Hear, O Israel
The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity| Rev. Rolf Preus| September 20, 2009| Deuteronomy 6, 4-7
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:4-7
“Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai echad!”
This is the beginning of the shema which is the Hebrew word for hear. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” The shema was the confession of Israel, the Old Testament Church. “Hear, O Israel.” First you must hear. Listen! Don’t say anything. Don’t speak until spoken to. You have nothing to say to God until you have listened to God. First Israel must hear and only then can she confess.
We cannot confess the Creed until God has spoken to us. We can’t know what to say until we have first heard God’s Word and listened to it. Too much of what passes as spirituality these days is nothing more than noisy and ignorant chatter on the part of people who don’t know when to sit still, be quiet, and listen to God. “Hear, O Israel.”
The LORD our God the LORD is one. The LORD is not one god among many. He is the only God. All other gods are idols. They are created by men. They reflect the desires and goals and dreams of men. They are under the control of men. But the LORD, the only true God, that is, the only God who actually exists, exists apart from us or our contemplation of him. He exists apart from creation. He is who he is. He lives in eternity. Before time began and after time ends he is the same, unchanging, unchangeable God.
Nothing happens apart from his will. He is almighty, omniscient, and omnipresent. He clothes the grass with flowers and he feeds the birds of the air. The sparrow doesn’t fall from the sky apart from his permission. He rules over the entire universe and he lives in that unapproachable light that no mortal can approach. He is a consuming fire.
Yet he has chosen to reveal himself to us. “The Lord our God.” He is our God. We lay claim to him. He has chosen us to be his children. He has come to us so that we may know him, trust in him, and love him. “The LORD our God the LORD is one.”
The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three gods. “The LORD our God the LORD is one.” He is one with respect to his essence or nature. As we confess in the Athanasian Creed: “Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.” Our God is one.
And he is ours. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In Holy Baptism he claims us and we claim him. He is our God. Baptism and faith go together. Baptism is God talking. Faith is taking what God says to heart and believing it, trusting in it, and through this faith receiving all of the riches that God has to give.
He owns the whole world. He governs it all for the sake of his dear children. His kingdom is not just a kingdom of power over nature. It is a kingdom of righteousness in which the Father’s holy demands have been met by the Son’s holy obedience and the Spirit’s holy work is to bring this righteousness to us so that we may trust in it, receive it, be clothed in it, and rejoice that through it we are indeed true children of God.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart. That is, with all your affections. For he is your Father who loves you. He is not indifferent to your suffering. He does not turn his face away from you when you are in pain. He loves you more than words can express. He gave you his only Son, his greatest treasure. You shall love him with all your heart, placing nothing else beside him in your affections. He is your heavenly Father.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your soul. That is, with your entire life. For he is the Son of God who has given his life for you. The life you now live you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you. You love him with your life, giving back to him the life he gave to you. You live because of him. Your life is hidden in him. His humility is your greatest honor and his obedience is your righteousness before God the Father.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your strength. For he is the Holy Spirit who has given you the strength to love God. Your faith, your love, and every Christian virtue that there is all come from the Holy Spirit who came to you when you were dead in your sins and graciously regenerated you. He gave you life. By his holy washing you were born from above. He filled you with his gracious presence and he won’t ever leave you.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. The LORD our God, the LORD is one. He is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
These words refer to all that God commands and promises. All that God commands is summarized in the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments require that we love the LORD our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. All that God promises us is summarized in the words, “Your God.” He is no stranger. He does not hide himself from you. He is your God. He became your brother. As your brother he lived for you, suffered for you, and purchased you as his own. You are his and he is yours. He is your God.
What are we to do with his words?
First, they are to be in our hearts. Second, we are to teach them to our children. Third we are to talk about them.
The Bible is God’s word written down. In a day when many nominal Christians dismiss biblical teaching as out of date it is important that we emphasize this. God himself wrote the Bible by directing the biblical writers to put down with ink on parchment the very words God wanted written. To deny that the Bible is God’s word renders the Bible irrelevant to us.
But that’s not enough. We don’t take the Bible, set it up on a stand, kneel down before it, and worship it. The Word of God is to be in our heart. God speaks. We hear. We guard and treasure what we hear.
We believe it. We trust in its promises. We confess it as true. More than true, it matters to us. It is food for our souls. The capitol of Missouri is Jefferson City. This is true. But we don’t care. We don’t live in Missouri. Folks in Missouri don’t know if Bismarck is the capitol of North or South Dakota and they don’t care, either. It doesn’t matter to them.
God’s word matters. Everything he says matters. This is why we treasure it in our hearts. It matters because of what it says and who says it. God doesn’t speak irrelevancies. How often we hear the plea to make God’s word relevant to people today. This usually entails shaving off here and there various inconvenient truths folks just don’t relate to nowadays. But how do you make God’s word relevant? You don’t. It is inherently relevant because God is the one speaking. That’s how he relates to us. He speaks. We hear. We treasure in our hearts what he says.
We teach his word to our children. This is every father and mother’s duty. The Bible knows nothing of Sunday schools or Wednesday schools or catechism classes taught by pastors. It knows of fathers and mothers who are duty bound as Christians to teach God’s word to their children.
When schoolteachers – whether in a Christian day school or a Sunday school – teach children they are doing what God gave the parents to do. Neither the church nor the state has the authority to take this responsibility away from parents. It belongs to them according to God’s word. When we send our children to school, whether public or parochial, we are delegating to their teachers our parental responsibility to teach them.
This goes double when it comes to teaching them God’s word. What we love the most is what we will pass on to our children.
And we will talk about it. The word of God is not to be confined within the walls of the church building or the Christian classroom. It goes where we go. We talk about what our God has said to us. As Moses writes:
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
The rules of polite conversation tell us that we shouldn’t talk theology and politics because these topics might offend someone. Well, if we can’t talk theology we can’t talk about the most important topic in the world. We might as well not say anything. Christians love to talk theology. You don’t have to be an expert. You say what you know and you say it to anyone willing to listen to you. You talk about what is most precious, about what you love the most, about what won’t every fail you even if you were to lose your health, your wealth, your family, and your friends. The truth that God has revealed to us in his holy word is more precious than anything money can buy. This is why we cherish it in our hearts; why we teach it to our children; why we talk about it wherever we are.
Did you know that some folks are bored with God’s word? It’s true. They want something new and exciting. But what they need is something old and necessary. They need to know of their duty to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength. And they need, above all, to know that the LORD is their God.
All other gods are idols, and idolatry can capture your heart before you know it has happened. The gods of financial success, sexual pleasure, social prestige, and many others join together to claim our affections. They would divert us away from the kingdom of God. They would rip out of our hearts the faith we have in Christ’s righteousness, leaving us in doubt and ultimately in despair. The word that we cherish in our hearts keeps us trusting in him who suffered and died for us and pleads his righteousness as ours before the throne of God’s grace in heaven.
The LORD is our God. The LORD alone.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen