Almost every day I hear someone proclaim, “I love G-D.” When I hear these words, my first reaction and response is to smile and be happy. After all, what nicer phrase is there to hear from another person? As a believer in Yeshua, part of my purpose in life is to introduce people to the G-D of the Bible and explain that the first and greatest commandment is to “Love the L-RD your G-D with all your heart, soul and strength.”
As a small child growing up in a Jewish home, one of the very first liturgical prayers I learned was the Shema and V’ahavta, which is Deuteronomy 6:4-5:
Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These very words are foundational to our faith as Jews. There is one G-D and we are instructed to love Him.
Yet, while I am always excited to hear someone profess his or her love of G-D, I am equally curious and often ask them the following question: How do you know you love G-D? In other words, how does one quantify or qualify what they have as love for G-D? Is love simply a feeling we have, like hunger or fear? Or is it an emotional response or reaction to a feeling? Is there a way that we can know that we love G-D? Is there a way that others around us can know we love G-D?
Many people will answer my question by quoting 2 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not brag, it is not puffed up, it does not behave inappropriately, it does not seek its own way, it is not provoked, it keeps no account of wrong, it does not rejoice over injustice but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things.
Others will begin their answer with Matthew 7:17-20:
Even so, every good tree produces good fruit, but the rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
In Matthew 22:37, we read the following spoken by the lawyer to Yeshua:
And testing Him, one of them, a lawyer, asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Of course most believers know that Yeshua was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. What many may not know is that these two verses were a teaching and not just an answer. By quoting these two verses in response to the lawyer in Matthew, Yeshua was answering a much deeper question.
This is not the only time Yeshua is asked a question like this. In Matthew 19:16, we read:
Now behold, one came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good shall I do to have eternal life?” “Why do you ask Me about what is good?” Yeshua said to him. “There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Notice Yeshua’s answer refers to Deuteronomy 6:5 again and then continues by saying to keep the commandments. Both times Yeshua is asked about eternal life and both times He refers the questioner to Deuteronomy 6 for the answer. In one case, He says “Keep the commandments.” In the other, He says, “Love G-D and love your neighbor.” It may seem as if Yeshua provided two different answers to the same question from two different people. The truth is Yeshua provided the same answer to the question – He just referenced the answer differently.
When Yeshua said, “keep the commandments,” He was referring to the commandments spoken from Mount Sinai, known as the 10 Commandments. When He said, “Love G-D and love your neighbor,” He was referring to the same 10 Commandments. The first four commandments tell us how to love G-D. The following six tell us how to love our neighbor.
Another way to look at it is that we have one commandment. Love G-D with all our heart, soul and strength. We have two commandments that tell us how to do that: Love G-D and love our neighbor. You cannot love G-D whom you don’t see if you cannot love your neighbor whom you do see (1 John 4:20). We have ten commandments to teach us how to keep the two so that we can keep the one. We then have 603 additional commandments in Torah that teach us how to keep the ten, which teach us how to keep the two, which tell us how to keep the one. In the New Testament, we have 1150 more commandments that teach us how to keep the 603, which tell us how to keep the ten, that instruct us how to keep the two, which tell us how to keep the one.
In other words, by keeping the commandments, we demonstrate our love for G-D and our neighbors. For this same reason, Yeshua said in John 14:15:
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.