The Word of the Lord
7/9 – In Your Heart (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
Introduction — Here the writer of this book continues Moses’ narrative. Moses summons Israel to hear all the commands of the Lord God. Moses reminds the people that God directed him to teach them. God expects the people to obey His commands. As they enter the land of promise, the people must live in awe of the Lord, hearing and keeping the commands of the Lord. In powerful, yet simple words, Moses says, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In no uncertain terms, Moses urges the people to keep God’s word close, in their hearts. How about us? Do we hear God’s word? Do we heed God’s word? Do we keep God’s word close, in our hearts? Do we love the Lord our God with all our heart? Do our hearts beat in time with God?
The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
When God’s word is in your heart, you’ll keep growing in your love for God. You’ll live in obedience to God. You’ll live in awe of God.
Let these words sink deep in your heart. Let these words flow from your heart. Let these words stay close to your heart.
Let these words sink deep in your heart. (4-6)
4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
Comment: We see the grandeur of God in these words which Moses spoke to the people of Israel. We hear their call to remember the wondrous uniqueness and exclusiveness of God. He alone is God. He is God alone. He has no rivals. “To love other gods is to pursue nothing. They do not exist. He is the one and only Lord.” (Raymond Brown, The Message of Deuteronomy, p. 96) The LORD God called the people to know Him and to love Him. God wants these words to sink down deep into their hearts. He wants their love for Him to keep growing. Further, He wants them to always remember the covenant call on their lives, how faithfully He loves them. Question: Do we see the call of God on our lives? Do we remember His faithful love for us? Do we let His words sink down deep into our hearts? Does our love for Him keep growing? Does our awe of Him keep growing? Does our obedience to Him keep growing? Does our delight for His word keep growing? Application: Read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-23. Ask God to help you identify barriers that keep His word from going down deep into your life. Ask Him to remove those barriers. Ask Him to give you a growing love and delight for His word.
Let these words flow from your heart. (7)
7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Comment: We see the simple directive for the people to let God’s words flow from their hearts. The current generation was to care for future generations, so that they, too, would know and love God. The current generation must teach and speak these words often. The phrase teach diligently comes from a word meaning to sharpen or pierce. The people, then, must insure that they firmly etch these words upon the hearts and minds of those they teach, especially members of their own household. They must weave these words, the very words of God, into the fabric of their everyday life. Question: Do you weave the word of God into the fabric of your life? Do you ensure that you regularly read God’s word with your spouse? How about with your children? Do you firmly etch these words upon their hearts? Do you speak God’s word openly? Do you memorize God’s word together? Do you pray God’s word together? Do you study God’s word together? Do you learn from God’s word together? Do you delight in God’s word together? Application: Prayerfully choose one verse, one chapter, or one book from the Bible this week. Spend time reading and studying this portion of God’s word. Think about these verses. Pray these verses. Write the verse or verses on index cards or sticky notes. Carry them with you. Read some commentaries about these verses (You can find many free commentaries online). Talk about these verses with your family over lunch or dinner. Teach them what you’re learning.
Let these words stay close to your heart. (8-9)
8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Comment: We see practical steps for the people to keep God’s words close to their hearts. They were instructed to bind them as a sign on their hand. They were to keep these words before their eyes. They were to write these words on the doorposts of their house and gates. These words were to be displayed for everyone to see. To keep these words close was both an individual and family effort. It was both a private and public work. “Additionally, this love for God and his word must be shared in the community. Displaying the truth on their doorposts and gates makes it unmistakably clear to their neighbours [sic] that this family is committed to God’s unchanging yet relevant word. They tell everybody where the household stands.” (Raymond Brown, The Message of Deuteronomy, p. 98) Question: Do you take practical steps to keep the word of God close to your heart? Do you help lead others, especially your family, to keep this word close? Do you let your neighbors know how much you love God? Do you share your love for God and His word in the community? Application: Keep the word of God close to your heart this week. Read His word in the morning. Think about His word throughout the day. Read His word at night. Remember to write a verse or verses on index cards or sticky notes. Carry them with you. Look at them often. Share the verses with a neighbor or co-worker. Tell him or her how God is changing you through His word. Relate your growing love for God. Joyfully express your delight in God’s word—the very words in your heart.
