“Love’s Covenant” – Deuteronomy 6:1-9

July 2nd, 2017

Dt 6:1-9

“Love’s Covenant”

Aux Text: 1 John 4:7-21

Call to Worship: Shema

 

Service Orientation: The Shema is God’s covenant with mankind which stipulated that we love and obey Him.  We have failed miserably.  Jesus came to do what we were incapable of doing.  Recognizing the work of Jesus motivates us to greater love and obedience.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  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. — Deuteronomy 6:4-5

 

Background Information:

  • These verses constitute the core statement of biblical faith. They are known in traditional Judaism as “the Shema,” a transliteration of the first Hebrew word of verse 4, Hear.  In this context, the command to hear implies “to heed, to listen closely for the purposes of obedience.”  The heart of biblical religion is a determination to know what God has said and to conform one’s beliefs and behavior accordingly.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 85)
  • The Shema was the touchstone for Israel’s faith and life, the plumb line by which their relationship to the Lord of history was constantly being measured. For this reason later Judaism set these words to be recited by every Jew each morning and evening.  This was not a legalistic or merely pious gesture.  It was a true apprehension that those who live under the rule of the Lord of Israel are to set their lives and shape their daily conduct and their interior direction by these most important and primary words.  The struggle of faith was and is a constant effort to discover afresh in each situation the experience of the confession that is made in the Shema and the requirements of the demand imposed by it.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 97-8)
  • The nuances of the Hebrew word for “fear” are obscured in many people’s minds. That being afraid is part of the meaning can be seen in many places–the experience of the Israelites at Horeb (Sinai) with its loud thunder, lightning flashes, earthquake, and darkness being one illustration.  The derived sensation of standing in awe of God and then of holding him in utmost reverence and respect is, however, essential to the understanding of “fearing God” especially in Deuteronomy.  In the wisdom literature the “fear of the LORD” becomes a distinctive expression for the totality of right and devout relationship to God.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 63)
  • They were not merely spectators at a divine “show,” but the recipients of divine revelation in words. They were to hear the truth and to respond to it.  Even at a formal level, therefore, these two verses expose the falseness of the view that religious truth and revelation are “personal, not propositional”–i.e., the view that God does not reveal timeless truths propositionally, but simply acts in love and leaves to each individual his or her own interpretative conclusions as we respond in personal relationship to him and one another.  Such reductionist views of revelation ignore the reality that truth in human experience is both propositional and personal and deny the biblical emphasis on both.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 95)
  • (v. 4) Because there is no verb in the Hebrew in this verse, it can be translated in many different ways, as the footnotes to most English Bibles indicate. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 258)
  • (v. 5) Deuteronomy assumes that Yahweh’s words will find their way into the human heart (30:14), which is bedrock OT wisdom teaching (Ps 119:10-11, 34-36; Prv 3:1-3; 4:4, 21; 6:21; 7:3; McKay 1972, 429). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 312)
  • (v. 5) Though today we see the heart as the seat of emotions, in Biblical times “heart” (lebab) referred to what we today would call the mind. Chris Wright says, “The heart was the organ of the will.  It was where you made decisions and choices.”  The “soul” (nephesh) referred to “the inner person, you as you know yourself to be.”  Wright explains that the phrase “with all your strength,” translated literally, means “with your very muchness.”  As Wright says, “There are no limits on loving God.  You can never say you have loved him enough.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 259)
  • (v. 8) There is some question among scholars as to whether these verses were intended to be followed literally or metaphorically. I believe that they were to be used literally because this type of thing was regularly practiced in the ancient Near East at that time.  Israel’s neighbors used it in a superstitious way, just like people use good luck charms and talismans today.  But in the Bible it is used as a reminder of covenant identity and the covenant responsibility to obey God’s Word.  It is interesting how the Bible invests holy meanings to practices that pagans used for their religious rituals, and redeems them for God’s glory.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 268)
  • (v. 8) What kind of object Moses intends to be bound on the hands we cannot know–nor even if he intends this injunction to be taken literally. If we associate this act with the inscription of the divine name on one’s hand (cf. Dt 5:11; Isa 44:5), this action signifies more than a tattoo or brand on the hand.  The binding concretizes the declaration of allegiance and ownership by Yahweh as declared orally in the Shema.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 185)
  • (v. 8ff) While it is not certain that the instructions of verses 8ff. were originally meant to be taken literally, as Jewish people take them, the instructions do seem too detailed and elaborate to be purely metaphorical. In any case, the real point of the instruction was not physical but symbolic:  God’s laws are meant to affect both the person and his home, day in, day out.  The setting for these famous verses is important; this passage is part of the long preface to the detailed law code which begins in chapter 12, and it seeks to bring home to the reader the importance of reading, learning, obeying and applying not only the Ten Commandments of chapter 5, but all the lesser rulings of later chapters.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 47)
  • (v. 8) A metaphorical reading of v. 8, therefore, would be true to the spirit of the book. Yet a literal interpretation of v. 8 is made possible by v. 9, which would be hard to take in a metaphorical sense (cf. S. R. Driver 1895, 92-3).  And Judaism took the command literally, as we know from the discovery around the Dead Sea or phylacteries containing biblical texts.  It is impossible to decide this question satisfactorily.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 142)
  • (v. 8) When this injunction was taken literally (b. Menah 43b), which was at least by the late Second Temple period (2nd cent. B.C. Let. Aris. §159; Josephus Ant. 4.213), a small leather capsule containing parchments on which scriptural passages were written was to be worn on the left arm (i.e., the hand) at specified times. Attachment was by leather straps. The scriptural passages were Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Ex 13:1-10, and 11-16.  This capsule, and the one worn on the forehead, are called tefillin (Aramaic) in the Targums; in Greek they were called “phylacteries” (Mt 23:5), which Jews consider an ill-advised equivalent, since this term means “safeguards, amulets,” something the tefillin were not meant to be.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 314)
  • (v. 8) Binding Yahweh’s words on the hand was to be a “sign,” a reminder to the wearer of Yahweh’s words and a witness to others of the God Jewish people worshiped. Jesus censured the Pharisees for “broad phylacteries” that were ostentatious (Mt 23:5).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 314)
  • (v. 9) The Scriptures were Dt 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. Placement of the mezuzah was to be on the upper right-hand portion of the doorpost or gate. The custom may have been Egyptian, taken over and adapted by the Israelites.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 315)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is the significance of the Shema?

