Love, as it has been said, is a many splendid thing. It is something so simple and beautiful we all seek its possession, yet its complexities astound the most able of philosophers. It cannot be adequately defined, yet as a topic it is one that is most written about, talked about, and sung about.
Love: Elusive, Yet Essential
History is replete with poets, kings, priests and peasants chasing after love, often discovering its elusiveness…yet something so sought after is too often something that cannot be grasped.
Elusive as love can be sometimes, there is however one love affair we must all have. And that is a love affair with the Creator, our Maker and Redeemer. Proverbs provide us with some wisdom of love, Psalms speak of God's great love and the greatest of commandments is to Love God. That which defies definition appears as one of the greatest of commandments...
...to love God and to love your neighbour.
Going Deeper... What Does "With All Your Strength" Mean?
The Most Important Commandment?
When asked the question, "What is the most important commandment?" Yeshua replies with the Sh’ma recorded in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:
Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love God with all your Heart, Soul, and Strength.
It should be immediately noted that this is an imperative, not a suggestion.
Commanded to Love
We are commanded to Love, thereby indicating we have a choice in the matter.
The choice either to obey or not to obey what has been commanded. Love, according to the Bible, is a choice. Love is not an emotion nor is it something that you fall into without freewill. That’s something else. Lust is an emotion, but Love is a command from the Lord. Technically then, you can love anyone, even as Jesus says, our enemies.
What Did "Strength" Mean to First Century Jews?
We are commanded to Love God with all our Heart, Soul and Strength. It is usually obvious to see a connection between Love and the Heart, perhaps even with Love and the Soul, but what is the meaning of Strength? How do I love God with my strength?
What did Strength mean to 1st Century Jews?
Here the Targums help. Targums are Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible. Most people spoke a vernacular Aramaic over a Hebrew for everyday language in 1st Century Israel. Aramaic became dominate after the return from Babylon. While Hebrew did remain in use, it was not the most common tongue. Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible were read aloud after a reading of the Hebrew version in a synagogue.
The first recording of this taking place occurs in the book of Ezra, following the return under the Decree of Cyrus. One such Aramaic translation is called the Targum of Onkelos. The Targum of Onkelos translates Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as .. 'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your property.'
Love with everything we have?
Strength, therefore, to the hearer in the First Century meant your property.
Your strength was everything you have - your time, your spouse, your money, your house and possessions. How will you love the Lord your God? You will love God with everything you have and you will hold nothing back.
And this is a choice we have to make as we respond to the Command of the Lord. Will we indeed love God in this way? Or will we choose something else?
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