Today, it is fashionable for some believers to recite the first part of the Shema ("Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Deut 6:4-5). Is this merely a statement that Jews need to recognize that the Lord is one? Or is there deeper application?

child’s writing on clay tablet: shema and tallit

Let us analyze the Shema. The word Hear is not merely the physical act of listening but encompasses obedience. When a parent tells his children to hear his words, he expects action to follow, so does God. "O Israel" includes all believers because gentile believers are grafted into Israel, "Hear, O Israel" is an announcement that not only Jews but also all believers, Jew and gentile, are to hear and obey His message.

The second half of the verse is powerful. According to the 1984 edition of the NIV, footnotes for Deut 6:4b, the translation can be "The LORD our God is one LORD; or The LORD is our God, the LORD is one; or The LORD is our God, the LORD alone[2]." Because Hebrew, in the present tense, does not have the verb "to be" (is), the most accurate translation is The LORD our God, the LORD alone.

Yeshua explained how His followers are to acknowledge LORD alone when He quoted the second sentence of the Shema: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matt 22:37; Deut 6:5, NIV). We know this is vitally important to Yeshua, because He added that: "This is the first and greatest commandment," Matt 27:38. We are to love God with our hearts, souls, and minds.

What is our LORD's message in the Shema for us today, as 21st century gentile and Jewish believers?  We are to hear and obey that the LORD is our God and that we are to have Him alone as our God. We are not to allow the pressures of life to take precedence and become our gods. We are to love Him with all our being — with all of our thoughts — because He alone is our God.

I encourage you to reaffirm your commitment to Him each time you say the Shema:

"4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one alone. 5Love 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.7Impress 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. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." — Deut 6:4-9, NIV

God alone is our God!

[1] I appreciate Lois Tverberg's excellent book, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. Its sparked me to further study the Shema.