Scripture: “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 might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV
Observation: The book of Deuteronomy comprises the last words of Moses to Israel encamped east of the Jordan at the threshold of the Promised Land. The godly leader he is, Moses seeks to inculcate in his people the saving grace of obedience to God’s law. Indeed, the Hebrew meaning of “Deuteronomy” is “second law,” a reiteration of its first presentation. Thus, in the first five chapters. Moses reminds Israel of:
- Chapter 1: the command to take possession of the Promised Land; the appointment process of tribal leaders; and Israel’s initial refusal to enter the Promised Land and the consequences.
- Chapter 2 the wilderness years and the defeat of King Sihon.
- Chapter 3: the defeat of King Og and a new bit of info regarding Moses’ failed attempt to persuade Yahweh to allow him to lead Israel into the Promised Land.
- Chapter 4: the importance of obeying God’s laws; the disastrous consequences of idolatry; the uniqueness of the Lord who alone is God; and the three refuge cities east of the Jordan.
- Chapter 5: the setting, recitation, confirmation, and caution to obey the Ten Commandments.
Chapter 6 presents a new approach to promoting obedience to God’s laws for this and future generations: hearing, reflecting, and teaching its core aspects. And at its heart, Moses proclaims to his people that the Lord is one, love him wholeheartedly, safeguard his laws in your minds, and teach them to the next generation in all aspects of life (above verses).
Takeaway: Our text, called the Shema (Hebrew for “hear”), begins with the command to “hear.” But the depth of its meaning to a Jew goes well beyond the notion of simply listening to the word; it connotes comprehension and apprehension of meaning. To “hear” the law of God is to understand and apply it to one’s life. Indeed, Jesus introduced some of his most abstract teachings with the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8 and 14:35 ESV). And he considered the Shema the greatest of God’s laws. When questioned as such by a scribe, he quoted the opening verses of this passage (vv.4-5) and added that the second greatest is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 ESV).
So how best can we apply the Shema to our lives? Start with nurturing our love for the Father and Son. Love fosters a desire to obey, and love motivates us to tell our families and friends about the one Triune God who loves us so much that he incarnated, dwelled among us, and died for us. When we hear these words, when they sink to the core of our being and transform our lives, we will desire to tell others about our amazing God—starting with family. And as parents, if we teach our children about the Father and Son and their commands in our coming and going of everyday life, and they see that what we teach we practice, they too will comprehend and apprehend the Good News.
Prayer: Father God, we join Moses and your Son in proclaiming you are the one Triune God. And your extravagant love for us is incomparable. Indeed, we marvel that you invite us to love you, but sadly, we struggle to express our love for you and consistently follow your commands. So would you please help us through the guidance of your Holy Spirit to wholeheartedly love and obey you and regularly tell our families and friends all about you and your good and gracious laws of life? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling