Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Happy New Year!
The title of my message for this morning is "Love the Lord your God."
In today's passage Moses teaches the Israelites to love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their strength.
The command to love is not easy. I have realized that I am not good at loving others. Each person has a different expectation of being loved. There ends up being so many times of disappointment and failure and confusion. Just mentioning the word love brings up very different emotions and expectations from everyone. There is tough love, parental love, romantic love, and the love talked about in this passage which is closely tied with obedience. And even these loves are not so clearly defined or easy to practice.
Yet the command to love in this passage is not a difficult one. So, let's look at the passage together to get an understanding of what it means and how it applies to us today.
Look at verses 1-3.
 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess,  so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.  Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
These verses tell us first how God had loved them.
It says that God gave commands, decrees and laws to Moses which he was directed to teach them. And there is a promise that if they are careful to obey and keep all of them it will go well with them, their children and their grandchildren. There is also the promises of long life and increasing greatly. All in the land they are crossing the Jordan to possess.
How the Israelites got to this point is very amazing and telling of God's love. Commands, decrees and laws, and obedience were not new to them. They had been stuck in an old land, Egypt, as slaves. There was one law: Pharaoh's law. Obedience was required; there was no question about it. When Pharaoh said to make bricks, they made bricks. When Pharaoh said to make bricks without straw, they did so and kept their quotas. Pharoah once ordered that every boy born must be thrown into the Nile River. That was their life, day in and day out. They had no freedom. They had no promise of good things. They were good enough slaves, because Pharaoh didn't want to let them go. Even after he did let them go, he changed his mind and then chased after them, wanting to enslave them again.
Exodus 1:14 says,
They [the Egyptians] made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
They groaned in their slavery and cried out for help. Exodus 2:23-25 say that their cry for help went up to God and he heard them and was concerned about them. So he then set the events in motion to bring them out.
And he did bring them out. He sent his servants Moses and Aaron, displaying his mighty power in the land of Egypt. He destroyed Egypt. He freed the Israelites from their life of slavery and bondage to Pharaoh. Then another amazing thing happened. In the desert, he became their God. They gathered together at Mount Zion and entered into a covenant with God that he would be their God and they would be his people. At that time, they agreed to obey all that he would command. Now they had the freedom to make their own choice to obey. They were set free, and freely chose to obey God and be blessed by him. It was a new and wonderful thing for them which they hadn't enjoyed before.
Along the way, as they traveled through the wilderness, he was with them. He guided them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He provided for them so that they had food and drink, and their clothes and sandals never wore out. They even faced several battles with foreign nations although they weren't trained for war, but God gave them victory over their enemies.
Now they were going to enter into a new land, a good one. They were going to possess it. They had not their own land to possess before. But now they would. The land is described here as a land "flowing with milk and honey." Their previous land was flowing with mud, straw and mortar. Now they would be in a land flowing with milk and honey for them to enjoy. This description speaks to how abundant the land was. And it was so good because it was already prepared for them. They didn't have to make the milk and honey flow. It was already prepared and flowing for them. I imagine each person to have their own flowing milk pools and waterfalls, and when they are hungry they dip their bread in the honey rivers.
They were also shown and promised God's enduring kindness. His promise was for "you, your children and their children after them." Their obedience would span blessings for three generations. He says that it may "go well with them" and that they would live long and "increase greatly." The well-being of our children is always a pressing issue. Sometimes when Cari sees bad behavior from adults, she says to me, "I hope our children don't end up like that." (Me too!) There are seemingly so many factors to consider. Who knows what our children will do. Yet we find here that one of the primary factors for it to go well for them is the obedience to God's commands from parents.
It is also amazing to see the promise of increasing greatly. Being fruitful was from God. He would protect them and make them fruitful. They wouldn't have to worry about anyone oppressing them or threatening to throw their children into a river.
Then Moses calls the Lord the "God of your ancestors." The Lord was the same God of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He gave promises to them and kept his promises and kindness. He is the living and good God. God had given them a new life. All of their good things came from the Lord. He had shown his grace and kindness to them. He would be faithful to his promise.
What an exciting and joyful time for them! Their joy was in the Lord who had given them all these things and was with them and helping them.
So in the first place we see that Moses was reminding them of all the good things God had done for them and how much he had loved them up to this point.
The call to obey shows that he wanted them to remain in his love so that his blessings would continue to flow to them.
Look at verses 4-5.
 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
First, he says that the Lord is one. The Lord is God and there is no other god but him. The Lord is the same God who brought them out of Egypt and was now going to bring them into the new land across the Jordan. He is the one that they are to love.
