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Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Deuteronomy

  |   Words of Grace

“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.”  Deuteronomy 6:4-5 

These verses (and verses six, seven, eight, and nine) serve as the first part of the ‘Shema’, which is one of only two prayers that are specifically commanded in Torah (the other is a prayer of grace said after meals).  It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and night since ancient times.  The three parts consist of three biblical passages – these verses in Deuteronomy 6; the second part, which contains Deuteronomy 11:13-21; and the third part – Numbers 15:37-41.

Our verses for this week – Deuteronomy 6:4-5, are the best known, and most fundamental expression of Jewish belief, and the one from which this prayer gets its name: Shema Yisra’el (Hear, Israel).  It is important, as always, to understand the context of these words from the pen of Moses.  The Israelites had been in Egypt for almost 430 years when they left heading to the Promised Land, and during those many years they had been exposed to the polytheism (many gods) of their Egyptians neighbors every day.

This is important to remember because this exposure and the familiarity of the Israelites with these gods had a profound influence on them, so it is in this this cultural and spiritual context that we have this declaration. Moses begins this teaching in Deuteronomy 1 when the children of Israel are on the east side of the Jordan in the land of Moab and Moses is reminding them of who the Lord God is and what He requires.

So, Moses first statement here is the most fundamental, especially for the Israelites leaving a country filled with a multitude of impotent gods.  There is one God – Jehovah God – so the Israelites can chuck all of those other weak, ineffectual, and phony gods in the trash on their way out of Egypt because now they are to worship the One True God.  And not only are they to worship this One God Jehovah, but they are to love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all of their might or strength.

I could use this time to talk about the Trinity, especially because, even though it would appear that this verse flatly denies the Christian doctrine of the Triune God, the Name of God used here is Elohim, which is the plural of God.  Some say that this is an early introduction to the Trinity, since the Name El could have easily been used here, which means God – singular.

I could also use this time to talk about each one of the specific commands that are given to the child of God – to love God with;

  1. All their heart
  2. All their soul
  3. All their strength/might….

….which is interesting and worth reflecting on, but for my purposes this week, I’m just going to get to the main overriding theme, and that is the Christian’s total commitment to the Lord God Almighty.

It has always been a problem for mankind – Christians and non-Christians – to be plagued with a divided heart.  We love our wives, but we also love to flirt with other women.  We want to be committed to volunteering at the elementary school one hour per week, but we are easily talked out of going on our scheduled day because someone invites us to go fishing.  We want to be devoted to regular Bible reading, but during baseball season we really want to also watch ‘Baseball Tonight’ on ESPN.

The Lord certainly is not saying that His children can’t enjoy fishing and baseball, but the Lord wants us to be loyal, devoted, steadfast, and unwavering in our love and commitment to the Lord because He knows what double-mindedness will do to us.  The Lord isn’t so insecure that He wants our undivided attention like some needy and dependent neurotic individual, but rather, once again, the Lord knows that double-mindedness will cause us to stumble, become ineffectual in our spiritual growth and witness. And since our flesh is such a crybaby, the more we give in to its cries, (which has no power over us since our innermost being – our Spirit – Christ’s Spirit within us – delights in God’s law), we develop for ourselves a lousy habit – a habit that draws us away from the things of God and His fellowship.  I didn’t say anything about losing your salvation, but rather, if we are divided with our love and loyalty to the Lord, then our spiritual muscles get weak and we will live the life of an anemic Christian – still a Christian – but a weak and not very useful Christian.

Paul speaks about this total commitment to the Lord in Romans 12:1-2 where he says,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.

The early church understood, with all of the distractions of the pagan world around them, how important it was to focus their attention on the Lord, His people, His Word, and His work.  We read in Acts 2:42,

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Paul, speaking to the young pastor Timothy, warned him (and us) to flee any involvement in the things of the world, but rather focus on the love, grace, and mercy of the Lord God. We read in 2 Timothy 2:22,

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

But as in all things spiritual, we can’t be devoted, loyal, single-minded, completely committed to the Lord God in our own strength.  The moment you begin to say, “Yes, I have decided to be devoted to reading my Bible for one hour every morning at 6:00AM!”, you will find yourself struggling, frustrated, sleeping late, feeling bad and guilty, and then avoiding the Word of God completely!

As in all things spiritual, we have to rely on the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of His grace to walk faithful in His ways.  I CANNOT do this on my own, and I was made and saved to become more and more like Jesus on my own or in my own strength.  I am to depend on the Lord; admit to the Lord that I CAN’T do this on my own; and trust that as I am determined (Yes, you MUST be determined – the Lord isn’t going to do all of it for you!) to walk in faith in a committed and singe-minded manner, I will do so hand in hand with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I’m STILL learning this – trust me, I haven’t attained to the full measure of Christlikeness as of yet – but no matter where we are in our walk with the Lord, He wants us to simply be grateful for the grace that saved us; trust the Lord that He will sustain us; that He will empower us; and that He will eventually glorify us, as we walk TOGETHER with Him – trusting and counting on Him all the way.

Yes, Proverbs 3:5-6 IS a true principle for all of us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

And yes, the scriptures DO say that we are to walk TOGETHER with the Lord so that HE can do the finishing within our hearts.  We read in Ephesians 2:10,

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

And finally, the writer of Hebrews reminds us,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

You see here that we are to deliberately, willingly, and humbly cast aside those sins that weigh us down, and trust that Jesus – who has already won the race for us – is at the finish line, not only cheering us on to victory, but also running the race with us, so yes, we can – with the Lord’s grace, help, and Spirit – love the Lord God with all of our heart, mind and strength – not perfectly, but sincerely.  And THEN one day, when we see Him face to face in all of His perfection, and with our new glorified bodies, then total commitment will be an ever-present reality for the transformed, repurposed, and redeemed child of the King.