Jewish liturgy refers to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 as “The Shema.” The word Shema (שמע) is the imperative to form for the word “Listen.” “Shema, O Israel,” Deuteronomy 6:4 says. Moses told Israel, “Listen Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” In Judaism, we recite the Shema every morning as part of the morning prayers and every evening as part of the evening prayers.
The Master regarded the Shema as the greatest and foremost commandment of the Torah. A sage once asked him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” (Mark 12:28). He answered with the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and 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 12:29-30)
Yeshua teaches that to love the LORD is the greatest commandment because genuine love for God leads us to fulfill all the commandments. If we love God, we will seek to please Him in all that we do. We will keep His commandments out of a desire to demonstrate our love for Him. The commandment to love God occupies the foremost position because it must come first. If we attempt to serve God merely out of fear or out of a desire for reward or to earn salvation, our service is not genuine. Just as a husband wants his wife to love him, so too, the Father desires His children to serve Him out of love—not merely fear of punishment or desire for reward. Love for God results in obedience to His commandments, the Torah:
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
Yeshua demonstrated His love for the Father by living a life of total obedience to Him. He is loved by the Father, and He returned that love in the form of perfect submission. God demonstrated His love for us by sending us His Son, whom He loved. We demonstrate our love for the Father by receiving His Son and following His Son’s example of love for Him.