What is the greatest force on earth? A military weapon? The authority of some world leader? The power of some machine? Technology? Economic power? Enormous wealth?
All these possess a dynamic force, enormous power. But they are not the greatest force on earth. The greatest force known to man is love, true love. If need be, true love drives a person to make the ultimate sacrifice, that of giving his life on behalf of the person or thing loved. Love is defined as affection, admiration, warm attachment, devotion, unselfish concern, and loyalty that seeks the good of another person or cause. It means to hold dear and cherish, to be tender and affectionate toward some person, thing, or cause.
No better description of love has ever been given than the one spelled out in 1 Cor. 13:4-8…
- Love is patient, and is kind.
- Love does not envy.
- Love does not vaunt itself and is not puffed up.
- Love does not behave itself unseemly, does not seek her own, is not easily provoked, and thinks no evil.
- Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth.
- Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
- Love never fails.
The greatest commandment ever given by God is the commandment dealing with love. This is the great subject of the present passage: The Summary of the Commandments—the Greatest Commandment of All: Love the Lord, 6:1-25.
(6:1-3) There was the primary charge of God given to Moses: to teach believers to obey His commandments. The commandments were the very foundation of life, telling man exactly how to live. God is the great Creator, the Giver of all life; therefore, He knows exactly how life should be lived. This was the very reason He had given the commandments to man, to show man how to live a full and victorious life. If a person obeys God, he will experience the fullness of life and conquer all the enemies who oppose life, seeking to drag him down into the pit of death.
- The commandments will teach you to fear the Lord: you, your children, your grandchildren—all generations (Deut. 6:2). The word “fear” means to honor and reverence God to such a point that a person worships Him. The person who truly fears God surrenders his life to serve God, to obey God just as He commands. But the word means more than just reverence and honor: it means to respect the justice and judgment of God, to fear what God can do to a person if he disobeys the commandments of God. Thus the very purpose for teaching the commandments to God’s people is just this: to teach the fear of God. Believers are to fear God:
⇒ reverence and worship Him, surrendering their lives to Him, obeying His commandments and living exactly as He says
⇒ respect His holiness and justice, lest their disobedience arouse the judgment of God
2. The commandments will prolong your days, give you the enjoyment of a long life (Deut. 6:2). God has established the very laws of life to make the truth of this statement a reality. A person who obeys God will experience far less guilt, pressure, and tension. These are things that eat away at life, that cause ulcers and all kinds of other emotional and physical problems. Guilt, pressure, and tension sap the strength out of life and shorten life. One of the wisest things a person can do is to obey God, eliminating the guilt, pressure, and tension that disobedience brings into his life. Not only will obeying God prolong your days, but also it will give you a more enjoyable or abundant life.
- The commandments will cause all things to go well for you, give you a victorious life (Deut. 6:3). Just think for a moment: breaking the commandments of God causes all kinds of problems for a person. For example, lying, stealing, adultery, and murder cause all kinds of disturbed relationships and wreck human life. Breaking any of the commandments of God causes all kinds of problems…
|• broken relationships
• wrecked lives
The results of disobedience are terrible. The ravages of sin, of disobeying God, are seen within every community in the broken lives and families all around us. But this is the glorious message of this point: obeying God will cause all things to go far better. If people obey the commandments, there will be no lying, stealing, adultery, or murder. There will be far fewer broken lives and families. Things will go well, and people will live a far more victorious life, conquering all the enemies and evil of this world. A life of conquest and victory is solely dependent upon obeying God. This is the reason God gave His commandments, to show man how to live so that he could live a victorious life. Obeying God simply makes things go better. In fact, all things will go well if a person obeys God.
- The commandments will make you increase and assure a full, satisfying life (Deut. 6:3). This was a specific promise made to the Israelites, but it is also common sense for any people. As has already been seen, obeying the commandments extends life and improves the quality of that life. Just these facts alone would increase the population of a people, make them far more fruitful. Moreover, God blesses His people, assures them of a full, satisfying life. If a person obeys God, he walks throughout life conquering the temptation to lie, steal, commit adultery, and react in anger and violence when wronged by people. The point is he lives a victorious life over the temptations and trials of life. Therefore, God gives him a sense of confidence, assurance, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life. He grows in love for God and for people, experiencing the fullness of joy, peace, and strength of life.
