The Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord your God
As Moses preaches his final set of messages to the generation of Israelites who are poised to enter into the promised land, he is urging them throughout His messages to Love the Lord their God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 we see this command to love God being most clearly articulated, with Jesus in Mark 12:30-31 defining it as the greatest commandment. Other places throughout Deuteronomy reinforce the greatest commandment and most important priority of the believer: love the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; 7:7-9; 7:12-13; 10:12,15; 11:1,13, 22; 13:3; 19:9; 23:5; 30:6,16,20).
So then with Moses' making this command the central thought of his message, the question is: Who is this God that we are to love? To answer this question, we must first consider what kind of God we are to love, followed by secondly thinking about Who this God is that we are to love.
The Loving God that we are to love - Sovereign and Singular
So what kind of God is God? First of all God is the Sovereign God - that is, He is in control of all places, all people and all times. Deuteronomy 10:14 states: “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it." Numerous passages throughout scripture assert the Sovereignty of God. In the New Testament we find these words in 1 Corinthians 8:6 - "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. "
As scripture asserts the Sovereignty of God we note a second trait of the kind of God we are to love, namely that He is Singular. Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. Now when you read that statement "God of gods", at first glance it may appear that Moses is perhaps saying that God is greatest among other gods. Understand that this is a Jewish way of proclaiming uniqueness or greatness. To proclaiming something to be the "only, one and most greatest", the Old Testament Hebrew will take a word and then repeat that word again. We see validity in this interpretation by noting 1 Timothy 6:15-16 "which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen." God by nature is One God, Singular in existence and Sovereign in power.
The Loving God who we are to love
In noting the kind of God we are to love in scripture, the next question is: Who is this God of love? When you consider for just a moment what it takes to have love, you need three things: A Lover or source of love, A Loved One who receives the Love and who is the Object of the Lover, then of course the love cycling back and forth between the Lover and the Loved One. As we will see in a moment, the loving God's identity can only be His Trinitarian, Three-fold identity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Illustrating the Trinity by the marriage relationship
Genesis 2:24 states: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." The language used in this verse of "the husband and wife being one" is similar to the language we use to defining God's identity as "Three persons who exist as One God". In reflecting on the marriage relationship in Genesis 2:24, we know that love was to be the central expression of the Husband, the lover, to his wife, the beloved. I would point to the Book of the Song of Solomon, wherein this language of "lover" and "beloved" are used to describe the love of one spouse as received by the other spouse. Clearly there is love between the husband and wife. Hence on the greatest of all human relationships, you have a lover (Husband) beloved (wife) and the love between.
Ephesians 1:6 describes God the Father loving God the Son: "to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."1 Here you have God the Father, Eternal Love, directing such love to an Eternal Beloved - the Son.2 There was never a time God the Father has not loved, leading to the second truth then that there has to be an Eternal Second person to receive such love. Furthermore, the Love shared between the Two has to be a Third Person and not just a force, since Eternal Love requires a Third Eternal person to embody the Love expressed. 3
Illustrating children as the outcome of the husband and wife's loving union as picturing the Triune God's overflow of love choosing to create and redeem
Children are the natural by-product of the loving union of the husband and the wife. I find it comical at times how children will be surprised by the fact that life existed before them. When you look at the Bible, is it not God's way of telling us who by grace through faith have believed on Him that He loved the Son and the Son loved Him with the Holy Spirit going between both before we came along or before He made this world? Why do husbands and wives have children? Because they desire to have beings with whom they can share the overflow of love that has already been occuring between themselves. In an eternal and more profound way, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit did not create this world out of need, but choice. Even though he knew man would sin, He sent His Son to express in human flesh how adamant He is to extend His love, by His Spirit, to those whom He loves, and whom need to believe in order to receive such love.
How to love the Loving God
Unless God is Triune in His identity, He cannot be the God of love whom we are to love. So then how are we to love this loving God? Deuteronomy 11-13 outlines for us how we as believers are to love this loving God. For the sake of brevity I have just mentioned the key verses in Deuteronomy and corresponding New Testament texts which emphasizes each key point:
1. Walk with Him in love. Deut 11:1; Eph 4:1, 5:1-2
May you and I strive to love this loving God who first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
1 In Deuteronomy 10:15 tells us that this Sovereign and Singular God is the Loving God. As you travel the rest of scripture, you discover the true identity of this loving God. First of all He is the Father, the Eternal Source of love. Moses' final writing of Deuteronomy focuses entirely upon God the Father and His relationship to Israel His people. (Deuteronomy 1:31; 32:6). The Old Testament in fact ends by referring to God as Father. (Malachi 3:17) God the Father has been the Loving God from all eternity. There has never been a time where the Father was not the Loving Person of God.
2 Which takes us to the Object of the Father's eternal affection, namely God the Son. Psalm 2:7 records a conversation taking place in Eternity where the Father says to His Son: “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." Though the Old Testament focuses more on the Oneness of God's being rather than the plurality of His identity, we do see some reference to God the Son in passages like Proverbs 30:4. As you come to the New Testament, the Son has been with the Father from all eternity. (John1:1) Furthermore, He as always been loved. (Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 1:13) Therefore when God the Father speaks from heaven to Jesus at His baptism by John in Matthew 3:17, its not that the Father began to love Jesus then and there, rather He is stating the fact of His love which has been for the Son from all eternity.
3 So if God the Father is eternally loving, and the Son has been eternally loved, then it only stands there to be a Person who embodies such eternal love. Scripture reveals this third Personification of such love to be the Holy Spirit. We meet the Holy Spirit as early as Genesis 1:2, and we see the Psalmist in Psalm 143:10 asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide Him. Romans 15:30 identifies the Spirit of God as the Love between the Father and Son -"Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me". It is the Holy Spirit who as the Love between the Father and Son pours Himself into believer's hearts so as to affect love towards Jesus Christ and the Father. (Romans 5:5)