25 June 2013

Deuteronomy 6:1-15

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (vv. 6-9)


For the Israelites, life with God included every single aspect of their lives together; their religion was their life, their life was their religion. The book of Deuteronomy remembers all that God did for the nation of Israel and describes the kind of lifestyle that responds to such faithfulness. Love is one of the main themes of the book and here in today's passage we encounter one of the pivotal passages that defined Israel's life together. The greatest commandment - to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and might (verse 5). This then was what God desired from Israel - a genuine love that flowed throughout their whole life. It was this love, freely given and expressed in daily living that was supposed to lead to a blessed life for all who obeyed.

It is instructive, to the contemporary reader, to see how this love was to be cultivated. The people of Israel were told to keep the words in their heart; to be continually mindful of them. They were to do this practically, by reciting them at home and away - in other words, everywhere! They were to do this when they rose and lay down, which suggests that it should happen all the time. They were to bind them physically on their hands and fix them on their foreheads. They were to write them on their doorposts and on their gates. The Israelites were to literally immerse their whole being in God's command to love.

Phylacteries are the small wooden boxes that some Jews attach to their left hand and forehead with leather straps during times of prayer. Phylacteries contain key passages from the law, including today's passage. Jews often attach mezuzot, small metal or wooden containers with passages of Scripture to the door frames of their homes as a direct response to this passage. They literally wear God's law on their bodies and attach it to the thresholds of their property as a practical way of reminding themselves of God's greatest commandment: love God everywhere, in everything, all the time.

To Ponder

  • What physical items prompt you to love?
  • What simple, practical steps can you take to love God everywhere, in everything, all the time?
  • How will you practise love today?

Bible notes author

Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green has a background in church planting, especially with 18-45s in an urban context. Formerly a pastor in the Vineyard movement of churches, he was on the ministerial team at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster for five years.