Summary: This sermon calls for Love towards God through deeper commitment.
Text: Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Theme: Hear O Israel
Deuteronomy is the book of instruction, teaching of Moses. “Hear o Israel” was Moses’ authoritative and authentic word from God to his flock. He never preached what he felt as good or what he observed and received from others. His words were directly from God. Even prophets used to say ‘Thus Says the Lord’. Moses’ three-point messages were “Hear O Israel; Fear O Israel and Near O Israel”. The word Hear is Shema (Sha-Mah in Heb.). Shema is active and attentive listening to understand the things of God. Shema is Confession of faith, describing who God is and what our duty is towards him.
The book of Deuteronomy chapters 1-4 recounts key moments in Israel's journey from Mount Horeb (Sinai) to the plains of Moab. Chapter 5 re-presents the Decalogue (5:6-21; Ex. 20:1-17) and discusses some of the events that transpired (revealed) when the Ten Commandments were given (Deut 5:22-33).
Torah, the "law" was a suitable but not exhaustive for life. Hence rabbis delineated (defined) no less than 613 individual pieces of legislation. Another Rabbi epitomized many laws of Scripture into one as the "first and greatest commandment" which is found in Matt 22:34-40; Lk. 10:25-28; the texts are Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18.
The main content of the Shema of a Jew is "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 you might". It was like a Lord’s Prayer. They repeated very often in a day at least seven times. The Shema (Hear) has to be bounded in Mezuzot (small box kept at door posts) and tefillin (small box tied before a forehead of a Jew).
Love the Lord your God
Love God: "love" is not primarily an emotion. It points to political treaties of ancient Near East in those days. It was seen as to "love" one's sovereign leader means to be loyal to him; to obey the stipulations of his covenant, to fight alongside him against his enemies, and to be faithful in paying tribute to him (Kathryn M Schiffer decker, OT Professor).
"The special status of Israel rests not upon her merits, her strength or numbers or intelligence or honesty, but upon something irrational, a passion, an affair of the heart, not the mind, in short it is a love. All the efforts to explain the special destiny of Israel in rational terms will only to minimize its power. For Israel is singled out by and for the love of God (Jon D Levenson). Now from such a people YHWH expects few things as a response from the chosen, elected and redeemed people of God.
Few things I summarized as three important aspects:
1. Receive and respect Torah (v.10)
This is the commandment (4:44), i.e. the sum and substance of the Divine enactment; equivalent to "Law" "The statutes and judgments" (rights) are in appositions to "the commandment," and explains it. These are enforcement of general principles underlying the Law.
Torah contains: commands, decrees (statues) and Laws (ordinances). Statues and laws are related to moral and ceremonial obligations of a Jew apart from the commands. Love is always measured in terms of reciprocal activities. It can’t be one sided as receiving end but both have to respond; for e.g., Husband and Wife, friends to each other, God and devotee, Father and children. Children are expected to honour their parents by respecting their words and honouring them. Without proper listening and receiving of the teaching no one can please God. Pleasing comes from love, recognizing and respecting the giver, counsellor with fatherly character.
2. Keep and Obey the Torah(vv.2-3)
"Everything" of the Shema is defined (in English) "heart"(corresponds to our "mind"), "soul"(to "self"), and "might" (one’s "stuff" or property, with one's strength or capacity). Deuteronomy 6:4-9 indicates that all parts of an Israelite body, Israelite family, Israelite time and activity, and Israelite domestic and civic space are to be dominated by "these words" that Moses speaks and preaches (Professor Brent a Strawn).
So, keeping Torah is not an optional, choosing as you like but with all your heart (lebab), with all your soul (nepes), with all your might (me’od). Obeying Torah gives lots of blessings: go well with you, increase greatly in your wealth and business finally the desire long life.
3. Teach and spread Torah(vv.4-9)
Talk to them, discuss with them, and impress them. No generation can say it’s not applicable to our present generation. Mode of communication and mode of respect may change but not the core concepts and concerns of God. Church can’t accept whatever excuses are given for the not doing the things of God. Every generation has their own challenges and opportunities. God is emphasizing that teaching as one of the parental duties of all generations.