The Ten Commandments: The Great Command

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”(Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

The Greatest Map

The whole law of God is a map for us. In this series we’ve seen that even the Ten Commandments are really about heart-level obedience. But the Greatest Command is the greatest map. Map to what? Map to joy. Map to true happiness. Map to fullest human experience. The map to what my soul was made to find true satisfaction in. Psalm 16:11 says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “for the joy that was set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame.” Commands get a bum rap; we think they are leading us to sadness. God’s commands lead us to joy because God’s commands lead us to him!

“The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” (Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, p. 62) Think about that. What does it tell us about a man if the biggest and most important thing in his life was his stamp collection? Or what do you think when you hear about the woman who left her whole estate to her dog? Or what about the guy who is buried with his Harley? “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” So we see love for country in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings this week and we honor it. We see love for spouse and child as noble and right. But the greatest love the human soul can have is to know and love his Creator. To love God. For this love to be the defining love of his whole life and for all of life to revolve around it. All the heart. All the soul. All the mind.

What if God loves us enough to command what he knows will give us the greatest joy? My daughter turned one on Friday. She doesn’t understand much but she understands “no.” She wants to touch an outlet, and we say, “No!” She wants to pull the TV down on herself, and we say, “No.” We tell her we love her over and over again. I don’t think she understands our love talk because at this point, all she seems to understand is “no.”

The Ten Commandments can feel to us like all God is saying is “no.” Don’t do this. Don’t do that. All we hear is “no” because to our sin nature, that’s all it feels like.

Just like with our daughter, behind God’s “no” is God’s love. Behind every command not to bow to idols, not to take the life of an image bearer, not to covet stuff, is the love of God to us. Behind God’s “yes” is God’s love. Out of his love for us also comes his command to love him. To love God and live for God expands the soul and heart and mind. It creates an “inner relish” for God that is the summit of human experience. God knows this because he made us this way. All the commands say it but the Great Command says it most clearly—God is the only worthy object of our heart, soul, and mind.

So ask yourself, if my soul is measured by the object of its love, who or what is that ultimate love?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address ( on the copied resource.

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