Shema – Deuteronomy 6:4-9
The Shema is one of only two prayers that are specifically commanded in Torah. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and night since ancient times. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is the first part of this prayer. It is recited in the morning when they get up and in the evening before going to bed. You’ll see a small box on the doorframe of a Jewish house that contains the entire prayer written on it. You’ll see Jews with a box on their forehead, called a “Tefillin,” containing the Shema in it and even have it wrapped around their arms.
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 on 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.
There is so much that happens in chapter 6, “Wandering” and it is hard to touch on every element. Reading through this chapter, and through this section of scripture, it is easy to get wrapped up in God seeming to constantly be angry. Take a moment to remember why God is in a mood. Do you see any grace in this chapter? God has a plan for Israel as a nation to bless the world and it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to be that blessing when they continue to break their covenant with God. From the very beginning, Israel has struggled to be the people God has called them to be. God is using a group of people to bring about redemption who also need redeeming.
At the end of this chapter, we are standing with Israel on the banks of the Jordan looking across into the Promised Land. They just spent forty years in the wilderness because the people did not trust God to provide for them. Relationship was supposed to be learned in the wilderness. God was with them in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. His presence rested in the Tabernacle when they stopped. Now, standing across the Jordan from the Promised Land, Moses gives them the Ten Commandments again to remind them of their covenantal commitment to the LORD God.
This is where “Shema” comes in. The word “Shema” means, “Listen.” “Listening” in this definition is more than a simple auditory exercise, but it involves singular attentiveness of the covenant partners to each other, to whom each is pledged in solemn oath. So, to “listen” means “obey,” to take with absolute seriousness the will and intention of the other. This is like when you look at your child who keeps doing wrong and say, “The problem is that you do not listen!” Deuteronomy 6:4-9 begins with “Listen, Israel.” It then affirms the sovereignty of God as being above every God. Then v.5, quoted by Jesus as the greatest command, says “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Read the rest of this section through v.9: Why is it so important to talk about these commandments in the morning, when they walk down the road, eat at the table, go to sleep at night, etc.? Why are they to saturate their lives with God’s commandments? What does Deut. 6:10-12 tell you about the importance of keeping God’s commands on your lips always?
Here are the hard implications of this passage: If you only eat of the Bread of Life once a week or so, can you be healthy? What are you doing to deepen your relationship with God? What are you doing to help your children grow into a healthy relationship with God? What can we as a church do to help you become more invested in this relationship?