 

Answer:  The Shema reminds us that God, the “I AM”, Who is “One”, covenanted to love, prosper and protect us if we loved and obeyed Him.  But, we have failed miserably.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Covenant

 

Covenant = “come to terms”, “bond”, “partnership”, “fetter”, “to agree”, “pledge”, “promise”, “to put together”, to eat bread with”, “to keep the community of a meal with.” TDNT & Zonddrvan + International

 

Love needs a framework of binding obligation to make it fully what it should be.  A covenant relationship is not just intimate despite being legal.  It is a relationship that is more intimate because it is legal.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 88)

 

What are the conditions of God’s covenant with us?:

I-  We fear and love God with all our heart, soul and strength when we obey His commands:  Which is love. (Dt. 6:1-3, 5 see also: Micah 6:8; Mt 22:37-40; Mk 12:28-34; Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14; Rom 13:8-10; Cor 13; Gal 5:14, 22-23; 1 Jn chps 3 & 4)

 

The command to love the LORD ‘with all your heart, all your being, all your strength’ is one of the characteristic ideas of Deuteronomy (cf. 4:29; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:4; 19:9; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10, 16, 20; cf. Josh 22:5; 23:11, 14).  Love of Yahweh as covenant loyalty is fleshed out in Deuteronomy in a specific way, namely as gratitude to him for his special love towards and deliverance of them (6:10-11, 21-23; 10:12, 15).  The gratitude is to be expressed in obedience to his commands (6:6-9; 10:12-13; 11:1), based in deep and wholehearted commitment.  The phrase “all your heart” might possibly be rendered “all your mind.”  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 142)

 

Loving God should be “over the top!”  Such commitment characterized Josiah in his reforming zeal after the discovery of the book of the Law of the LORD.  Josiah alone in the Deuteronomistic History is credited with explicitly measuring up to the second verse of the Shema (2 Kgs 23:25).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 99)

 

We can regard the command to love God with our whole being as actually a command for us to be fully human, to be what we are made to be.  It is like a command to someone who loves the beach to take a few days off to rest by the beach in order to recover from exhaustion.  Or it is like a command to a hungry person to eat a delicious meal.  Once we have experienced God’s love and know what a wonderful thing it is, a command to total love would not be viewed as a burdensome obligation.  It would be viewed as an invitation to self-actualization–to freedom, joy, and finding ourselves.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 260)

 

Let us learn, therefore, if we would set ourselves about keeping the Law, that we must begin with the fear of God, which is hence called the “beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10).  But, since God has no pleasure in extorted and forced obedience, love is immediately added.  And this deserves to be well weighed, that whereas there is nothing pleasanter than to love God, still it always occupies the first place in all His service.  Surely he must be more than iron-hearted who is not attracted by such kindness; since, for no other cause, does He invite and exhort us to love Him, than because He loveth us; nay, He has already prevented us with His love, as is said in 1 Jn 4:10.  Meanwhile, we may at the same time gather, that nothing is pleasing to God which is offered “grudgingly or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 193)

 

What is particularly important about Deuteronomy’s “love” is that it can be commanded, which, in the case of Israel’s love for God, brings loyalty and obedience into the picture (Frankena 1965; 140-1; Weinfeld 1972, 333 no. 4).  Love may well be a spontaneous inner passion, but it may not be, and if it is not, it must be sought after and acquired.  Israel is enjoined to love the sojourner (10:19), which may or may not come naturally.  Jesus understood this characteristic of love when he called the Shema the “great (and first) commandment” (Mt 22:37-38; Mk 12:29-30; Lk 10:27).  In the Gospel of John he tells his disciples:  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12; repeated in v. 17).  And in Jn 15:10 Jesus says that abiding in his love means keeping his commandments.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 312)

 

The end of the giving of the Law is obedience.  Today people are not accustomed to taking the rules and the like seriously enough to obey them fully.  Individuals respect the holy book of their religion and believe that what it says is true.  They will fight to ensure that it is revered.  But that is because of their commitment to their tradition that shapes their identity, not because of their desire to obey all that is taught in the holy book.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 255)

 

People have become attracted by the power of God to meet their need and so become Christians.  But they have not understood that becoming a Christian involves obeying the Bible.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 255)

 

Dt 6:6 is part of a strong stream of OT teaching that calls for the internalizing of the law in the heart, i.e., at the center of a person’s mind, will, and character (cf. 4:9; 10:16; 11:18; Jer 4:4; 31:33; Ez 18:31; 36:26f.).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 100)

 

Christian readers of 6:8-9 may be tempted to dismiss the Jewish use of tefillin (phylacteries) and mezuzot (scrolls inscribed with these verses, placed in cases, and fixed on doorposts) as unnecessary literalism.  However, the question is whether we are any more serious or successful in flavoring the whole of life with conscious attention to the law of God (v. 7, which is not at all “symbolic”) as a personal, familial, and social strategy for living out our commitment to loving God totally.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 100)

 

A key aspect of living under the absoluteness of God’s Word is having the fear of the Lord.  In 6:2 Moses describes the result of his giving the laws and the people obeying them: “. . . that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long” (6:2).  Keeping the commandments is an expression of fearing the Lord.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 256)

 

Fear is an emotion, a gut feeling, caused by objective truths that are too obvious to ignore.  The objective truth of the sight of an unchained tiger close to you will spark a gut feeling that will stimulate immediate action to get to a safe place.  So in the Bible objective truths cause subjective feelings that motivate action.  It is not a question of either subjective or objective; rather it is a question of both the objective and the subjective.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 256)

 

Fear may not be the noblest motive for obedience, but it is a wise motive.  Wise people avoid dangerous situations that are certain to harm them.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 256)

 

What is meant in all these passages (Mt 22:37-40 and others) is that man should love God with all the “faculties” with which God has endowed him.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 809)

 

There is no question here of the priority of love over law–i.e., one system over another–but of the priority of love within the law.  These two commandments are the greatest because all Scripture “hangs” on them; i.e., nothing in Scripture can cohere or be truly obeyed unless these two are observed.  The entire biblical revelation demands heart religion marked by total allegiance to God, loving him and loving one’s neighbor.  Without these two commandments the Bible is sterile.  This pericope prepares the way for the denunciations of 23:1-36 and conforms fully to Jesus’ teaching elsewhere.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 465)

 

You were not created to be a law follower.  You were created to love and the Law is simply a guide or a rule to assist you to know how to love and how to define love. — Pastor Keith

 

Love is the grand secret of true obedience to God.  When we feel towards him as children feel towards a dear father, we shall delight to do his will; we shall not find his commandments grievous, or work for him like slaves under fear of the leash; we shall take pleasure in trying to keep his laws, and mourn when we transgress them.  No one works so well as those who work for love:  the fear of punishment or the desire of reward are principles of far less power.  They do the will of God best who do it from the heart.  Would we train children right?  Let us teach them to love God.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 211)

 

If people loved perfectly there would be no need for law, because the person who loves others will never do them harm.  In the same way, the believer who loves God with all his being will never take His name in vain, will never worship idols, and will never fail to obey, worship, honor, and glorify Him as Lord.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 342)

 

The comprehensive nature of the love which these two texts (Dt 6 & Lev 19) demand makes them eminently suitable for the role of summarizing the law, as the Pharisaic lawyer has asked.  Together they cover the two main foci of human responsibility under God.  They summarize not only the law (which was the question asked) but also the prophets, since the whole scriptural revelation is understood to witness to the same divine will.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 847)