Second, he says to love the Lord your God "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."
Moses first told them to obey. Now he says to love. He called to them to hear, to love the one who had loved them. What a new and blessed life they had compared to their life as slaves in Egypt. It is very different from the obedience demanded by them as slaves. Now they could choose to obey the Lord. The word love speaks to the willingness and the affection of a person to obey.
To love the Lord their God, then, meant to keep his commands out of the willingness and affection in their heart. It is in a way the resolve to willingly give yourself to him.
Then he says to love God with "all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." He says, "with" something.
It's not with their lips. People are different. We love to be loved with lips. We love to hear that others love us. When someone says, "I love you," we feel so good inside.
We need to hear it, from the time we're little kids and can understand those words until we die.
But God didn't ask for that kind of confession of love. He didn't want it from their lips. He wanted them to show it, because it is ultimately for their own benefit when they do so.
"With all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." This refers to all that is a person is and has, from the inside out. With your heart, which is your emotions and thoughts, with your soul, which is your inner person, and with your strength, which is your power, your energy, possession and all resources. With all of each of these, they were taught to love God. He says "and". With all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Like the Israelites, we tend to look at what we don't have. The Israelites had complained a lot during their travels in the desert, although God was with them and helping them. For example, they wanted better food. They wanted Moses to not take so long when he went up to talk with God.
But this teaching of love looks at what we do have. They were lacking in certain delicacies, but they had a heart and soul and strength. Moses taught them to love with each of these and all of these.
Love God with them. Love God with all your heart. Use your heart to keep his commands and to please him. So many messages say to follow your heart. Don't follow your heart. Love God with your heart. Use your emotions and thoughts for his purpose, in obedience to him. If your thoughts are running wild, make them run for God. Use your thoughts to love God, not make you crazy and run wild.
Love God with all your soul. Even King David struggled to love God with all his soul. He was depressed at times.
Psalm 42:5 says,
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God
He knew why his soul was downcast. It was because he was wearied from being on the run for his life. But when he thought about God he realized he had no reason for his soul to be downcast. So he told his soul to put its hope in God whom he will praise, the God who is his Savior and his God.
Love God with all your strength. Your strength is your power. It's not limited to just your bodily strength, but also includes your resources and power, such financially or socially. God is not just apportioned some of your strength. He didn't expect his people to obey him with just a little strength, but all their strength and with all they had and possess. Use all your strength to love God and keep his commands.
God was establishing a loving relationship with his people, in which he loved them first.
This is what God had done for his people Israel and what he commanded and taught through his servant Moses. We can see that it was such a wonderful and new life he had given them, a life of freedom, love, and power.
But this really looks forward to the love, freedom and power in Jesus Christ.
In the first place, Jesus upheld this very teaching.
Mark 12:28-30 say,
 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Of all the commandments, and there are many in the Old Testament, Jesus said that this commandment was the most important one.
Jesus also practiced this love for God.
John 14:30-31 say,
 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me,  but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
Jesus said this to his disciples during the last supper, on the night he was going to be arrested, tried, and then crucified. He told his disciples plainly that he loved God and he showed that love by obeying the Father's commands. He says that does "exactly" what the Father has commanded. Jesus did not reserve any of himself in obeying God. He didn't withhold anything.
Then he died on a cross in obedience to God. He loved with all his strength.
Through Jesus' love and obedience to the Father, God's love comes to us, to all believers. It is very similar to what the Israelites experienced.
In the first place, believers are set free from the bondage to the devil and to sin. It is because Jesus forgives sin. He paid the price of sin with his own blood, so that all who believe in him are forgiven and no longer under sin or Satan's power.
He then gives the believer the power and right to become the people of God and the children of God. He restores the relationship with them. In 1 Peter 2:10, it is said, "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God."
He gives them the hope of a new home, the home of righteousness, where they will live as the people of God who serve God and are with him in his presence.
In our Christmas messages we covered this salvation work of Jesus.
Luke 1:68-75 say,
 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Through Jesus who saves us we can serve God. It is not in fear, but in holiness and righteousness before him. He drives out fear by his love.
Recently, we went through the book of Revelation in the daily bread. There are so many visions of Jesus who died for his people so that they would be a new people, forgiven of their sin, and who will be stand victorious and with God.
Revelation 5:9-10 say,
 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
and Revelation 17:14 says,
They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.
