Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
which includes a musical presentation as well)
From time to time you may have heard someone speak on the need to have a “life verse,” a particular verse in the Bible that can be relied upon during times of need or stress or indecision. After a meeting where this was emphacized decades ago, I remember obediently praying later, using the “just close your eyes, turn to a page, and point” method of divine direction. Lo and behold, my finger rested on the very verse shown above. Deuteronomy 6:4-5:
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
I thought, “Wow. I guess if I’m going to have a life verse, that pretty much sums it up.” If I could love God like that, everything else would fall into place….the key word being “if,” of course. The longer I am a Christian, the less I appear to understand about what love is, much less understanding God. As C.S. Lewis wrote, we continually travel “further up and further in.”
But perhaps you think I should have restricted my life-verse search to the New Testament. The old has passed away and all things are new, right? What Jesus says, in red print, no less, is of much more value to Christians than anything Moses might have said. Right?
When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus did quote this verse in Matthew 22:37, but believers of every denominational background would be wiser and richer in their Christian experience by embracing their Jewish roots. We were grafted in because of Jesus (see Romans 11), but we have not replaced the relationship God has with Israel.
Recently, our summer intern at Crossroads Church in Lillington, Charles Fiore, gave the message at Sunday services, using the Shema (or Shma or Sh’ma)…the first words of Deuteronomy 6 shown above, and the centerpiece of Jewish prayer. I had been part of a church that sang the verse regularly, and Charles’ message brought back many good memories.
Having been raised in the Methodist church, our family later joined a Presbyterian church. When a nondenominational home group arose from its congregation, our family was part of it. Throughout the group’s history (it eventually organized into a church), there was a strong emphasis on our ties to Israel and Judaism. I’m so grateful for that heritage.
Before we built our own building, we even met in the local synagogue, forging a relationship with the local Jewish community that went far beyond paying them rent for the use of their facility. We took part in their celebrations and festivals; a few of their members joined us for Sunday worship from time to time. Our church’s dance team included Jewish folk dance and the synagogue asked us to perform for them on several occasions. We also sent two young men to live on kibbutz (communal work facilities) in Israel. Church members who could afford to, made several trips to the Holy Land. We supported the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. One woman, now passed away, began Nursing Mothers for Israel, an outreach that shipped clothing to Israel, based on Isaiah 49:23 (“Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers.”).
We do not need to take on the Jewish rules in order to accept our Jewish Messiah Jesus. Thank God! I don’t know about you, but it’s a full-time challenge for me to try and walk in the one commandment mentioned earlier. If I had to keep a kosher kitchen, I’d be in serious trouble! We are not better Christians or more spiritual or mature if we learn to pray in Hebrew or celebrate Jewish feasts. But if we, as new branches, want to know our God and King in all his fullness, we will get to know what…and who… he cherishes:
15 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. ( Isaiah 49:15-16)
Permission to reprint with acknowledgement of source.