Hear, O Israel! – a sermon on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.
This morning we’re looking at a very well-known passage of God’s Word. As a Bible-study group we’ve been working our way through this passage over a number of weeks, and we found it extremely profitable. If you’ve attended the Bible study, I hope you’ll recognise some of the material. For those who weren’t part of the study, I hope I can capture at least some of the beauty of verses 4-9. This passage is often referred to as the “Shema”, a title that comes from the first Hebrew word of verse 4.To the Jews, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is at the very core of their faith. In a sense it is like the Apostles’ Creed to Christians. If you’re an observant Jew, you’d probably recite these verses twice a day – when you start the day and when you go to sleep, speaking the Word of God is the first and last thing you do in the day. It is frequently the first text that a Jewish child will memorize and often the last words you’ll hear on the lips of Jews just before they die will be “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
But this text isn’t just a sacred text to the Jews. It’s sacred to us as Christians too. As we heard when we read from the gospels of Matthew and Luke today, Jesus quoted from this passage and from Leviticus when He was asked about the greatest commandment. With God’s help, as we make our way through this text this morning, we’ll grow in our knowledge of God and of His will, so that we can better serve and glorify Him as we travel along the road on which He has placed us.
Verses 4-9 can be divided into four sections. There’s a call to listen, followed by two descriptions of who God is and then a command to respond:
- Hear, O Israel! (v 4a);
- The LORD our God (v 4b);
- The LORD is One (v 4c);
- Love the LORD your God (v5-9).