God is certainly keen that Moses gets it across to the people of Israel that there’s only one God and they are to love him with all their being. The point is made twice more in today’s chapters, with a repeat too of the command to write them down and bind them to foreheads, arms and doorposts – so that the heart of God’s law should never be out of their consciousness.
A command for the whole of life – and for good reason
The point of this writing and binding is to carry the command of wholehearted love for God into the full sweep of life, not just the bits we might call religious. There is a place for the sacred as a distinctive part of life, an important place with regulations about the offering of sacrifices only where the LORD chooses. But the LORD is the God of the whole land and of the whole of life, not just the religious bits.
So living by love for him in the ordinary bits of life is the way to find blessing, peace and prosperity in the Promised Land; it’s the way to work with the grain of life rather than struggling against it. And living within that love requires a clear decision not to follow the so-called gods who are already worshiped in the land. Their shrines are to be torn down and scattered.
It would be easy at this point to be drawn into disquiet about the implications of the conquest of Canaan for those who were already there. But perhaps that’s tempting partly because asking about the rights of indigenous people back then can give us an excuse not to ask ourselves too much about what are the shrines and altars of the culture in which we are called to live out love for God with all of our mind, heart and might. In our working and family life, what are the false gods and wrong assumptions that get in the way of wholehearted devotion to the LORD?
Where, perhaps, do I need to bind the words ‘hear, O Israel, the LORD your God is the only Lord.’
I’m sure it’s not just at the door of my church.
Perhaps in my wallet, on my laptop, in my guitar case…
For unless I’m loving God wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I’m handing that bit of my life over to the gods of our culture. And unlike the LORD, the driving forces of the market, consumerism and ‘choice’ don’t love me or even care about me. They certainly don’t have my interest or the good of my children to a thousand generations in mind.
So it probably makes sense to work at loving and serving the LORD who has given me freedom, and who cares about me more deeply then I do about myself.