Word Study for Deuteronomy 6:1-9
1 command (mitzvah—command; precept; terms; commission; prohibition; obligations)
1 do (asah—make; accomplish much; labor; apply; produce; manufacture)
1 teach (lamad—exercise in; learn; be instructed in; be skillful; be trained)
2 fear (yare—to tremble; revere; be honored; be awesome; respect)
2 keep (samar—to watch over, guard; secure; to hedge about; observe)
4 hear (shama—listen; understand things heard; heed; obey; pay attention)
5 love (ahab—to like, love; to endear; to desire; to breathe after; affection for)
6 words (dabar—speech; discourse; promise; matter; statement; account)
6 heart (lebab—conscience; mind; will; inner man; chest)
7 teach (shaman—sharpen; pierce; teach by rote; impress; repeat; say again and again)
8 bind (qasar—to tie; league together; be allied together; join; fasten; knit)
9 write (katab—engrave; inscribe; record; list; register; write down)
Application for Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Let’s live in awe of God.
Let’s have a keen concern for future generations to know and love God.
Let’s hear and keep all He commands us.
Let’s hear and know that the Lord is our God.
Let’s love the Lord our God totally.
Let’s keep His commands close.
Let’s faithfully teach His commands.
Gospel Connections for Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Jesus heard and obeyed the Father. He did only what the Father directed Him to do. He spoke only the words given by the Father. He listened carefully to the Father. He pointed people to the Father. Jesus kept all the commands. Jesus urged people to keep the commands. He directed them to love God completely. Jesus showed the love of God by dying on the cross for the sins of all humanity. His victory over death shows that He is both Lord and God. Indeed, Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. As such, He called His disciples to make disciples. Jesus urged His disciples to teach the nations to observe all He commanded them. He wanted them to follow Him. He wanted them to hear and heed Him. Jesus wanted them to hold God’s word close, in their hearts.
Thoughts and Quotes for Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee. ~ Augustine
Grant that I may not pray alone with the mouth; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart. ~ Martin Luther
After many years of great mercy, after tasting of the powers of the world to come, we still are so weak, so foolish; but, oh! when we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory. ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it. ~ John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
To escape the error of salvation by works we have fallen into the opposite error of salvation without obedience. In our eagerness to get rid of the legalistic doctrine of works we have thrown out the baby with the bath and gotten rid of obedience as well. ~ A.W. Tozer, Paths to Power
If you love the King, you will obey Him. ~ Alisa Hope Wagner
Commentary for Deuteronomy 6:1-9
6:4–5 The Decalogue (or Ten Commandments) of Deut 5:6–21 (= Exod 20:2–17) embodies the great principles of covenant relationship that outline the nature and character of God and spell out Israel’s responsibilities to him. It is thus an encapsulation or distillation of the entire corpus of covenant text. The passage at hand is a further refinement of that great relational truth, an adumbration of an adumbration, as it were. It is the expression of the essence of all of God’s person and purposes in sixteen words of Hebrew text. Known to Jewish tradition as the Shema (after the first word of v. 4, the imperative of the verb šāmaʿ, “to hear”), this statement, like the Decalogue, is prefaced by its description as “commands, decrees, and laws” (or the like) and by injunctions to obey them (6:1–3; cf. 4:44–5:5).
The sentence itself commences with the imperative of šāmaʿ in the second person singular form. “To hear,” in Hebrew lexicography, is tantamount to “to obey,” especially in covenant contexts such as this. That is, to hear God without putting into effect the command is not to hear him at all. The singular form of the verb emphasizes the corporate or collective nature of the addressee, that is, Israel. The covenant was made with the nation as a whole and so the nation must as a unified community give heed to the command of the Lord.
The plurality of the people is also noted here, however, in that it is “Yahweh our God” who is the subject of the following clause. Despite a variety of ways of viewing that clause (“Yahweh our God is one Yahweh,” “Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one,” and the like), the structure of the line, almost poetic, favors the rendering “Yahweh (is) our God, Yahweh is one.” That is, the Divine Name should be construed as a nominative in each case and the terms “our God” and “one” as parallel predicate nominatives. However, as the following discussion points out, there is sufficient ambiguity as to allow the idea of God’s oneness as well as his uniqueness.
