WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT?
(Thursday, May 07, 2020)
Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mathew 22: 37; Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30) Briefly speaking, these verses mean that God wants us to love Him with our whole being. This is the first and great commandment. (Mathew 22:38).To love God with our whole being is an exercise. We don’t always wake up in the morning with a loving heart toward the Lord. This command seems to be impossible to obey. That’s because, in the natural state of man, it is impossible. There is no greater evidence of the inability of man to obey God’s Law than this one commandment. No human being with a fallen nature can possibly love God with all his heart, soul, and strength 24 hours a day. It’s humanly impossible. Our natural tendency is to focus on gaining more blessing on our circumstances whether in money, comfort, influence, or honour. We are so often locked into our circumstances, thinking if everything works out right, we will experience the greatest fulfilment. This is how we often interpret life.
But to disobey any commandment of God is sin. God became a man called Jesus Christ. Throughout the course of His human living, Jesus expressed God fully. When we believed in Him, Christ came to live in our human spirit, regenerating it with His divine life. Now we have another source to live by—God Himself. We can live by this source by using, or exercising, our spirit. Moreover, as we pray back to our Lord His own desire for us to love Him absolutely, He will have the way to work Himself into us so that we love Him with our whole being! We can live in such a way by contacting and enjoying Christ in our spirit and allowing Him to grow in us day by day. As we do this, His life will spread from our spirit into our soul so that we can genuinely express God more and more. The key is to use our spirit to experience Christ every day. In Romans 8:4 and 1:9, the Bible charges us to walk according to our spirit, that is, to have our life and living according to our spirit, and to do things in our spirit, not our soul. In this way, the source of our living is God Himself with His life in our spirit, not our own thoughts, feelings, and decisions from our soul.
This means that the covenant love we’re called to must be wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to our God. And this God is our God only because he has now revealed himself to us in the person of his Son. This kind of love we should have for him doesn’t exist apart from love for Jesus — for Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).
2.0 Love the Lord thy God with all thy HEART… [SPIRIT / INNER MOST BEING]
There are two types of heart: the human heart and the universal heart. The human heart is a muscle. It functions while we are living, and when we die it stops functioning. The divine heart houses God the Universal Consciousness. God created us with a divine heart so that we would love Him wholly and absolutely. Today, however, our hearts love many things besides God. We would find it difficult to pray with the psalmist, “Whom do I have in heaven but You? And besides You there is nothing I desire on earth” (Psalm 73: 25). Second Corinthians 3:16 says, “Whenever their heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”
The tabernacle was tripartite, containing the outer court visible to all, the holy place hidden from the outside world, the most holy place. The whole pattern of the tabernacle is that of the mobile palace of a desert chieftain. The people were allowed access only into the outer court, but the chief priests were allowed into the ante-room. God came to dwell in the midst of his people and was ‘located’ upon the mercy-seat. Exodus 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. In the later times of Solomon’s temple this was where God was ‘located’; 2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. In man the most outward is the body, the holy place would be the soul, and the most holy place the spirit or heart.
Ephesians 3:16-19 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Loving God with all my heart means making Him my greatest treasure. Valuing my relationship with Him, with Jesus, more than anything else in my life. Matthew 6:21 Says, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be”.
While surprising to some, the old covenant recognized that a spiritual relationship with God begins from within, with a proper disposition toward the preeminent Saviour, sovereign, and satisfier. From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23), and without one’s will, desires, passions, affections, perceptions, and thoughts rightly aligned, the life of love is impossible. Therefore, Moses calls Israel to “know . . . in your heart” that God disciplines like a father his son (Deuteronomy 8:5). He urges God’s people to “lay it to heart” that there is no God besides Yahweh (Deuteronomy 4:39–40) and to ensure that his words “be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6), thus anticipating the miraculous heart-work that the new covenant would realize (Jeremiah 31:33).
Intentionally determine and enthusiastically set your love on God by determining that the primary dream of your life is to pursue living the first commandment. David, the man after God’s own heart, set His heart to love God. “Lord, help me to set my heart to love and pursue You wholeheartedly as my primary dream and greatest ambition in life.” (Psalm 18:1)
To find the greatest joy in this life, loving God with all our heart should be our life mission statement. God will do everything to bring us to the place of putting Him first. He is so committed to helping us grow in love. He will take away all our options so that we move forward in our relationship with Himself. We often misinterpret His leadership in our lives because we don’t understand what He is after. He is removing all the clutter in order to get at the core of our lives – an extravagant love relationship with Himself. He is orchestrating our lives for greatness.
3.0 Love the Lord thy God with all thy SOUL…[INNER MAN]
The soul—our mind, emotion, and will—is a large part of the heart. God created the soul, so MAN could express Him, but because of the fall, he tends to express himself. We have our own opinions, our own feelings, and our own decisions apart from God. My soul is who I am; and your soul is who you are. It’s the part of us that lives forever. Loving God with all my soul means loving Him with all I am. Along with our hearts, we are called to love Yahweh with all our soul. In the first five books of the Old Testament the “soul” refers to one’s whole being as a living person, which includes one’s “heart,” but is so much more. For example, in Genesis 2:7 we are told that “Yahweh God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living [soul] creature” (Genesis 9:5). Elsewhere, corpses are called “dead souls,” which simply means the person, once alive, is now dead (Leviticus 21:11), and Yahweh promises that his “soul [i.e., his being] shall not abhor” all who follow his lead (Leviticus 26:11). In light of these texts, it seems Moses starts with a call to love God from within and then moves one step larger saying that everything about us as a person is to declare Yahweh as Lord.
