“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Today’s passage is absolutely central to both Orthodox Judaism and Christianity. For centuries observant Jews have recognized the singular importance of this passage, which begins with the command to hear. The Hebrew term is richer than that, however, denoting not simply hearing, but listening, and not simply listening, but listening with a heart prepared to obey. What do you desire of us, Lord? Of all the things our great God might demand of us, He chose to make loving Him the principal thing. God is love (1 John 4:8) and He desires that we be in love relationship with Him. Of course our inherited sin natures caused a natural hostility to God and His moral commands. Before we knew Christ in a saving way, to one extent or other, we too denied and suppressed the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). But God did a miracle for us. He appeared to us in maximal excellence and in love in the Person of His Son Jesus. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4), and God was maximally good to us. He paid a debt we could never pay. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for us, the sheep of His pasture. “Greater love has no one than this,” said our Lord, “than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Our Lord’s love for us is so much greater than we can fathom. Paul explained, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). John the apostle gives us the proper response: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Tragically, dear friends, the cares and concerns of this life, along with many worldly pressures and influences, can cause the Christian’s love for the Savior to grow cold. The church at Ephesus had everything right. They had an exciting beginning, having been founded by the great apostle Paul (Acts 18) and helped by Paul’s colleagues, Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3) and Tychicus (2 Timothy 4:12). On outward inspection, they were very impressive. They were a busy, fruitful, doctrinally sound church. Nevertheless the Lord had a serious complaint against them, namely, that their love for Him had grown cold (Revelation 2:1-5). A proper church structure is essential, dear saints, but it is insufficient. Our love for the Savior who loved us first must be foundational to all we do as a church. Let us guard our love for the Good Shepherd, trusting in Him to guide us, individually and as a church family, in these last of days. Maranatha!
God bless you,