Deuteronomy 6:5 is about loyalty, covenant faithfulness, allegiance. What kind of people should the Israelites be? They should be loyal to God who had redeemed them from Egypt and who (in the context of Deuteronomy) had carried them to the border of the promised land. Their love for God would take the shape of obedience—internalizing and walking according to God’s commands.
The biblical authors teach us how we should respond to the God who made us and redeemed us. For example, we should trust, obey, fear, and praise the Lord. These are not recommendations from the biblical authors. They are commands.
Christians also know from Scripture that we are to love the Lord. This, too, is a command. But do you know when the Scripture first commands us to love God? In Exodus 20:6, the Lord spoke of his steadfast love to those who love him and keep his commandments, but that isn’t framed as a command. In Leviticus 19:18, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, but that is not an explicit command about loving God.
The first command to love the Lord is in Deuteronomy 6. Moses has just reiterated the Ten Commandments to the Israelites (Deut. 5:7–21), and now he gives this instruction: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). Here is the first time in the Bible where we are called to love the Lord.
This command in Deuteronomy 6:5 is probably familiar to you. It comes right after the opening Shema language in 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”