on the hard path
birds come and eat
driving vultures off
even the hard path
on the hard path
birds come and eat
driving vultures off
even the hard path
God is always, relentlessly, about the inside out.
“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
The word translated “with” here – “with all your heart” – is ek or ex. It is “a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause literal or figurative).”i So, you could also translate this command as “Love the Lord your God out of, or, from the whole of your heart.”
I guess what struck me about this verse is that the love that Jesus is talking about comes from the inside out. It is not just part either, like a tithe or what is convenient. It is all, whole, completely. This is like the poor widow that impressed Jesus so much.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of (ek) her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44
She gave “out of.” She gave all.
And, this kind of love is not pasted on the outside. There is a related Greek word, exothen, which means “from without.” It is the word Jesus used when rebuking the Pharisees.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside [exothen] of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26
They did their good, religious works, not out from their hearts, but from the outside. They were “from without” like the costume and makeup and script of an actor. That is what hypocrite means in the Greek: “an actor under an assumed character.”
But God is always, relentlessly, about the inside out.
“Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’” … [Jesus] went on: “What comes out of (ek) a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.” Mark 7:15, 20-23
Maybe that is what circumcising your heart is all about. Getting rid of the outside, the “from without” attempts to be right with God – the attempts that so often end up in play-acting and self-righteousness – and get down to what is really in there.
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that (for the purpose, to the intent that, to the end that) you may live. Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV)
In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus is quoting the “Shema” in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. When I went back to see the corresponding Hebrew word for the Greek ek, “out of,” I was surprised to find that the word translated “with” is not in the Hebrew at all. It is as if the commandment is:
Love the Lord your God heart! Love him soul! Love him strength! All and completely – the whole of, altogether, the totality!
The Shema talks straight to the heart, and God’s passionate desire is that the heart respond straight back. Like the poor widow, there might not be much of worth in there. I know there is not much good in mine, except what He has given. But, out of the poverty of my spirit, out of my yearning heart, I want to respond completely and totally.
As you are one, Lord, may our hearts and mind and strength respond to your command in love as one. Unified and pure.
The goal of this command is love, which comes from (ek = out of) a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:5
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11
Love the Lord your God heart!
Image, Widow’s Mite – Ancient Roman Bronze Coins, by Royce Bair https://flic.kr/p/7kuEAk
This seemingly insignificant Hebrew word – here humbly translated into English as “with” – carries within it the very heart of God.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (beside, by, among, accompanying) your God. Micah 6:8
“… to walk humbly with your God.” That little word translated into English as “with” is the Hebrew word ‘im (עִם). Within this lowly word lies an amazing hidden treasure. It is related to the Hebrew word ‘am, which means people, nation, clan, tribe, family. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ‘am is “predominantly used to express two basic characteristics of [people] considered as a grouping: 1) relationships sustained within or to the group and 2) the unity of the group.”
Already, ‘im carries this meaning of relationship. The Wordbook goes on to say:
“‘im, the preposition, as ‘am the noun, expresses the concept of inclusiveness, togetherness, company … the basic conception conveyed is that of fellowship, companionship, common experiences of suffering, prosperity etc. … the term, as all other prepositions, may have definite theological implications. All prepositions indicate relationships, and ‘im in particular stresses a close relationship. This type of relationship should be maintained between God and man, man and man since it is essential for any person’s salvation, eternal life and the worship and service of God.”[i]
This little word translated “with” is the first part of the word Immanuel which is the “symbolic and prophetic name of the Messiah, the Christ, prophesying that He would be born of a virgin and would be ‘God with us.’”[ii]
This seemingly insignificant Hebrew word – here humbly translated into English as “with” – carries within it the very heart of God. His heart that we should walk with him in relationship, fellowship and companionship. That we would share in his sufferings here on earth. That we would be part of a people and a family as his children. That we should accomplish, bring about justice. That we should do, and love doing, good deeds of mercy and kindness. That we should grow more and more like him, walking humbly beside and among our brothers and sisters and our Lord, who accompanies us always.
By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:5-6 (NASB)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB)
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
Lord, give us grace to walk humbly with You.
Photo copyright by Jack Bair 2019
[i] Archer, Gleason L., Jr., Harris, Robert, Waltke, Bruce K., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody, 1980.
[ii] Gesenius, H. F. W., Brown, Francis, Robinson, Edward, Driver, S. R., Briggs, Charles A., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament.
Who comforts the comfortless
Let us comfort you
We whose hearts are broken here on earth
Let your tears fall
And join with ours
Let them form that mighty justice river
Let it water the brokenhearted earth
Along with the blood of the sufferers
The blood of your Son
But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:24
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40
Bible verses from the New American Standard Bible
Image in the Public Domain