Great Commandment - Love The Lord Thy God

Love The Lord Thy God

See also: Love of God

Matthew Henry sums up the question of which is the great commandment,

"It was a question disputed among the critics in the law. Some would have the law of circumcision to be the great commandment, others the law of the sabbath, others the law of sacrifices, according as they severally stood affected, and spent their zeal; now they would try what Christ said to this question, hoping to incense the people against him, if he should not answer according to the vulgar opinion; and if he should magnify one commandment, they would reflect on him as vilifying the rest."

Adam Clarke, in his Commentary on the Bible, wrote,

"This is the first and great commandment - It is so,

1. In its antiquity, being as old as the world, and engraven originally on our very nature.
2. In dignity; as directly and immediately proceeding from and referring to God.
3. In excellence; being the commandment of the new covenant, and the very spirit of the Divine adoption.
4. In justice; because it alone renders to God his due, prefers him before all things, and secures to him his proper rank in relation to them.
5. In sufficiency; being in itself capable of making men holy in this life, and happy in the other.
6. In fruitfulness; because it is the root of all commandments, and the fulfilling of the law.
7. In virtue and efficacy; because by this alone God reigns in the heart of man, and man is united to God.
8. In extent; leaving nothing to the creature, which it does not refer to the Creator.
9. In necessity; being absolutely indispensable.

10. In duration; being ever to be continued on earth, and never to be discontinued in heaven."

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God" is explained to mean "Act in such a manner that God will be beloved by all His creatures." Consequently Israel, being, as the priest-people, enjoined like the Aaronite priest to sanctify the name of God and avoid whatever tends to desecrate it (Lev. xxii. 32), is not only obliged to give his life as witness or martyr for the maintenance of the true faith (see Isa. xliii. 12, μάρτυρες; and Pesik. 102b; Sifra, Emor, ix.), but so to conduct himself in every way as to prevent the name of God from being dishonored by non-Israelites.

Twice every day the Jew recites the Shema, which contains the words: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deut. vi. 5). This verse is understood to enjoin him to willingly surrender life and fortune whenever the cause of God demands it, while it at the same time urges him to make God beloved by all his creatures through deeds of kindness, as Abraham did (Sifre, Deut. 32).

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