January 25, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“The most important [commandment],” 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.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
If we want to love someone well, then we need to know that person well. The better we know someone, the better we will be able to love him or her. For example, in the early years of my marriage to Linda, I learned some things about her that helped me love her well. For example, I discovered that Linda would rather have conversation with me at the dinner table than watch me read the paper. (Okay, I’ll admit that’s rather pathetic, but it’s true.) If I wanted to love Linda during dinner, then I needed to give her my full attention. (Now, of course, the problem isn’t competition from the newspaper, but from my smartphone.)
So it is with God. If we are to love God, then we need to know God. Jesus makes this clear in his response to the question about which commandment is the most important. As we find in the passage he quotes from Deuteronomy (6:4-5), the command to love God comes after a succinct, rich, and essential statement of who God is. Before we love God, we need to know God.
The Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:29-30, begins with a succinct summary of who God is. First, God is “the Lord.” The word “Lord” here represents the word YHWH in the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6. YHWH (pronounced Yahweh) was the sacred name of God, revealed to Moses. This name represented God’s character as a merciful and gracious God (see Exod 34:6). The Lord was not some unknown God, but rather the God who had revealed himself to Israel.
Second, God is “our God.” In the biblical context, God is the God of Israel, the one who delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and made a covenant with them. “Our God” does not mean that the Lord was only for Israel. Indeed, God ultimately seeks relationship with all nations. But “our God” reminds us that God is with us, for us, and seeks relationship with us. Through Christ, the God of the universe is, indeed, “our God.”
Third, God “is one.” The God of Israel is not one of many gods, as was commonly believed by most religious people in the ancient world. Rather, the Lord was the one true God, uniquely God and uniquely one. The one God alone deserves our worship and love.
When we seek to love God, in our work or in any part of life, we must pay attention to who God is. This is one reason why we spend so much time reading, studying, and reflecting on Scripture. For, in the Bible God is revealed to us. Here we learn that “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Here we learn how to know and love God. Here we learn, not only who God is, but also what pleases God. Scripture teaches us how to love God in ways that give delight to God’s heart.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of a time when learning something new about someone helped you to love that person better?
How has the Bible helped you to know God better?
As you reflect on God as Lord, our God, and one, what strikes you?
How might knowing God help you to love God in your daily work?
Gracious God, indeed you are the Lord. You are our God. You are one. We praise you this day for making yourself known to us, for being in relationship with us, for your uniqueness and unity.
Help us, we pray, to know you well so that we might love you well. Teach us more about who you are and what you value. Help us to discover how, through our work, even today, we might love you.
All praise be to you, Lord, our God, the one true God! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: God’s Call to Moses (Exodus 2:11-3:22)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.