While Deuteronomy is not specifically liturgical, the flow of the text is so poetic and ‘hymnal’ that many of the verses/phrasings have been plugged into Jewish and Christian liturgy as foundational prayers and catechism. For instance, one of the most important prayers in Judaism is the She’ma- Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” It is the quintessential affirmation of faith, followed by this beautiful and familiar phrase, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your might.” Perhaps we are more familiar with Jesus’ recitation of Deuteronomy in Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; and Luke 10:25-28 (for a comparison of stories among the synoptic Gospels, I highly recommend Gospel Parallels for your library).
From Mark’s Gospel:
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, [the scribe] asked [Jesus], “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our 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 mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Remember, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’, is quoted directly from Leviticus 19:18.
For those of you who have had the privilege of attending a Passover Seder this last week, you would have heard the words of Deuteronomy 6:20 echoed in the Haggadah.
Finally, I was surprised to read Deuteronomy 8:3, connecting the familiar phrase with its origin, “God humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Blessed and happy reading!