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Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy 6’ Category

Love God! Deuteronomy 6

We are continuing to look at the Shema this week, the name for Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Last week we talked about how v. 4 of the Shema teaches that there is only one true God. And since there is only one true God we should beware of the lure of false gods, who seek to take away our allegiance with their promises of help and hope when, in fact, only the true God can truly meet our needs.

Today we want to look more at verse 5 and loving God.

1. What it means to “love” God

In America we usually think of love as an emotion. Then we apply this to God. To love God then means that we

  • feel good about God
  • like God
  • have warm feelings for God
  • feel attached to God

In the Scriptures, however, loving God is about loyalty that issues in obedience to God. In Deuteronomy love of God and obedience to God go hand in hand.

  • Deuteronomy 11:1 – “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.”
  • Deuteronomy 11:13 – “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul . . .”

Jesus confirms this connection in John 14:15. He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John says this – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” –  1 John 5:3

So love is certainly not just an emotion. It has to do with things like:

  • commitment
  • devotion
  • and loyalty

all of which lead to obedience. It’s a choice we make to do what God says. That’s why we can’t say, ‘I don’t feel like loving God today.’ You choose to love God day in and day out, whether you feel like it or not, by walking in his ways.

2. The Shema calls us to complete love of God

This comes out in the words used in Deuteronomy 6 – “heart,” “soul,” and “might.” This covers every part of us, from our inner person to our physical strength.

Actually, when the Shema gets repeated, the descriptions  of the parts of us change:

  • Deuteronomy 6 – (Hebrew text): heart, soul, might
  • Deuteronomy 6 – (Greek text): mind, soul, strength
  • Jesus in Mark 12: heart, soul, mind strength
  • The scribe in Mark 12: heart, the understanding, strength
  • Jesus in Matthew 22: heart, soul, mind
  • The scribe in Luke 10: heart, soul, strength, mind

Different parts of us are mentioned, with different words and in different orders. The point, however, in all of these is the same – we are to love God with our whole person, with every part of us, however you want to say that.

But not only are we to love God with every part of us, we are to love God with all of every part of us. V. 5 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”Not a portion of each part of us, but all of each part of us.

You can’t say it more clearly. The Shema calls us to complete love for God.

3. The greatest temptation is to try to love Yahweh and another god

It is often not choosing between Yahweh or another god, but between serving Yahweh alone or Yahweh along with another god or gods. A little background here. In a world where there were many gods/idols, you need several gods to get all the help you need; to cover all the bases.

  • one for good crops
  • one for fertility
  • one for warfare
  • one for healing

What this means is that you have to give a part of your devotion to all of these gods, in order to get what you need. Many gods equals many loves.

This is why the Shema is the way it is. V. 4 teaches us first of all that there is one only true God, who can care for all of our needs. Then v. 5 calls us to love the true God will all of our heart, soul, and strength.

Since there is only one God, there is need for only one love on our part. We don’t need to divide our loyalties to this god for this thing and other gods for other things.

This was the constant temptation of Israel – to serve Yahweh, but also another god. They believed in Yahweh but would sneak along another idol for a particular need, where they weren’t sure Yahweh could take care of them.

But we do the same thing, for instance with wealth. God can take care of us, but I will also pile up a load of wealth – just in case.

But as Jesus so clearly teaches us, you can’t be loyal to two gods at once. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24. You have to choose. If you don’t you will just end up despising your heavenly Father.

——————-

So I like to say the Shema in my prayer times and in corporate worship, to remind us that we have one true God. And to call us to give our whole selves to this God, who can care for all of our needs. It is a kind of pledge of allegiance for followers of Jesus.

William Higgins

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Notes on the Shema

1. Where does the verb go?

Deuteronomy 6:4 literally says, “Yahweh our God, Yahweh one” or without the divine name, “The LORD our God, the LORD one.” There are a number of ways to translate this. You have to supply the verb “is.” But this is done differently.

  • Some put the verb between the two phrases, like the KJV – “The LORD our God is one LORD”
  • Some put it in the first phrase, like the NRSV – “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.”
  • Some put it in both phrases, like the NASB – “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
  • Some put it in the last phrase, like the ESV – “The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

I would argue for the last option. Here are the reasons:

1. With regard to the first phrase – in the other 22 instances in Deuteronomy where “our God” is used with “Yahweh,” “God” is never the predicate to “Yahweh. (This is also true when the much more numerous -“your God” is placed with “Yahweh”). This would be the only instance in Deuteronomy of this.

