By Brooke Holt
“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’” – Mark 12:28–31
Every morning and evening, the Jewish people recited the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). Why did they do this two times a day? Because we humans are far too quick to forget – to forget that God is the one true God and that he alone is worthy of our praise and worship. So when one of the scribes came to Jesus to ask about the most important commandment, Jesus was quick to remind him of the Shema, the very words that they recited two times a day, every single day.
The question that begs to be asked is, did the Israelites’ daily recitation lead to heart and mind transformation? The Shema begins with the assertion of who God is. God is the one true God. In the time when the Israelites lived in Egypt, the culture was saturated with polytheistic worship. The Shema’s monotheism was radical. Think about the Egyptians, who worshipped thousands of gods, from Hapi, the god of the Nile River, to Heqet, the frog-goddess of fertility. There were crocodile gods, fertility gods, even a man-god with a dung beetle’s head. When the Lord sent the ten plagues upon Israel, each plague challenged a different god. But none of their gods could stand before the one true God of Israel. There simply was no comparison, no competition. God said what would happen, he brought the plagues, and then Pharaoh begged Moses to have the Lord remove the plagues. God alone ruled his creation.
The God of Israel is the one true God. He is the creator and the sustainer of all that is. Israel was called to live as his set-apart people, love him with their whole beings, and reflect his glory to the world. It’s a simple command, but who could fully follow it? Only Jesus. Only Jesus came and loved the Lord with all his being and loved others as himself. Only Jesus fully obeyed the Shema, because we never could. Only Jesus could cover all our sinful, half-hearted devotion by dying as the perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
In light of all that Christ has done for us, how can we not strive to love him with all our hearts? We are sinners, and this fallen world contends for our hearts and affections. Our first love often goes to our work, our spouse, our children, our hobbies, or our lifestyle. But when these good things become the main thing, it is called idolatry. Our hearts, minds, and souls are split from worshipping the one true God.
God alone is worthy of our complete devotion and worship. He is the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17). Can we worship him and love him above all else?
Spend some time reflecting on the perfect love of God shown for you at the cross. Confess your divided heart to him, and ask him to help you love him with your whole being. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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