Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “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. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This is one of the greatest scriptures in our Bible, and one that we need to take time to carefully examine and apply to our lives and into our families. Some tend to quickly dismiss this passage as though it is meant only for parents, but every person, whether young or old can gain much by getting a deeper understanding of this passage.
The verses we have just read constitutes what is refereed to as the “Shema”, forming the most important passage of the Old Testament for the Jews. The word “Shema” means to “hear”, and it is the Hebrew word that begins the most important prayer in Judaism. This passage of scripture is the first that every Jewish child must commit to memory. It is also used to open every Jewish service and recited twice daily by the faithful in accordance with Jewish rabbinical law. In its entirety, the Shema consists of three sections of scriptures: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.
This shows the importance and value of remembering this scripture and for us to study it today, to see how we can apply it to our lives. No only committing it to memory but also understanding the depth and meaning of these scriptures in a way that will transform our lives as followers of Christ.
In the New Testament, we see that Jesus also confirms the importance of this scripture when He used it as the beginning of the answer to the greatest commandment question in Mark 12:28-31 saying “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.”
So, when Jesus began His answer with the Shema prayer, He was firstly confirming and acknowledging that the Lord God as most important over all things, and secondly our complete devotion to Him as the most important of all the commandments. Once Jesus spoke these words, we see the scribes reply in Mark 12:32-33 saying “…You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one and there is no other beside him. And to love him with all the heart and with all understanding and with all strength, and love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Today, as we acknowledge His Lordship, our response must be the same, to hear Him, to love Him with all our heart, soul, might and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
As Christians, this passage is a call to our commitment and dedication to our faith, in every area of our lives.
Let us look into this scripture more deeply by going through the following points:
- Whole-hearted, life-encompassing allegiance to God
- Store the word of God in your heart
- Teach God’s word to your children
- The continual reminder of the word
1. Whole-hearted, Life-encompassing Allegiance to God
When we begin to read Deuteronomy 6:4, here is a declaration of the unity of God. This is the first principles of our faith and obedience to God. The Lord our God is the only living and true God. There is none other besides Him. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 says “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as indeed there are many “gods” and may “lords” – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
So there is only ONE God, and the scriptures reveal that, in that one divine essence are three eternal distinctions, known as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He is the most holy, Sovereign, Almighty God, who is worthy of all Praise, all Glory and all Honor.
We see this as we continue to read in Deuteronomy 6:5 it says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Since there is but One God, and that one God is our God, we must love God unreservedly and entirely. The New Testament itself requires us to completely surrender our total self, inside and out to his maker. Matthew 22:37 says “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with ll your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
This is a command given by the Almighty Father, and also it shows us the degree of the “love” that God demands.
Love with all your heart
Our love for God must first and foremost be a SUPREME love. A love that comes from all the heart. Not a partial love, not a compartmentalized love, but a complete and total, all encompassing love. We are not to love God, as your love your friends, or relatives, or children or anything else for that matter, but love him “above” all things. God will not allow a rival to share with Him the throne of your hearts affections. Not even any lawful affection must be set above that which we give to God, much less the love of sin and the world.
In order to love God with such a passion we need to first test examine our very own hearts. Firstly you need to recognize that our affections determine our devotion. Our hearts contain powerful emotions, affections and desires. To determine where our affections lie, we have to discern what occupies our time, what motivates our actions and what shapes our aspirations and their rewards. It could be money, relationships, addictions, family or whatever takes the place of God and your complete devotion to him. Affections wait to be captured, they long to cling to someone or something. Wherever these affections are found that is where our hearts will be.
The devotion of our hearts is determined by wherever we find value as our greatest treasure. Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This again is a great verse to memorize, as it shows us the the heart loves what it treasures. This means that the treasure comes first, and the heart comes second. Jesus clarifies this same point in the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44 saying “The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all the he has and buys that field.”
In order for the heart to love Jesus completely, it has to first treasure Him supremely. Our affections are the outcome of what we treasure. When we truly encounter the Lord in His glory and worth, then loving him with all our hearts will be the end result. So let us aim to make Jesus our greatest treasure. We know that the Apostle Paul, treasured Jesus as the most precious thing in His life. The loss of everything else was nothing compared to gaining Christ. Philippians 3:8 says “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Let us have such a passion for Christ and treasure Him above everything in our lives.