2. In the Greek version of the Old Testament (LXX), the verb is with the second phrase. This is also true in the Nash Papyrus, Targum Neofiti and the Peshitta.

3. In the New Testament the verb is always with the second phrase. This is so in the discussion on Deuteronomy 6:4 between Jesus and the scribe in Mark 12:29, 32. And it is also so in various allusions to the Shema where the phrase “God is one” is used (for “the LORD is one”) – James 2:19, Galatians 3:20, Romans 3:20.

4. Zechariah 14:9 places the verb (a future tense) with the second phrase – “Yahweh will be one . . ..”

2. What does “Yahweh is one” mean?

“One” should be taken in the sense of ‘one and only.’ The sense of the phrase, “Yahweh is one” is – ‘Yahweh is [our] one [God]’ or ‘Yahweh is [our] only [God].’

Several things point to this meaning:

1. The focus of Deuteronomy is not on the nature of God (how God is internally structured) or even on monotheism (there are no other gods), but rather on Yahweh’s exclusive claim on Israel as their only true God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 is really another way of saying the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” You are to have only Yahweh as your God; Yahweh is to be the one,  and the only one.

2. This is the sense of Zechariah 14:9 – “On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.” This is a reference back to Deuteronomy 6:4. As the first part of the verse says, “the Lord will be king over all the earth.” It speaks to a time when only Yahweh will be acknowledged as God.

3. In the New Testament, the phrases – “there is one God” and “there is no God but one” are explications of the phrase – “The LORD is one” or as it shows up in the New Testament, “God is one.”

  • I Corinthians 8:4-6 – “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist . . ..” The phrases “there is no God, but one” and “there is one God” allude to the Shema and mean there is only one true God.
  • Ephesians 4:4-6 – “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The phrase “(There is . . .) one God and Father of all” is an allusion to the Shema and means that there is only one true God.
  • I Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . ..” The phrase “there is one God” is an allusion to the Shema and means that there is only one true God.

4. In Jesus’ discussion with the scribe on the Shema, “God is one” means there is only one true God. After Jesus quotes the Shema, the scribe summarizes it as follows – “You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him” – Mark 12:32. “God is one” means “there is no other besides him.” And Jesus approves of this. So the sense is that the Lord is our only God.

[Note also the references to the “only God” in the New Testament, which are almost certainly allusions to the Shema – John 5:44; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 1:25.]

To put it all together Deuteronomy 6:4 can be rendered, “Yahweh our God, Yahweh is our only God.”

3. The Shema in Judaism

I am referring to the Shema and only referencing Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This is based on what is quoted by Jesus in Mark 12. (Although this doesn’t mean that he was giving the whole Shema in this discussion).

Apparently the Shema was originally Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Later, after the time of Jesus, Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41 became a part of the Shema. Also, the phrase “Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever” was added after saying Deuteronomy 6:4.

William Higgins

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Let’s begin by all saying these verses together – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Today we are looking at a very important text, which in Jewish tradition is called the “Shema,” from the first word – “hear,” which in Hebrew is “shema.”

1. The importance of the Shema

When a passage has its own name, you know it must be significant – you know, the golden rule, the ten commandments. And this passage is indeed important

  • It summarizes the central message of the Old Testament – there is one true God.
  • It is a restatement of the first of the ten commandments and the one upon which all the others are built – “you shall have no other gods before me.”
  • Jesus calls it the greatest commandment in Mark 12:28-30. Jesus was asked, “’Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

The central importance of this passage was recognized, in that it was said twice a day by devout Jews (with other texts that call the people of God to true loyalty); once in the morning and once in the evening.

Early Jewish Christians, and I do not doubt Jesus himself, would have engaged in this practice as well. It is a continual remembrance of the true God, and a call to faithfulness. It is a practice that I would like for us to use as well, at least from time to time in our worship services.

Next, a question –

2. What does “the Lord is one” mean?

Next week we will ask the question, ‘What does it mean to love God . . .?’ from verse 5. But today we look at the first part in  v. 4 – “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

Alright, let’s break this down and look at it, and I will ask you to bear with me as we work through this.

