Love, the Greatest Commandment
Pastor Steve Ellison
When a lawyer asked Jesus, what is the greatest commandment, He replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
(Matthew 22:37-40, NASU) We are commanded to love our Creator and those created in His image. In the Old Testament, God gave us quite a while to get to know Him before He told us that He loved us and before He commanded us to love Him. God revealed Himself in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers before He brought up the fact that He loved us, and that He wanted us to love Him. In the first four books, God revealed Himself as Creator, Provider, Redeemer, etc. and now in Deuteronomy as the One Who Loves. Deuteronomy 4:37 lets us know that He had always loved us but now He is going to let us know, “Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them.” (NASU)
Deuteronomy 7:7-9 describes the nature of God’s love toward us very plainly, “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments”. (NASU) Clearly there is nothing in you or me that merits God’s love. He simply loves us because He chooses to do so. Just as clearly, God’s love is never ending. Just 3 chapters later God makes this point again. Deuteronomy 10:14-15 states, “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.” (NASU) What a beautiful truth: “the Lord set His affection to love them.”
In the midst of the Balak-Balaam episode God declared His unfailing love once again, “The Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you.” (Deuteronomy 23:5, NASU) God later declared the unconditional nature of His love when He prophesied that even though His people would desert Him, He would remain faithful. “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6, NASU)
As the life of Moses and the book of Deuteronomy both come to a close, Moses declares, “Indeed, He loves the people.” (Deuteronomy 33:3, NASU) God wants His people to know that He loves them. In no way do we deserve or merit God’s love. He simply chooses to love us. He loves us unconditionally and unfailingly. There is no end to His love. He loves us so that we can return that love. We love because He first loved us. Even our keeping of the greatest commandment is a direct result of His work in us.