Religious authorities attempted to embarrass Jesus with difficult questions. After failing with different tactics, one scribe asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus answered him and said, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mark 12.28-29).
Jesus followed this statement of faith with the two great love commandments, which will be the subject of tomorrow’s article.
Both the statement of faith and the command to love is at the heart of Deuteronomy’s message.
The Lord is One
I hope you will take the time to listen to today’s interview with Rudy Ross on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. He explains how the prayer or statement of faith that we find in Deuteronomy 6.4 has benefited him since childhood.
This verse is the foundation of the Hebrew and Christian faith. In a few short words, it sets apart our faith from that of other world religions.
— Deuteronomy 6.4 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
When God set the Israelites free from Egyptian slavery, he demonstrated his power not only over the Egyptian army but also over the Egyptian gods. The Egyptian “gods” could do nothing to stop God from releasing his people from generations of slavery.
As a result, God’s people declared.
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in splendor, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15.11)
In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Peter Craigie makes this point: “The word expresses not only the uniqueness but also the unity of God.
“As one God (or the ‘Unique’), when he spoke there was no other to contradict; when he promised, there was no other to revoke that promise; when he warned, there was no other to provide refuge from that warning.”
The ancient world had many gods with one of them leading the others. For example, Baal was the most powerful of the Canaanite gods, Amon-Re the head of gods in Egypt, and Marduk in Babylon.
In contrast, God is the one and only God. There is no other. He alone is God.
What is particularly important for humans is that God has an unequaled character. Instead of dominating and using his subjects, he invites them into a love relationship (Deuteronomy 6.5).
The life of Jesus demonstrates how far God will go to live in love with people.
God has the power to be anything he desires to be. No one has written a rule book that he must follow. We are blessed to know that the one and only God loves us and wants us to love him in return.
Deuteronomy 6.4 is called the “Shema,” because “Shema” or “Hear” is the first word of the verse. When Jewish people refer to this foundational truth, they simply call it “the Shema.”
Like Rudy Ross, who has embraced this practice from childhood, Jewish people recite the Shema in the morning and at night.
The first line of the Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One,” is repeated frequently.
— It is said in the morning blessings,
— On the Sabbath and holidays,
— When the Torah [scrolls of God’s Word] is taken out of the Ark on the Sabbath and holidays,
— As a bedtime prayer,
— As part of the deathbed confessional, and at various other times.
The Shema is spoken out loud. Since the Shema reaffirms the foundation of the Jewish faith, it is important to hear clearly what one is saying.
When a person is praying alone, he begins the Shema with the phrase “God, Faithful King” to bring the number of words in the Shema up to 248, the number of parts in the human body. This indicates that the worshiper dedicates his or her whole body to serving God.
The following website was used for my article. Please see https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-shema for more information on Deuteronomy 6.4-9.
The Lord’s Prayer
I have broken down this foundational passage into sections to fit the size of my articles. Studies in the next two days will complete the command to love God with our whole being and to teach each generation to do the same.
To conclude today’s study, I think Christians should be challenged to reverently pray the Lord’s Prayer just as our Jewish friends pray the Shema.
May I challenge you to pray morning and evening the Lord’s Prayer. Please pray it out loud, slowly meditating on each phrase, focused on a sense of speaking directly to God.
Matthew 6.9-13 (NRSV) – The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
About This Blog
Please take ten minutes to view my interview with Rudy Ross on this topic. Rudy is a Jewish man who has followed Jesus Christ for over 20 years. His insights on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel are valuable.
I am indebted to Peter Craigie’s commentary on Deuteronomy and the Internet article referenced above for information about this important verse.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.