The very first place in the Bible the word love is used, is in the account of God commanding Abraham to take his son Isaac, “whom you love” and offer him as a sacrifice. Any parent would understand the love Abraham had for his son and what a horrifying prospect it would have been for Abraham to sacrifice him. Of course, it was only a test, but at the time, Abraham didn’t know that.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 it says, “Hear O Israel! The Lord is God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The thing about a Hebrew mindset is that it’s very practical, even physical whereas a Greek mindset, which has influenced the Western world very heavily, is more philosophical, theoretical, analytical and spiritual. So what does it mean from a Hebrew perspective to love God with all your heart, soul and might?
Do you love pizza? How can you show me that you love pizza? You’d devour it and express it on your face and in your actions. Do you love your family? How do you demonstrate your love for your family? You’d show your love by how you care for them, talk with them, hug them and help meet their needs.
How do you love God? You can’t see Him, you can’t touch Him?
Deuteronomy 6 goes on to talk about obeying the commands—the Word of God—teaching them to your family so that God’s Word will be in their heart. So the key to loving God is in obeying His Word.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, You’ll keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
So how do we demonstrate that we love God? By keeping His commandments—and the whole of the Law is summed up in the Ten Commandments. They start by commanding us to love God supremely, and then tell us not to lie, steal, covet, murder, commit adultery or abuse our parents.
Did you know that if you love God supremely, you won’t want to steal, lie, covet, murder or commit any kind of sin against another person, because we’ll love them the way God loves them, because we love God above all else.
Another practical aspect of Hebrew comes from knowing the basics of their ancient pictoral alphabet—if you know the meaning of the letters, you’ll understand the meaning of the word—very practical.
The first Hebrew letter is aleph (א) and its original form looked like this: . It kind of looks like the head of an ox and symbolises strength or a leader.
The second Hebrew letter is beyt (ב). It looks like a tent or dwelling: , because beyt actually means house.
If you put aleph and beyt together you get the word ‘ab’ (בא) which means the strength or leader of the house—so ‘ab’ means ‘father.’
The fifth Hebrew letter is heh (ה), and it originally looked like someone with their hands raised and means to behold, reveal, wind and even spirit—or the essence of something.
If you put the heh in the middle of the word ab, the word becomes ‘ahab’ (הבהא)—it literally means the revealing or essence of the father—which is the Hebrew word for love!
If the Hebrew word for Father is ab or abba, which is what all Jewish children call their dad, then ‘father’ = ‘love’ (Romans 8:15).
Some Hebrew letters have dual pronunciations, one of those letters is beyt. Depending on the context it is either a ‘b’ sound or a ‘v’ sound. Father is pronounced ‘abba’ while love is pronounced ‘ahavah’, but the letter is the same.
The Bible says God is love (1 John 4:7) and He demonstrated His love toward His people through Jesus, His Son, dying on the cross (Romans 5:8).
This is the essence of the Father:
“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.”
We’ve cheapened the word love because we associate it with food, movies, clothes, cars and other superficial things. But love…real, genuine, authentic love puts the needs of others ahead of ourselves. When we do that we demonstrate our love for God, who put our eternal security above His own comfort, when He became a human being and died in our place on the cross. That’s real love.