The Shema

March 13, 2020

The Shema

If you visit Israel today, you will notice a small box on the doorway of most homes and businesses. For the most orthodox Jews, similar boxes are placed on the back of their hands and strapped to their foreheads. Inside that box is a small piece of paper with the words of Deuteronomy 6:4.

“Hear, O Israel! the LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”

This verse is affectionately referred to as the “Shema” because the first word “hear” is “shema” in the Hebrew language. To help them remember, God told them to make the Shema present everywhere because He knew the great tendency of man to forget God.

“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:8-9)


Most importantly, it was to be a reminder to God’s people that He was their God and that there was no other. They were to live with the constant reminder that they were His and that He was theirs. That they had a personal relationship with God and that they should look nowhere else.

The great problem we have, isn’t it, is turning to other gods? Looking to the god of self, or power, or pleasure, or materialism, thinking they can do what only God can do. Every time the Israelites turned from God, the results were disastrous, just as they are for us. In fact, every problem in our world can be traced to this sin.


But there is more to this command in Deuteronomy, Chapter 6. Not only were they to see Him as their one, true God, they were to love Him fully.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut. 6:5)

It was not enough just to acknowledge Him, but they were to love Him passionately and fully. It is critical to remember that when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He quoted this verse. There is nothing greater that we can do than to genuinely love God with everything that is in us. For the affections of our hearts drives everything about us.

He knows us. He knows that our hearts affections are quickly given to other things. Our “soul” (mind, emotions, and will) is easily swayed by the world’s gods. And, when heart and soul are turned to pursue other gods, we will give our “might” to that pursuit. If you want to know what you really love, look around and see what you give your time, money, and energy to; what you think about when your mind is in neutral; what you really want more than anything else. This is your heart’s true affection.


To assure that this commandment would not be lost on one generation, God calls us to teach the next. Beyond loving God ourselves, this is our most important task. If we fail in this, we have committed the greatest sin, the most blatant oversight, towards those who are given into our care.

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. (Deut. 6:6-7).

This is not merely taking our children to church (although that is commanded and indispensable). It is loving God so much that it is contagious to our children. It is when our children ...

  • see us up in the morning or late at night reading God’s Word and praying because we love Him and want to hear from Him;
  • hear us relate everything around us to God in this world; when we pause in the midst of anything and everything and help them see God there;
  • watch us choose Him above all others, even when it is a hard, misunderstood decision, because we trust Him;
  • observe us refusing to put before our eyes those things that pull us away from simple, pure devotion to Jesus Christ.
  • realize that their mom and dad love Jesus more than anything and that they live for Christ completely.

The most blessed child in the world is the one who had such God-loving parents that they now see that loving God is the most important thing in the world.


If you get this right, everything follows for love is the fulfillment of the Law. When we love God with all of our heart, we will invite Christ, God’s Son given for us, into our lives by faith to rule and reign. And when He is on the throne and we are gladly surrendered to His will, we will find ourselves always doing what is best and right. Our lives will be “conformed to the image of God’s Son” and will take on His beauty. And we will be at rest.

Father, help me to see all the ways and places I have drifted from loving You. Open my eyes to see the folly of these affections. I long for my heart to be fully Yours. I want to love You more. Help me to fall in love with You all over again. Deeper. Fuller. More completely.  And give me the wisdom and persistence to train everyone in my care to do the same.


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