 

The two texts chosen by Jesus are together sufficiently strong to bear the weight of the whole OT.  This does not mean, as some modern ethicists have argued, that “all you need is love,” so that one can dispense with the ethical rules set out in the Torah.  It is rather to say that those rules find their true role in working out the practical implications of the love for God and neighbor on which they are based.  Far from making the law irrelevant, therefore, love thus becomes “the primary hermeneutical principle for interpreting and applying the law.”  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 847) (red bold emphasis — Pastor Keith)

 

The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him.  That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Ph 18:1-3), trusting in God’s divine power (Ps 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Ps 63:1-8), loving God’s law (Ps 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Ps 69:9), loving what God loves (Ps 119:72, 97, 103), loving whom God loves (1 Jn 5:1), hating what God hates (Ps 97:10), grieving over sin (Mt 26:75), rejecting the world (1 Jn 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Tm 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (Jn 14:21).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 340)

 

The “heart” in the OT is actually the seat of the intellect, will, and intentions.  The “soul” is the entire inner self with all its emotions, desires, and personal characteristics that make each human unique.  “Strength” actually translates a word that normally means “greatly” or “exceedingly.”  One might thus render the entire verse, “Love the Lord your God with total commitment (heart), with your total self (soul), to total excess.”  Loving God should be “over the top!”  (C.J.H. Wright).  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 80-1)

 

God’s command to love him demands a single-minded love, a heart focused and centered on him alone as God.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 456)

 

II-  We fear and love God with all our heart, soul and strength when it is obvious to us that God is oneComprehensively.  Our love for Him should be One:  a seamless unity. (Dt. 6:4 see also: Mt 22:37-40; Mk 12:29-32; 1 Cor 8:1-6; Gal 3:20; Eph 4:4-6; Jam 2:19)

 

–   OT is one with the NT (Ps 110:4; Mal 3:6; Heb 7:21; Jam 1:17)

–   Beginning is One with the End (Rv 21:6; 22:13)

–   Not your and mine but His (One) (1 Chr 29:13-14)

–   Faith and works is One (Bk of James)

–   Rich or poor is all One in the plan of God (Job 34:19; Prv 22:2; Jam 2:5-6)

–   Freewill and sovereignty is all One in the mind of God

–   Life is one:  not spiritual and physical (1 Cor 6)

–   The Source and object of our love is One

–   All Truth is His truth – One

 

That God is one is most clearly expressed in passages like Dt 6:4.  Because God is one, the people of Israel were expected to worship him with all their heart (v. 5).  Moreover, because God is one, the universe is truly one.  All being a unity, conforms to the will of its Creator.  Since everything, including the human, has a common origin and one Lord, it is altogether fitting, indeed imperative, that believers unite.  (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Second Edition, 1138)

 

Israel did not worship a pantheon of gods; their God was one, undivided.  Because of that, God wanted them to give him undivided loyalty.  The Baals of Canaan were manmade pictures of the various forces of nature, but Israel’s God was one.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 70)

 

The Source and End of all things is One.  “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, one Lord” (Dt 6:4).  (Thomas C. Oden, The Living God, 56)

 

There is nothing simpler than God, because God unifies all things (Augustine, CG XI. 10, NPNF 1 II, p. 210; Anselm, Monologium XVII, 66 ff.; Julian of Norwich, SGL, 229 f., 264 f.; Wesley, “Unity of the Divine Being,” WJW VII, 264-73).  (Thomas C. Oden, The Living God, 56)

 

All attributes of this incomparable One are interfused and joined together in the one indivisible divine essence in a way that transcends partial human perception (Novatian, On Trin. I-III, ANF V, 611-4).  (Thomas C. Oden, The Living God, 58)

 

The essence of God is simply to exist in the way that only God can exist (Athanasius, Defense of Nicaea, chaps. 22 f., NPNF 2 IV, 164 ff.; Tho. Aq., ST I Q3, I, 14 f.).  In a sense, nothing is less complicated than this One, who simply is.  There is no “has been” or “will be” for God, for whom all temporal events are simultaneously experienced.  Whatever God has been, God is eternally.  Whatever God can be, God is eternally (Augustine, Conf. VIII.10 ff., LCC VII, 146 ff.; CG VIII.6, XI.10, NPNF 1 II, 148 f., 210 f.).  And in whatever distinctions human imagination might apply to God, God remains one through and beyond such distinctions (Athanasius, Ag. The Heathen 38, 39, NPNF 2 IV, 24, 25).  (Thomas C. Oden, The Living God, 58)

 

Dt 6:7b says that the Scriptures should be the constant topic of conversation among the faithful in their day-to-day lives:  “You. . . shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  The picture we have is of constant input into the lives of children.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 265)

 

They are then told to talk about the Law “when you lie down, and when you rise.”  They are to think about God at the start and the end of the day.  That will help us to be godly all through the day.  By doing so we affirm that all of life is under God’s lordship and that God is with us.  Therefore we do not need to fear because God will look after us.  We often disobey because we lose our trust in God to see us through a situation.  The messages of the world overcome the influence of the Word of God.  The best way to counteract this is to constantly be exposed to the Word.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 266)

 

The instruction from the parents to the children was not to be a “lesson,” but a continual way of life.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 119)

 

Moses concludes this call for public declarations of covenant commitment with a command to write these words on the doorposts of their houses and on their gates (v. 9).  In so doing Israelites will remind themselves that their primary allegiance is to Yahweh whenever they leave from or return to their homes, and that love for Yahweh must govern all activities inside and outside the house.  Furthermore, it will declare to guests and all who pass by that in this household Yahweh is not only the unseen guests but also the supreme head.  The inscription on the gates extends this commitment to the entire community, reminding citizens and visitors alike of Yahweh’s rule over the town and the nation as a whole.  Since city gates also functioned as courthouses, these inscriptions will also remind those participating in legal or administrative proceedings that all must be done in honor and on behalf of the divine ruler.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 186)

 

Love to God must needs be undivided.  God is one and all; man is one and finite.  To love such an object with half a heart is not to love.  True, our weakness leads astray, but the only real love corresponding to the natures of the lover and the loved is whole-hearted, whole-souled, whole-minded.  It must be “all in all, or not at all.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 137)

 

Love to God will expel love to the world; love to the world will deaden the soul’s love to God.  “No man can serve two masters”:  it is impossible to love God and the world, to serve him and mammon.  Here is a most fertile cause of declension in Divine love; guard against it as you would fortify yourself against your greatest foe.  It is a vortex that has engulfed millions of souls; multitudes of professing Christians have been drawn into its eddy, and have gone down into its gulf.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 56)

 

We need to further explore the power of human love to feed our divine love.  Rather than seeing marriage as a cosmic competitor with heaven, we can embrace it as a school of faith.  Maximus the confessor (580-662) observed that the love we have for God and the love we have for others are not two distinct loves, but “two aspects of a single total love.”  Jesus suggested the same thing, when in response to a question about the “greatest” commandment he declared that there is not just one, but two–not only must we love God, but also our neighbors.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 267)

