Hear, O Israel


Hear, O Israel
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 “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” (vv. 4–5).

Even if we are
unfamiliar with the content of Deuteronomy, most of us have
probably heard
the opening verses of today’s passage. Deuteronomy 6:5, in
particular, is
well-known in the church as the “great commandment” (Matt.
22:34–40). Yet
Deuteronomy 6:4 is also famous, especially within the Jewish
Central to biblical theology is this affirmation of the oneness of
God known
as the Shema, which is the Hebrew term that begins verse 4.

In its
original historical context, the Shema set the Israelites apart from
nations that surrounded them. Deuteronomy was revealed at the same time
nation of Israel was about to enter the Promised Land in order to drive
the polytheistic tribes living there (12:29–31). The Israelites would
tempted perennially to adopt pagan gods; therefore, the one, true creator
affirmed His uniqueness before sending His people into Canaan. When
said that His people were to have “no other gods” before Him (5:7), He did not
mean that Israel could serve other deities as long as He had first
Instead, the prohibition against worshiping other gods is grounded in
Shema. Because Yahweh is one, because He is God alone, there can be no
to any other so-called “deity.”

Deuteronomy 6:5 necessarily
follows from verse 4. We must love the Lord our
God with all our heart, soul,
and might because there is no one else worthy of
such affection. The only
proper motivation for obeying God is love for Him,
and obedience that stems
from something other than love for the Lord will not
be long-lasting. Loving
Him with all that we have and all that we are is the
Great Commandment, the
one all men are called to fulfill.

We understand, however, that the only
one ever to have obeyed this command is
Jesus. None of us, no matter how
devoted we are to the Almighty, can live up
to this high standard. We can
always do more. We can always sacrifice more for
His sake. Our failure to
love Him as He has commanded is the reason why we
need an atonement. We need
the One who has loved God with His whole being to
plead our case before our
Creator. We need Christ to stand between us and the
Father (1 John

Coram deo: Living before the face of
Devotion to the one, true God
of Israel means that we must be discerning any
time someone uses the word god
in public. Not everyone who says “God bless
you” believes in the God of
Scripture, and so we must take care that they not
fool us into thinking
otherwise. Let us also not allow people to assume that
we worship Islam’s god
or affirm the same doctrine of God as Judaism.
Non-Christian monotheists do
not worship the triune God of Scripture.

For further study:


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