Context matters not

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NASB)

In the interest of accurate information, let us tag the two concrete elements in this saying: heart (inner, invisible and partial) and soul (outer, visible and total).  Recall that man is a living soul, so “soul” does represent all me me/you.   “With all your might” however,  comes from single Hebrew word, meod, מאד, meaning exceedingly, or with adjectives, simply “very”.  The writer most certainly means that our love can increase to abundant levels, knowing that no matter how much we love there is room to advance with whatever has been revealed and imparted to us.  We cannot claim to have loved precisely as God does.  So we keep increasing.

The very famous saying of Moses that precedes this command and forms the central pillar of the Mosaic legacy – The Shema – should not be separated from the context.  The context includes the love instruction and the following.

  • The time: today
  • The destination of the words: on your heart
  • The duty to teach and talk about constantly  “You shall teach them diligently to your sons…”
  • The duty to devise means to remind oneself of the message package
  • The purpose of remembering why the land of Canaan was a gift
  • The purpose of remembering (not forgetting!) that it was God alone who delivers from bondage (Deuteronomy 6:6-12, NASB)

The narrative of the heart’s function as a container of God’s or Moses’ words is an example of willing ignorance of the facts. Why would God give voice to a letdown antecedent to the Shema (Deuteronomy 5:29, NASB) with “‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!”?   The heart being the place where human appreciation of God takes root needs a innovative operation if it going to be home to increasing love.  Until then, fearing God and keeping his commandments can best be portrayed by stone tablets and books.  Some things can be taught and recited but other things, such as exceeding love are the exclusive gifts of the God who acts within the relevant context. Ignoring context is akin to ignition without fuel, preaching apart from eyes on the handwriting of the apostolic witness, access to God without covenant, and dare I say, Christians who prefer the crutches of their favourite translation and commentary to the sturdy legs of unchangeable Scripture.