Lent 2022 Day 17
Mon 21 Mar
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 The Law in its simplicity
4 Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.
It is a source of wonderment to me that so many church buildings display a large board mounted on a wall with the Ten Commandments painted on it (Witnesham has both a board and stone tablets!), and hardly any opt instead for the words above. Never mind the fact that Jesus had an even greater commandment to give us. And of that I see little evidence in our churches.
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’
32 ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Firstly, the words from Deuteronomy are glorious. They sum up our relationship with God as one of love, total love and devotion. This is not a list of 10 Condemnents. It is a call to God’s people to honour him with an emotional, a fundamental, an intellectual, a visceral love that comes from the very core of our being. It is not a pretty love, like one that you’d find on a Valentine’s card. It is not sentimental, or flowery. To the Jew, this command is a nation-definer, and its authority comes from the history of God’s favour to his people.
Jesus is questioned by a lawyer, a man who is looking for answers. Jesus confirms that “Hear, O Israel…” is the one to follow. Jesus, as Jesus is wont to do, does not leave it there. He slips in an extra dimension – love for your neighbour, and places this on top billing with the first.
The lawyer realised that God wants our love before our sacrifice, for if we love God, we are less likely to be needing to sacrifice to him. He is a very wise lawyer.
What better words than these to place on a board in your church fellowship meeting? Or do we prefer to sit under the long list, which the errant Church of The Old Testament over the years has used without love as the basis to control people to conformity and punishment?
Jesus’ teaching is brave and powerful, and I sometimes wonder how he was able to redetermine (not undermine) the fundamentals of the Old Testament teachings without more condemnation from the Jewish authorities.
How does “your neighbour” feature in your daily life?
Can the words of verses 8 and 9 in the Deuteronomy passage be used by us in a similar way?
Lord God, you are my Father. Lord Jesus, you are my redeemer. Holy Spirit, you are my enabler. Teach me the meaning of love as you express it to me through three persons, that I may return love to you from the very base of my existence. Let my core resound with your love as it goes back to you. Amen.