Monday, April 09, 2007

Deuteronomy and the Love of God

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.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:35 AM

    Hi Charlie,
    Loved the word on the
    Word about love. Most folks I speak to don't like the inference that we are only reflections of His Love. Oh well.
    The 'idiom' is found here at site for references.
    ihs Danny & Sally

    [Q] From Aleda and Ian Turnbull: “If someone is the salt of the earth they have admirable qualities and in particular can be relied upon. Why is this when salt added to the earth makes it sterile?”

    [A] The expression is Biblical and comes from Matthew, 5:13. From the King James Bible of 1611: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

    Salt has always been one of the most prized commodities, essential both for life and for preserving food. Roman soldiers were paid an allowance to buy salt, the origin of our salary. A man worth his salt is efficient or capable. To eat salt with someone was to accept his hospitality and a person who did so was bound to look after his host’s interests. The Bible also speaks of a covenant of salt, one of holy and perpetual obligation. Newborn children were anciently rubbed with salt to protect them against evil forces.

    To Jesus, therefore, salt of the earth was a great compliment. To understand his comment fully, though, you have to know a bit about where Jews of his time got their salt. Some came from saltpans on the margins of the Dead Sea, but much was obtained from Mount Sodom (Jebel Usdum in Arabic), a ridge of limestone and rock salt at the south-west corner of the Dead Sea (a pillar of salt here is said to have given rise to the legend of Lot’s wife). This rock salt was the literal salt of the earth. Because the deposit’s outer layer was exposed to the elements, it became contaminated and its salt content depleted by weathering, losing its taste and value, so becoming good for nothing.

    The use of salt to poison the ground is entirely separate.