Deuteronomy 6: January 29—Passionately in love
Jan 22, 2012

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.

Passion may be good or bad depending upon the object of our passion. Passions may ruin an individual or help an individual achieve greatness. What is your passion? What energizes you in your life? What is your priority in life? Of all the possible passions, a godly passion is the most beneficial. A godly passion energizes our service to God, establishes our priority, and assists us in achieving greatness.

Jesus taught that the command to love God was the greatest commandment? What, however, does it mean to love God? 

First, loving God means responding to God with the entirety of our being (Deut. 6:4-9). Loving God means to listen obediently. The Jews called Deuteronomy 6:4-9 the Shema from the Hebrew command “hear.” The Hebrew term “hear” conveyed the idea of active obedience. How can one disobey the one, unique God? If a person disobeyed, the Hebrews reasoned the person failed to hear God’s command.

The Jews recite Deuteronomy 6:4 at the beginning of every synagogue service because this passage summarizes the essence of biblical Judaism. Deuteronomy 6:4 affirms three key truths about God. First, God is a God of covenant relations. His name is LORD, or Yahweh (Jehovah). Second, God is personal; He is “our God.” Third, God is One. Unlike their neighbors who had to satisfy multitudes of “gods” with different demands, the Hebrews focused on one God. The Hebrews then had a sense of security that other people groups lacked.

The Hebrew term “love” (ahab) literally means “to desire,” “to pant after,” or “to burn.” Notice the descriptive meanings convey strong passion. Some people think the Old Testament portrays a God of wrath and the New Testament portrays a God of love. The Old Testament describes God as loving towards His people thirty-two times. Twenty-two times the Old 

Testament describes people as loving God. God always has purposed a love relationship with people.

Loving God involves all aspects of our being. Rather than “heart” being the center of emotions as often understood in our day, in the Bible the “heart” was the center of intellect and will. Jesus expanded on this concept by stating that humans love God “with all their mind.” The term “soul” refers to the inward aspect of humanity. Our relationship with God is not one of mere external rituals. The term “strength” communicates the idea of intensity.

The context of the Shema details two reasons why believers should love God. First, Yahweh (Jehovah) is the only God. In biblical revelation, love” towards another “god” is idolatry and spiritual adultery. Second, God rescued His people from slavery. For the Hebrews, God rescued the people from slavery to Egypt (6:12). For Christians, God rescued us from slavery to sin and Satan. 

Second, biblical love for God is a response to God’s amazing grace (Deut. 7:6-9). This passage reveals five truths about God’s love. First, God’s love is purposive. God loved Israel because He desired the best for them—to be a holy people and a treasured possession. “Holy” means “cut off”; God’s people are to be separate, cut off, or distinctive from other people. The value of God’s people is found in the owner, not something valued within the people. Second, God’s love is undeserved. God choose His people not because of any worth either in numbers, military might, or excellence. Something praiseworthy prompts human love; in contrast, God loves the unlovely (Rom. 5:8). Third, God’s love is redemptive. By His strong hand, God redeemed Israel. Fourth, God’s love is a faithful kind of love. God chose Israel to keep His promises to Abraham (7:8). Fifth, God’s love is historic. Moses pointed to the historic redemption from Egypt as evidence of God’s love. New Testament believers point to the historic event of the cross as evidence of God’s love.

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