The Greatest Command
Open Your Bible
Deuteronomy 4:44-49, Deuteronomy 5:1-33, Deuteronomy 6:1-25, Matthew 5:17, Mark 12:28-34
BY Kara Gause
In some form or fashion, these words have rattled inside my head many times throughout the course of my life. They’re a statement of longing, and sometimes, regret. In today’s reading—after Moses once again shares God’s law with His covenant people, and they, once again, promise to keep it—God Himself utters these words: “If only they had such a heart to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that they and their children would prosper forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Now, I don’t believe God is expressing regret over entering into covenant relationship with Israel. On the contrary, this is one blissful moment when Israel is as “all in” as they know how to be. But I wonder if God is expressing a desire or longing of His own, of what could be possible, if only Israel could truly remain faithful to Him. God acknowledges that “everything they have said is right” (v.28); Israel cannot stand in the presence of His holiness without keeping the law perfectly, which they simply cannot do on their own. Blood and sacrifice will serve to cover them, and Moses will stand and intercede for them (v.31).
But at that moment, Israel is right where they need to be: humble and committed to their God and His ways. If only things could always be this way! Imagine the blessing of never forgetting who God is and what He’s rescued us from, how He led Israel out of Egypt (v.6) and leads us out of slavery to our sin (Romans 6:18). Imagine if we learned to really live out the full gospel and dynamic relationship offered to us through Jesus Christ, who came not to do away with the Law we could never keep, but to fulfill it completely on our behalf (Matthew 5:17).
Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh who was there at the beginning of time and creation (John 1:1–5,14) and more than familiar with the Law given to the Israelites through Moses. So when the scribe in Mark 12 asks Jesus which is the most important command, it’s no wonder He echoes the charge once given to Israel, saying:
“The most important [command] is Listen, Israel!
The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength”
(Mark 12:29–30; Deuteronomy 6:4–5).
Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, Law-fulfiller. He’s the beginning, the end, and everything in between. And the heart of God longs for us to give ours over to Him completely. If only we lived out of a moment-to-moment awareness of this truth. This is why we’re called to remember and obey: so we never forget to fear and love and worship the God we so desperately need (Deuteronomy 6:6–8). Yes, we are prone to wander (Deuteronomy 5:32). God, help us not to forget.