In the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), Adonai delivers an astonishing commandment that, frankly, in today's society would seem quite offensive - the command to love Adonai:
"Love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength' - Deut 6:5.
Does this sound correct? Is Adonai our G-D actually commanding us to love Him? Is He not the gentleman that is portrayed in today's modern thinking and approach? Would He actually have the audacity to command His people to love Him? Is He that insecure or, that needy? No matter how one reads the text, the Scriptures say just that - we are commanded to love Adonai. There is no mincing of these words, nor are they open to interpretation. The words recorded in this text mean what they mean - we are commanded to love Adonai.
Yet, the question is then, "Why does He command us to love Him?"
In the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant), Messiah was asked by one of the lawyers (scribes) of the Sadduccees, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?" - Mt 22:36. In Messiah's answer, He reiterated what HaShem commanded in the Torah:
"And He said to him, "You shall love Adonai your G-D with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment" - Mt 22:37-38.
So, it would seem that in both the Tanakh (Old Covenant) and the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant), the single greatest commandment that transcends both covenants, is to love Adonai above all. Therefore, our love for Adonai should be placed at the highest priority in our lives - above all else, above all things, we are to love Adonai our G-D first and foremost. Messiah Yeshua went further to express that our love for Him should be so great that it seems like we hate even our own mother and father - even our own lives:
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—and yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple" - Luke 14:26.
Is Messiah Yeshua really commanding us to hate? Not in the least, He is commanding us to love - to love Him above all. The command to love Adonai above all (even our own lives) is not only a matter of obedience, but also a matter of protection. What is meant by this is that, left to our devices, if we do not obey the command to love Adonai above all, we will surely choose to love that which harms us - even death. As it is written, "There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death" - Pr 14:12. If we love Adonai above all else, not only are we protected, but it also enables us to love others as they should be loved - through the love of Adonai. Therefore, we are also commanded: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" - Mt 22:39. Regarding the importance of these commands, Messiah goes on to say, "The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" - Mt 22:40.
Simply put, we can deceive ourselves and fall for the traps and snares of this world - even to the point where we love what is not good for us. In other words, our love (if we do not love Adonai first) is corrupt - it is not perfect. Our love, without Adonai is flawed and even blind. If we choose not to place Adonai first in our lives, even our own hearts will deceive us. As it is written, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable—who can know it?" - Jer 17:9. Love without loving Adonai first, compels us to choose wrongly - to love the wrong things. Love without loving Adonai first leads to a corrupt love. This is why many will try to satisfy themselves in harmful things, such as relationships and other terrible things that may harm us.
Therefore, Adonai does not command us to love Him because He wants to control us. Adonai commands us to love Him, because He wants to protect us, so that we may find our way to Him through the Messiah, who is the ultimate expression of Adonai's love for us. As it is written, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" - John 3:16.
We have faith in Adonai and we have hope in Adonai, but the greatest of these is to have love in Adonai. This is because His love is perfect and in His love we are protected, we are strong and most importantly, we are saved. This is why is it is written, "But now these three remain— faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love" - I Cor 13:13.