I recently finished reading the book of Deuteronomy, and I must admit that it is one of my favorite Old Testament books. The reason I love it so much is that it succinctly summarizes and makes plain the purpose of the entire Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). And I suppose that since it’s in the form of a sermon it’s a bit easier to read than Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
Perhaps the best known passage from the book is Deuteronomy 6:4-5. For Jews, this passage has been prominent for many millennia, but for us gentiles it rose to prominence on the lips of Jesus. “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, 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 12:28-30).
Jesus was not being original here. This was the answer that any Jew worth their salt (I have no idea what that idiom means!) would have given, primarily because this command is found, not just in chapter six, but all throughout the book of Deuteronomy—eight times, in fact. Deuteronomy makes crystal clear that the intent of the Pentateuch is to teach the people of God to love the Lord their God with all that’s in them.
And though in the New Testament era Jews and gentiles alike establish their right standing before God by faith in Christ rather than works of the law, the aim of placing our faith in Christ is just the same as keeping the law—to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. This is why Jesus himself cited this command as preeminent, and why Paul made this stunning statement at the end of 1 Corinthians: "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (16:22). Wow, that’s strong language! In fact, the Greek word for “accursed” is the same one used in the Old Testament to denote cities that were “devoted to destruction,” meaning they were to be wiped off the face of the earth. Indeed, loving God with all that’s in us, or not, is very serious business. It is the most serious business in all of life.
So, over the next several days I plan to post some thoughts about what it means to love God with all that’s in us. I’m going to stick pretty closely to Deuteronomy on this one, though I may branch out from time to time. Please pray for me as I study these things and please feel free to give your feedback.