Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Priority #1 My Elohim ~ The Shema

This blog has been long neglected.   Since I use Donalacasa's Daybook every week after Shabbat, I thought that I'd dust this one off to use from one Rosh Chodesh to the next Rosh Chodesh. 

Isaiah 66:23 ISR98 - “And it shall be that from New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” declares יהוה."

Since Sukkot, I have been saturating myself with the subject of prayer.  I'm reading books on prayer. 

I'm listening to messages on prayer,  but most importantly, I'm praying.   Since last year, I've been instructed by Yah to rise earlier and earlier to pray.  Note the similarities between the habit of the Virtuous Woman and The Messiah.  

Proverbs 31:15 ISR98 - "She also rises while it is still night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her girls."

Mark 1:35 ISR98 - "And having risen very early in the morning, while still dark, He went out, and went away to a lonely place, and there He prayed."

Initially, I had started getting up at 6:45, but Abba made it clear that that was not early enough, so for the past 6 weeks or so, I have been getting up at 6:00 a.m. to pray.  From a chronic insomniac, I would say that this is quite an act of God.  

Since last year, He has been speaking into my spirit:  "Don’t deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it!"  James 1:22 CJB.  

I begin my morning prayer with the Shema.  What is the Shema, you ask?  

Mark 12:28-29 CJB, "One of the Torah-teachers came up and heard them engaged in this discussion. Seeing that Yeshua answered them well, he asked him, “Which is the most important mitzvah of them all?” Yeshua answered, “The most important is, ‘Sh’ma Yisra’el, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, O Isra’el, the Lord our God, the Lord is one],"

From a paper entitled “Praying Like Jesus: The Shema”, In contrast to the modern Shema in Judaism which has added additional scriptures, originally it consisted only of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 CJB, 

“Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.  These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates."

The author of the paper goes on to divide the Shema into 4 parts:  

A. “Hear, O Israel”

The first is the command: “Shema Israel” (“Hear, O Israel”). Etymologically the term
“shema” invokes not only hearing, but also learning, following, even obeying. ( U. Rüterswörden, “ע ַמ ָשׁ‚ ע ַמ ֵשׁ ‚ הָמוּע ְשׁ ,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans. John T. Willis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 15:254).  

Where it involves listening to the spoken word, this term implies an engagement with the mind, an attentive listening, even a sense of “heed by acting” or “putting to practice.”( K. T. Aitken, “שׁמע,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A.
VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 4:175-178).  

When God calls Israel to hear, he expects more than just a listening. He expects action. The term “Shema”appears ten times in the larger text here, and beckons us to not only hear the words of God, but to take them into the very center of our being and doing.  (See Wyse, “Loving God,” 24-29).  

In other words, God expects a listening with a view toward doing. 

B. “YHWH Alone”

Among the myriads of other theological discussions that this point of the Shema could bring, the one that stands out to me is "that this part of The Shema is an affirmation of the first two commands of the Decalogue, that YHWH is God and Israel is to have no other (Exod. 20:1-4).  The opening line of The Shema has the force of calling Israel to cast off all other gods—like those they encountered in Egypt, Canaan, and Philistia—to worship and serve only YHWH.  In this sense, I think a better translation reads: “Listen, Israel: YHWH is our God, YHWH alone.”  The golden calf incident die-cast Israel into a foreign-god-worshipping kind of mold, and The Shema was a twice-daily discipline to keep this temptation at bay. At the heart of The Shema is a call for the people of God to worship “YHWH alone.”  (For For a compelling case for translating echad as “alone” rather than “one,” see Jackie A. Wyse, “Loving God as an Act of Obedience: The Shema in Context,” in Take This Word to Heart: The Shema in Torah and Gospel,” ed. Perry Yoder (Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 2005), 48-51, esp. n. 79; Dean McBride,  “Yoke of the Kingdom,” 291-297).  

C. “Love YHWH Your God …”

Another thing The Shema teaches us is that our doing is inextricably tied to our loving. The
Shema calls us to “love YHWH our God” with all of our being. In Deuteronomy the command to “love YHWH” is always set alongside obedience to his commands, or rather, obedience to the commands that YHWH give is the way to love him. Consider the following examples:

Deuteronomy. 11:1: “Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge,
His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.”

Deuteronomy. 11:13-14a: “And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments
which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all
your heart and with all your soul.”

Deuteronomy. 11:22-23: “carefully keep all these commandments which I command you
to do—to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to

Deuteronomy. 19:8b-9: “if you keep all these commandments and do them, which I
command you today, to love the LORD your God and to walk always in His ways.”

John said it this way: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not
burdensome” (1 John 5:3). 

Do you remember Jesus saying, “If you love me, then keep my commandments” (John 14:15)? (Perhaps there is a subtle claim to deity in Jesus’ statement there.) The way to love God—and the way to love Jesus—is to obey his commandments.  Love for YHWH has nothing to do with feeling and everything to do with action. The commands that The Shema has in mind are specifically the Ten Commandments repeated by Moses right before the recitation of The Shema. “Deuteronomy 5-6 functions as a literary unit, a unit that purposefully connects the Decalogue to The Shema, and vice versa. The implication is that obedience to God’s commands (embodied in the Decalogue) and loving God (embodied in The Shema) are actions intricately bound up with one another.”( Wyse, “Loving God,” 36.)  

The Shema and the Ten Commandments go hand in hand (The interconnectedness of The Shema and the Decalogue is further evidenced by the Nash Papyrus (c. 150 B.C.), which contains the Ten Commandments and The Shema as a guide for daily prayers), so that to live by the Ten Words is to demonstrate love for God.  Contextually, the result of all of this commandment-obeying and God-loving is life!  Over and over again the Old Testament (in part, owing to what we’re about to discover next) lays out two ways that we can all choose: the path of life, or the path of destruction. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it only leads to death” (Prov. 14:12). It’s embodied in Psalm 1:  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked … but who delights in the law of the LORD” (Ps. 1:1-2). Jesus said it this way: “Wide is the road that leads to destruction, and narrow the way that leads to life” (Matt. 7:13-14).  And so it is in Deuteronomy. There are two ways set before the people, one of obedience and life, the other of rebellion and destruction

Deuteronomy. 30:16: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in
that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to
keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and
multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to

Deuteronomy. 30:19b-20: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing;
therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you
may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling
to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.”

That’s what The Shema is doing in the larger context of Deuteronomy: calling Israel to
remember her history and to obey His commands as a sign of love for Him and His deliverance
from their captivity in Egypt. 

D. “With All Your Heart, Soul, and Strength”

The author of the paper expresses this portion of the Shema in modern terms we can all understand.  "The Shema is calling us to do: love God with ALL OF OUR BEING.  With all my heart, with all my mind, with all my strength, with all my work, with all my computers, with all my Facebook, with all my wallet, with all my home, with all my time. This is what it means to “love YHWH your God.”

Well, I guess I'm done.  Posting this article blessed me and confirmed what I have been being led to do by the Ruach HaChodesh (Holy Spirit).  I hope it will bless my readers as well.