Read This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 6:4–25

Heart, Soul, Strength

The Shema (a biblical prayer beginning with Deut. 6:4–9) is the heart of Jewish faith today, inscribed on every doorpost and recited daily. Indeed, it was also the heart of the faith that Jesus sought to inculcate in His followers, noting that it is the foundation of salvation (Matt. 22:34–40). It is fitting that this faith statement is all about the heart itself.

Loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength is not just a random collection of three elements of the body, but actually encompasses all of life! Moses goes on to explain the meaning of each of these elements in the successive verses. In Hebrew, the word for heart is lebab, which refers to the will, the mind, the emotions, and the inner person. This is the center of relationship and choice. Loving the Lord with all your heart means, at the very least, putting God’s word in your memory and always having it in your thoughts (v. 6). Loving the Lord with all your heart also means teaching God’s word and a love relationship with Him to your children, and talking about it all day long!

The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which is often translated “life,” and refers to the whole person, everything you do and say and see and experience. Verses 7 and 8 describe what it means to love the Lord with all your soul, in that you live differently because you follow God. You talk about God all day long, and with everything you do and see, you do and see it through the lens of God’s word, because you are in a love relationship with Him! Loving the Lord with all your strength uses the word khayil, which is often translated as “army,” but here probably refers to wealth and possessions. In everything you buy, and everything you own, you are to live as through the focus of loving God. This is why you think of your doorposts and your gates as being emblazoned with God’s word (v. 9).

In this way, loving the Lord becomes your whole life, beginning with that heart relationship with Yahweh.