 

Israel needed to hear, first of all, that the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  This rendering is one of several possible translations of this text.  Another is, “The Lord our God is one (Lord).”  Still another option is, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.”  All these and a few others are permissible grammatically, and in the end all point in the same direction–to the uniqueness and supremacy of Yahweh, God of Israel.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 85)

 

While the primary assertion of v. 4 is that there is only one true God, it is also asserted that this true God is Israel’s God.  The Israelites should acknowledge no other god.  The Lord, Israel’s God, cannot be known or acknowledged in many forms like the Canaanite Baals could.  There is no Lord of Sinai differentiated from a Lord of Mount Nebo or a Lord of Beersheba differentiated from a Lord of Reuben.  Neither can the Lord be identified with any heathen god syncretistically.  There is only one Lord, and he alone is God.  Furthermore, he is Israel’s God, and they have entered into a covenant-treaty with him.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 64)

 

The image of the church as the bride of Christ likewise argues for unity among believers.  From the very beginning, marriage was intended to be monogamous:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gn 2:24).  There is no suggestion here of anything other than one man and one woman.  Jesus quotes this verse in arguing for the permanence of marriage (Mt 19:5), and Paul quotes it in a passage that compares the marital relationship to the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph 5:31).  If the church is the bride of Christ, it must be one body, not many.  (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Second Edition, 1138-9)

 

Emerson on maturity:  “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity.  But I would give everything I own for simplicity on the other side of complexity.

 

Since God is one, not composed of parts, God is completely, not partially, present in all of God’s activities (Clement of Alex., Strom. V.12, ANF II, 464; Hilary, On Trin. I.6, NPNF 2 IX, 41 ff.; Tho. Aq., ST I Q3, I, 14 ff.).  The triune teaching, to be discussed later, strongly affirms the unity of God, for God is “not three gods,” but Three-in-One (Gregory of Nyssa, On “Not Three Gods,” NPNF2 V, 331-6), and indivisible, hence simple.  (Thomas C. Oden, The Living God, 57)

 

Anything short of total loyalty would bring in things that eat into our love relationship with God and spoil it.  God is Lord of the universe.  He made everything there is for his glory.  So if there is anything in life that we do not surrender to God’s will, we violate the true nature of that thing.  Such an action is destined to result in our being unfulfilled.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 260)

 

The idea here would be the same as when we say of a particular individual, “There is only one John.”  We imply he is not two-faced or inconsistent; you can rely on John to be the same whatever happens.  Likewise, to say “Yahweh is one” is to affirm unchangeableness and consistency.  There is no divine schizophrenia.  The harmony of God’s purpose for the world and its people is grounded in the ultimate unity of God’s own being.  On this understanding, the emphasis lies on Yahweh’s integrity.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 96)

 

Moses’ words in verses 7-9 were probably meant in a figurative way; parents were to talk about their relationship with their Savior God as they went about their day-to-day lives.  Many later Jews, however, took these verses literally.  Jewish males, thirteen and older, tie phylacteries on to their foreheads and their left arms–two little black boxes containing tiny parchment scrolls on which are written four passages of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Observant Jews also fasten mezuzoth to the door frames of their homes and public buildings–small wooden or metal boxes that hold two scrolls on which are written this verse and Dt 11:13-21.  The Jewish teacher Maimonides said that those who look upon the mezuzoth and the phylacteries as lucky charms are ignorant, yet by obeying Moses’ words literally, many Jews may have found these outward symbols served as strong reminders of their faith.  Crosses or pictures of Jesus serve a similar purpose in our homes.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 70-1)

 

For, indeed, the idea of becoming or development predicated of the divine being is of no value whatsoever in theology.  Not only does Scripture explicitly state that with God “there can be no variation neither shadow that is cast by turning,” but a moment’s reflection upon this matter leads to the same result.  Becoming presupposes a cause, for there is no becoming without a cause.  But absolute being leaves no room for a cause.  Absolute being is because it is.  The concept of deity of itself implies the idea of immutability.  Both increase and decrease are absolutely inconceivable with respect to God.  He can become neither worse nor better, for he is the absolute, complete, and very being.  Becoming is an attribute of the creature.  It is a form of change with respect either to time or to space.  But God is the I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE, eternally transcendent above space and time and exalted far above every creature.  He rests in himself, and for that very reason he is the goal and the resting-point of every creature, the Rock of salvation, whose work is perfect.  He who predicates of God and any change whatsoever, whether with respect to essence, knowledge, or will, belittles every one of his attributes:  independence, simplicity, eternity, omniscience, omnipotence.  He robs God of his divine nature and religion of its firm foundation and sure comfort.  (Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, 150-1)

 

Perhaps the Christian is now, today, in the twentieth-century West, the only kind of person who thinks naturally and unforcedly of a united world, a world of all inanimate and living things bound together; because the Christian alone has this sense of the indwelling Spirit which the Father and the Son let loose on the universe and on mankind.  Who, apart from the Christian, can shift his glance from the tree growing in his garden or the comet flashing across the sky to the baby in its pram without mentally jumping over barriers that separate one kind of experience from another?  For the Christian, the physical world and the human family are one unified creation, and the evidence of that unity impinges on his consciousness in millions of ways.  When he is moved by the beauty of a purple sunset on the hills, he senses the touch of the Creator.  When he is moved by the sight of his gurgling baby in his cot, he senses the touch of the Creator.  When he is moved by loving eyes or kind eyes, by joy shared or grief shared, he senses the touch of the Creator.  When he encounters the seemingly inexplicable evocative power of a piece of music, a poem, or a painting, he senses the touch of the Creator.  The Spirit within him and within others, and the Spirit evidenced in the natural world and the creations of men’s hands and minds, is one and the same Spirit.

One of the Christian’s most difficult tasks is to convey to non-Christians his sense of the unity of creation. (Harry Blamires; Christian Truth, 65-6)

 

The only limitation on the freedom and power of God is the self-limiting step that is taken by God in the act of creation.  Without this freedom and power in God uncontrolled by outside forces, one would have to raise serious questions about the possibility of the accomplishment of the divine purpose or even the clarity of speaking of a divine purpose.  For it is difficult to assume an order and a purpose to the universe if there is not a center or ground of being, value, and meaning that is one, comprehensive, and consistent.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 103)

 

The words are to be kept as a sign on one’s body, residence, and city (vv. 8-9; cf. 11:18b-20).  In chapter 11 the placing of them on one’s body is seen as a concomitant action to placing them on the heart; inward appropriation and external symbol are held closely together (11:18).  It is difficult to know whether these instructions were meant to be taken literally or figuratively, but that is of little relevance for understanding their force.  At a relatively early stage in Jewish tradition they were understood literally, and many devout Jews throughout history have bound copies of the Shema to their arms or foreheads and placed them on the doorposts of their homes.  Even a figurative understanding of this command sharply underscores the fact that “these words” are to control one’s individual behavior, the conduct of home and family, and the character of life in one’s community (the gates of v. 9).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 104-5)

 

Though they at first seem contradictory, these two emotions are closely related.  Fear must stem from respect and reverence for the creator God; it must produce within us total awe of His sovereign lordship.  It requires the knowledge that God first loved us and has our interests at heart.  God has a right to command our love, and He does.  Unfortunately, that is not always enough.  Fear that arises from a sense of awe can be the motivation for love.  The keeping of His commandments is a tangible expression of our obedience to God through fear and love.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 116)

 

We need to be nudged in this direction through commands because we have a nature that is tainted by sin.  Satan and the world’s values work on this sinful nature of ours to attempt to get us to follow a sinful path that will destroy our relationship with God.  We are tempted to keep small areas of our lives from God, and even though they are very small they will eat into our commitment and ruin our life.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 260)

 

Verse 7 first says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.”  “Teach them diligently” is the translation of a single word that means “repeat,” and this is reflected in the NLT rendering:  “Repeat them again and again to your children.”  The truths of God’s Word might not go into the mind and transform our lives after one hearing.  Therefore they need to be repeated often, and the primary place where this takes place in the lives of children is the home.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 264)

 

The words behind heart, soul, and strength basically relate to what a person is or how a person directs himself toward another person.  It is, therefore, not inaccurate for the NT writers to quote (or translate) the Hebrew words, which are often synonymous by differing Greek words, which are also often synonymous, since the words taken together mean to say that the people are to love God with their whole selves.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 65)

 

The people were not to concern themselves only with their own attitudes toward the Lord.  They were to concern themselves with impressing these attitudes on their children as well.  The Israelites were to talk about God’s commands always, whether at home or on the road.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 66)

 

They are to talk about the Word when they “sit in [their] house.”  Mealtime in the home is an ideal time for such conversations.  Similarly, having meals with our spiritual children can provide us with a wonderful opportunity to communicate the truths of God to them.  In the Gospels (especially Luke) and Acts a very important place is given to meals, and some of Jesus’ teaching took place during these meals.  Mealtimes usually have an atmosphere of informality and warmth that is well suited to foster discussion.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 265)

 

In many cultures today “walk[ing] by the way” would need to be substituted by “driving in the family vehicle.”  This is a wonderful time for good conversation, when there is no TV, no phone calls, and no Internet (though competition can come from car radios, Walkmans, MP3s, and iPods).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 265)

 

Love is the most powerful force in the world:  want power (the heart) is the strongest impetus for will power (the head).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 118)

 

It is precarious to try to develop a theology of the parts or faculties of a human being based on the call to love God with heart, soul, and might.  Earl Kalland helpfully comments that this verse “is not a study in faculty psychology.  It is rather a gathering of terms to indicate the totality of a person’s commitment of self in the purest and noblest intentions of trust and obedience toward God.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 259)

 

God wants earnestness in a person’s religion; he desires not merely that we possess a faith but that our faith should possess us.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 86)

 

Deuteronomy knows nothing of the modern folly that suggests that religion be presented in an atmosphere of neutrality and that children be presented with all the options and left to decide for themselves the direction of their spiritual lives.  The biblical perspective on the spiritual training of children insists that children already possess a direction when they are born.  Unfortunately, that slant is sure to destroy them if left unchecked.  Wise parents give their children the added benefit of hearing the truth from the very beginning, so that their wayward tendencies can be brought under control early on.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 86)

 

No opportunity to engage in spiritual training should be lost, whether formal (talk about them) or informal (when you walk along the road), whether late (when you lie down) or early (when you get up).  The literary device of using two extremes (high, low; cold, hot; up, down) to represent everything in between (sometimes known as a merism) is a common convention in the OT (cp., e.g., Ps 139:2-5).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 86)

 

Today we might say:  “drill them into your children.”  Since the teaching will be oral, Tigay thinks the verb means “instruct by repetition.”  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 313)

 

People are to speak (ibn Ezra: and think) about Yahweh’s words wherever they are and at all times (cf. 17:19; Josh 1:8; Ps 1:2; Prv 6:22).  Paul in the NT says to “Pray constantly/without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), i.e., “pray always.”  “Walking in the way” means walking in Yahweh’s way.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 313)

 

The ancient Egyptians themselves would inscribe over the doors of their houses such things as “the good house,” the name of a king, or some symbol as a good omen (J. G. Wilkinson 1996, 6).  A corresponding practice has carried over into modern times.  Painted on the doors of present-day Egyptian houses one will be quotations from the Qur’an, such as “He (i.e., Allah) is the Great Creator, the Everlasting,” or just “O Allah,” reminding the resident of the house when he enters of his mortality.  Merchants place over their shops a paper inscribed with the name of Allah, or the Prophet, or both, otherwise a profession of faith or verse from the Quran (Lane 1973, 6, 253).  The mezuzah was to remind the Jew whenever he entered and departed his house that Yahweh’s commands were to be obeyed.  It also gave Yahweh’s commands a public witness.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 315)

 

The translation “heart” is suitable, since “heart” in Deuteronomy is typical for penetrating to the seat of the will (as in English “heartfelt”).  “Being” here translates nepeš, often taken as “soul,” but indicating a person’s life or vitality.  The force of the phrase is to require a devotion that is single minded and complete.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 142)

 

The commandments, that is the whole teaching of Moses, are to be “upon your heart,” reiterating the need for inward obedience (6).  They are likewise to be passed on to the next generation, not simply by enforcing them as a law code but by making them the fabric of life and conversation (7).  Finally, symbols of them are to be always before them (8-9).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 142)

 

The Bible says that objective truth does influence action.  David said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11).  The use of heart (leb) here suggests that more than mere intellectual knowledge is involved in hiding the Word.  Our passage gives a good description of how the Word can truly influence one’s behavior.  It says that fear for God (Dt 6:2) and love for God with all our heart, soul, and strength become the basis of all we do (6:5).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 254)

 

In the Hebrew (as in the ESV but not in the NIV) the first of the three words describing the Law, “commandment” (mitsevah), is singular.  Probably this is intended to be taken in a more general way to refer to the whole Law, as Keil and Delitzsch suggest, or to the principle underlying the whole Law, as Peter Craigie suggests.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 255)

 

There is a trend away from holding to absolutes today.  Therefore we need to present truths in the Bible from the context of absoluteness in which they are found in the Bible.  So in the OT adultery is punishable with death.  That suggests that it is absolutely serious.  But many Christians today have dropped judgment from their worldview and have lost the sense of the absolute seriousness of holiness.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 256)

 

Moses’ concern here is whether God’s people would remain devoted exclusively to Yahweh or be seduced by the gods of Canaan.  His exposition of the Shema in the remainder of 6:5-19 confirms this interpretation.  Answering to the Supreme Command, by uttering the Shema the Israelites were declaring their complete, undivided, and unqualified devotion to Yahweh.  This is not strictly a monotheistic confession (cf. 4:35, 39) but a cry of allegiance, an affirmation of covenant commitment that defines the boundaries of the covenant community.  It consists of those who claim this utterance as a verbal badge of identity and who demonstrate this identity with uncompromising covenant commitment, a subject to which Moses now turns.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 182)

 

References and allusions to the Shema in the NT are both fascinating and exciting.  While Jesus cites it as a sort of creedal statement in connection with the Supreme Command (Mk 12:30), it falls to Paul to draw out its Christological significance.  He does so most pointedly in 1 Cor 8:1-6, where he roots his polemic against idolatry in Dt 6:4-5 and beyond.  Like Moses, Paul declares the uniqueness and exclusive existence of Yahweh in contrast to the nothingness of idols.  Reflecting a thorough understanding of the Shema in its original context, in 1 Cor 8:5-6, Paul declares hypothetically that even if one concedes the existence of other gods (which, in the light of v. 4, he will not do), “for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord [i.e., Yahweh], Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”  The Christological effect of inserting the name “Jesus Christ” after “Lord” is extraordinary, in that Paul identifies Jesus unequivocally with Yahweh, the one and only God to whom true Israelites declared allegiance (cf. Rom 3:29-30; 10:13).  What the OT has said about Yahweh may now be said about the Christ.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 187)

 

Moses taught his people and he teaches us and Christians everywhere that true spirituality arises from the heart and extends to all of life.  Those who claim to be religious tend to be subject to two temptations:  either to treat spirituality as primarily interior and private, or to treat it as a matter of external performance.  True love for God is rooted in the heart, but it is demonstrated in life, specifically a passion to speak of one’s faith in the context of the family and to declare one’s allegiance publicly to the world.  This passage suggests that the very decoration of our homes should bear testimony to our faith, declaring to all guests and passers-by the fundamentally theological outlook of those who live within, and serving as reminders to residents to live in dependence on God and to realize that blessing is contingent on obedience.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 189)

 

We often hear it said that whereas in ancient Israel, God demanded the sacrifices of animals and produce of the fields, in the NT he calls for sacrifice of our very bodies.  However, not only does this view drive an unfortunate wedge between the Testaments; it is also patently false.  Dt 6:4-5 is the OT equivalent of Rom 12:1-2.  As is true for us, in ancient Israel the truly godly were covenantly committed to him in their inner beings, with their entire bodies, and with all their resources.  Paul and Moses are on the same page.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 190)

 

Israel is to learn Yahweh’s commandment so it will fear Yahweh and obey the statutes and ordinances within the commandment.  Fearing Yahweh and keeping his commandments go hand in hand.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 306)

 

God cannot be loved apart from our neighbor, and our neighbor cannot be loved apart from God.  There are two pegs nailed into the wall of God’s Word, and those two pegs are also nailed into each other.  And those two pegs are the pegs that ought to be nailed into the heart of every Christian.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 660-1)

 

In nature and extent, in universal application and personal implication, the second great commandment grows out of the first.  Duty to God and duty to man–both are summed up in the word love.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 439)

 

The two commandments were basic, touching all of life’s relationship.  The precepts of the law and the preaching of the prophets were simply expositions of the two basics.  The tedious tomes of the teachers of the law and of the inventors of tradition could be swept aside.  One does not need lawyers to understand God’s law. One needs only love.  Everybody understands the law of love.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 430)

 

By bringing these two texts together Jesus asserts that the one principle of love applies equally to the two main aspects of religious duty, one’s attitude to God and one’s attitude to other people.  It is these two foci which provide the framework of the Decalogue, with its two “tables” covering these two aspects in turn.  If the Decalogue is itself a sort of epitome of the law, these two quotations in turn sum up the Decalogue.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 843)

 

It might be possible to think even of love for God as a self-centered spiritual experience, but love for one’s neighbor is inescapably practical and altruistic.  Love for God is “first,” so that R. Mohrlang is justified in insisting that “the second great commandment is properly understood only when viewed within the context of the more fundamental demand of the first,” but the first without the second leaves the demand of love insufficiently specified.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 846)

 

James Edwards writes, “Although love of God and love of humanity were occasionally affirmed separately in Israel, there is no evidence that before Jesus they were ever combined.  It does not appear that any rabbi before Jesus regarded love of God and neighbor as the center and sum of the law.”

So while Jesus’ answer was based on two well-known and often-cited texts from the Torah, he was the first in history to affirm that love for God and love for people are indivisible.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 659)

 

When they’re willing to serve without regard for the response, then I know they’re beginning to move in the love of God.  (Steve Sjogren, Conspiracy of Kindness, 115)

 

We can discuss difficult issues we face and see what the Word has to say about them.  When we see a movie or a program on TV or an advertisement, we can evaluate it using criteria from the Word as our benchmark.  Because we seek to be Word-directed in everything we do, we discuss what the Word has to say about each situation we face.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 266)

 

All hangs on these two commandments, as the effect doth both on its efficient and on its final cause; for the fulfilling of the law is love (Rom 13:10), and the end of the law is love, 1 Tm 1:5.  The law of love is the nail, is the nail in the sure place, fastened by the masters of assemblies (Eccl 12:11), on which is hung all the glory of the law and the prophets (Isa 22:24), a nail that shall never be drawn; for on this nail all the glory of the new Jerusalem shall eternally hang.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 326)

 

Whoever seeks God as a means toward desired ends will not find God.  The mighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, will not be one of many treasures, not even the chief of all treasures.  He will be all in all or He will be nothing.  God will not be used.  His mercy and grace are infinite and His patient understanding is beyond measure, but He will not aid men in their selfish striving after personal gain.  He will not help men to attain ends which, when attained, usurp the place He by every right should hold in their interest and affection.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 57)

 

  1. I. Packer once told me our view of God is like a pair of old-fashioned scales. When God goes up in our estimation, we go down. Similarly, when we raise our sense of self-importance, our view of God must, to that same degree, be lowered.  (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, 16)

 

Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God.  You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve it!) And allow that opinion to crystalize into an attitude; for every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God.  You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear:  “The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).  You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them.  Love is your only choice.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 70)

 

He enumerates these various engagements, lest that change of occupation by which the mind is wont to be distracted should withdraw the godly from the right path, as though he commanded them to make this their chief aim in whatever business they might be engaged.  For the same reason he desires bracelets and frontlets to be made of the precepts of the Law, contrasting doubtless this spiritual ornament with chains of gold, as much as to say that they would more properly take delight in the pious recollection of the Law, than in those trifling ornaments which attract men’s senses.  The Jews understanding this literally, accounted this external ostentation a mark of holiness, so as to think that they had almost done all they needed, when they wore the Law on their arms and foreheads.  Thence their mistaken zeal proceeded still further, so that, as each desired to be thought better than others, they widened their phylacteries in proportion, for so they denominated the borders of their garments, on which were written certain sentences of the Law, as safeguards.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 367)