What is the greatest commandment in the law? Remember that Jesus Christ Himself was asked this question, and He answered without hesitation or equivocation. He answered with all the authority of God Himself, and His answer was an eye-opener: He quoted this passage in Deuteronomy. (See outline—• Matthew 22:37-38; outline—• Mark 12:29-31; note—• Matthew 22:37-38; and note—• Mark 12:29-31 for more discussion.) The greatest commandment is this:
- Know that “the Lord our God is One Lord” (Deut. 6:4).
- He is the Lord (Jehovah, Yahweh). God is the great Creator, the Sovereign Majesty of the universe. Therefore, He is the Lord of all. There is not one god of the Jew (religionist) and another god of the Gentile. There are not different gods of the races and nations of the world, not a different god of Africa and a different god of India, and a different god for Arabs, and a different god for Americans and on and on. Imagine the foolishness of such an idea! Yet how common the idea is! There is only one God who created the universe and only one God who is the God of all mankind.
⇒ There is only one God who created all things: “One God, the Father of whom are all things and we in Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).
⇒ There is only one God who has made all men alike: “Who made of one blood every nation of men” (Acts 17:26).
⇒ There is only one God “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Note this fact: as the Lord, God is the only living and true God, the God of salvation, deliverance, and redemption. This means a most wonderful thing: as the Lord—the only living and true God—all people are saved, redeemed in the same way. God does not play favorites or show partiality. God does not make it more difficult for some to be saved. God is the Lord—the only One—therefore He treats all equally and justly. All people can approach God and be saved in the same way.
⇒ There “is [only] one God, who shall justify the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith” (Romans 3:30).
⇒ “There is [only] one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
- The Lord is our God (Deut. 6:4). This is a personal relationship between a worshipper and the Lord. It is a daily experience. We are related to Him; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Therefore, we should love, adore, and worship Him.
- The Lord is one Lord (Deut. 6:4). There is no other. Monotheism (one God) is the truth of God, of the true and living God. Polytheism (many gods) is a false belief created in the imaginations of people.
- Love the Lord your God with your whole being: your heart, soul and strength (Deut. 6:5). Love God as your very own God. This is a personal relationship, not a distant relationship. God is not impersonal, far out in space someplace, distant and removed. God is personal, ever so close, and we are to be personally involved with God on a face-to-face basis. The command is to “love the Lord thy God.” Loving God is alive and active, not dead and inactive. Therefore, we are to maintain a personal relationship with God that is alive and active.
Note that Jesus Christ says to love God with all your being. Christ breaks our being down into three parts: the heart, the soul, and strength.
- The “heart” (lebab) is the inner part, the inner man of a person. The heart is the seat of man’s affection and will (devotion). The heart attaches and focuses our will and devotion. The heart causes us to give either good things or bad things. The heart causes us to devote ourselves to either good or bad. Therefore, Christ says we are to love God “with all our heart.” We are to focus our heart, our affection, and our will (devotion) upon God. We are to love God supremely.
- The “soul” (nephesh) is the seat of man’s breath and life or consciousness. The soul is the life of a man, the consciousness, the breath, the essence, the being of a man. The soul is the animal life of a man. The soul is the breath and consciousness that distinguishes man and other animals from vegetation. The world of vegetation lives and man and animals live, but there is a difference in their living. Man and animals are breathing and conscious beings. The essence of their being is breath and consciousness. They are living souls. This is clearly pointed out in the Hebrew language of Genesis 1:20: “Let the waters bring forth abundantly ‘living souls‘ [nephesh] that hath life.” The “living souls” that God created were different from the vegetation He had just created. The “living souls” were creatures (fish) that breathed and possessed consciousness.
Christ said we are to love God “with all our soul,” that is, with all our life, our breath, our consciousness. We are to love God with all the breath and consciousness, all the life and awareness we have.
3. The word “strength” (meod) means the full strength, all the strength of a person. It means to use up one’s strength thoroughly, to the point of exhaustion. We are to love God with all our strength—fully, thoroughly, to the point of exhaustion.
