Deuteronomy 5-8
(All Your Heart, Soul, and Strength)
February 23rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength..

- Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

Chapters 5-28 capture Moses’ second farewell speech to the people of Israel as they prepare to enter their new land. This set of chapters is the core part of Deuteronomy because it reviews and explains the words that God had handed down to them during the last 40 years of wandering through the desert. These first three chapters are focused on the foundational laws, beginning with the Ten Commandments, which we had heard about for the first time in Exodus 20.

In chapter 6, Moses explained the importance of the commandments that he had reviewed in chapter 5. The purpose, he explained, is so that they will fear God and they may enjoy long life. He then makes a statement which can be considered the central theme of Deuteronomy:

    Israel, remember this! The LORD — and the LORD alone — is our God. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

    - Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (GNB)

Moses then described how the LORD will drive out other nations, as described in chapter 7. He tells the people to have faith that the LORD will be with them and instructs them to “destroy them totally” and to smash their idols so that the people are not influenced in any way. In chapter 8 he reminds the Israelites to honor the LORD by remembering him at every meal and remember that it is he who provides wealth for the people. Moses concludes this chapter with a warning that if the people forget the LORD their God, then they too will be destroyed.

    You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

    - Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

Notice that this section begins with the first commandment, instructing the people not to worship any other Gods and ends by decreeing the punishment for forgetting their God. In between those verses, Moses explains the most important laws, the commandments on which all other laws are based, and tells them over and over in several different ways to remember these rules.

Moses also reminds the people to fear the LORD, for example, in verse 6:13: "Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name (NIV)." He re-emphasized the point of fearing God many times throughout today's reading and in subsequent chapters and verses, including 10:12, 10:20, 14:23, 17:19, 28:58, 31:12, and 31:13. Some translations, such as The Message translate fear as reverence. Consequently, you may not see all these exact references, depending on the version you are reading. By either translation, fear and reverence is the proper response to our God who provides for us. Moreover, the fear of God or reverence of him helps us to obey him and avoid temptation (1). Moses wanted to make sure the people heard that point.

Moses practiced what he preached when he repeated the themes of fear and other topics and wrote them down for future generations. He tells the Israelites to write down the words that they hear, talk about them, and even decorate their homes with these words. Moses knows how easy it is for humans to forget, so he gives advice on the best memory devices of the day. It turns out that these devices continue to be applicable in our day as well.

A New York Times article by Joshua Foer on memory elaborates on this point. After conducting extensive first-hand modern research on the topic, Foer concludes that “If something is going to be made memorable, it has to be dwelled upon, repeated.” He attributes the concept of the art of memory to a 5th century B.C. Greek Poet named Simonides. Simonides “reasoned that just about anything could be imprinted upon our memories . . . by constructing a building in the imagination and filling with imagery of what needed to be recalled.” Foer says that all modern techniques can be traced back to this original concept and adds that if you use this method “you have to take periodic time-consuming mental strolls through it to keep your images from fading(2).”

One of the challenges for our modern era, notes Foer, is that we read many books and other sources, applying ourselves broadly, which makes it harder to remember and recall. By contrast, the people of earlier generations focused more intensively on a smaller number of books, including the Bible, which were read repeatedly, discussed openly, and became “deeply impressed on their consciousness (3).”

If we want to remember what we read in Deuteronomy or other books then we may need to read it repeatedly, discuss it openly, and allow the subject to become deeply impressed on our minds and hearts, as earlier generations did.

The central theme of Deuteronomy, which we read in chapter 6:5-9, could also be considered one of the key themes of the entire Bible. All three synoptic Gospels include a version of the story in which an expert in the law asks Jesus which commandment is the most important. In all three versions Jesus responds with a quote from these verses:

    One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?”

    Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

    Mark 12:28-31 (MSG)

The parallel account is also found in Matthew 22:36-38, and Luke 10:27, 28.

The traditional translations of Deuteronomy 6:5, quoted by Jesus, as translated in the King James Version, is as follows: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." Later translations interpreted the last word as strength and some translations substituted soul with being. In the case of the translation from The Message, as shown above, we read the following: "love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy (italics added)."

It's helpful to read this and other passages from multiple translations so that we can reflect on the original intent of the author. Now that we have seen this verse presented with different words, take some time to consider what it means to you. What does it mean to love with all of our heart (passion), soul (being or prayer), mind (intelligence), and strength (energy)? One interpretation is that it means that we put nothing higher on our priority list than following God. It means that we use our best brain power and intelligence to learn and study God's word and that we use the strength of our bodies and the passion in our heart to serve him and not ourselves. It means that God wants us to commit our entire soul and being into his hands. We can achieve all of this while also fulfilling our duties to our family and society. In fact, if we truly follow this command, then we will ensure that we place the needs of others ahead of our own needs. And when we take time to remember to give God thanks and credit for our meals and our wealth, then we are loving him with all of our heart.

We are fulfilling this commandment when we take time each day to study the Bible intensively, as you are doing right now. When we apply the ancient memorization techniques from Moses or subscribe to the modern conclusions of Joshua Foer in order to learn and study the Bible, then we are loving God with all our mind and strength. Jesus was an expert in the books that we refer to as the Old Testament. He studied it, read it aloud, and quoted from it often. If we want to follow him, then it’s important for us to also study the Old Testament, as we are doing right now.

In the subsequent chapters we will hear Moses drill down into more specific topics as he continues this second speech.

"You Are Worthy of my Praise," performed by Jeremy Camp

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your best memory technique?
    2. What would you like to thank God for right now?
    3. How can we consistently adhere to these greatest commandments?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in Heaven, thank you for all you have done for us today, help us to remember your words.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Cardiologists and their patients


    (1) Thompson, J.A., Deuteronomy, An Introduction and Commentary, Intervarsity Press, Leicester England, Downers Grove, IL, 1974, p.105
    (2) Foer, Joshua, “Secrets of a Mind-Gamer,” New York Times Magazine, February 20th, 2011, p32
    (3) Ibid

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Deuteronomy 9-11 (Fear the LORD)

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