And You Shall Love The Lord  – ואהבת את יהוה

February 18, 2023

When a scribe came to Jesus and asked Him ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’, He answered:

Mark 12:29-30 ‘“…The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment.’

This is a very familiar verse to most Christians and often quoted.

Did you realise that Jesus was quoting the first two verses of the Shema which was an integral part of daily prayer then—and now?

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.’

Jesus taught the scribe (and us) that the second verse of the Shema, is the first and greatest commandment. Out of the 613 commandments in the Torah—this is number one.

Why do you think that Jesus responded to the scribe starting with the words ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!’ rather than straight into the words ‘And you shall love the Lord your God..?’

Knowing Comes Before Loving

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch explains that before you can love God with all your heart, you must first understand whom it is that you are loving. In other words—to love God requires a comprehension of His uniqueness—His oneness.

‘The commandment to love actually lies in the previous verse, ‘Hear O Israel …’ Because the word ‘shema’ (hear) also means ‘comprehend’, the Torah is commanding a person to study, comprehend and reflect upon the oneness of G‑d… and such contemplation by the mind will inevitably result in a feeling of love towards G‑d.’

That makes sense. When couples “fall in love,” their love deepens as they begin to know each other more and more; and this happens naturally when they spend time together talking and listening to one another and experiencing each other.

But what about with the Lord. We can’t see Him and we certainly don’t interact with Him in quite the same way as we do with another human being. Yes we can spend time with Him daily in prayer and occasionally receive a sense of His love and direction for our lives.

But Jesus was stating to his learned friend that learning and studying about God and His commandments is the way that will reveal His true nature to us, which in-turn will lead to us knowing God, and knowing God will in-turn lead us to loving God.

The scribe acknowledged Jesus’ response:

Mark 12:32-33 ‘So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”’

If You Love Me Keep My Commands

Loving God leads to my desire to serve God. And how do I serve Him? Jesus said it simply enough:

John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The apostle John certainly agreed with the Master.

1 John 5:3 ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.’

Do you love the Lord and serve Him by keeping His commandments?

And when you do so, do you do so out of love? Or do you inadvertently serve God out of fear?

Love Not Fear

Rashi taught that the command to love the Lord means to perform His commandments out of love which is preferable to serving Him out of fear.

Rashi rightly taught that if a servant serves his master out of fear, the relationship is actually very fragile—because if the master sets too great a burden upon him, the servant will leave him and go away. On the other hand, if the servant serves his master out of love, he will serve him even under great burden. (Rashi on Deuteronomy 6:5)

Certainly the scribe in our story had already arrived at this truth and so Jesus affirmed to him that his personal spiritual journey was leading Him nearer and nearer to the Kingdom of God.

Mark 12:34 ‘Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”’

The Benchmark Of Love

How do we know how to love God?

We know it through His love for us which is revealed in His Word.

The apostle John said: ‘We love Him because He first loved us.’ (1 John 4:19) God demonstrated His love for us by sending us His Son, whom He loved.

John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’

Jesus in turn demonstrated His love for the Father by living a life of total obedience to Him, even dying on the cross for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 ‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

Jesus is our model for both:

  1. Being loved BY God and
  2. How to love God with all our heart, soul, and might.

Jesus’ love towards God was manifest in the form of perfect submission and resulted in the Father issuing these words:

Matthew 3:17 ‘And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”’

Our love for the Father starts by receiving His Son Jesus as Messiah. This results in God’s forgiveness for our sins and our justification.

We then have the privilege of demonstrating our love for the Father by following Jesus’ example of love for God by living a life of obedience to Him and fulfilling His commandments—or in the words of John the Baptist—‘bearing fruits worthy of our repentance’ (Luke 3:8).

If I truly love God, then I will seek to please Him in all that I do.

This is accomplished by the assistance of the wonderful Holy Spirit, Who guides us into all truth (John 16:13).

Loving God IS the greatest commandment because loving God should be our motivation for keeping all the other commandments.

Therefore the commandment to love God must come first. ‘You shall love the LORD your God.’



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