Shema – LISTEN!
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)
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.
These verses are key in Judaism. The “Shema” draws from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 (click here for details) and expresses faith in the One Almighty God. After forty years of wandering, Moses taught a new generation about the Lord who brought them out of Egypt. He told them about the mighty works of God to free Israel from bondage in Egypt. He expounded on the commandments received on Mt. Sinai and finally he told them about the blessings that come from living for God as well as the consequences that come when we stray.
In the midst of Moses’ “sermon,” after enumerating the original commands (Deuteronomy 5) Moses declares, “Hear, Oh Israel.” What follows were the words Moses did not want Israel to never forget. It was kind of like me saying during a sermon, “if you get nothing else out of the message, get this!”
The key message? Love God, Know God, Remember God. If we could capture the passion of the message it would change the way we live. If we loved God, “all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] strength” it would show in everything we do. It would be more than a Sunday kind of love. It would be an everyday, every way kind of love.
It is the kind of love that helps you see connections with God in everyday things. When we shop with our children, we see lessons and reminders about God. We help our children see God by how we live and what we say. The Word of God is so a part of our lives that it is ever before us. The orthodox Jew takes the command of the “Shema,” “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,” very literally by the wearing of a phylactery holding portions of Scripture. A small case attached to the door frame contains the name of God; ever a reminder of who the family behind the door serves and worships.
The “Shema” is not just for the surviving generation of the Exodus. It is for you and me. It is time we LISTEN. It is time we OBEY. It is time for our love for God to produce fruit. God is not interested in a one night or one day stand. God wants us to love him the way he loves us; with all our heart, soul and strength. When you do, stand back and watch what God can and will do in you life, your family and your community.
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