 

III-  When we fear and love God with all our heart, soul and strength it goes well with us(Dt. 6:2-3 see also: Psa ch 1; Mt 7:24)

 

It may be helpful here to draw on a definition of “love” that was developed earlier in the Sermon on the Mount.  Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person in which one gives oneself to another to bring the relationship to God’s intended purposes.  The person who loves God with all of her being–heart, soul, and mind–will understand that God’s will for her life is revealed in the OT, and she will gladly, eagerly, obey  it because she knows that in doing so, she is living life the way God has designed it to be lived.  In turn, her obedience to God’s will transforms her entire being–heart, soul, and mind–into the image of God so that she is more like what God has intended for her to be like.  Furthermore, loving her neighbor as herself means that she gives herself to other humans to help them live as God designed life to be lived, so that she helps them in their own transformation.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 726)

 

As long as the nation remained true to the Lord and the covenant-treaty, the people as a nation would live and prosper and could prolong their days in the land.  Before once again stating and explaining the specific laws, Moses urged the people to do what the Lord had commanded–and exactly what he had commanded (v. 32).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 62)

 

The intent of the covenant builds step on step (v. 2):  so that the people and their descendants would reverence the Lord by keeping the stipulations, so that they may enjoy long life, so that it may go well with them, and so that they may increase in number (v. 3).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 63)

 

The well-being of Israel and humanity at large both now and in perpetuity depends upon fidelity to the Great Commandment.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 84)

 

This hyperbolic metaphorical phrase stresses both the richness of Canaan and the special favor God has bestowed on it as the dwelling place for his people.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 456)

 

Fear of Yahweh should lead to obedience, and obedience will lead to one’s days being prolonged.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 306)

 

Learning the statutes and ordinances will make people fear Yahweh and do what Yahweh commands.  This applies to the children and grandchildren as well.  Obedience is to be carried on throughout life, that one’s days may be prolonged.  Doing the commands will also bring well-being and increase, which is what Yahweh promised Abraham along with a land yielding an abundance of good things.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 307-8)

 

Theologically, it is usual to affirm that Yahweh’s love for Israel preceded the command for Israel to return that love (von Rad; Moran 1963b).  Yahweh loved the fathers (4:37; 7:12 [“steadfast love”]; 10:15) and loved Israel in choosing the nation as his special possession (7:6-8; 10:15; 23:6 [5]).  However, 5:10 (=Ex 20:6) and 7:9 say that Yahweh shows steadfast love to those who love him and keep his commandments (cf. 7:12-13).  So while Yahweh’s love remains prior and unconditional, in Deuteronomy it is fragile within a conditional covenant, which is to say, that from Yahweh’s end, Israel’s disobedience of the covenant will damage the love relationship, even if it does not terminate it, and on Israel’s end, loving Yahweh will bring the much-needed rain (11:13-14); will cause Yahweh to dispossess nations before Israel (11:22-23); will lead to Yahweh expanding Israel’s borders (19:8-9); and most important, will lead to Israel possessing the precious gift of life (30:16, 20).  If Israel fails to love Yahweh, the covenant curses will fall.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 310)

 

He exhorts them to exercise themselves in its meditation both publicly and privately, in order to stimulate their want of energy.  But, although he may seem to speak hyperbolically, yet if any one will carefully consider how slow and careless men are in learning, and how forgetful they are when they seem to have made some progress, he will readily acknowledge that Moses does not urge them so strongly on insufficient grounds, but that it was highly necessary for him to be thus rigid in exacting their attention.  For this reason the Prophet in Ps 1:2, pronounces them to be blessed who meditate on God’s law “day and night.”  He leaves, then, no portion of time unoccupied with meditation on the Law; whether they are at home, or abroad, or when they retire to rest, or when they rise in the morning.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 367)

 

As in chapters 7 and 9, he praised the richness of the land, so does he now confirm the same statement; or rather afterwards more fully explains what he slightly touches upon here.  They all agree in this, that the happy state of life which was before their eyes ought to awaken the people’s gratitude, lest such notable beneficence should be expended on them in vain.  Moses therefore declares, that he had presented to them laws and statutes, by which they might be instructed in the fear of God; at the same time, he reminds them how base in them it would be not to be ravished to the love of God and of His law by the delightfulness and abundance of the land.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 395)

 

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who promised us inconceivable blessings if we would love and obey Him.  He then satisfied the conditions of both parties of the covenant Himself.  (Gn 15; 2 Cor 5:21)

 

The mutuality of this divine-human love is paralleled by suzerain-vassal love in the ANE treaties (Moran 1963b; Frankena 1965), where the suzerain promises to love the vassal king and the vassal king must love the suzerain in return.  In the Mari texts of the 18th and 17th cents., the term “love” is used to describe the loyalty and friendship between independent kings, suzerain and vassal, also king and subject (Moran 1963b, 78-9).  Moran says “love” is stock terminology in Egyptian treaties of the Amarna period (14th cent.).  In a later Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon (7th cent.), a vassal king is told he must love the crown prince Assurbanipal, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria (Wiseman 1958, 49-50; iv 266-68; Frankena 1965, 144; ANET, 537).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 310-1)

 

Gospel Application: No one fulfills man’s conditions of God’s covenant with man through their love and obedience.  That is why Jesus came as our Mediator Savior.  (Ps 15; 2 Cor 5:21)

 

A divided house cannot stand.  But if so, how can civilized, let alone noble, life proceed?  After all, surely everyone suffers from dividedness.  Nobody loves God with a wholly pure and undivided heart.  Nobody loves neighbors perfectly.  Nobody’s marriage is quite free of contaminants.  If dividedness tends to break us down, how do we manage to hold up and go on?

Ideally, by repentance and renewal of mind and heart–that is, by the grace of God working through spiritual disciplines and the support of others.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 46)

 

R.A. Rorrey:  “If loving God with all our heart and soul and might is the greatest commandment, then it follows that not loving him that way is the greatest sin.”  Ken Gire; The Reflective Life, 84)

 

Vanstone says, In false love your aim is to use the other person to fulfill your happiness.  Your love is conditional:  You give it only as long as the person is affirming you and meeting your needs.  And it’s nonvulnerable:  You hold back so that you can cut your losses if necessary.  But in true love, your aim is to spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other, because your greatest joy is that person’s joy.  Therefore your affection is unconditional:  You give it regardless of whether your loved one is meeting your needs.  And it’s radically vulnerable:  You spend everything, hold nothing back, give it all away.  Then Vastone says, surprisingly, that our real problem is that nobody is actually fully capable of giving true love.  We want it desperately, but we can’t give it.  He doesn’t say we can’t give any kind of real love at all, but he’s saying that nobody is fully capable of true love.  All of our love is somewhat fake.  How so?  Because we need to be loved like we need air and water.  We can’t live without love.  That means there’s a certain mercenary quality to our relationships.  We look for people whose love would really affirm us.  We invest our love only where we know we’ll get a good return.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98) (red bold emphasis – Pastor Keith)

