The Shema, or the greatest command.

February 1, 2014.

I have successfully posted once a day for a full month! Thank you all who are encouraging me and reading my posts. I hope they have been a blessing.

“‘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. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.'”
(Deut. 6:4-9)

In the Jewish faith, this section of the Tora is called the Shema, which translates from the Hebrew word that means “hear.” You should try reading it out loud a couple of times; it’ll probably give you goosebumps. Deuteronomy is one of the major books of the law in the Old Testament, and one that many Christians honestly don’t spend a lot a time in. Maybe this isn’t too detrimental to the Christian faith, but I believe there are many blessings that can be pulled from a good understanding and reading of the Old Testament.

Even if you haven’t read Deuteronomy at all, if you have been in a Christian atmosphere for very long, you have probably at least heard the concept of this passage, if not the passage itself. This is what Jesus referred to as the greatest command.

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'”
(Matt. 22:34-40)

This indeed is the greatest command. But why? Is it because love is simply so much more important than teaching or doctrine or faith that as long as you “love,” nothing else matters? I don’t believe so. I think Jesus said it clearly at the end of his statement: “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” If you truly love the Lord, and you love people, all other commandments and doctrine is going to come naturally. It is the greatest commandment because it is the first commandment. You have to first completely submit yourself to the will of God, an act of true love, and then what he says you will gladly do. There would be no more arguments, no more grumblings, no more feelings of strict obligations.

In fact, when we examine the rest of the Shema, we see that this love is directly connected to the love of the law: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Jews today still take this literally. I don’t think that would be such a bad idea for us as well!

How often is the bible on your mind? How often do you seek the truth, and read from the word of God? He has given us such a blessing, a blessing that not all people were given, and what do we do with it? What does it mean to love the Lord with your whole heart? I think we know the answer to that question, but we don’t always want to answer it. If you love your child, would you spend just once, twice or three times a week with him or her? Would your spouse or boy/girlfriend be alright with you just talking to he or she 10 minutes a day? I know these are questions we don’t like to hear (trust me, I hate these questions just as much as you do), but do they not speak truth? See, when God said to love him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, I don’t think he is just joking around. I believe he told the Jews to bind the commandments all over their everyday life so that their mind would be constantly on him.

In my world civilizations class, we are going over the history of Islam in in the early 1000s, and something that is apparent even for Muslims today is that Islam is not simply their religion. It is their way of life. It is in their politics, work, recreation and throughout their daily thoughts and actions. In fact, the word “Islam” simply holds the meaning of “submission” to their God. Sometimes I believe that they, though they have not sought out the Lord through the only door Jesus Christ, understand submission to God much better than we do as American Christians. I don’t say this to guilt trip anyone or to yell at American Christianity; I say this simply to open our eyes and set forth a challenge.

This year and beyond, let us all strive to grow closer to God. To completely submit to his will, regardless of our own thoughts and ambitions. I know we will not be able to do this perfectly, but let us strive to nevertheless. I will be here to help, and I ask that you do the same for me.

Suggested Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 6, Matt 22, Mark 12, Luke 10.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

-Walter

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