Embracing the Great Commandment
Text: Psalm 116
Proposition: To love the Lord with all your mind, heart soul and strength means that God is where your passion is, the thought of Him inspires your imagination, the desire to be close to Him is what the pursuit of your life is about.
Introduction: It’s called the Shema, in Judaism it is the equivalent to what we would call the Lord’s Prayer. It was what Moses spoke to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6. “Hear Oh Israel, the LORD our God is One LORD and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.” These are opening lines of the Shema, a prayer recited almost every day in Israel. 1400 years later Jesus was asked what the greatest of all the commandments was and He answered with these same words of the Shema. It’s not a call to study the LORD or to follow or obey or serve, all of which are good. It’s a command to love the LORD. When you think of anyone or anything that you love you don’t need to be commanded to love them. You love them as a natural response to who or what they are in your life. So how are we to love God, I mean how do we love God full out, with all our heart and mind and soul and strength? This morning let’s look at a Psalm that David wrote as he came to this very place of loving God. Turn with me to Psalm 116.
I. To Love God Acknowledges That He Hears and That He Saves.
David says that the reason he loves God is because the LORD has heard him, the LORD inclined His ear, so to speak, to listen to David’s requests and pleas. Not only that, but the LORD listened to David when things were really bad. How bad? David puts it like this, “The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.” It isn’t just that He loves God because God got him out of a jam, that would treating God like a genie in a bottle, I get into trouble and God has to bail me out. No, it’s more like, ‘When no one else could help or would help, God saved me.’ Here’s the deal, it’s not us who first choose to love God, it’s God who first chose to love us. We respond, we reciprocate to His love. That’s the testimony of 1 John 4:10 isn’t it, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” When the cords of death wrapped themselves around David it was like getting tangled in the rope of an anchor as it sinks to bottom of the lake. It’s grip is too strong, there is only a little time left. That’s when David cried out, “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!" Other translations put it more bluntly, “Lord save me!” Have you ever been there, going down for the third time, tangled up in cords too strong to break? Did you too cry out, ‘Lord save me, no one else can.’ An olive skinned arm with a nail pierced hand is what God has sent as your Savior and save you He does. My response, your response, to being saved from a pit of our own making, is to love God, to love the LORD my God with all my heart soul and might because that’s how I’m holding onto the hand that pulled me from the pit. I hold on for dear life, and out of me comes a love for the LORD. It’s a command, yes, but more so it’s a heart response from the one who has been saved.
II. To Love God Is to Love Wonderful.
In 1963 film critic Dorothy Kilgallen wrote a review of the film ‘Charade’, saying, "It has Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Paris in living color, and a beautiful score by Henry Mancini. So what's not to like?" The phrase caught on and soon it became, “What’s not to love?” Perhaps that was what was on David’s heart as he thinks of all of what God has done which points to all of Who God is. Look at verses 5-8, each verse describes an action of God that points to Who God is. So David starts with the obvious, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful.” Grace and mercy when they are controlled by righteousness are not manipulative, coercing or tempting. When a person shows you grace, giving that which was not deserved, and then shows you mercy, withholding punishment where it was deserved, the response invariably is to be thankful. When grace and mercy are given in extreme measure, life sacrificing measure, the response is to be more than thankful. The response is to love the one who was willing to die for us. Grace, mercy, righteousness…these are wonderful but David doesn’t stop here. Verse 6 says “The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.” Simple refers to naïve, sometimes with youth and sometimes by my own foolishness. With the patience of a father God preserves me. The word preserves means to guard or keep watch over, like a father does over his children. That too is wonderful, especially when He saves from the consequences of being naïve. Verse 7 says, “Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.” What does your picture of ‘bountifully’ look like? Whatever the description, the net effect is that it is meant to set your soul to rest. Do you know the kind of rest this infers? It’s like the rest after a hard days work, it’s the rest that comes when you sleep like log through the night, it’s the rest you feel when you arrive safely at home after driving for hours through a blinding snow storm. In short it’s a wonderful rest that rewards and restores. The LORD has dealt bountifully with you, the effect is to feel His reward and restoration and for that my heart loves Him with all my being. Verse 8 says this, “For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” The LORD has delivered David in three different ways: his soul from death…spiritually; his eyes from tears…emotionally; his feet from falling…physically. He restores me spiritually, He stabilizes me emotionally, He readies me physically. In spirit, soul and body the LORD delivers me and that is too wonderful. To love God is to love wonderful.
III. To Love the LORD Is To Take Action.
The land of the living can be a dangerous place because there is much to lose here. You can lose your dignity, lose your possessions, you can lose yourself in work, you can lose those you love. You can even lose the truth if enough lies find their way into your belief. To walk before the Lord in the land of the living is to seek to be always in the line of sight of the LORD. What I mean is that I put top value on the Lord’s perspective of me over all others. I live with wonder and a joy to be alive and to be alive in the presence of God because I know He loves me. It’s how I show my love to Him. David acknowledges that to be in the land of the living is not always easy. “I believed, therefore I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’ I said in my haste, "All men are liars." Perhaps it was a Romans 7:15 kind of thought, the recognition of sin in all people and especially in me… “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Is this what David meant when he said he was greatly afflicted because of the faith that was in him? Is that why in his haste he said all men are liars because all have sin? This is what it is like to walk before the Lord in the land of the living, to know sin in ourselves and at the same time to know the holiness of a God who loves me still. That realization begets love in us. Look at what David says next, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?” In other words since I now see the deep love of God for me and the very love that I have for God what action should I take to show that love? His conclusion is straight forward… “I will take up the cup of salvation…I will pay my vows to the Lord…I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” God has given us life, eternal life in Christ, that’s the cup of salvation. To take it up is to take it into your heart, into your very life itself. It releases me to trust God in a way I couldn’t before. The things I had vowed to Him I now present to Him, Lord I am yours. The sacrifice of thanksgiving is ongoing, rather than an event it is a process. Consider Hebrews 13:15,16, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Love the LORD your God with all your heart and mind and strength even by these actions. One last thought, God is not careless when it comes to your life or your death. Your love for Him is to God a precious thing. David puts it like this, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones.” When we grasp that we are precious to the LORD, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, that we are sinful but in Christ forgiven, that we belong to God, we are the sheep of His pasture, that we are no longer our own but have been bought with a price and that price was the blood of Christ on the cross, then this truth replaces the lie that I don’t matter. “Oh Lord truly I am your servant…you have freed me from my chains.” Then my soul, my mind and all my strength love the LORD my God. It is the Shema, it is the Greatest Commandment, it is what all that is within us seeks to do when we truly see how great His love for us is in Christ.