The Hear O Israel Prayer and the Greatest Commandment

Hear O Israel Prayer

In the last post, we looked at the interconnection between the Hear O Israel prayer (also called the Shema), as recorded in Deuteronomy 6, and the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18. Studying these verses, we discovered that both are identical commandments instructing their respective audience to share God’s Word with others.

While those in Deuteronomy were instructed to teach God’s laws to their children, the audience in Matthew 28:18 and, by extension, Christians of today are to go into the world to preach the Gospel. One way to stay committed to this heavenly call is to do exactly as the Shema says, which is to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our strengths.

By the grace of God, we will be looking at this a little more closely in this post. And since Yeshua interpreted the Shema to be the most important commandment (Mark 12:28-30), I have on-purpose tagged our discussion this time as “The Hear O Israel Prayer and the Greatest Commandment.”

The Hear O Israel Prayer and the Great Commandment

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:29-30)

The Bible text above is an account of Yeshua’s response to a scribe’s question on which is the greatest of all the laws in the Torah. If you’ve been following our recent posts, I believe you should be familiar with the story by now. In fact, we did a verse-by-verse study of verses 28 to 30 in the article The Hear O Israel prayer in the light of Yeshua’s’ Teaching.

This time, I want us to focus on the phrase, “This is the first commandment.” From the context of the discussion between the scribe and Yeshua, it is clear that the word “first” implies the foremost commandment in order of importance.

We won’t be wrong if we put Yeshua’s words in Mark 12:30 as “This is the most important commandment.” That would mean that everything else pertaining to our walk with God, including our service to Him, is secondary to this “first commitment.”

Personally, I’ve come to believe that loving God wholeheartedly is serving Him devotedly. No man can serve God beyond how he loves Him. And since the Great Commission is a call to serve God, we all (both as individuals and as Christian evangelism ministries in Israel) need to pay close attention to what God’s Word is saying here.

You see, the sole reason why God went out of His way to redeem humanity was that He loved us so dearly. In case you want to know my reason for making such a claim, it is there in John 3:16. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” I love how James Moffatt’s translation renders it. It says:

For God loved the world so dearly that He gave up His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life, instead of perishing. (John 3:16 – James Moffatt Translation)

Later in John chapter thirteen, Yeshua admitted that He was going to lay His life down for us as proof that He loves us (John 13:15). Today, that has become an example for you and me to follow (I Peter 2:21; I John 3:16).

We are to love the Lord and our neighbors wholeheartedly. Until we love God with all our hearts, our souls, and our strengths, being devoted to evangelism will only remain an idea rather than a reality. But we are not without help in this area. As believers in Yeshua, the Bible says that God is at work in us to make us willing and able to obey Him (Philippians 2:13). So, our Father God hasn’t left us to figure out how to obey Him on our own. He’s behind the scenes rooting for us and providing everything we need to please Him.

Final Thoughts

Of all the 612 commandments in the Torah, the greatest of all is to love God as the Shema proscribes – with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our strengths. And as we’ve seen from God’s Word, obeying this commandment will automatically motivate us to serve the Lord more devotedly.

In addition to using every godly means that comes our way to evangelize the unsaved in Israel, including wearing a Yeshua t shirt, it is vital that we love God wholeheartedly, just as the Shema says.

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