In the Bible, the word “therefore” has a very important function. The frequent use of the term is related to what scholars call the indicative-imperative dynamic. The indicative is a statement of redemptive fact or divine truth. The imperative is the command or application that results. “Therefore” points to the logical inference between the indicative and imperative. It can be either actual (or literal) or implied (as a logical implication). Let’s look at two examples:

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. (Lev 11:44, ESV)

Indicative                                 Inference                     Imperative
I am the Lord your God    therefore                     consecrate yourselves for I am holy                                                                      and be holy

 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19, ESV)

Indicative                                 Inference                     Imperative
he first loved us                    because                        we love

The indicative indicates a theological assertion, and the imperative expresses an ethical or religious obligation. The term “therefore” (actual or implied) functions as the rational link between fact and the action that should result. Here are two other examples:

 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [indicative]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [imperative]. (Matt 28:18b–19, ESV)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God [indicative], to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship [imperative]. (Rom 12:1, ESV)

How does the indicative-imperative dynamic apply to our life here and now? Let me provide two illustrations.

A classic example of the indicative-imperative formula concerns the men of Issachar: “From Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32, ESV). They discerned what was important in their time. God had raised up David as the new king (indicative) and they knew what to do about it: commit their forces to serve in his army (imperative). They did not act without thinking or think without acting. Indeed, we face a similar challenge today. We must discern what is really important and know how to respond. If we want to become heirs of Issachar in our time, we must learn how to think utilizing the indicative-imperative dynamic of the Bible.

The second example is from Deuteronomy 6:4–5, the famous Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God,  the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (NABRE). The indicative assertion concerns the divine nature: “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” Yahweh Elohim, by definition (the indicative), is the personal absolute and only God. As David asserted, “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears” (1 Chron 17:20, NIV).

The imperative is also absolute: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” Given who God is, our response must be universal―with all our being and total devotion. In fact, the “therefore” of the Shema underscores a holistic spirituality that presumes both orthodoxy and orthopraxis. For this reason, when asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:4–5 with Leviticus 19:18:

 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! [Therefore] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 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.”

 As you can see, “therefore” is a very important word in biblical theology. We must learn to think with both the indicative and the imperative. Discernment entails “what” and “why” thinking (indicative and theological), as well as “how” and “when” thinking (imperative and pragmatic). Otherwise, we might act without thinking or think without acting.



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