A long time ago in a land far away, a dry, dusty, and desert land, God gave these words to Moses so that the Israelites would remember His commands. And so for thousands of years the Jewish people have recited the Shema morning and night with their families.
The Shema is made up of three Scripture sections: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41. And though you may not be familiar with the term “Shema” (Sh-ma’), if you’ve been a Christian for awhile, you have heard these scriptures because Jesus often used them.
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. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Does that sound familiar?
“Hear O Israel: The Lord God, the Lord is one.”
The word we’ve translated to “one” is the Hebrew word echad. Scholars have debated whether this word should be translated as “one” or its other meaning, “alone”. One of the problems with translation is that there are no verbs in the Hebrew sentence. “YHWH. . . our God . . . YHWH . . . echad.”
What do you think God wanted the Israelites to remember about Him? What is the purpose of this statement of faith?
We can never interpret a verse or decide on its meaning without reading the chapters before it and after it. Context is key to finding the meaning. If you flip back a page in your Bible, you find The Ten Commandments. These are the the words God is referring to in chapter 6 (the passage above).
The very first commandment in chapter 5 is vital to interpreting this passage.
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7)
He is God alone.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol. . . ” (5:8)
God was laying down the rules for the Israelites, but they are for all of us in His family today too.
It seemed so much more simple in those days. Idols were crafted out of wood or silver and placed in homes. The people literally worshiped with sacrifices and incense these man-made gods.
But today our idols are not so obvious. They are sneaky. Invisible. And dangerous to our hearts.
They can be good things like friends, spouses, children, jobs or hobbies.
Or they can be difficult things.
Hardship, struggle, illness. These things can become our idols too.
How do we know if something has become an idol in our heart? I think these three questions help.
1. What is the first thing and last thing I think about?
2. Who or what is the object of the majority of my conversations?
3. What do I think is the missing piece to my happiness?
Throughout the next few weeks we are going to visit the Shema and dig under our language to discover the life inside these ancient words of wisdom. We’ll find how we apply this truth to us today, and we’ll be able to see how Jesus fulfilled the law. We’ll be connecting this Old Testament passage with the New Testament–one of my favorite things to do.
I recently gave this teaching at a women’s retreat. We spoke Hebrew and danced (Zumba) and tied blue cords around our wrists. That teaching was given in one big hunk, but during the next week we’ll take it bite by bite. I also promised a blog or two on fasting next week as some of us fast together next Wednesday.
“Hear O friends, the Lord our God, the Lord alone. Not money or children, health or success, relationships or new shoes can be your God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children and grandchildren. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you drive to Walmart, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Praying that He is the God of our hearts.
Jesus loves you,
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[…] I will continue to fast this week, but I’m fasting on Thursday if you would like to join me. I’ll be writing more about the danger of discouragement on Wednesday (I think) with a tip or two for fasting, and Friday we will continue our journey through the Shema. […]
[…] law. Jewish families have recited the Shema morning and night for thousands of years. (Click here if you missed the introductory article about the Shema last […]
When I read these words, I once again see four grandchildren at a younger age reciting them at a VBS program. My heart smiles. Then I ask Ken, my husband, to come listen and discuss the Scripture and the three questions. Somehow I see and sense a path God invited me to take, one I only began to glimpse recently. Thanks for helping to shine a flashlight toward that path.
What a wonderful thing to listen to four grandchildren recite these words! It’s part of the instruction! Love the thought of watching you and Ken discussing the Scripture. I love to do that with Mike! Love you Patricia!
The Shema, a hauntingly beautiful passage, continues its echo into our souls today. Thanks for illuminating the precious mantra which calls us to regard our God as our One and Only Lord.
Tina, you are such a good writer! Love the words you chose. . .hauntingly beautiful. . . echoing into our souls. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Love this, Andy. Really looking forward to following you through the Shema!
Thanks Terry! It’s so interesting. Looking forward to sharing! Thanks for leaving a comment.