16 November 2016

Deuteronomy 6:4-13

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (v. 5)

Psalm: Psalm 50:1-15


The Great Commandment, repeated by Jesus (Matthew 22:37), is central to the Jewish law and faith. It is based on the direct relationship between God and people, for the Israelites are reminded yet again that "the Lord isourGod" (v. 4). God has chosen them and this God is theirs. They belong together and are inseparable as a result, whatever happens. They are also being reminded, as they enter a land where the indigenous people worship a variety of other local gods, that their God is "the Lord alone" (v. 4). They are not to countenance any other god(s) as they did at times during the years in the wilderness. Those days are now behind them and it is time to move into a new and clear relationship with, as far as they are concerned, the one and only God.

This new relationship with God demands total commitment. It requires all their thoughts, feelings and actions; their heart, soul and might. It's not possible to have a half-hearted relationship with God and properly demonstrate your love. It's also not possible to do this in a hidden way, for the expectation is that they should remind themselves every time they look at their hands or walk through a doorway, through the fixing of the words of God to their hands, forehead and doorframe (verses 8-9).

Whilst this may have been intended as metaphorical, in reality it led to the wearing of cubic black leather boxes, known as tefillin or phylacteries, by Jewish men on their head and arm during weekday morning prayer, the boxes containing four texts, including Deuteronomy 6:4-9. In addition doorframes in Jewish homes often have a mezuzah attached to them with this commandment written on it. And again, those listening to these words are reminded of the importance of telling their children, both at the start of every day and at the end, so that generations to come would not forget the importance of this relationship. There is no escaping this central commandment and the commitment it requires.

To Ponder

  • How does a total commitment to loving God with all your heart, soul and might manifest itself today?
  • Richard Dawkins, the biologist and leading atheist, suggested that the "indoctrination of religion in children was abusive". How do we balance the command to "recite them to your children" (v. 7) day and night with encouraging the development of an enquiring mind?
  • As the Israelites became more affluent and started to benefit from the "houses filled with all sorts of goods" (v. 11) they began to forget the importance of this great commandment and replaced the one God with other idols. What idols do we have to contend with today? 

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.