Deuteronomy 6:1-15acomment (0)
May 3, 2012
By James R. Barnette
Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:1-15a
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
Building a Legacy
Build on the Right Foundation (1–5)
Deuteronomy constantly challenges us with its plea for obedience. The command to “do” what God says occurs about 50 times in this book. Now Moses proceeds to instruct the people in the commandments, as they in turn are to teach their children.
In verse 4 Moses declares God’s uniqueness and Israel’s response in undivided loyalty. The celebrated Shema is recited in the liturgy twice daily by pious Jews, thus termed by some “the Jewish Creed.” This creed gets the name from the very first word, Shema, which means “hear.” The imperative “hear” is fundamental to a covenantal understanding of the people of God. In listening, Israel is summoned, commanded and assured by the One with authority Who imposes on Israel a purpose and identity that He wills. The imperative brings Israel into a defining relationship in which the people submit to Him and His way alone.
The expression “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” is a favorite in Deuteronomy (see 4:29; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2) and gives insight into ancient Hebrew psychology. The “heart” was regarded as the seat of the mind and will. The word “soul” refers to one’s “being,” the source of life and vitality. Using these two terms together indicates the call to love God with unreserved devotion that is punctuated by strong passion or “might.” Jesus added the phrase “with all your mind” and described verses 4 and 5 as “the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37; Luke 10:27).
Share Your Life Message (6–9)
Love for God was not to be a secret devotion, a purely private relationship that did not concern others. From the start it was to involve the element of public confession as well as personal allegiance. This loving devotion to the “one” Lord must be shared in the home. These God-given truths must be taught not only by Moses but also by every parent in Israel. Their commitment to the spiritual welfare of their children was never to be neglected. Furthermore, this love for God and His word must be shared in the community. Displaying the truth on their doorposts and gates made it unmistakably clear to neighbors that this was a family committed to God and His word.
Keep Your Focus (10–15a)
A key word in the book of Deuteronomy is “remember.” When they inhabit the promised land, the Israelites should not forget the generosity God has constantly shown throughout some of their darkest years. They are told here that in the highly materialistic culture of Canaan they will be in danger of forgetting four crucial things about God: His gracious promise, His incomparable nature, His generous gifts and His mighty acts.
The Israelites are confronted with both a negative and positive exhortations they are not to forget God (verse 12), and they are to serve Him (verse 13). Jesus quoted verse 13 when He was tempted by the devil. According to the Greek text of Matthew 4:10, He replaced the word “fear” with “worship” in response to Satan’s challenge. We are ourselves exposed to the lure of rival idols, “the gods of the people around you.” Nevertheless, we are to fear and serve God only and take “oaths in His name.” We are called to a vow of total allegiance to the One Lord.
The deliberate neglect of the Lord was equivalent to defiance of His sovereignty over all of life. In the secular realm a rebellious vassal was punished by his overlord. In the Lord’s realm His curses would fall on the covenant-breaker. The Lord is a jealous God (see Deut. 5:9) Who would visit His people with judgment should they take lightly their covenant with Him. The presence of God among His people was an encouragement to good conduct and provided a strong incentive for Israel to walk in His ways.
James Barnette is the teaching pastor of Brookwood Baptist Church, Birmingham.