For thousands of years, Jewish people all over the world have prayed the same words every morning and every night to express devotion to God. This prayer is called the Shema and it reads like this:
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
The Shema Prayer is something that is incredibly practical for us as Christians and I believe we will greatly benefit from memorizing, repeating, and understanding this prayer in its entirety. So let’s
work on memorizing the prayer and then we’ll begin the message.
Repeat after me, 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
Repeat it 3 times, focus on certain words and details. Make a reminder on your phone to repeat it every morning and every night.
As we dive into the study of this prayer, I want to talk a little about the language. Sometimes, things are lost in translation. When translating phrases from one language to another there can sometimes be mishaps, we see this a lot in the marketing world actually, where a
brand has a slogan that doesn’t translate well to other languages.
For example, in the 1960s Pepsi had a slogan that read “Come alive, you are in the Pepsi generation!”, it was mistranslated into Mandarin as “Pepsi makes your ancestors come back from the dead.”
Then the mistranslation of the Parker pens company, whose tagline was “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” was translated into Spanish using the verb Embarazar, “It won’t leak in your pocket and
There was a drink company that used the tagline “Turn it loose”, but it translated into Spanish as “suffer from diarrhea.”
Does anyone remember the slogan “Got Milk”? There are rumors that it was originally translated into Spanish as “Are you lactating?”
Translating from different languages can be tricky. The same is true for the bible, the difference is the bible has been translated by teams of scholars over a long long period of time. I find our English
translations to be extremely accurate, however, sometimes our English words themselves fall short of the original Hebrew. That’s what we’re going to see in today’s study of the word “Shema”.
So the first word of the Shema prayer is “Hear” or “Listen” and that in Hebrew is “Shema”, that’s where the prayer gets its name. Now the word “Shema” is very popular in Old Testament, it typically means exactly how it’s translated here, it usually means to hear or to listen.
In Proverbs 20:12 “Ears that “Shema” and eyes that see, the Lord has made them both.”
But to hear is not the only way the word “Shema” is used in the Old Testament, sometimes it means to pay attention or focus on something.
For example, when Leah had her second son she named Him Simon because she says “The Lord has “Shema’d” that I am unloved” So Shema can mean to hear, pay attention to, and respond to.
God also asks people to “Shema,” like when the people of Israel come to Mount Sinai, God says “If you “Shema” me fully & keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession.” –
From God’s point of view, Listening is the same as keeping the covenant. So when God asks the people to “Shema” He is asking the people to “Listen” and “Obey”. What’s fascinating is in Ancient Hebrew, there is no separate word for Obey. In the bible, if you want
to say “I will listen and obey” you use the single word “Shema”. In Hebrew, listening and doing are the same.
So it makes me think, this prayer is called the Shema and it starts out “Hear, O Israel”, but it is also, “Obey, O Israel”. Which is something I think we overlook too much within Christianity, Obedience.
I know, that’s a naughty word. We don’t like to think about that, we don’t like to consider the fact that someone else is instructing us. But obedience isn’t a bad thing at all. Think about this, if you’ve
ever played a sport or instrument then you had a coach, instructor, or conductor. If you had one of these, their job was to tell you what to do. Maybe they would tell you a play, how to run a route, shoot a shot, block, maybe play a certain part, hit a certain note, etc.
Why did they do that? Is it that they wanted you to mess up, do badly, or just so they could control you? Or is it they knew the sport, instrument, song, or dance just a little bit better than you and knew
how it was supposed to go. Maybe they knew something that would help you at that moment, that would help you in that spot. Now it doesn’t make sense if you are the star basketball player to be obedient to someone who has never played, it does however make sense to be
obedient to your coach because they know how the play is supposed to be conducted.
I just recently learned the purpose of a conductor in a band? Ya know, the person who swings the little stick in front of a band. Believe it or not, they aren’t just up there dancing around. They actually have a
job and it is arguably the most important job of the entire band. The conductor with the little stick is responsible for setting the tempo, unifying performers, executing rhythm, listen and shape the sound, plus keep the pace of the music. I would say they are a little bit important, do you know why that person gets to do that? Because they have studied tirelessly to know exactly how the song goes, how it sounds when this instrument comes in, and when that one stops. They
know every detail of the song, that’s the only reason they are qualified to conduct the music.
You see, obedience isn’t a bad thing if the one we are obedient to is deserving of our obedience. We are rightfully obedient to coaches, instructors, conductors, etc. because they know how to do what we need to do.
By the same definition, God is definitely deserving of our obedience. He knows all, He’s seen all, He knows the best time, plan, and path for our life. If God is calling us to something, He knows the outcome and according to Romans 8:28, it is for our good if we love Him. God is good and He loves us, He knows all and is in all. Every moment of our lives, He is present and in control. He is worthy of our obedience.
As you repeat the Shema prayer this week, ask yourself, am I allowing God to be the conductor of my life? Am I following His will, am I answering my calling, have I surrendered my life. You see, a life of joy is lived in obedience to God. If you find yourself constantly
beaten down and defeated, it’s likely because you are attempted to conduct or worse, allowing others to be the conductor of your life when that is a job that only the Creator of the Universe is qualified for. Following His lead. Read His word and do what it says, every