Love with all your soul
We must love God with an intelligent love – with all our soul or understanding. Our soul is a part of us and defines who we are. The essence of the biblical definition of the soul means: life, personality, the inner self and our identity. Its where we make our decisions and choices and ultimately decide our lifestyle and behavior. To love the Lord with all our soul means to love him in the way we live, the way we act, the choices we make and the lifestyle we adopt.
In order to love the Lord with all our soul, let us begin so, by making godly choices in everything that we do. A good way to put it would be that our lives are the sum total of the choices we make. It is our choices that define what we are committed to and will ultimately reflect our core values and display our lifestyle before the world. If we treasure our relationship with the Lord, every choice we make will reflect the treasure. The decisions we make flows from what we treasure most. Take a moment to reflect on your life, and the choices you are making on a daily basis. Does it reflect your treasure which is Christ? The results of this will demonstrate if we love God with all our soul. May he be the center of everything you do.
We also love the Lord with all our soul, when we “pursue God by obedience to His word”. John 14:15 says “If you love me, you will obey my command”. Notice that love must be demonstrated. When we keep his commands, and when we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God we are tangibly expressing our love for the Lord. We need to spend time in his word, to read and meditate, so in turn we allow the word of God to transform us in a way that we love him with all our understanding. It is this very word that will humble us, and teach us to live a life of humility in attitudes and speech. The words that come out of our mouth can either enhance or quench our ability to love the Lord by the power of the Spirit. Wrong speech will ultimately affect our spiritual lives and work against our love for the Lord
Matthew 12:34 says “…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” When Jesus is our greatest treasure our affections are captured. With our affections captures, the choices we make become god-centered and a lifestyle of humility and godliness is born and in this way we can love the Lord with all our soul.
Love with all your might
1 John 3:18 says “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” To love the Lord with all our might means to love Him exceedingly, richly, lavishly and with our every being out of love and devotion to the Lord Almighty. It is loving the Lord with all our resources, with our abilities and our time. To love him with our eyes, our hands, our ears our feet and our mouths.
We love him with with our “hands” with what we do with them. We are to serve the Lord diligently being His hands extended in our world. We are to do this by helping the poor and needy, by laying hands on the sick, by lifting our hands in worship of the Lord almighty, by working with excellence in everything we do. Our hands serve a major purpose in loving the Lord with all our might.
We love Him with our “eyes” with what they see. Our eyes are the gateway to our hearts. Rather than gazing on the passions of the world, let us gaze upon the glory of our God. Psalm 27:4 says “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” Let us fix our eyes completely on Jesus Christ, who is the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).
We must love Him with our “ears”. Throughout the gospels we often hear Jesus saying “if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” This is a powerful statement made by our Lord. The point that Jesus is making here, is that our hearing must not be one, that simply hears, but that we intently listen in order to be transformed. Listen for the wisdom of God, listen to gain revelation. When we gain access to His voice we are loving him well. We must close our ears to gossip, slander, backbiting, negative discussions etc.
We must love Him with out “feet”. Where our feet takes us in our life’s journey says a lot about how much we love the Lord. Examine where you have been lately and consider if where you have been brings glory to God. Jesus gave us the great commission in Matthew 28:19 saying “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,…” It is all about going, and when we go, we must serve, when we go to church, go to a friend in need, go the extra mile, and when we do these things, we are loving the Lord with all our strength. Let each of us be led by the Spirit and allow Him to lead us to amazing places and to divine opportunities already planned ahead for us to please Him.
Finally Let our “mouths” love Him. May every word that comes out from our mouth bring glory to the Lord. Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” May the words that come out of our mouth edify, encourage, comfort, honor, support and bring life to others. When we do this we create access for them to discover God’s kindness. We also get to love the Lord by declaring praise and worship to the Lord. We can also use our mouths to boldly proclaim our faith to others and bring them to a relationship with God, by instructing, coaching and counseling others.
So let us love him with out entire being, completely sold out for Christ, a love that produces a whole-hearted, life-encompassing allegiance to God as it says in Psalm 84:2 “My soul longs, yes, faints, for the courts of the Lord: my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
2. Store the word of God in your heart
Deuteronomy 6:6 says “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” What we learn from this verse is, when the true love of God exists in the heart, it will manifest itself in way that we want to do His will, and helps us to pursue the diligent keeping of His commandments. It is much more than committing the word of God into our memories, but it must be stored on our hearts. There is a big difference between the two. When the word of God is imprinted on our hearts, they are ever present to our thoughts and will.
We must continuously MEDITATE on God’s word. God’s word must be laid up in our hearts as we meditate on the word continuously and our very thoughts must become overcome by the word in such a way that it affects every decision and choice that we make. In this way our entire being and soul will be brought under the influence of the word of God.
So we need to understand that having the Bible in our bookshelf is not enough, or even simply memorizing it is not enough. For the word of God to guide us spiritually it must be in our hearts. How can we as Christians have God’s word in our hearts? It is only through Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ came into this world, the prophecy was fulfilled by Him, bringing the New Covenant for the whole world, which is founded on “FAITH”, rather than a physical descent.
Hebrews 10:14-17 says “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds, “then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
This is something we need to understand, that under the New Covenant by definition, God’s people consist of those who have God’s law in their heart. This is what defines us. It again says in Romans 10:4-8 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);”
So, how can we have God’s law in our heart?
We must first PREPARE our hearts to receive the word. When we read about the parable of the sower we see that God’s word bears fruit only in the good and noble heart (Luke 8:15):
- We see an example of someone who did not prepare his heart for God when we read of King Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 12:14 “And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.”
- Whereas the heart of Ezra was prepared for the Lord, Ezra 7:10 saying “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
Secondly our hearts must be RECEPTIVE to the word of God. This is what God told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3:10 saying “Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears.”
And thirdly, the word of God must be RECEIVED. James 1:21 tells us “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
So, when God’s law is written on our hearts, it permeates our whole being: it influences our thoughts, words and actions.
3. Teach them to your children
Once we begin to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and might, then there begins an outflow of this love for God to flow to those around us. This is the natural progression of our devotion to God, we cannot keep such a precious love within us but it becomes part of who we are. The light of his love begins to shine through us, to those around us. The immediate area of effect and influence first begins in our own household. The most precious people in our lives, our family and our children.
Deuteronomy 6:7 says “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” If we carefully consider this verse, we can see two commands here. At first we are instructed to teach them diligently to our children. This is a formal teaching. Secondly we are to talk of his ways. This is informal teaching.
There is a great responsibility upon a parent to teach their children the ways of the Lord. In these verses we do not see this responsibility lie with anyone else. For example, a pastor, elder, priest, Sunday School teacher or anyone else. There is no excuse to pass this responsibility to anyone else but the parent is fully responsible to teach the children. We are to embrace this responsibility as a charge from God.
Throughout the book of Deuteronomy the idea of teaching children by repetition is seen as a theme. The commandments and the word of God are to be the subject of conversation inside and outside the house, from the beginning of the day until the end of the day. The commandments were to permeate every sphere of the life of man. The word “diligently” means to “sharpen”, to pierce through, to give a sharp edge, like sharpening a knife. It is an intensely strong command with the idea of an assertive teaching process in a family setting.
This teaching is to be done anytime of the day and anywhere the teaching opportunity arises so that it sharpens our sons and daughters in their spiritual life. It is teaching from your lifestyle. Because you live it daily you cant help but teach it to those whom you love. It is part of our new spiritual nature in Christ.
In the second part of v7, the Bible commands us to talk of the commandments of God, when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. This passage can catch us off guard. Many times we have time set apart during the day to have family devotions, but sometimes we get so busy that we do not really spend any significant time engaging in worthwhile conversations with our children.
This command from the Bible can only be fulfilled if we first love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our might and when the word of God is in our hearts. This passion for God must be normal, it must be normal for a Christian to be completely passionate and sold out for God.
