“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…”
The greatest commandment. First on the list of the Almighty. Our number one priority. However you say it, these words should be sweet to our ears and tattooed on our hearts. In fact, the Lord says so in the original use of this passage, before Matthew, Mark, and Luke repeated the words.
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. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. – Deuteronomy 6:4-6
From the beginning, God said He should always be first in our heart. And if you know Him, loving Him doesn’t sound like a tall order, does it? But do you ever feel like you’re in need of a transplant?
- God, I know loving you means trusting you, but what if this doesn’t turn out right?
- Lord, I need you, but it doesn’t feel like you’re here. Have you abandoned me?
- Or the worst… “Beloved daughter, this is your Father, can you hear me?” [Silence.]
Struck a nerve with any of you yet? I know it does with me.
Perhaps you’re a believer but haven’t quite figured out how to have that personal relationship with Him that everyone raves about. Or maybe you find yourself trying as hard as you can to do it yourself, but you just can’t love Him the way He commands. Maybe you’re reading this and don’t really know if there is a God, but you know you feel an emptiness that never gets filled.
Well, I’ve got some good news to share with you (in case you didn’t know, when it comes to our Lord there’s always good news!): You don’t have to do it yourself – you don’t have to figure it out, how to fill that void where love for your Maker should be. In fact, our self-reliant nature is no good here. We can’tdo it ourselves.
There’s a beautiful song by Lauren Daigle called “Come Alive Dry Bones.” The inspiration for this song is an incredible chapter in God’s Word. Let me take your mind to Ezekiel 37, and allow me to make a case for why this passage is actually the prerequisite for His greatest commandment.
I beg of you to read this passage yourself and allow your mind to paint the picture of the gloomy sight I’m about to describe. In his dream, Ezekiel is standing in the center of an entire valley of bones. Dry, dead bones of an entire population of God’s people.
I’ll interject for a moment to bring a little modern-day reality to this chapter. Are you imagining all the bones? What we have here is Spiritual dehydration – at its worst. And before you start to think this is an old story told for an old group of people, I’ll just point the finger at you and me both and say that we’ve all been there. Consider the possibility that we are in the valley when we:
- Don’t know the Lord (or maybe you remember this time before you came to know Him)
- Have allowed the enemy to repeatedly whisper lies to us
- Get caught up in this world, turning to the idols we think provide happiness (a job, people, things, etc.)
- Seek control and try to do everything ourselves
Beloved, if you are Spiritually dry, amongst those in the valley of the bones, you cannot possibly love the Lord with your entire heart and soul.
He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”– Ezekiel 37:3
He alone knows…because He alone brings life, and the transplant we so desperately need.
Over the next several verses, the Sovereign Lord begins putting all their bones back together. He covered them with flesh, and “breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army” (verse 10). Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this amazing sight!
Let me share with you what I learned from this chapter about the lead our Almighty Father takes in our relationship, how He loves us first so we can then love Him:
God breathes life into His people and brings them out of the grave(vv. 7-10, 23). This applies to your life right here on earth – this grave is the sin you get lost in, the chains and strongholds that dry out your bones. But God! He rescues, redeems, and tramples over the death sin brings. Furthermore, he cleanses you (so you no longer have to live in guilt) and saves you from sinful backsliding.
He restores hope (v. 11). God says in this chapter that the people have lost their hope because they have been cut off. This is the worst consequence of sin, separation from your Maker. And without hope, the valley is dark and bleak. But sweet daughter, when your King rescues you with the promise of an everlasting covenant of peace and eternal life with Him (v. 26), there is an expectant joy that brings light into the valley.
He fills you with His Spirit (v. 14). If you haven’t yet experienced His Spirit living inside of you, walking with you every second of the day, then you are not yet out of the valley. Cry out to Jesus, and He will not disappoint or reject your request. This is His desire, for you to know Him intimately. He will show you how to walk with Him, how to let Him guide you, and how to love Him.
And while you can’t lose the promise of this life He gives, there are times when you might feel your bones starting to dry again. Speaking transparently, I find this happening fairly often in my life. While I might be talking the talk (attending church, serving through ministry work), I’m not walking the walk (praying faithfully, reading my Bible) – and “talking” can be a good thing, but it’s the “walking” that keeps me out of the valley. I allow distractions, my own self-reliance and pride, and Spiritual laziness to take over…and I become the silent daughter in the example at the beginning of this post. Before long, I feel all dried out and like I need to be put on the transplant list again.
But you and I have the tools to quench our thirst again: Return to His Word and let Him speak and teach; pray and let Him answer and guide. As Ezekiel said at the beginning, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
So you see, you can’t do it yourself. One thing I’ve learned, anything He commands I cannot do alone. So why did I ever think I could love Him all by my own doing? He breathes life into us, fills us with hope, and pours His Spirit into us so we can no longer be separated from Him – or as he describes in this chapter, so we will no longer be scattered and roaming away from Him. The only cure for dry, dead bones is the Living Water of God. Only then can we have a new heart tattooed with everything needed to love Him completely.
…I will be their God and they will be my people. – Ezekiel 37:27
I’m Traci Jones – married to my college sweetheart, raising three rambunctious teens, and still acting like a kid myself. I’m a blogger and artist – I love to use my artistic gifts to fund raise for worthy causes, and I’m passionate about using my writing to encourage and motivate others to find their joy in Jesus. My favorite place on earth is Zambia, Africa, and I’m always looking forward to my family’s next trip back to see the beautiful faces I’ve come to know and love there!