“And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord” ’ ” Mark 12:28-29 (NAS)
Be honest now brethren, when someone has asked you in the past what is the greatest (foremost) commandment of the Bible, have you answered the way Jesus did, or have you answered the way most of us have by citing the verse that follows the one in our text above?
You know it, it goes like this: “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.” (Mark 12:30) Jesus quoted that which Moses spoke to the second generation that had come out of Egypt and were being prepared for entering the Promised Land as recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. Moses’ exhortation closely followed the repeating of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) to the second generation. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut 6:4-5) How this came to be regarded as the foremost is found in the previous context of Moses’ address to the people when he said, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it…” (Deut 6:1) The land was described as one flowing with milk and honey (Vs 3) yet they were warned to listen and be careful to do what the LORD commanded through Moses. Even though the land had been prepared and would be won for them by the LORD, there was still going to be the issue of a plurality of other gods present among the people of Canaan. Moses call to the people to “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4 became know as the Shema among the Jews) focused their thoughts on the fact that Yahweh was the only True eternal living God, that there was no other (Deut. 4:35). He would be the only one worthy of their worship and reverence. There would surely be temptations a many among the idolatrous people seeking to pull them away from Him. The principle is later elaborated and the people warned that He is a jealous God who will hurl them out of the land, just as He had cast Adam and Eve out of the garden, for disobedience. Yahweh was to be Israel’s God (Hebrew-Elohim, plural form of god) and He was one Yahweh, the great I AM, yet He had revealed Himself in more than one person. As the Spirit of God (Ex. 31:3; Num 11:17-29) and as “My angel” or the Angel of the LORD, who Yahweh said, “My name is in Him.” (Ex. 23:21) We see the consistency of these principles first established under the Old Covenant further revealed through the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. According to prophesy, Jesus was to be our Mighty God, Eternal Father and Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6). He is Yahweh according to New Testament revelation per John 12:37-41 in conjunction with Isaiah 6:1-10. He is the one Who dwelt among them and said He would return together with the Father to make their abode in the faithful believer as the Spirit (John 14:23). He has gone before us having won the victory in the Spiritual homeland casting out our enemy, preparing it and promising us He has come to give us a purposeful life and that we may have it abundantly. The Eternal God revealed in three persons, as the apostle Paul wrote, “In Him the entire complement delights to dwell” (CLV) is what helps us to understand who Jesus truly is and to move us to give Him the preeminence He deserves among the seed of spiritual Israel. The god of this world still seeks to divert the attention of the people of God through a plurality of gods as Paul says: “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 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.” (1 Cor. 8:5-6) Just as the Lord sought to remind the Israelites of who they were as His people so the Lord still reminds us today. We are the people of the One true God. Hear, O spiritual Israel! There is one God, He is Jesus Christ the Lord, and the entirety of deity is revealed in Him!