The passage in v7 gives us four settings:
- Sitting down in your house: Sometimes we get too busy watching television, surfing the web, going to sports events, working far too long and have no time to sit down with your children and to speak the word of God casually into their lives. Then you have others who have time but the Lord is not on their hearts. They talk about everything else, except the word of God. It should be just the opposite. Their main project should be to know God and His word. This lack of passion can become obvious to children. So this is what flows down to the children as well, their hearts go somewhere else and not to the Lord. They are only following what the parents are doing.
- When you walk by the way: Often times when we are out walking with our children, or driving in the car it is very easy to either listen to music, or get distracted by all sort of conversations. Children love to talk and ask questions about things. This is a great time to talk to them about the things of God and his word, as they really like talking to you.
- When you lie down: Even when it is time to go to bed, we need to remind and teach the word informally to our children. You could be in the room with your kids and spend some time just having a conversation on the works of God, who he is, what does the Bible say and at the same time talking about the day that has been and recounting its events. This is also a time to hug your children give them a kiss, and show how much you care for them.
- When you rise: We must have the word on our mouths even we rise up in the morning. The morning sets the pace and attitude for the day. It is a time to share some reflections from the morning devotions or say some statements from the word of God that will help the children to remember and look at during the day. Every day we face many situations through which the Lord wishes to teach us and then pass those lessons on to our children
This is the cycle for the day, which must be repeated every single day and allow more and more of the word to flow into the hearts of our children from us. Then in turn, once their hearts are filled with the power of the word of God, it will start to show in their behavior and start to shine a light to their friends, teachers and ultimately be pleasing and honorable to God Almighty.
4. The continual reminder of the word
So in the passage we have read today in Deuteronomy 6:4-10, we have seen that the word of God and his commandments is a critically important part of our life, in-fact it must consume every single part of our daily life and thoughts. It must be imprinted upon our hearts. First by loving God, whole-hardheartedly and with a life encompassing allegiance to God, then we must store his word on our hearts and meditate on them, leading to an outflow of his love, teaching our family and children and finally we must “live it”.
Deuteronomy 6:8-9 says “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
We must have a continual reminder of the law of God and his word, not just an outward reminder, but a reminder that will impact our hearts. Our life must be an open book, ready to be read by every person. And this verse is also a reminder, that we must take all necessary steps to keep God’s commandment in remembrance. We can do so by putting into practice some of the following:
- By frequent reading of scripture and meditating on it: Psalm 1:2 says “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates and night. It is important to constantly read the word and meditate. This imprints the powerful word of God on our hearts and transform us. It goes onto says in Psalm 119:11-16 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”
- By frequent conversation with others: Malachi 3:16 says “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid careful attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” We must converse with one another the word of God. This is where we encourage and exhort our brothers and sisters in Christ. We learn from each other, and the more we talk and discuss the word is when the word begins to consume us and lead us in a manner that is worthy of God. This is a constant reminder not only to ourselves but to others.
- By frequently recalling God’s word to our thoughts: Psalm 119:97 says “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day”. We also read in Psalm 77:12 saying “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds”. Let us constantly recall the word of God, for it is mighty and powerful changing our very hearts and thoughts.
- Finally, by writing them visually: As v9 suggests we must write them down wherever we have access to and where we spend most of our time, so that it will remind us of the word and will quicken us, bringing us back to the all important word of God. We can do this, by putting a bible verse as a wallpaper of our computer, or our phone, we can have apps that constantly remind us of the word, we can have wall hangings at our home with the scripture. The music we listen to can prompt us to the word, the television we watch does it honor and glorify God? Take whatever means necessary to ensure it will act as an agent to remind you of the word of God.
In closing, I hope you have understood why this command given in the Bible is so important and if we follow this principle, you will have a rock solid faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only you, but your whole family and those whom you interact with on a daily basis will also be impacted. You will be ripe to be used by God for his purposes and you will not be shaken by any storm. You will stand tall as a child of God, ever ready to do His will. God Bless.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary
David Guzik Commentary
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
R. Allen, M.A.
Roy Davison (http://www.oldpaths.com/Archive/Davison/Roy/Allen/1940/written.html)
J. Orr (Sermon: God’s word to be valued)