I believe children of every age know what it is that their parents love. Whether it’s somebody or something, our words and our actions declare those things that have our hearts. They are observant enough to see what it is that wakes us up in the morning and lingers on our minds until we drift to sleep. As your children watch you, what would they say is the greatest love of your life?
Loving God Completely
Standing upon the cusp of entering the Promised Land, Moses gathered the nation of Israel together for final instructions before embarking upon their long-awaited entry. After forty years of wanderings, the people were finally ready to inherit their land. At this critical juncture, Moses recapped Israel’s history and reminded the people concerning God’s commands. Before they entered the land, Moses instructed the people of Israel that the most critical task for them was to love God supremely above all else.
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
This passage is referred to as the shema, which is a transliteration for the first word in verse six. The word is a command urging the people “to hear” what is about to be stated.
More than mere comprehension, Moses desired the people to obey the words they heard.
Knowledge of the information without subsequent application would have been pointless.
This truth concerning Yahweh’s uniqueness was to be the foundation for all other Jewish truths and to communicate the meaning of a monotheistic religion.
When Moses proclaimed, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deut 6:4), he was proclaiming the uniqueness of Yahweh compared to other gods. Through the Exodus experience, the Israelites had comprehended the singularity of Yahweh compared to other gods (Exod 15:11).
Yahweh’s unparalleled nature was to be met with an uncontested devotion of loving God with all their heart, soul, and strength (Deut 6:5).
While the book of Deuteronomy is full of commands following this particular command, this plea to love Yahweh serves as the book’s thesis with the following material supporting this foundational claim.
God’s desired response throughout the book of Deuteronomy is that of love (Deut 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 20).
Obedience is the supreme act of love.
The Israelites did not view the heart to be the residence of the emotions, but rather the heart was understood to be the center of one’s thought processes and corresponding will.
Therefore, in order to love God, they must decide to love him with their entire hearts due to the preceding love of Yahweh.
Yahweh also expected them to love him with all their soul, meaning “the deepest roots” of life.
When Moses urged the people to love Yahweh with all of their “strength,” he was not referring to their physical capability but more their intense level of desire to love Yahweh.
God expected an excessive type of love since that is the type of love with which he first loved the Israelites.
Moses urged parents not to isolate the teaching of Scripture to the public square, but to first teach the truths of Yahweh within their homes to their own children.
Followers of Yahweh were supposed to understand Moses’ words in this passage so well that they could transmit that information to the following generations. Like an artist chiseling stone, parents were to shape and mold their children spiritually.
While God expected that present generation to obey him, he was also interested in the multigenerational longevity of obedience.
According to his instruction, parents who were concerned about their children’s spiritual condition would begin to teach them as early as possible in order to develop them spiritually.
Moses taught that parents should take every opportunity possible to instruct their children. These foundational truths were so critical to Israel’s survival that parents must teach them at every possible moment. God intended for fathers to teach their sons who would teach their sons, and this example of family dedication would ideally never diminish.
The intention of teaching children the ways of the Lord is so that God’s rule would infiltrate into every sphere of the Israelites’ lives.
Moses desired the people to commit the commands to memory in order to integrate them into their lives (Deut. 6:6). As a way of reinforcement, Moses then told the people to adorn their wardrobes and their homes with God’s commands. Jews placed frontlets (Deut 6:8) or phylacteries on their foreheads which were small containers holding sacred passages. Jews also took literally Moses’ command to write the words on the doorposts (Deut 6:9) in the form of small containers positioned at the doorways filled with scriptural parchments.
While many Jews still practice this command literally, God’s intention was to see people integrate his words into the entirety of life rather than allowing them to be mere physical adornment.
God’s law was intended to permeate every arena of life for the Israelites. Moses’ message was to take this teaching and apply it first to the individual, then to the home, and finally within the community.
As God called the people entering the Promised Land, he still calls parents to the same task today.
Concerned parents will not rely upon religious institutions only to accomplish their biblical responsibility.
To ensure the faithfulness of the next generations, parents must teach their children via example to love God with all their heart, with all their mind, and with all their strength.