 

Given the emphasis on loving God here and throughout Deuteronomy, and given the general assumption that the pious do “love” Yahweh/anyone said to have “loved” (‘āhab) God.  When it speaks of individuals who appear to have measured up to the standard of Dt 6:5 the verb is changed.  Even more striking, especially in light of current habits in worship, the verb ‘āhab never occurs with a first person subject when it has Yahweh/God as the object.  No one (not even the psalmists) ever declares that he or she loves Yahweh.  This probably explains why Peter will say he loves Jesus in the sense of phileô, but he will not claim agapaô (Jn 21:15-19).  And how could he?  He just demonstrated a total lack of “covenant commitment” by denying Jesus three times–the opposite of the love called for by Dt 6:6-9.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 188-9 – red, bold 12 pt. emphasis Pastor Keith)

 

I once asked a group of students in a theology class to list the most serious and gross of all human sins, the worst sins human beings can commit.  They began to suggest various atrocities such as murder, treason, and adultery.  I wrote them all down on the blackboard; then I turned to them and said, “None of the above.”  Then I told them that if the single most important commandment God ever gave to His people is to love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds, it seems to me that the greatest transgression is to fail to love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 646)

 

It is most significant that Christ here connects the “new” covenant with His “blood.”  We at once think, as doubtless the disciples thought, of the transaction described in Ex 24:7, when Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people,” indicating God’s undertaking on behalf of His people and what He required of them; “and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken will we do, and we will be obedient,’” thus taking up their part of the contract.  Then comes the ratification.  “Moses took the blood [half of which had already been thrown on the altar] and threw it upon the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (v. 8).  The blood was sacrificial blood, the blood of the animals sacrificed as burnt offerings and peace offerings (vv. 5f.).  The one half of the blood thrown on the altar tells of the sacrifice offered to God, the other half thrown on the people, of the virtue of the same sacrifice applied to the people; and so the covenant relation is fully brought about.  Christ, by speaking of His blood in this connection, plainly indicates that His death was a sacrifice, and that through that sacrifice His people would be brought into a new covenant relationship with God.  His sacrifice is acceptable to God and the virtue of it is to be applied to believers–so all the blessings of the new covenant are secured to them; the blood “is poured out for you” (Lk 22:20).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, 795)

 

Although Deuteronomy intends that Yahweh’s words find their way into the human heart, it knows, as does Jeremiah, that the heart is deceitful and layered with evil (10:16; 11:16; Jer 4:4; 5:23; 17:1, 9).  As it turns out, this “heart talk” in Deuteronomy is important background for and determines the articulation of Jeremiah’s “new covenant,” which will be written on the heart (Jer 31:33; cf. 24:7; Ezek 11:19; 18:31; 36:26).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 312-3)

 

Union with Christ was the heart and soul of Paul’s faith.  Jesus Christ was not simply Paul’s Savior; He was Paul’s life.  Proof of his devotion can be found throughout his writings:  “For to me, to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21); “When Christ who is our life appears” (Col 3:4); and “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).  (Ron M. Phillips, Awakened by the Spirit, 67)

 

Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)

 

No man succeeds in keeping this law; we need the pardon which God gives in Christ.  Yet this law is life eternal.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 524)

 

Only those who have and hold the gospel can to any degree fulfill these commandments, even as they are intended peculiarly for God’s own children.  And these two commandments, as do no others, show the true need of the gospel; for, however well they may outwardly perform deeds of the law, by nature men lack the love demanded by these commandments, are thus altogether guilty before God, and can be saved and restored only by means of the gospel.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 883)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Learn to love and obey more and more by becoming more and more impressed with God’s great forgiveness, mercy, patience, grace and love for us through the work of Jesus; especially in light of our disobedience and rebellion.  (Lk 7:47; Rom 5:5-10; Gal 5:22-23; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 4:7-21)

 

By logical syllogism we deduce a very important fact.  If a person is not loving, John says, he or she does not know God.  How will that individual become more loving, then?  Can we grow in love by trying to love more?  No, our attempts to love will only end in more frustration and less love.  The solution, John implies, is to know God better.  This is so simple that we miss it all the time:  our means for becoming more loving is to know God better.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 146)

 

The fact is, I need God to help me love God.  And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans.  Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)

 

A change takes place within us that is brought about by the Holy Spirit.  He gives us new life, and our eyes are open to see the beauty of God.  John Piper puts it like this:  “You do not merely decide to love him.  Something changes inside of you, and as a result he becomes compellingly attractive.  His glory–his beauty–compels your admiration and delight.  He becomes your supreme treasure.  You love him.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 259)

 

You can only love when you know you have been loved.  And only then can you love to the degree that you know you have been loved. — Steve Brown

 

“Love follows knowledge.”  (Saint Thomas Aquinas)

 

“In the end; we will conserve what we love, we will love what we understand, and we will understand what we have been taught.”  — Baba Dioun: African environmentalist

 

Until you see you can’t really love you can’t really love.  You can only really love when you come to realize you can’t really love.  (Tim Keller)

 

If you feel the call of the spirit, then be holy with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.  If, however, because of human weakness, you cannot be holy, then be perfect with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.

But if you cannot be perfect because of the vanity of your life, then be good with all your soul…Yet, if you cannot be good because of the trickery of the Evil One, then be wise with all your soul…

If, in the end, you can neither be holy, nor perfect, nor good, nor wise because of the weight of your sins, then carry this weight before God and surrender your life to his divine mercy.

If you do this, without bitterness, with all humility, and with a joyous spirit due to the tenderness of a God who loves the sinful and ungrateful, then you will begin to feel what it is to be wise, you will learn what it is to be good, you will slowly aspire to be perfect, and finally you will long to be holy.  (Quoted in Peter van Breeman, Let All God’s Glory Through, 134)

 

Saint Augustine gave interesting advice when he said, “Love God, then do as you please.”  If we love God sufficiently to want to do what is pleasing in His sight, then we need never worry about our conduct, because things which will not please God will not please us.  If we lack love for God, all the rules in the world will not keep us true to Him.  The law tells us what to do; love gives the power to do it.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 116)

 

So What?Beg God to open your heart and your mind to the reality of Who God is and who we are.  The more you see yourself and God in truth the more you will love and obey God.  (Lk 7:47; 1 Jn chps 3 & 4)

 

The Devil seeks to interject duplicity, division and disunity into the singularity of the Created order established by a God Who defines Himself by Divine Revelation as “One” and “I AM”.   (Pastor Keith)

 

In OT times when the people were not bombarded through the media by as many un-Biblical messages as we are today, so much more time was spent discussing the Word than today.  Considering the volume and content of what we are exposed to these days, we should be spending more time than the people in OT times counteracting the anti-Christian messages that we encounter.  Clearly, this is an area that needs urgent attention.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 266)

 

 

 

JESUS:

The ONE COVENANT

KEEPER

 

 

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