First of all, literally it says, “Yahweh our God, Yahweh one.” Notice that the personal name, “Yahweh,” is replaced by “Lord” in our translations, out of reverence for the divine name. It shows up in our English translations as the word “LORD” in all capital letters. So when you see this it means “Yahweh.”

Also, note that there is no verb in the original. It has to be supplied. Without getting into the details, the best solution is to insert “is” in the last phrase – “Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one.” [See – Notes on the Shema]

So we have “Yahweh/God is one.” But what does this mean? In later church history this caused much speculation about the nature of God, or how God is put together. Speculations that go beyond what the Scriptures have to say.

In Scripture, there is a much more basic concern. In the context of Deuteronomy 6, Yahweh is presented as Israel’s one & only God. The point is that Yahweh has an exclusive claim on Israel as their only God.

Similarly, when the Shema shows up in the New Testament, the point is that there is only one true God. Here are some examples from the New Testament. Paul gives us a version of the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6. He says, “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’— yet for us there is one God.” In this passage Paul understands “Yahweh/God is one” as “there is one (true) God.”

In Mark 12:32, after Jesus speaks of the Shema, the scribe rephrases what Jesus has just said in these words, “You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.” And Jesus approves of this. The phrase, “God/he is one” is he same as saying, “there is no other beside him,” that is, that there is only one God.

So you can see in these examples that the phrase, “Yahweh/God is one” is the same as saying ‘there is only one true God.’ It can be translated literally as “Yahweh our God – Yahweh is our only God.” Or it can be translated, “The Lord our God, the Lord is our only God.” The point is that only Yahweh is to be our God.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself,

3. What about Jesus?

Just a word here. The apostolic writers were adamant that there is one true God, the Father. But they went on to say that Jesus, the Savior, is God’s Son. They even used the Shema to confess this belief:

  • 1 Corinthians 8:6 says,  “. . . there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist” and then Paul goes on to say, “and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God” and then it says, “and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.”

So, there is only one God, but they added that Jesus is God’s Son, come in the flesh and is Lord of all. That’s where the Scriptures leave it. And that’s where we’ll leave it for now.

Alright, getting into some application here –

4. The Shema calls us to beware of false gods

It’s trying to get us to understand – “Hear!” “Listen!” That’s why its repeated so often – morning and evening. Remember that there are other gods that want our allegiance! As Paul said in I Corinthians 8:5, “indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” out there. So we need to beware.

A “god” uses their powers to give us help and peace in exchange for our allegiance, service and honor. We don’t have many literal idols around, or even things that we literally would say are gods. But there are still many gods and lords today.

Once could be your country, depending on your attitude toward it. Do you look to it for your help and security? Do you listen to it even when it tells you to do what is against the way of Jesus? We need to remember Acts 5:29, where Peter said, “we must obey God rather than men.”

Perhaps it’s drugs & alcohol. Do you look to these to solve your problems, or make them go away? Do you sacrifice of yourself and your family to serve them, to obtain them?

Maybe it’s possessions and wealth. Jesus talks about this as a god in Matthew 6:24. And I think it is the most dangerous and alluring god in America. Do you think having more money and possessions, will give you peace and solve your problems? Do you devote yourself to obtaining it, storing it up and protecting it so it will give you security against the future?

A god can be almost anything – a person, our career, popularity or acceptance with a peer group. What do you look to, to provide for you, give you peace, protect you, make your problems go away, give your life meaning? What do you serve? What are you willing to sacrifice for above the true God? There is your god!

What is yours?

The Shema calls you to set any such god aside and give yourself fully to the true God, to trust in God and to serve God with your whole heart.

Finally, since there is only one true God,

5. Only the true God is able to truly give us the help and peace we need

In speaking of idolatry, Jeremiah 2:13 says, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

The gods, although they seem to promise so much, are broken cisterns; cracked containers that can’t hold water. They can’t truly satisfy us. We end up thirsting to death if we rely on them because they don’t deliver.

Only the true God can give us what we so desperately need. God is the “fountains of living water.” How futile it is that we go around seeking after other gods, giving them our service and obedience, when only the true God can meet our deepest  needs.

I would like us to end by standing and saying together a paraphrase of the Shema:

‘Father, you alone are God and we give ourselves fully to you. We choose not to give any part of ourselves to other gods. We commit to love you with all that we have, and all that we are.’

William Higgins

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