‘The first commandment is.
The Lord Our God!
The Lord is one!
You shall love
With all your heart,
With all your soul,
With all your mind,
And with all your strength.’”
ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Πρώτη ἐστίν Ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν Κύριος εἷς ἐστιν
καὶ ἀγαπήσεις Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου.
This response of Jesus can be found also in Matthew, chapter 22:37-38, without the Shema cry for Israel to listen. In Luke, chapter 10:27-28, Jesus responded that he had given the right answer to the question. Here, in Mark it is separate from the love of neighbor, which is the 2nd commandment. This Shema can be found in Deuteronomy, chapter 6:4-5. These verses have had a great influence on the Israelites as the great commandment that is recited often and written all over the place on their hands, forehead, and door posts. It is both a morning and an evening prayer, something you say at home and when you are away from home. The Israelites taught their children this simple prayer. Jesus and the early Christian followers will repeat this prayer in the gospel stories of the New Testament as the great commandment of love of God. This “Shema” became the basis of the Abrahamic religions, the great commandment of monotheism and love that must always be remembered. Mark said that Jesus answered this Scribe (ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς) that the first commandment was (ὅτι Πρώτη ἐστίν) “Hear this (Ἄκουε,)! O Israel (Ἰσραήλ,)! The Lord our God (Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς), the Lord is one (Κύριος εἷς ἐστιν)!” He should love the Lord (καὶ ἀγαπήσεις Κύριον), his God (τὸν Θεόν σου) with his whole heart (ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίᾳ σου), his whole soul (καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου), his whole mind (καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου), and with all his strength (καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου). This was the greatest and the first commandment, love God above all else with your whole powerful being, heart, soul, and mind.
“Then King Hezekiah
Turned his face to the wall.
He prayed to Yahweh.
I implore you!
How I have walked before you
With a whole heart.
I have done what is good
In your sight.’
King Hezekiah wept bitterly.”
Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 20. Since Isaiah the prophet had spoken, what else was there to do? King Hezekiah turned to the wall. Then he prayed to Yahweh to remember that he had tried to walk correctly and faithfully in the sight of God with his whole heart. Finally, he wept bitterly about his impending death.
“When I considered these things inwardly,
I pondered in my heart.
In kinship with wisdom
There is immortality.
In friendship with her,
There is pure delight.
In the labors of her hands,
There is unfailing wealth.
In the experience of her company,
There is understanding.
There is renown in sharing her words.
I went about seeking
How to get her for myself.
As a child
I was naturally gifted.
A good soul fell to my lot.
Rather being good,
I entered an undefiled body.
But I perceived
That I would not possess wisdom
Unless God gave her to me.
It was a mark of insight
To know whose gift she was.
So I appealed to the Lord.
I implored him.
With my whole heart,
This author considered these things in his heart. When you are related to wisdom you have immortality (ἀθανασία ἐν συγγενείᾳ σοφίας). There is delight in her friendship and her laboring hands. There is wealth and understanding in her company. You will become famous by sharing her words. He wanted wisdom for himself. He had been a gifted child. Interesting enough there is the Platonic thought of the pre-existent soul (ψυχῆς) that was united to a wonderful body (εἰς σῶμα ἀμίαντον). He realized that he could not possess wisdom unless God gave (ὁ Θεὸς δῷ) him this gift (χάρις) to him. Thus he appealed and implored the Lord (τῷ Κυρίῳ) with his whole heart (ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας μου). This is reminiscent of the story in 1 Kings, chapter 3, when King Solomon asked Yahweh for the gift of wisdom.
“Trust in Yahweh
With all your heart!
Do not rely on your own insight!
In all your ways
He will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes!
Turn away from evil!
It will be healing to your flesh.
It will be refreshment to your body.”
At the heart of wisdom is trust in Yahweh. You are to trust God with your whole heart. Do not rely on yourself for insight. Acknowledge God in all ways. He will lead you down the right path. Do not pretend to be wise in your own eyes. Fear God. Turn away from evil. This is straight forward advice that will bring healing and refreshment to your body.
A Psalm of David
I give you thanks
With my whole heart.
Before the gods,
I sing your praise.
I bow down toward your holy temple.
I give thanks to your name.
Because of your steadfast love.
I give thanks to your name.
Because of your faithfulness.
You have exalted your name
You have exalted your word
On the day I called,
You did answer me.
You increased my strength of soul.”
Psalm 138 is a thanksgiving psalm of David as indicated in the title. David gives thanks to Yahweh from his whole heart. He sings his praises in his holy Temple. Yahweh is greater than any of the other gods or angels. He gave thanks to his holy name for his steadfast love and faithfulness. His name and word were to be exalted above everything. On the day that David called, Yahweh answered him. There was no delay here. Thus this strengthened his soul.
Teach me the way of your statutes!
I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding!
Thus I may keep your law.
I will observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments.
I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees.
Turn my heart not to gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities.
Give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise.
That is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread.
Your ordinances are good.
I have longed for your precepts!
In your righteousness give me life!”
This psalmist wanted to be taught by Yahweh. He wanted to learn all about his precepts and statutes. He wanted to observe them to the end of his life. He wanted understanding so that he could observe all his commandments with his whole heart. He wanted to delight in the decrees of Yahweh. He wanted his heart to turn away from self gains or vanities. He wanted to live in the life of Yahweh by following his ways. He wanted God’s promise to be confirmed in him. He wanted to avoid disgrace because he feared God. Yahweh’s ordinances were good so that he longed to follow his precepts in order to live a good life. This section of the fifth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, He, ended here.
“How can young people keep their way pure?
They guard it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you.
Do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart.
Thus I may not sin against you.
Blessed be you!
Teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
All the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees.
I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts.
I will fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in thy statutes.
I will not forget your word.”
This psalmist asked Yahweh to help him keep his commandments. He asked the basic question that keeps coming up today. How can the young people keep a pure way? How can they keep your word? The psalmist maintained that he was trying not to stray from Yahweh’s commandments with his whole heart. Once again, he personally wanted to learn more about the statutes of Yahweh. Using the first person singular, he wanted to delight in Yahweh’s commandment like others delight in riches. He wanted to meditate on the statutes of Yahweh so that he would not forget them. Thus this section on the second consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Bet, comes to an end.