Kingdom Come, there is a chapter on "Listening to God" through Scripture. Scripture is a gift from God and we encourage more communal reading of the text. Putting these words into practice I read long sections of Scripture especially on Sunday nights. Not long ago Deuteronomy was the focus of our communal reading. I chose to read all the passages in the book that has the word "love" (ahab). Such an exercise can be paradigm shifting. Today I am going to share a sampling of Scripture and highlight the terms love and heart so crucial to understanding the Torah. As mentioned in our previous post there are three centers of gravity in Deuteronomy ... we may wan to call them X, Y, & Z axises around which all coordinated. Or another figure they are the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system and this may be a better analogy because the axises are not equal they are just the controlling factors in the thought of the book. They are the Great Story (i.e. Sun) which is the story of God's incredible love and grace in redeeming Israel from slavery, this is the center of gravity around which everything orbits. The Great Commandment (i.e. Jupiter) is the response to the Great Story, love God with our entire being for what he has done. The Great Society (i.e. Saturn) is also a response to the Great Story and is love in action for those around us.
Deut 4.32-40 ... Intertwines the Great Story and our Response or the Great Command
"Ask now about the former days, long before your time ... Has anything so great as this [i.e. the Exodus] ever happened, or anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God ... Has any other god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another ... by a mighty hand and outstretched arm ... You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God ... Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendents ... Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God"
The Shema, Deut 6.4f, 10, 12, 20ff: The Great Commandment is rooted in the Great Story. The meaning of the command of God is simply grace and redemption. We love him because he rescued us ...
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one. Love the LORD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength ... When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore ... be careful not to forget that the LORD brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery ... In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?" tell him "We were slaves of Pharoah in Egypt, but Yahweh brought us out with a mighty hand ..."
Deut 7.7-9: The Gospel of God's Love ... the Ground of Israel's standing with Yahweh
"The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD love you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you ... know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keep his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments ..."
For the moment I pass over the rich passage in 9.4-6 to 10.12-22. This is another passage that functions like 6.4ff. It goes to the root issue: What does God require? The passage ties the Great Commandment into the Great Story for building the Great Society. Watch how it unfolds:
"And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD with all your heart and with all your soul ...
To the LORD belong the heavens, even the highest heavens ... Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you ... Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of Gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt ... He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you all those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky."
Israel is to love God who redeemed them from the indiginity of slavery. God demands that his people be a blessing to other aliens because of his love toward them ... that is the Great Society. Israel transfroms the life of aliens.
Because 10.16 uses the startling imperative that Israel is to "circumcise your hearts" I bring into the picture the even more amazing promise of Yahweh in 30.6
"The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your decsendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul and live ..."
Moses in Deuteronomy calls Israel to be a people who are defined by the Great Story. Because Yahweh has performed mighty acts in history that have never before been done, nor have been done since, Israel is to respond with wholehearted love and devotion to the Redeemer (the Great Command). But love towards God in the book of Deuteronomy always finds expression in loving neighbor, loving the alien, the helpless, the slave and even God's creation ... I call this the Great Society (which is another way of saying the second great commandment).
The Torah is full of God's compassion and grace. How could it be otherwise if it is a revelation of the glory of God? We need to be reading and meditating so we can understand what God desires. Deuteronomy is a good place to begin.
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life ..." (30.19-20a)