Postbiblical rabbinic exegesis understood the role of the Shema to be the heart of all the law. When Jesus was asked about the greatest of the commandments, he cited this (and its companion in Lev 19:18) as the fundamental tenet of Jewish faith, an opinion with which his hearers obviously concurred (Matt 22:34–39; Mark 12:28–31; Luke 10:25–28). So much so did the centrality of this confession find root in the Jewish consciousness that to this very day the observant Jew will recite the Shema at least twice daily.76
It is possible to understand v. 4 in several ways, but the two most common renderings of the last clause are: (1) “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (so NIV) or (2) “The Lord our God is one Lord.” The former stresses the uniqueness or exclusivity of Yahweh as Israel’s God and so may be paraphrased, “Yahweh our God is the one and only Yahweh” or the like. This takes the noun ʾeḥād (“one”) in the sense of “unique” or “solitary,” a meaning that is certainly well attested. The latter translation focuses on the unity or wholeness of the Lord. This is not in opposition to the later Christian doctrine of the Trinity but rather functions here as a witness to the self-consistency of the Lord, who is not ambivalent and who has a single purpose or objective for creation and history.78 The ideas clearly overlap to provide an unmistakable basis for monotheistic faith. The Lord is indeed a unity, but beyond that he is the only God. For this reason the exhortation of v. 5 has practical significance.
The confession of the Lord’s unique oneness leads to the demand that Israel recognize him as such by obedience to all that that implies. In language appropriate to covenant, that obedience is construed as love; that is, to obey is to love God with every aspect and element of one’s being. This equation has already been made clear in the Decalogue itself, where the Lord said, in reference to the second commandment, that he displays covenant faithfulness (ḥesed) to the thousands who love him and keep his commandments (Deut 5:10). In covenant terms, then, love is not so much emotive or sensual in its connotation (though it is not excluded in those respects), but it is of the nature of obligation, of legal demand. Thus because of who and what he is in regard to his people whom he elected and redeemed, the Lord rightly demands of them unqualified obedience.
The depth and breadth of that expectation is elaborated upon by the fact that it encompasses the heart, soul, and strength of God’s people, here viewed collectively as a covenant partner. The heart (lēb) is, in Old Testament anthropology, the seat of the intellect, equivalent to the mind or rational part of humankind. The “soul” (better, “being” or “essential person” in line with commonly accepted understanding of Heb. nepeš) refers to the invisible part of the individual, the person qua person including the will and sensibilities. The strength (mĕʾōd) is, of course, the physical side with all its functions and capacities. The word occurs only here and in 2 Kgs 23:25 as a noun with nonadverbial nuance, and even here the notion is basically that of “muchness.” That is, Israel must love God with all its essence and expression.
Observe here, 1. That Moses taught the people all that, and that only, which God commanded him to teach them, v. 1. Thus Christ’s ministers are to teach his churches all that he has commanded, and neither more nor less, Mt. 28:20. 2. That the end of their being taught was that they might do as they were taught (v. 1), might keep God’s statutes (v. 2), and observe to do them, v. 3. Good instructions from parents and ministers will but aggravate our condemnation if we do not live up to them. 3. That Moses carefully endeavoured to fix them for God and godliness, now that they were entering upon the land of Canaan, that they might be prepared for the comforts of that land, and fortified against the snares of it, and now that they were setting out in the world might set out well. 4. That the fear of God in the heart will be the most powerful principle of obedience: That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes, v. 2. 5. The entail of religion in a family, or country, is the best entail: it is highly desirable that not we only, but our children, and our children’s children, may fear the Lord. 6. Religion and righteousness advance and secure the prosperity of any people. Fear God, and it shall be well with thee. Those that are well taught, if they do what they are taught, shall be well fed too, as Israel in the land flowing with milk and honey, v. 3.
