“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 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.
History and Context:
Deuteronomy is Moses' final words to the Israelites. In it he recounts the law and challenges them to stay with Yahweh and not stray to the gods of the surrounding nations. In parts of the book it implies that God already knows they will stray to foreign gods and admonishes them, ahead of time, to return to Him when that happens. This particular verse is extremely popular in Jewish communities to this day. It is know as the Shema and it is one of the first passages that every jew must commit to memory. It was also quite popular in the time of Jesus and he chose this as the first half of greatest commandment of all. There is also a hidden (again to us not to the original readers) message of unity between the people of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. For more on that feel free to email me.
There are three main themes conveyed in this short text:
1) The oneness of God
The first thing that the people of God need to know is that there is only one God. In studying the history of Israel one can see that this is also a powerful message towards unity among the people of God. We serve the same God so we must come together as one people in unity.
2) We need to love God with all that we are
Follow Yahweh and only Yahweh! Do not have split devotions with other gods or other idols. Follow Him and serve Him with all your heart, soul, and strength.
3) The importance of truth
More specifically the importance of the Words and commandments spoken by God. They are so important that the people of Israel are commanded to follow them, teach them to their children, talk about them continually wherever they are, and even bind them to themselves and write them down all over their homes. The people of Israel must constantly have the word of God before their eyes so that they do not forget it like their ancestors did.
Just like the message of the text can be broken down into three parts, so can the challenge that is given to us:
1) The first challenge is unity. Just like the Jews in the time of the split kingdom, we as Christians have become split. The difference is we are split into many more parts than the Jews ever were. Paul says that we are 'one body'. In other words we should be working together towards one purpose! Yet we constantly fight over which denomination is better. Find a way to work together with someone that doesn't believe exactly the same way you do. Pray for unity among our churches!
2) The second challenge is again to love God with complete and utter devotion. Do not split your devotion to Him with the other things in life but include Him in all of it! There are so many things which try to take our devotion and today they are more subtle than in the days of the Israelites. It could be the search for money, entertainment, comfort etc.Watch yourself today. What is it that is trying to take your devotion away from God?
3) Thirdly there is a challenge to never forget the Word of God. Keep it before your eyes, talk about it with the people around you. When was the last time you talked about the Word outside of church activities? When was the last time you taught your children the Word of God? Or do you simply rely on the children's pastor to do this?
Lord, these are three major challenges which can be difficult at times for us to follow. Help us to pay attention to our lives and see what is taking away our devotion to you, where are we creating division in your body, and how can we incorporate your word into our lives? Go with us today as we continue to meditate on this verse and see how we need to change our daily life. Thank you Lord! In the name of your Son we pray, Amen.
*Note: There is a lot to focus on this time so I will be taking the next three days to go more in depth in each of these topics*