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…
I. THE CHARACTER OF THIS LOVE. The whole man must be enlisted in our love of God; all the force of our life must go to express and to fulfil it.
1. God claims from us a warm personal affection.
2. God must be loved for His moral excellence. Not only must our conscience approve our affection; it will be ever supplying us with new material for exalted worship of Him. The sense of righteousness will kindle gratitude into adoration.
3. God claims from us an intelligent affection. Our intelligence must have full scope, if our love of God is to be full.
4. God claims from us that we love with all our strength. The whole force of our character is to be in our affection for Him. Men devote their energies to worldly pursuits.
II. THE UNITY OF SPIRITUAL LIFE IN THIS LOVE. The command of our text is introduced by a solemn proclamation, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." The object of Moses in declaring the unity of God was to guard the Jews against idolatry; my object in dwelling on it is to claim from you the consecration of all your powers. A simple illustration will make both these points clear. Polygamy is contrary to the true idea of marriage; he who has many wives cannot love one of them as a wife should be loved. Equally is the ideal of marriage violated if a man cannot or will not render to his wife the homage of his whole nature. His affection itself will be partial instead of full, and his heart will be distracted, if, whatever her amiability may be, her conduct offends his moral sensibilities; if he cannot trust her judgment and accept her counsel; if she is a hindrance to him and not a help in the practical business of life. Many a man's spiritual life is distracted and made inefficient, simply because his whole being is not engrossed in his religion; one-sidedness in devotion is sure to weaken, and tends ultimately to destroy it. Consider the infinite worthiness of God. He is the source and object of all our powers. There is not a faculty which has not come from Him; which is not purified and exalted by consecration to Him. And as all our powers make up one man — reason and emotion, conscience and will uniting in a complete human life — so, for spiritual harmony and religious satisfaction, there must be the full consecration and discipline of all our powers. Again and again is this truth set before us in the Bible. The blind and the lame were forbidden for sacrifice; the maimed and imperfect were banished from the congregation of the Lord. The whole man is redeemed by Christ — body, soul, and spirit, all are to be presented a living sacrifice. The gospel is intended, not to repress our powers, nor to set a man at strife with himself, but to develop and enlarge the whole sphere of life; and he wrongs the Author of the gospel, and mars his own spiritual perfection, who allows any faculty to lie by disused in God's service. Look at the same truth in another aspect; consider how our powers aid one another in gaining a true apprehension of God. The sensibilities of love give us insight into His character, and furnish us with motives for active service of Him. On the other hand, intelligent esteem of God expands affection for Him, and preserves it strong when mere emotion will have died away. Obedience is at once the organ of spiritual knowledge, and the minister of an increasing faith. "They that know Thy name," says the Psalmist, "will put their trust in Thee."
III. THE GROUNDS AND IMPULSES OF THIS LOVE. In reality it has but one reason — God is worthy of it; and the impulse to render it comes directly from our perception of His worthiness and the know, ledge that He desires it from us. The claim for love, like all the Divine claims, is grounded in the character of God Himself; and it takes the form of commandment here because the Jews were "under the law." There are, however, two thoughts suggested by the two titles given by Moses to God, which will help us in further illustration of our subject.
(1) Moses speaks of God as Jehovah, the self-existent, self-sufficing One. God is the source and author of all, wherever found, that awakens love in man. When once the idea of God has taken full possession of the soul, there is not a perfection which we do not attribute in infinite measure to Him.
(2) Moses calls Jehovah "the Lord our God," reminding His people that God had singled them out from all the nations of the earth, that they were "precious in His sight and honourable;" and that all they knew of His excellence and goodness had come to them through their perception of what He had done for them. "We love Him, because He first loved us;" this is the Christian reading of the thought of Hoses.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.