About seven years ago, I was studying Deuteronomy in my Old Testament seminary class where we came across these famous Biblical words known as the “Shema” in the Jewish culture. For the Jews, the words are an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in God:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
My professor noted these words are also in the New Testament. When Jesus is asked by an expert in the law to name the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36,37 he replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” My professor reminded us to pay careful attention to what is written in red letters! I thought, if God saw these words as important enough to write them on the doorframes of your houses and if Jesus thought it was the greatest commandment, then I needed to find a plaque with these words on them to post in my own home to remind me daily of how I am to love God.
For two years I searched for some kind of plaque to post over the doorframe of my house. I looked at every Christian book store I came across and even checked for it on line, but was never able to come up with anything. I asked a local Christian gift shop owner to see if she could find anything like this and she came back empty, saying, “It simply doesn’t exist.” However, she had a thought. One of her vendors in Louisiana made custom plaques and was looking for something new so she passed this option by the vendor who loved the idea and created a beautiful plaque with the Shema on it. The first one ever produced is sitting above my door.
What does it mean to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength?” I believe you can compare it to the time you fell in love with your spouse. You wanted to spend all your time with them. Your thoughts were focused on them. You could not wait to see them. You wanted to learn everything about them so you studied them! God wants us to feel the same way about Him. He wants our hearts to belong to Him. He wants us to spend time with him every day in Bible study and in prayer. He wants our thoughts to be centered on him. He desires that we yearn for Him. In Isaiah 54:5, scripture even tells us that God is our husband: “For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.”
Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength? I know I want to, but I believe I’ve failed God many times in this area. I am distracted by other things that pull me away from the place I should be resting in. Many times, I simply pray, “Lord, help me to love you more.” The beauty about God is that through his strength we can keep the greatest commandment and through our commitment to love Him with all our heart, our lives will be forever changed.