Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: 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.
This is the Shema, called that from the first word in Hebrew, and there is no more sacred text in all of Judaism. As the NIV indicates with footnotes, all sorts of word arrangements are possible legitimate translations of the initial statement. It is both a statement of monotheism and a restatement of the first commandment, out of the ten given at Sinai and restated in the chapter before this. Theoretical monotheism does someone no good until the Creator becomes their God, to the exclusion of all other allegiances. That is followed with the appropriate response to knowing your Creator: loving Him with all you are. We spend our entire lives discovering just what that looks like, because that love is to be renewed daily and not allowed to go stale. It is entirely appropriate that immediately after saying this, Moses starts talking about God’s commandments. We are rightly wary of legalism, but Jesus made it very clear that “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) It means nothing to protest love for God if we are unwilling to do what He has told us. This is where so many of us trip up. We say we love God, and may honestly believe we do, but we love Him like we would love a puppy, or perhaps even a hamburger. In other words, we love Him for how He makes us feel, for how He meets our needs, rather than for what and who He is, in full obedience. The subject of idolatry has come up several times in recent days, and it remains true that anything we allow to take priority over obedience to God has become an idol to us. That is clearly in violation of what Moses says here. We need to examine our hearts to be sure we can proclaim the Shema in all honesty.
I’m preaching to myself here. I have curiosity about everything, which makes everything a potential distraction from wholehearted obedience to God. It’s not that curiosity is bad, it’s just that God must have absolute priority and authority in my life. We all tend to dislike hypocrisy in others, but then fail to recognize our own. I am a prime target for James’ famous words: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) My love for God is only as valid and as deep as my obedience to Him.
Father, thank You for this reminder. As John said, help me “not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) May I be the obedient, loving child that You desire, delighting in You so that You may delight in me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!