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The Great Commandment in the OT: Love God

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in discipleship, love, scripture, worship | 5 comments

The Great Commandment in the OT: Love God

When I introduced this series (“The Great Commandment in the OT: Preview“), I began with Matthew’s and Luke’s retelling of the great commandment.

According to Matthew, Jesus said the the great commandment is to love God. He then continued by saying that the second great commandment is like the first: love your neighbor. Jesus then says that all the Law and the Prophets (perhaps referring to the entire New Testament) depends on these two commands.

Where does Jesus get these great commandments? How is he able to say that the entire OT depends on the commands to love God and love your neighbors?

The first part of the great command (love God) is the easier of the two great commandments to find in the OT. Perhaps the most obvious starting place is in the Exodus. The children of Israel are standing on the banks of the Jordan River and Moses prepares them to cross into the Promised Land. They had been wandering in the wilderness for the last 40 years because they did not trust God and cross into the Promised Land earlier.

Now, they are once again ready to move across the river. As Moses tells them:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV)

The proper response to the “one God” is to love him. As we keep reading, we see that this love was to demonstrate itself as the children of Israel taught others (particular their own families) what God had done for them and that they should love God as well. This “love” was not to be primarily a ritualistic love, but a love that demonstrated itself in every aspect of life:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9 ESV)

Loving God becomes an important theme throughout Deuteronomy:

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations… (Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV)

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul… (Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV)

You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. (Deuteronomy 11:1 ESV)

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV)

Two important points are clear through Deuteronomy. 1) Obedience would be a result of the Israelites love of God. 2) The children of Israel would not be able to love God until God changed their heart.

Throughout the Old Testament, these points follow the story of the children of Israel. Their disobedience shows that they do not love God. When they turn to other gods, it shows that they do not love God. When they refuse to trust God (in spite of God’s faithful and steadfast love), it shows that they do not love God.

So, even a cursory look at the Old Testament demonstrates that loving God is the beginning of all of the commandments and the beginning of a life of trusting God.

But, what about loving your neighbors? I’ll look at that part of the great commandment in the next post.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-14-2010


    LOVE the topic. 😉

    You write…
    “the second great commandment is like the first: love your neighbor.”

    Doesn’t the second great commandment also include loving yourself?

    “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Hmmm? As you love yourself – you love your neighbor?

    For me the great commandment means I’m to love God and…
    And I’m to love my neighbor as I love myself.

    As I love myself I love my neighbor.

    What do you think?

  2. 12-14-2010

    A. Amos Love,

    Yes. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can find several NT authors writing about the “love your neighbor” part, but none writing about the “as yourself” part.


  3. 12-14-2010


    How about…

    Eph 4:16
    From whom the **whole body** fitly joined together and compacted by that which
    every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,
    maketh increase of the body unto the **edifying of “itself” in love.**

    Itself – is also translated – yourselves.

    Strongs – 1438 heautou

    KJV – himself 110, themselves 57, yourselves 36, ourselves 20, his 19, their 15, itself 9,

    1) himself, herself, itself, themselves

    If “The Body of Christ” is to edify itself in love – Aren’t I part of the Body?

    Aren’t I to edify myself in love?

  4. 12-14-2010


    How about all the “love one anothers?”
    When we love one another? Could I include myself “in one another?”

    One Another – is also translated – yourselves.

    Strongs #240 allelon

    KJV – one another 76, themselves 12, yourselves 3,

    Strongs – mutual, one another, (the other), (them-, your-)selves, **(selves) together**

    Thayer’s – one another, reciprocally, mutually

    John 13:34
    A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; (yourselves?)
    as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (yourselves?)

    John 15:12
    This is my commandment, That ye love one another, (yourselves?) as I have loved you.

    John 15:17
    These things I command you, that ye love one another. (yourselves?)

    1Thes 4:9
    But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you:
    for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. (yourselves?)

    Is this a possibility? We are to love ourselves? Together? As “ONE?”

  5. 12-14-2010

    A. Amos Love,

    Reciprocal pronouns (such as “one another” and “each other”) relate A to B. Thus, “one another” is an indicator of my relationship/responsibility to others. It includes “me” as an object only in the sense that others are also to “one another.” However, my focus is not to be myself, but others.

    Reflexive pronouns (such as “myself”) relates A to A.

    So, “love one another” means “love others who are part of your group” not “love yourself”.

    Almost all of the passages that you listed include reciprocal pronouns, regardless of the way those pronouns are translated into English.

    Note, I am not saying that we should not love ourselves. I’m saying that this aspect of love was not a major emphasis of the NT writers, not nearly as major as the emphasis to love others.