you’ve devoted yourself and sought fulfillment in, the only thing you’ve loved and pursued with your whole heart, soul, & strength? If we’re honest, most of us have to answer that question “no.” I think it’s pretty easy for every single one of us to take at the things we devote our time and our lives to and see that it’s really easy to let other things take God’s rightful place. But if we do that, we’re settling for something less than what God created us for. He created human beings, in his image, to have a deep, intimate, loving relationship with Him. It’s why he made us, and it’s the only way that we’ll ever find true satisfaction!
And God follows up the most important command in the Bible with the instructions to impress his commandments on our hearts and to our kids, to talk about them on the road and when we lie down and get up and to tie them to our hands and foreheads and to write them on our door-frames and on our gates. So, it’s pretty obvious that this is a big deal to God, right! He doesn’t say, “Make a Post-It note about these and keep in a drawer somewhere” – like I do with a lot of the things my wife tells me – but he says, “Hey, write this stuff everywhere!”
The idea that God is communicating here is actually pretty cool – and it isn’t that we need to literally do all of that stuff. This is what God is saying:
Write it on you heart, your hands, & your head: Your heart. Your hands. Your head. This should be the lens – the thing that defines – your emotions, your thoughts, & your actions. Your feelings and your thoughts and your actions should be influenced by God!
Talk about them when you sit at home & when you go out: Wherever you go, everywhere you are, you should be defined by the love of God. That’s your identity everywhere! Don’t compartmentalize church & house groups & McAllen as the God-places and then school & work & home as the non-God-places. You are defined by who he is and who he created you to be everywhere you go!
Write them on your doorframes and on your gates: You ought to be loving God with all you’ve got – and showing that love to others – at home and in your close intimate relationships (within your doorframe) but also to everybody else out there – to the world that exists outside your gates!
Love God, Love People. Jesus said in Matthew that the whole Law & Prophets depend on this. It’s a radical statement, but he was making something clear here that is reiterated time and time again in the Bible: This is what we were created for! God created human beings for relationship. He created us to have this incredible, complete, sold-out love relationship with him and with one another. That’s why Jesus says that the most important command in the entire Bible is to love God and the 2nd most important command is to love people – and not just love them a little, or be kinda nice to them, but to love them like we love ourselves. Jesus is saying, “Hey, I know you love yourselves. You’re created like that. Love others as much as you love yourself!” That’s huge!
It’s also difficult. But because God loves us – so much that he came & died for us – Because He loves us, we can love him with everything we’ve got, and we can go confidently out into our world and love the people around us, even the ones who are hard to love. Loving God is invisible. It happens in our hearts. It becomes visible when you love others. So loving others is the outward manifestation, the visible expression, the practical demonstration, and therefore the fulfillment of what the Bible is all about – God’s great love for us. It is an opportunity that God is inviting us into to bring Heaven to a broken Earth.
ASK: Do I love God with all my heart and soul and strength, or are there other things in my life that are in his rightful place? What do I need to do to get rid of those? Do I love the people around me the way that God loves them, with the same kind of love he has shown to me?
PRAY: Worship God for his incredible love and grace. Surrender yourself to him today and ask him to help you get rid of anything in your heart that competes for your affections. Ask him to help you love him and love everyone around you with everything you’ve got.