Here we see Jesus. He is the Lamb who died for us and shed his blood, but he will triumph over all the enemies. And we see with him are his called, chosen and faithful followers. They will be with him and will have victory with him. And he gives them eternal life. It is better than the promised "long life" in this passage. All who are in the Lamb's book of life will live forever with him.
Jesus also promised life, better than what the Israelites were promised.
John 11:25-26 say,
 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus' promise is better than that of the Israelites. They may live long, but they would die one day. But Jesus promised to never die! He gives eternal life.
His promise is for our children too. Acts 2:38-39 say,
 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The gifts are abundant in Jesus Christ. He promises the gift of the Holy Spirit which is the Spirit of God with a believer and in a believer, for all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus.
And he promises fruitfulness. John 15:16 says,
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
Jesus makes his disciples fruitful, with fruit that will last. God makes them fruitful and answers all of their prayers.
Isn't it interesting that God makes his disciples fruitful? He didn't demand them to be fruitful. He didn't even check their progress. He appointed them to go and bear fruit. When they remain in him, when they pray, they will be fruitful. They don't concern themselves with fruit, but with obeying Jesus and loving Jesus.
It is just like what Moses told the Israelites in this passage. That it may "go well with you and increase greatly." God makes them fruitful. Not just a little bit, he says, increase "greatly." They don't worry about being fruitful. They just concern themselves with obeying his commands.
In Acts 2, Peter preached and 3,000 were added to their number that day. Was that his goal? No, it was just to testify about Jesus. As he was told to do. But it says that God added to their numbers (Acts 2:47).
Paul was also so fruitful. But he said, "God makes it grow" (1 Corinthians 3:7). What did Peter and Paul have in common? They did what Jesus commanded them to do.
There was one person whose church was very fruitful in a year. He was asked many times, "What is the secret?" Others wanted to be fruitful like him. He replied, "there is no secret. We just go fishing a lot." That's one thing. Of course, if you go fishing a lot, you can have many bible studies. I think that to that person, he was just doing the one thing he believed Jesus wanted him to do: go fishing a lot and have many Bible studies.
We have this new and fruitful life in Jesus Christ because he loved us. He loved and obeyed God, even dying on a cross to save us. He showed us the way to love God. He loved and obeyed with all his heart, emotions, thoughts, soul and strength.
He also wants us to love him in the same way.
John 14:15 says,
“If you love me, keep my commands."
and John 15:10 says,
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Just as the Israelites were taught to obey and remain in God's love, so Jesus taught his disciples to keep his commands and remain in his love. He had set the example for them in advance.
Like the Israelites, God has already loved us so much. The command to love him is the command to remain in his love. He gives us such freedom, power, and fruitfulness in his love. And he calls us to remain in his love by keeping his commands.
Jesus went on to say, in John 15:11,
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Loving him and keeping his commands is for our joy. It is our happiness. The words obey and commands may not seem like love. But there is real joy there. Who loved God and obeyed him like Jesus did? Yet, he was not downcast. He was filled with joy. He had so much joy that it was overflowing to his disciples. He was giving his joy to them so that their joy would be complete.
Loving God is most important. This is also why we have the Seek and Save discipleship program going on. It is so that we can learn of Jesus' love to seek and save the lost and put it into practice as he wants us to.
This is not a burdensome command, but a joyful one. How great is it that he loved us and gave us such a new life in Jesus Christ. The secret of the blessings in him is simply to love him and keep his commands.
Jesus has given us his command. John 13:34-35 say," A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
His command is to love one another. Loving God is shown by obeying his commands, and his command is to love one another. So we love God by loving each other. We cannot say we love God if we do not love each other.
1 John 4:19-21 say,
 We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
God wants us to express this earnest and whole-person love for him by loving others as he has loved us. The command to love others is qualified by the words, "As I have loved you..." His love for us is the standard and quality by which we are to love others. His love is a love that gives one's life. Jesus died on the cross out of love for his people. He became a servant, lowly and humble out of love for his people. His love doesn't demand, but it gives freely and first. In this way, we ought to love one another. But how often do we demand from others or just love them by words? Loving God is not just words, but deeds as well, expressed and measure by our love for others.
 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
"With" all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Love is the way to grow the relationship with God.
Things might get in the way of our heart, soul and strength. The heart is so small. So if something else is taking up the room, we should take it out and use the whole heart to love God. If the soul is depressed, tell it to stop and instead to put its hope in God and praise him. If strengths runs low, give all that you do have remaining to love and obey him.
We learn that God is one and has loved his people. He commands us to love him by loving one another.