1646.) Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6 (English Standard Version)

The Greatest Commandment

1“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.

Psalm 128:1-4 (NIV)

Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways.

You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.

Thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.

3Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

In Hebrew, these  following verses are known as the Shema (“hear” in Hebrew). It is the classic Hebrew confession of faith, describing who God is and what our duty is towards Him:

4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

from “Rediscovering Biblical Narrative as Storytelling in the Digital Age,”
a lecture by Dennis Dewey, Presbyterian Pastor and Biblical Storyteller

In Luke’s account of the boy Jesus in the Jerusalem temple, we must note that the story reports that “all who heard him were surprised at his intelligence and his answers” (Luke 2:47).  The CEV translates it as “how much he knew.”  What Jesus knew, he knew by heart.

Heart learning is the often overlooked first corollary of the shema of Deuteronomy 6, the so-called “greatest commandment”: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (6:4-5). Following the shema come five rather urgent suggestions concerning how this love of God is to be perpetuated generation after generation.

In my experience—and I do this little quiz frequently in my workshops—many people remember #5: “Write these things on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (6:9); we might call this “publicize.”

Some remember #4: “Bind them as a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead” (6:8), in other words, wear them like jewelry; we might call this “symbolize” (though I can barely resist the alternative, “accessorize”).

Many will also remember #3: “Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” (6:7b); we might call that “theologize.”

And nearly everyone can remember #2: “Recite them to your children” (6:7a)—“catechize.”

But nearly no one can recall the corollary that occupies the #1 slot following immediately upon the shema: “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart” (6:6)—“internalize.” I suspect that this metaphor reveals a fundamental understanding of ancient Israel in their experience of and relationship with the text, a veritable window into an appreciation of Hebrew spirituality: that the primary repository of the tradition is the memory of the heart—both the heart of the individual and the collective heart, i.e., “memory” of the community.



HERE  is a musical rendition — “Shema” (“Hear, O Israel”)  by Adrian Snell.

Hear! O Israel
The Lord our God, the Lord is one
Love the Lord your God with all your strength and might
With all your heart and soul my people come
Hear! O Israel
The Lord our God, the Lord is one

Teach my laws for life
Impress them upon your children
Like foundations to your home
And walk with the words of life all around you
Let them be a cornerstone

Tie these words as symbols on your hands
that they may offer goodness
Tie them on your foreheads
That your eyes may see
Write them on the doorframes of your homes
and on the gates of the city
That in everything you shall remember me

Hear! O Israel
The Lord our God, the Lord is one
Hear! O Israel
The Lord our God, the Lord is one

Based on the Shema, Deuteronomy 6: 4-9


10“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“A remembering heart is a grateful heart.”
–Amy Carmichael


13It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.

Jesus used this verse, which he knew by heart, to rebuke Satan in the wilderness, when Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”
–Matthew 4:10

14You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

Jesus used this verse, which he knew by heart, to rebuke Satan in the wilderness, when Satan asked him to throw himself down from the highest point of the Temple.

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
–Matthew 4:7

17You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised.

John 14:15 (NASB)

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’


Commandments, statutes, and rules have a negative ring in modern ears, but, as far as Deuteronomy is concerned, keeping them demonstrates one’s love for God. We have read the Ten Commandments in the previous chapter, and the Greatest Commandment in this chapter. So let each of us consider: How can I be more obedient to God — in thought, word, and deed — and show more clearly my love for the Lord?

Please share with us one suggestion of something you do to remain obedient! Go to Reply below —


English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Deut. 6:4.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/6-deuteronomy6_4.jpg
Boy Jesus in the Temple.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/artbook__034_034__boyjesusinthetemple____5b15d.jpg
mountain and chair.   http://praylikeagourmet.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/countblessingslakesc7.jpg
Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/jesus-satan-cities1.jpg
Satan tempts Jesus at the Temple.   http://images.faithclipart.com/images/3/f1111106aa/img_f1111106aa1.jpg
multi-hearts.     http://api.ning.com/files/3MOTiPoPg7Mk2dQ1UDhLsCXwI9548Oxu3fORJUnDIyqzmr2NrCJnNZKFhLuLwjbXTPxYM25EeHiriQUFMfWl7KJPUh6z2uoD/moms_heart1.small.jpg
Love God more in sand.   http://www.waitsel.com/music/love_god_more-2.jpg

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