Summary: The greatest commandment (according to Jesus) is found in the Shema (Shmah). So it would do us good to really listen to what God wants to say to us today. Revelation 2:11 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Learning to Listen
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Intro: (Play clip of Jewish call to prayer if available).
-The Bible is filled with calls and pleas to listen to God, to really hear what He says and to respond appropriately. Jews know this passage as the Shema, which is the Hebrew word for Hear. So we could call it “The Hear” or “The Big Listen.” The Shema evolved into 3 parts made up of our text as the first part, Dt. 11:13-21 as the 2nd part, and Numbers 15:37-41 as the 3rd part. Devout Jews recite the Shema each day in their morning and evening prayers. The greatest commandment (Acc. to Jesus) is found in the Shema. So it would do us good to really listen to what God wants to say to us today. Revelation 2:11 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
-What is it we are to listen to? In this context Israel was being called on to hear that the LORD, Israel’s Elohim, is one. What does that mean? Does it mean one in the sense of solitary singleness or aloneness? Does it mean that He is the only God there is? We certainly believe that He is the only real God, but I’m not sure that is what Moses or the Holy Spirit intended by using this word. A different Hebrew word yachid is used to mean one and only. This word, echad, is often used to refer to complex unity (such as between a husband and wife – 2 become 1 flesh, Gen. 2:24). I find myself still grasping for the implications of this unity. I’m tempted to interpret the meaning in light of the 3 members of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Tri-Unity), and perhaps there is some merit to this, although there is no evidence that Moses or any of the recipients of his words would have understood it this way. Is it possible that this idea of unity, using the same word for the oneness between a husband and wife is a reference to how God binds Himself to His people? God is complete in Himself, but He made a covenant with Israel to be their God, and they were to cling to Him, finding their identity, purpose, provision, and protection in Him! Yahweh and His people would be unified.
-This idea of God being united with Israel is very Biblical and fits this context well, since the very next verse of the Shema contains the language of wholehearted intimacy between Israel and the Lord. God would be one with His people through the exchange of love. He would love them, bless and provide for them, and they would love Him in return, carefully obeying the things He had told them to do.