- The greatest commandment is clear: we must love God with all our hearts, souls, and strength.
(6:6-9) The duty of the believer is stated by Moses in clear, descriptive terms. He laid three important duties upon every believer.
- The believer is to place the commandments in his heart ( 6:6). The commandments are to be preeminent in the believer’s life. He is to cherish the commandments, cradle them in his heart. Simply stated, the believer is to be totally committed, wholeheartedly committed to the commandments. He is to hold them ever so near and dear to his heart.
- The believer is to diligently teach the commandments to his children (Deut. 6:7). The commandments are not automatically taught to children. Educating children is an absolute necessity. And note: education is not just teaching facts and principles, not just passing along information. Teaching is experiencing the truth personally, living out the truth before the children. It is applying the truth of the commandments to one’s heart and experiencing the truths within one’s own life. The children then see the truth of the commandments lived before their very eyes, and they absorb the truth, pick it up automatically. The truth becomes a part of their lives. This is exactly what Moses was preaching: the believer was constantly to talk about the commandments when he sat at home, when he walked along the road throughout the day, when he laid down, and when he got up. The whole thrust is that he was to live by the commandments, experience them, obey them, and set the dynamic example before his children.
- The believer is to use the commandments as a strong witness and testimony before the public (Deut. 6:8-9). When an Israelite was out in public, he was to bind the commandments on his hands and forehead. Within the home, he was to write them on his doorposts and on his gates. This particular charge has been literally practiced by orthodox Jews down through the centuries. They have copied four sections from the law and put these passages in leather cases and tied them to their arms and on their foreheads during morning prayers (Exodus 13:1-10; Exodus 13:11-16; Deut. 6:4-9; Deut. 11:13-21). Some have also put two passages of Scripture in a metal or glass case and attached it to the right doorpost of every entrance to their homes (Deut. 6:4-5; Deut. 11:13-20).
The thrust of Moses’ preaching was that the home was to be the center for bearing testimony to the truth of the commandments. Very simply, the believer was to place the commandments in the very core of his heart and diligently teach them to his children both by example and word. Moreover, he was to bear strong testimony to the commandments both outside and inside his home. His home was to be known as a righteous home, a home where the commandments of God were taught and lived.
(6:10-11) Moses preached the blessings of prosperity. If the Israelite believers obeyed God, God would pour out His blessings upon them, give them great prosperity. Note the blessings, the gifts God would give if they obeyed Him:
⇒ the gift of the promised land (Deut. 6:10). He would give them a place they could call their own, a permanent inheritance upon which they could settle and experience the victorious life and rest that had been promised by God.
⇒ the gift of prosperous cities (Deut. 6:10)
⇒ the gift of houses filled with all kinds of good things (Deut. 6:11)
⇒ the gift of wells and water (Deut. 6:11)
⇒ the gift of food (Deut. 6:11)
- The believer who obeys God will be blessed by God, greatly blessed in this life and in the life to come. This is the strong declaration of Scripture.
(6:11-19) Moses preached the danger of prosperity, the danger of being too comfortable, at ease, self-satisfied. The believer must beware, watch, guard against the indulgence of the flesh, the danger of becoming too comfortable or too at ease. Prosperity can ruin the believer. Having plenty can make a believer complacent. Prosperity gives rise to three particular dangers, dangers that the believer must guard against with all vigilance:
- Prosperity can lead to the danger of forgetting God (Deut. 6:12-13). Becoming prosperous, having plenty, and being full can easily dull a person, making him insensitive to God. He can become overly comfortable and satisfied to the point that he forgets God. He forgets that every good and perfect gift comes from God. Therefore, he owes God his life and all that he possesses. Note what Scripture says: prosperity can make the person forget his great salvation, that it was God who delivered him out of Egypt. Keep in mind that Egypt is a symbol of the world. It is God who delivers us from the enslavement of the world.
The opposite of forgetting God is to fear God and to serve God (Deut. 6:13). This is the answer to forgetting God. The believer is to fear the Lord his God and serve Him with all his heart, soul, and strength. But this is not all: the believer is to take oaths only in God’s name. He is openly to declare himself to be a follower of God, to be a strong witness of God. This would be one way to guard against forgetting God.
