The Foremost Commandment
On occasion, Jesus met someone whose head and heart were in the right place in regard to serving God. In our scripture, a scribe is one such person, and he has a question for Jesus about commandments. It is a question from his heart for which he truly wants an answer: “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus obliges him with the answer from Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
We dare not overlook the first part of Jesus’ answer as it helps us understand the whole: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.” Some versions have simply “...the Lord is one.” Although this could be a reference to the unity or oneness within the godhead, it is more likely speaking to the fact there is only one God. The scribe quotes in response: “...there is no one else besides Him.”
In the days when Israel came out of Egypt and trekked to the promised land, gods proliferated everywhere. Every nation had its gods; some represented various aspects of the natural world while others were contrived in the image of man. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord warns through the prophets that He is God, and there is no other. To spend time and treasure serving these false gods was a complete waste of time! It still is.
We see, then, the wisdom and direction of the foremost commandment: “...you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” To do this is to be devoted to the one true God, the only living God. When the Lord God becomes our deepest and most profound love, everything else falls into place. Our devotion and sacrifice are all worthwhile as God is the very ground of existence and the source of love itself. From Him flows every good thing.
Certainly God merits our devotion, but this commandment is not just about God’s wanting man’s love. It is about God wanting what’s best for man. To serve other gods, be they human or human contrived, is a waste. After all, “there is no one else besides Him.”