Love for God (6:1–25). The fundamental nature of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel consists of the recognition that God is one and that His people, if they are to enjoy the benefits of His promises to the patriarchs, must give Him undivided allegiance and unswerving obedience.
II. Means are here prescribed for the maintaining and keeping up of religion in our hearts and houses, that it might not wither and go to decay. And they are these: 1. Meditation: These words which I command thee shall be in thy heart, v. 6. Though the words alone without the things will do us no good, yet we are in danger of losing the things if we neglect the words, by which ordinarily divine light and power are conveyed to the heart. God’s words must be laid up on our heart, that our thoughts may be daily conversant with them and employed about them, and thereby the whole soul may be brought to abide and act under the influence and impression of them. This immediately follows upon the law of loving God with all your heart; for those that do so will lay up his word in their hearts both as an evidence and effect of that love and as a means to preserve and increase it. He that loves God loves his Bible. 2. The religious education of children (v. 7): “Thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children; and by communicating thy knowledge thou wilt increase it.” Those that love the Lord God themselves should do what they can to engage the affections of their children to him, and so to preserve the entail of religion in their families from being cut off. Thou shalt whet them diligently upon thy children, so some read it; frequently repeat these things to them, try all ways of instilling them into their minds, and making them pierce into their hearts; as, in whetting a knife, it is turned first on this side, then on that. “Be careful and exact in teaching thy children; and aim, as by whetting, to sharpen them, and put an edge upon them. Teach them to thy children, not only those of thy own body” (say the Jews) “but all those that are anyway under thy care and tuition.” Bishop Patrick well observes here that Moses thought his law so very plain and easy that every father might be able to instruct his sons in it and every mother her daughters. Thus that good thing which is committed to us we must carefully transmit to those that come after us, that it may be perpetuated. 3. Pious discourse. “Thou shalt talk of these things, with due reverence and seriousness, for the benefit not only of thy children, but of thy other domestics, thy friends and companions, as thou sittest in thy house at work, or at meat, or at rest, or to receive visits, and when thou walkest by the way for diversion, or for conversation, of in journeys, when at night thou art retiring from thy family to lie down for sleep, and when in the morning thou hast risen up and returnest to thy family again. Take all occasions to discourse with those about thee of divine things; not of unrevealed mysteries, or matters of doubtful disputation, but of the plain truths and laws of God, and the things that belong to our peace.” So far is it from being reckoned a diminution to the honour of sacred things to make them subject of our familiar discourse that they are recommended to us to be talked of; for the more conversant we are with them the more we shall admire them and be affected with them, and may thereby be instrumental to communicate divine light and heat. 4. Frequent reading of the word: They shall be as frontlets between thy eyes, and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, v. 8, 9. It is probable that at that time there were few written copies of the whole law, only at the feasts of tabernacles the people had it read to them; and therefore God appointed them, at least for the present, to write some select sentences of the law, that were most weighty and comprehensive, upon their walls, or in scrolls of parchment to be worn about their wrists; and some think that hence the phylacteries so much used among the Jews took rise. Christ blames the Pharisees, not for wearing them, but for affecting to have them broader than other people’s, Mt. 23:5. But when Bibles came to be common among them there was less occasion for this expedient. It was prudently and piously provided by the first reformers of the English church that then, when Bibles were scarce, some select portions of scripture should be written on the walls and pillars of the churches, which the people might make familiar to them, in conformity to this direction, which seems to have been binding in the letter of it to the Jews as it is to us in the intent of it, which is that we should endeavour by all means possible to make the word of God familiar to us, that we may have it ready to us upon all occasions, for our restraint from sin and our direction and excitement to our duty. It must be as that which is graven on the palms of our hands, always before our eyes. See Prov. 7:1–3. It is also intimated that we must never be ashamed to own our religion, nor to own ourselves under the check and government of it. Let it be written on our gates, and let every one that goes by our door read it, that we believe Jehovah to be God alone, and believe ourselves bound to love him with all our hearts.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Dt 6:1–9). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson
 Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, pp. 162–164). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 243). Peabody: Hendrickson.
 Merrill, E. H. (1998). The Pentateuch. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 65). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 244). Peabody: Hendrickson.