Relate: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. This is it. It’s number one. When asked what was the greatest and most important commandment, Jesus pointed right to this verse with the caveat that loving your neighbor is right up there (Leviticus 19:18) Since this command is so important, it is no surprise that I tend to hear and read a lot of commentary about this verse and just what exactly the “heart”, “soul”, and “strength” really stand for. The thing is, all too often people are imposing their own modern views, hellenized philosophical views, or at the least New Testament understanding on to this Old Testament scripture.
Strength is pretty self explanatory but let me clear up the muddied waters a little bit with regard to the heart and soul. While the Hebrew heart represents the same organ as in modern times, its function has drastically changed. In the OT, the heart was the central hub for all emotional, moral, and intellectual activity. It was the center that made you go and gave you a reason for doing so. Over time this understanding shifted to the point that heart represented the emotions and the mind the intellect. Jesus recognized this change which is why, when quoting this verse in Mark he says to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength. He had to change the wording to maintain the intent.
The soul, the nephesh, represents life. It is our living, breathing, conscious self. In the Old Testament, there was no concept of an immaterial, immortal soul. Let me say that again: In the Old Testament there is no concept of an immaterial, immortal soul. Got it? Good. So what modern understanding would best help us understand what God, through Moses, was referring to when He said soul? I think the pulpit commentary nails it right on when it calls the soul our personality. It is what makes you, you. You are unique to all other living things because God has breathed a soul, a nephesh, into you.
React: If I am to obey this greatest of all commands, then I need to love God in five ways. 1) My love for Him must be a sincere love. It must come from deep within me… from my heart. 2) My love must also be an overflowing love. If my love comes from my soul then it flows out of my personality. When people try to define what makes me unique, how I love God should top their list. 3) My love for God must be a strong love. It cannot easily be shaken and I invest the best of all that I do into living out that love with all my soul. 4) My love must be an intelligent love. Remember the heart originally included the intellect, and Jesus added mind to his list to reflect that change in understanding. The more I know of God, the more I will love Him, and the more I will want to know. My faith doesn’t shut off my brain, it stimulates it. 5) My love for God must be an undivided love. It encompases every aspect of who I am. Heart, soul, strength, mind… with all of my I love Him.
I love You. Help me to love You more. From deep within, flowing out, and encompassing every aspect of who I am, let Your love define me. Let me dwell in it and radiate it everywhere I go.
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