“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 KJV)
There it is! The greatest of the great commandments. The very center of the law and the profits. By understanding and practicing this commandment, the one on the next layer outside of this is manifest by nature. That is loving your neighbor as yourself. This commandment is even powerful in the order of it’s delivery. Notice that each of the three times that Jesus is recorded as referencing this passage (see Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27) that the order is not changed. Even when “mind” is added in Luke. Truly, love must start in the heart, fill your soul, and be manifest into practice in your strength. Why do you think Paul spent so much time on encouraging us to run hard as to obtain the prize and to beat the body (see 1 Corinthians 9)? Strength that is given us from God is necessary to complete the love that started in our hearts and that fills our souls.
Yet, the really interesting question in this key passage is why use the term “hear”? As the term is used here, it is literally to hear with attentive intellect like you are really paying very close attention to the detail of what is being instructed. But, even if you are passively monitoring rather than attentively listening why “hear”? Would it not be better to see? Something like, “see, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord?” Would that not require less acceptance testing for the heart, be easier to fill the soul, and really easy to intellectually justify? This is nearly the same question we run into the instant we discover that by definition faith is evidence unseen (see Hebrews 11:1)!
Sound penetrates regardless of darkness or light, and O what a dark world we live in. A world that continually tries to generate it’s own lights. How easily we are distracted with what we see. In fact, so distracted that we often give more weight in our decisions to that which is visible in the immediate present rather than listening to the voice of God as He directs us. Even though the world’s lights are pale in comparison with the brilliance of God’s light; while we are in this present darkness we tend to begin managing as soon as we see enough to make judgments. We would do better to surrender to the instructions that His voice is calling out.
Notice the timing of the delivery of this commandment. The commands that they are receiving now may be similar to the commands they received back in Exodus 20 near mount Sinai. Yet, they are repeated at this point as the forty years of wandering in the desert is nearly complete (see Deuteronomy 1:3), and they need a refresher on what God’s instructions are before they enter a land which will be full of distractions. Similarly, we do well to listen closely before entering a day full of distractions. As a new born recognizes the voice of it’s parents so we can be comforted when our Lord is near as we develop in the new life that He has given us.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28 KJV)