- Prosperity can lead to the danger of compromise (Deut. 6:14.). Surrounding neighbors would always be inviting God’s people to participate with them in their false worship. Unless God’s people stayed close to God and obeyed His commandments, they would end up compromising and accepting the invitations of their neighbors. They would end up participating in false worship and soon begin to follow false gods. Belief in false gods and false worship sweeps the earth—always has and always will—and is a constant temptation to God’s people. The warning of Moses to believers is forceful: prosperity can lead to the danger of compromise. You must not follow other gods, the gods of the people who are all around you.
Note the answer to compromise: the believer must know—keep ever before his mind—that the Lord is a jealous God and His anger will burn against him. If the believer participates in idolatry or false worship, he must know that God will judge him, condemn him to death.
- Prosperity could lead to the danger of testing God (Deut. 6:16-19). A person could test God by being too demanding or going too far in thinking that God would never judge nor chastise him. A person can go so far in his sinful behavior that he is presuming upon God’s goodness, daring God to judge or chastise him. This was what happened in Massah out in the middle of the desert: the people were forced to camp in a place where there was no water to drink. Consequently, they were gripped with a spirit of unbelief and they rebelled against Moses and God. They demanded that Moses prove his leadership and God’s guidance by producing water. They were even on the verge of stoning him. They were presuming upon God’s goodness, being too demanding and going too far, daring God’s judgment to lash out against them (see outline—• Exodus 17:1-7; and note—• Exodus 17:1-7 for more discussion).
The answer to the danger of testing God is to obey God, keep His commandments—all His laws (Deut. 6:17). The believer must do what is right and good in God’s eyes, not in his own eyes (Deut. 6:18). If he obeys God, then things will go well with him and he will inherit the promised land (Deut. 6:18).
- The believer must guard against prosperity, against becoming overly comfortable, at ease, and self-satisfied. God does bless the believer, but with the blessings come some threatening dangers.
1) There is the danger of forgetting God.
2) There is the danger of compromise, of following false gods and false worship.
3) There is the danger of testing God. The believer can be too demanding of God and go too far, thinking that God would never judge him. He can presume upon the goodness of God, going so far in sin that he is daring God to judge him.
(6:20-25) Moses preached the duty to teach the truth of salvation and of the commandments to children. Teaching the truth to children is one of the primary duties of parents. Moses understood children: he knew that children would be asking about God and His commandments when they heard God or the commandments mentioned. This was and is particularly true when a family focuses upon the Lord and His Word or commandments. When children asked an Israelite believer about the wonderful truth of God’s deliverance from Egypt, the parents were to explain to the children what had happened. He was to explain how God had delivered His people from Egyptian slavery by miraculous signs and wonders and how God had executed judgment against the Egyptians and Pharaoh (Deut. 6:21-22). The parents were also to explain how God had brought them to the promised land, given them the great inheritance sworn to the forefathers, that is, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 6:23).
But explaining salvation was not enough: the parents had to teach the truth of God’s commandments to their children (Deut. 6:24-25). The parents were to teach the wonderful promise of God—that if they obeyed God, the most wonderful results would happen: they would prosper and be preserved.
⇒ They would be counted righteous before God. The word righteousness, tsedaqah, is taken from the root word tsadaq or sadaq which means to be righteous; to cleanse or clear oneself; to make righteous or to turn to righteousness; to be in the right; to be justified; to be just. The basic meaning of the word righteousness is exactly what the English word says: to be righteous, noble, honest, good. Moses was declaring that the person who obeyed God would be counted righteous before God. He would become acceptable to God.
- There are two strong lessons for us in this point.
1) Parents must teach their children the truth of salvation and the importance of God’s Holy Word or commandments.
2) Since the coming of Jesus Christ, righteousness is by faith through Christ and not by the works of the law. No person can keep the law perfectly; therefore, God accepts a person only when he comes through the righteousness of Christ and through His righteousness alone. A person must approach God through Christ in order to be accepted by God. But once a person has been accepted by God, he must seek to obey God and to fulfill the commandments of God.
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Source: The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Deuteronomy, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “E. The Summary of the Commandments–the Greatest Commandment of All: Love the Lord, 6:1-25”.