Updated: Nov 11, 2019
I teach a class called Connecting the Dots of the Bible which shows the students how the entire Bible - the Old Testament and the New Testament go together. We spend a lot of time talking about history and the Hebrew people. God revealed Himself to the Jewish people; He shows them what it means to be in a relationship with Him; and through their lineage would come the Messiah, the Savior of the world, Who would bring about a new covenant with God's people. Jesus was Jewish. The apostles were Jewish. The gospel message was first taken to the Jewish people and then to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people.) Jesus and the writers of the New Testament books often quote Hebrew Scripture (our Old Testament.) It all connects together.
When covering the Old Testament in my class we go over Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This passage of Scripture is called the "Shema" and is the Jewish confession of faith.
[The complete Jewish "Shema" in their liturgy consists of three sections: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41.]
In chapter 5 of Deuteronomy, right before they are to enter the Promised Land, Moses is repeating the commandments to Israel. Both chapters 5 and 6 of Deuteronomy are powerful and worth reading in their entirety. There is a lot of application in this Scripture for us today.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NASB) says:
4 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The Shema is recited by Jews just as Christians would recite the Apostle's Creed or the Nicene Creed. It is a statement about what they believe. Pious Jews recite the Shema twice a day - at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. It is often the first Scripture a Jewish child learns.
Verse 7 tells us we should be teaching them diligently to our children. God is to have a presence in all of our daily life and we are to speak about this. We are to pass this knowledge of God's words on to the next generation.
In verse 8 of the passage about "bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead" is why some orthodox Jewish people tie phylacteries (called tefillin) to their foreheads and left arms. These small boxes contain four Scripture passages (Exodus 13:1-10, Exodus 13:11-16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21.)
Image from: http://www.britannica.com/topic/phylactery
Verse 9 says to "write them on the doorposts of your house." And that verse also tells them to write God's words on their city gates. A mezuzah is a decorative container containing a small parchment scroll. The scroll has the first two portions of the "Shema" liturgy written on it in Hebrew. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.) The mezuzah is attached to the doorpost of a Jewish home. As the person passes through the doorway, they glance at it and often kiss their fingers and then touch the mezuzah. This serves as a reminder to them that God is with them throughout their day - inside and outside their home.
Image from: http://www.mezuzah.biz
But it is Deuteronomy 6:4,5 I want you to hone in on. Does it sound familiar? It should. Our Lord told us it is the greatest commandment. Go to Mark 12:29-31 (or Matthew 22:37-40 or Luke 10:27.)
Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
('YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' comes from Leviticus 19:18.)
Our Old Testament is the Hebrew Scripture. God is eternal and unchanging. His precepts put forth in the Old Testament apply to us today. (Not those which were fulfilled by Christ, i.e. the sacrificial system, etc.) Often in the Old Testament the Jewish people erected monuments or put up visual reminders to do just that - remind them of God and His mighty deeds and presence in their life.
I like the idea of a visual which reminds me to love the Lord with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and strength. I like being reminded His Words are to be written on my heart and that I am to teach them diligently to my children and talk about them.
The Shema - it is a statement of faith for us Christians too!