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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Deut. 6:4


Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  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.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.  Deut. 6:5-9

Deuteronomy 6:4 is called the Shema (sheh – MAH) in Hebrew.  It is referred to as the watchword of our faith, by Jews throughout the ages, as well as today.  It is the statement of the absolute unity of God; the definitive revelation who it is that is the God of Israel.  The verse is then followed by a command, not of the particulars of the Law, but, rather, of Israel’s response to the Law.  You shall write them upon your hearts.  The clear command here is to live in the law in a level of immersion analogous to a fish’s life in water.  Israel is commanded to live the Law, speak the Law, teach the Law, and be obedient to the Law.  Why is this so important?

It is because the Law is good.  Of all the peoples of the world, only one people were chosen to receive the Law.  The familiar Jewish Sabbath blessings begin, “Praised be Thou O Lord our God, Rules of the Universe, who has sanctified us by Thy Commandments . . .”  To the Jews of the Exodus, and to the devout of today, the Law was not given as a burden, or as a burdensome set of rules; it was given to Israel as an utterly unique privilege.  By the giving of the Law, Israel was sanctified as God’s Holy people.  The true passion for the Law is not, as has come to be understood from the New Testament examples of the Pharisees and Sadducees, a point of pride and power alone, but in the case of true followers of God, it was a response to the special privilege of being called as a member of God’s special community of the sanctified.  Obedience to the law was a mark of devotion and revelation to God’s special calling.  It was a joyous privilege available to no other people.  By the Law, God guaranteed that if Israel followed the Law, they would be blessed and would have unique access to the throne of the Almighty.

Even today, daily, weekly, seasonal and annual practices of the most devout Jews, the Hasidim, are a marvelously passionate and joyous celebration of God’s gift to Israel of the Law.

What message can we glean for us as Christians?  It is important for us to take the message of Deuteronomy 6:4 to heart.  Although Jesus fulfilled the Law and redeemed us from judgement, he still left us with clear commands.  His intention is not to burden us with duties, responsibilities and guilt, but to give us principles, obedience to which, we can be sanctified as individuals, and as a society.  The calls to faith and love are joyous prescriptions to holiness.  As members of the church, as individuals and as members of civil society, we must see our duty to the laws as joyous guarantees of Deuteronomy 6:24 – The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.  (V. 25)  And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.  As much as we may strain against the Law, we have received a New Law that gives us the same guarantees.  Our sanctification is predicated upon our faith and our love.  Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them.  And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.  I (John 3:23)

Richard Leiter


– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”