What is the first commandment? It is an open secret of blessings to millions.
I want us to understand the love of God.
We will look at the Sh’ma Yisrael, legislated love and the importance of loving God.
What is the first commandment, not the first of the Ten Commandments, but the first? Perhaps the most important prayer in any Jewish prayer book is theSh’ma Yisrael. It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The beginning of that prayer was quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:28-34 as the first commandment. “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai echad.” “Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one.” It contains the most basic theology about God, that he is one, not two Gods, not three Gods, not a pantheon but one God. The Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19 confirms this in the single name of the three in perfect unity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three Gods, but one God. It is not necessary to understand what humans cannot, but we are commanded to love God.
I am disgusted. New Windows 8applications are filled with nuisance advertising. Monetizing is the new business model. It’s software with built-in spam. But Microsoft is not alone. We can’t even watch YouTube videos or Internet news stories without wading through mandatory time-wasting advertisements. Selfish business models are making life miserable, but we can’t legislate love can we? Well, God did. He mandated that we love him and our neighbor. Unrighteous capitalism is driven by greed and causes destruction from within as our tragic human history proves. Righteous capitalism builds a nation. It uses as a business model love of God and love of neighbor (Mark 12:28-34).Windows 8 is only the latest example of a selfish business model. There is no human law legislating love, but there is a higher law which does. God commands that we love.
Venice, case study in greed
Venice is a case study in greed. Once an affluent, open economy, the rich destroyed it through greed. Venice lost its wealth. America was formed to escape the restrictive social classes of Europe, but now ours are more restrictive than theirs. The poor and middle class cannot afford the educational costs that guarantee top jobs. The wealthy claim that too many people are dependent upon the government for help, when they have been dependent upon government for unfair tax breaks and government bailouts. Just like in Venice, todays wealthy are destroying the system and the freedom that gave them their riches. More and more of us work as poorly paid serfs to the greedy. National salvation is found in Jesus and his command to love. Righteous capitalism uses as a business model love of God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-34).
Boycotting one particular company is naive when there is evil on all sides. All companies sin to some degree. One of the evils of corporate business is greed. “Corporate pork is a truly bipartisan dish” as both sides of politics are guilty of favoritism via tax perks, trade protection and government subsidies. Businesses build protective moats around their corporate castles, not to benefit the consumer, but to favor themselves. Microsoft has been sued by governments and Apple tried to force us to buy its inferior map application. Big businesses only give lip service to a free market while they try to monopolize markets and bully competitors. Most lobbying in Washington is to protect existing businesses and not to promote a truly free and open market. Righteous corporations use a business model of love of God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-34).
Knowing and loving God
One of life’s great secrets is learning to love God (Mark 12:28-34). Who is God? He is the great spirit, personal, living in eternity and unchanging. He is good, holy, righteous, loving, just, faithful, benevolent, gracious, merciful and persistent. God is also very near at every moment, yet at the same time high above us in every respect. He is one God, but also Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a mystery which we call the Trinity, that is beyond our human understanding. God is also creator of everything and continues as provider of all things. His rulership is loving and he provides through prayer, as we ask, yet always what is best, making special provision through miracles. Knowing about him makes more sense to obey the greatest commandment: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Do we love God
The great neglected commands are to love God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). Do we love God if we don’t accept his weekly invitation? Let’s not forsake the assembling together as the manner of some is. Do we love God if we ignore him in daily prayer? Pray without ceasing. Do we love God if he gets only a few dollars in the offering plate? Where our treasure is that’s where our hearts are. Do we love God if we fail to support those faulty human beings that he has placed in office? Esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake. Do we love God if we fail to show interest in his opinions on things as revealed in the Holy Scriptures? Study the Scriptures because they testify about Jesus, the way to eternal life. Do we love God?
Loving God with all our hearts
How do we love God with all our hearts (Mark 12:28-34)? It is a two-way street. We have our part. We are to seek him wholeheartedly (Deuteronomy 4:29-31). Joshua 22:5 explains that it involves walking in his ways, keeping his commands and holding fast to him. The first few of the Ten Commandments are specific principles of showing love to God: have no other Gods, no graven images, not taking his name in vain and taking a specific day to rest and assemble to worship him. God directs our hearts into this love (2 Thessalonians 3:5) and the Holy Spirit pours the love of God out in our hearts (Romans 5:5). We also show love to God in how we love the least of the brethren, so have we done for Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).
Loving God with all our souls
Why ought we to love God with all our souls (Mark 12:28-34)? The word translated as soul here is psyche which can also refer to the life of a person. What good is it if we gain the whole world and lose our souls? What can we give in exchange for our souls (Matthew 16:26)? If we love things more than God, we are lost souls. If we find our lives, we lose them. If we lose our lives for Jesus’ sake, we find them (Matthew 10:39). The Magnificat is so named because Mary sang, my soul magnifies the Lord. Do our lives magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46)? Why would we not want to love the one who is the shepherd and overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25)? He provides everything that we need.
Loving God with our minds
How do we respond to those who hate God and teach that belief in him is only for people with weak minds? They call Christians stupid for believing in the most obvious of all forensic evidence, that what exists demands an intelligent creator. King David challenged that kind of thinking by writing lyrics about morally deficient fools who say in their hearts that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Some Christians seem to encourage the idea that believers are brainless by fostering a blind acceptance of their beliefs as if intellectualism and worship are incompatible. But that contradicts what Jesus taught us (Mark 12:28-34) to love God with our minds, from a Greek word meaning thorough reasoning, using our intellect. Belief in God is not for simple fools, but for those who love him with their minds.
Loving God with all our strength
When an emergency happens we can exhibit super-human strength, what science calls hysterical strength or adrenaline strength. Mothers lift cars to rescue children and warriors go berserk to accomplish heroic feats in battle. Using all our strength also makes us very tired very quickly. Can we love God with all our strength (Mark 12:28-34)? But what happens when our strength fails? Paul encouraged the Ephesians and through them us, to be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10). We may be weak, but if we remain in God’s city we will be strong (Isaiah 26:1-2). The Lord is our strength and song and salvation (Exodus 15:1-2). God is our strength and power (2 Samuel 22:33). Let us not be discouraged because God will strengthen us even when enemies attack us for serving him (Isaiah 41:10).
The first commandment is to love God. As his sheep, which are loved by him even when we don’t love him, how can we not love him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength! What are you going to do this week to show God love?