We’ve been homeschooling our kids for 3 years, and Proverbs 2:1-5 (cry out for discernment and seek wisdom as silver) and Proverbs 3:5-6 (trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding) have governed our homeschool journey since the beginning. I seek God before deciding what to teach the kids and when
. As 2020 was coming to an end, I sought the Lord as to what to teach the kids this year, and He put it on my heart that the kids and I should learn Hebrew together. I want us to have a deep knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, so what better way than to know the language in which the Bible was originally written.
We’ve only been studying Hebrew for about a month, so know very few words. We started writing the Hebrew aleph bet (alphabet) last week, so we can write even fewer words than we can say! One of the first words we learned to read and write is one of the Hebrew words for love: ahava. In Hebrew script it looks like this: אהבה
I mentioned this is ONE of the Hebrew words for love.
In the English language, we have one word for “love” and it gets massively overused. For instance, I say things like, “I love the Lord”; “I love my husband and kids”; “I love my church.” But I also say things like, “I love hot weather”; “I love shopping for shoes”; “I love my German Shepherd puppy.” While I immensely enjoy 90 degree days and buying new shoes, I certainly don’t put those things in the same category as my family. But I use the word “love” to describe them both, as do most English speakers.
The Hebrew language is not that way. Ahava or אהבה means something very specific, and understanding its meaning will give us an accurate understanding of the Great Commandment.
Deuteronomy 6:5 instructs us that, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Jesus reiterates this in the Gospels when He tells His disciples that the great commandment in the law is: “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Matthew 22:36-38. But what did Moses and Jesus mean when they said “ahava eth YAHVAH” (love the Lord)? And how is it different than the English word “love”?
In English, love is generally understood as a feeling. Oxford Languages defines love as: “an intense feeling of deep affection.” It’s just a feeling – albeit a deep one – but a feeling nonetheless. And what does the Bible tell us about our feelings? We know that our hearts are deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9); we know that our ways seem right but lead to death (Proverbs 14:12-13); we know that our hardened hearts lead to darkness (Ephesians 4:18), and we know that giving in to the feelings of our flesh will lead to eternal death (Galatians 5:19-21).
Because we know that God warns us time and time again to guard our hearts and take captive our thoughts and feelings unto the obedience of His word, He can’t possibly be telling us that the great commandment is to have “an intense feeling of deep affection” towards the Lord our God. So what does ahava mean?
Ahava is made up of three Hebrew letters – aleph (א ), hey (ה ), and vet (ב ). The root word is hav (הו), which means “to give”. Rooted in the Hebrew word for love is the action of giving. Thus, ahava is not a feeling, but requires an action. Knowing that, we should understand the great command differently. To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is TO GIVE to the Lord all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Does the Lord own your thoughts? Does He hold your heart? Do your plans and desires belong to Him? Do you offer your body as a living sacrifice, knowing the high cost that He paid for your soul? (1 Corinthians 6:20)
Christians, we are to remain steadfast and devoted to Christ regardless of our feelings. We are to align our thoughts with the Word of God regardless of what the world currently thinks or believes. We are to give to God’s church our time, talent, and treasures without fear or worry of how God will provide in an uncertain economy. We are not called to simply love the Lord. Instead, we are His chosen and His beloved, called to ahava eth YAHVAH.