So, what about our soul? Our soul is basically who we are—our mind, our emotion, and our will. But the function of our soul is to express God. In Luke 1:46-47, Mary said that her soul magnified the Lord. To magnify something implies that something hidden is made large, or expressed, for all to see. “First, Mary’s spirit exulted in God; then her soul magnified the Lord. Her praise to God issued from her spirit and was expressed through her soul. Her spirit was filled with joy in God her Saviour, and her soul manifested that joy for the magnifying of the Lord. She lived and acted in her spirit, which directed her soul.” Mary magnified the Lord in her soul, but she first enjoyed and experienced Him in her spirit. We can never express God starting from our soul alone. We can try to copy Him by trying our best to be good and godly, but even this always falls short of truly expressing God. This is because the true expression of God must come from our spirit, with God as its source and with our soul as its channel. This is what it means for us to express, and therefore magnify, the Lord.
When we turn our hearts to the Lord, our love for Him grows. We love Him with our heart, and, specifically, we begin to love Him with our soul. His thoughts become our thoughts, His feelings become our feelings, and His decisions become our decisions. As He does His transforming work in us, we spontaneously express God and glorify Him. Others see Christ expressed in us by our loving Him with our whole soul.
So we are to love God with our passions, hungers, perceptions, and thoughts. But we are also to love him with how we talk, and what we do with our hands, and how we utilize our talents, and how we react to challenges — our entire being is to display that we love God. We express love for God with our soul when we exert our energy to realign our heart to center our relationship on Him, rather than on recognition or accomplishments. When our identity and primary success are in being ones who love God and are loved by Him, we are loving Him with all our soul.
4.0 Love the Lord thy God with all thy MIND…
Our mind is the leading part of our soul, directing the rest of our being. It can be set on many things, but God wants it to be set on the spirit, where Christ is. Romans 8:6 says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.” When we set our mind on the flesh or fleshly things, we feel lifeless and uneasy because we’re turned away from Christ in our spirit. But when we set our mind on our spirit, we’re peaceful and full of life. By setting our mind on our spirit, our whole being is focused on God.
Loving God with reason and intellect. Having faith does not mean giving up knowledge and understanding. Loving God with all my mind includes study and thought that will grow my faith and bless my relationship with Him.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Fill your mind with things that inspire you to love God and not things that take you away from Him. Take time to fill your mind with His Word rather than violent movies and lustful temptations (Job 31:1). What we do with our mind affects our ability to receive and express love. “Lord, help me to fill my mind with Your Word and with those things that inspire love, so that I can freely receive Your love and express it fully.”
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
One way to set our mind on the spirit is to read the Bible with an open heart. As we read, our mind is enlightened and renewed, and we are washed by the water in the Word. Reading God’s Word daily greatly benefits our mind and our entire soul.
Ephesians 4:21 & 23 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him . . . let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
6.0 Love the Lord thy God with all thy MIGHT / STRENGHTH…
What then is the meaning of loving God with our “might”? The word translated “might/strength” in Deuteronomy 6:5 usually functions as the adverb “very” in the Old Testament. The noun version occurs in Deuteronomy and in only one other place, which itself is just an echo of our passage. In 2 Kings 23:25 we are told that King Josiah “turned to Yahweh with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.”
So, if the word usually means “very,” what would it mean to love the Lord will all our “very-ness”? Interestingly, the Greek translation of this word is “power.” The Aramaic translation is “wealth.” Both of these may actually be pointing in the same direction, for the strength of a person is not simply who he is, but what he has at his disposal. Think with me: If Moses’s call to love Yahweh starts with our heart and then moves out to our being, could not our “very-ness” be one step bigger and include all our resources (Deuteronomy 1: 83–84) This means that the call to love God is not only with our physical muscle, but with everything we have available for honouring God — which includes our spouse, our children, our house or dorm room, our pets and wardrobe and tools and cell phones and movies and music and computers and time.
Philemon 1:6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.
Strength is love in action i.e. CARITAS. Loving God by what you and I do and say. It is honouring Him with our abilities, our resources, and our actions. Deuteronomy 6: 6–9 stress that treasuring God’s oneness and uniqueness needs to be personally applied to our lives (Deuteronomy 6:6, 8). It needs to impact relationships (Deuteronomy 6:7), and what goes on at home and in the work place (Deuteronomy 6:9).
Our strength refers to our physical strength. When we turn our heart to the Lord, express Him in our soul, and set our mind on Him, our body will follow. We formerly used our strength to serve ourselves or the world, but as love for the Lord pervades all our inward parts, our outward actions will begin to change. Things that used to occupy our time and energy will give way because what we love has changed. We have a new aim, a new goal, a new pursuit. Our physical strength is now for His purpose. We express love for God in how we use our strength and resources of time, money, energy, talents, words, and influence. God takes great delight in the small things we do that invest our strength in ways that express love for Him and help others to love Him. He loves when we serve, give, pray, and bless others.
Music provides a great example of mind, heart and soul. We can listen to music and think about the notes, the instruments used, the melody and the writing of the tune, and we can analyse and appreciate the music from a technical point of view. We can also feel the music, sense the rhythm and beat, float with the melody, rise up and sink down with the harmony, and lose ourselves in the sound. We can also employ both our thoughts and feelings and enter into the music with our complete soul, appreciating both the varied instruments and the music as a whole, sensing and feeling each pulse of sound as the music infuses our soul, and entering into the musical experience with our complete soul, as if, at that point of time, time itself is lost and our complete being is captivated by the tune.