Deuteronomy 6—The Lord is One— Week 5
In the gospels, the disciples were in a small boat on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus, and a huge storm arose. All the disciples were terrified of drowning in the howling wind and the crashing waves. But Jesus stood up in the boat, and with a mere word, “Peace! Be still!” he calmed this raging storm.
How did the disciples respond?
Mark 4:41 ESV And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
They were then more afraid of Jesus than they had been of the storm.
The Apostle John, who described himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” had a vision of Jesus Christ glorified in heaven.
Revelation 1:14–17 ESV “The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
How did John respond? “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (vs. 17)
And last week Dave read from Exodus, when the Lord appeared on Mt. Sinai just before the giving of the Ten Commandments.
The sights and sounds were so terrifying that the people said,
Deuteronomy 5:25 ESV “Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die.”
What is it about God that, when man sees him as he truly is, man melts in fear? Why does even a glimpse of God in his glory cause man to be terrified?
I will say this: Every single one of us here this morning—beginning with myself—has too low a view of God. Our view of God is too small. God is somehow diminished in our minds and hearts.
But as we grow in seeing God for who he is— and it does take growth—our view of God will become higher and higher. Greater and greater.
We must all reckon with God for who he really is.
Author A.W. Tozer said this:
“All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.”
This morning we are in Week 5 of our series looking at the OT book called “Deuteronomy.” In chapter 6, we are going to read one verse—just 11 words—that hint at a high, high view of God. And this verse provides an extraordinarily simple yet profound view of Israel’s covenant relationship with God.
As Israel had to do something problem about God—who he is, what he is like—so do we.
Deuteronomy 6:1–9 ESV
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.
3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord 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 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
I am going to cheat and begin with verse 4. Our focus will be this one verse. Just 11 words, yet profound.
Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
The word “hear” is common in Deuteronomy. It means to Hear, to Listen, and it is even translated as “OBEY.” So when Moses says, “Hear, O Israel,” this is like grabbing us by the collar and saying, “Pay attention to this. Believe this. Obey this.” Verse 4 is really one of the most profound verses in the OT. Truly.
To Israel, vs. 4 (and vs. 5, which we’ll get to in later) is the foundation of their Faith in the One True God.
To them, this verse would be comparable to a Creed in the NT era, like the Apostles’ Creed.
This is something that is foundational to faith in the Living God.
Jews call this “The Shema.” “Shema” is the Hebrew word for “Hear”. “Hear, O Israel…” Pious Jews would quote this daily, every morning and every evening.
What does Moses mean?
The first question that I think of is, “The Lord is one?? One WHAT, Moses?” That’s what our finite minds think of. One what?
Packed into this short statement, Moses is telling us who God is. Moses is giving Israel a statement of faith.
It really means that the Lord is the One True God. He is completely Unique. There is no one like him. He cannot be compared to anyone. He is Unparalleled. He is not the First God among Equals. Or even the First God among all gods. He is One. He is God. All things are subservient to him.
Israel was surrounded by nations who worshiped MANY gods.
For example, Egypt, the nation from where Israel was rescued 40 years prior, worshiped many gods. And it is quite possible that the Ten Plagues on Egypt in Exodus all were targeting the DEFEAT of these so-called “gods” of Egypt. For example, related to the first FOUR plagues were these so-called gods of Egypt:
1. Plague of Blood: Nilus, sacred river god
2. Plague of Frogs: Hekt, goddess of reproduction
3. Plague of Gnats: Seb, god of earth
4. Plague of Flies: Kehphera, sacred scarab
So back in Exodus, just after Israel’s delivery from slavery in Egypt through the parting of the Red Sea, Moses and Israel sang a God-inspired song,
Exodus 15:6–7,11 ESV “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble…
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”
Considering what God had just accomplished by indescribable power, what else could Moses do except exalt in the One, True, Mighty God? No wonder 40 years later he needs to remind them in Deuteronomy of this One, True God by saying quite simply, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Who else is like the Lord? Majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
To whom can we compare God?
If you want one of the best single chapters in the Bible that TRUMPETS the greatness of the One, True, Incomparable God, read Isaiah 40. Write that down. Isaiah 40. Read it this afternoon.
Here is one passage.
Isaiah 40:25–26 ESV “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.”
God has created in power all the stars. He has given them all names. They all hold together by his power. Who can compare to the Lord?
No nation is mightier than the Lord. Not ancient Egypt. Not modern United States or China or Nigeria.
Isaiah 40:15 ESV “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales…”
The mightiest nation is just one drop in a bucket of water. A few flecks of dust…COMPARED to him.
No earthly ruler can compare. Not the Egyptian Pharaoh. Not Trump or Putin or Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
Isaiah 40:23 ESV “[He] brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”
No weather catastrophe can compare to the Lord. No even a mighty hurricane. Not even two!
And 2 chapters later:
Isaiah 42:8 ESV “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”
“Hear O Israel,” says Moses in Deuteronomy 6, “the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
The nations surrounding Israel worshiped many gods. And they simply didn’t grasp the magnitude and glory and power of the One True God.
In one story centuries after Moses, the Syrian nation was defeated by Israel in some hills. Syria thought they lost because Israel’s god was the god just of the hills, so they thought, “Let’s fight Israel again, but this time in the valleys because their God doesn’t rule over the valleys.”
We pick up the story with the words of a prophet of the Lord.
1 Kings 20:28 ESV And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ”
This prophet came and reminded Israel of the ridiculousness of other so-called gods. Israel’s God is the God who MADE both the hills and the valleys. And the oceans and the stars and the moon.
All over the world and all throughout time, man underestimates and doubts the One True God. Israel underestimated and doubted him. And even WE underestimate and doubt him.
In fact, many Christians ascribe even Satan way too much power. Like he is an exalted one. The evil Twin of God. Ridiculous. He is completely subservient to the Lord. Read the Book of Job. Satan had to receive permission from God to even touch Job.
So back in Deuteronomy, Moses is saying, “This is who God is. Hear, Israel. Listen. Believe.” He is supreme. There is no other. He answers to no one. He is all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, omnipresent, eternal, and creator. He is THE judge, THE savior, THE rock.
This simple verse with all its profoundness is the description we get of the Lord as we read the rest of the OT. This is Israel’s Great Shema. Their Creed of the faith.
And if we doubt its significance, Jesus won’t let us. When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
Mark 12:29–30 ESV “Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.’”
(We’ll get to the 2nd part—to love the Lord—in a few minutes.)
So in just 11 words, Deuteronomy 6:4 is proclaiming the Greatness and Power and Exclusivity of the Lord God. There is no one like him. There is no one else we should trust in.
What are some implications of this for Israel and also for us?
First, with this truth in mind, it gives every person—whether in Israel for us today– focus. Our top focus for life must be toward the Lord, and we must reckon with him. We must decide what we will do with him. If you have been following Jesus for 30 years, you must reckon with him. If you are still seeking God and not yet sure what you believe, you too must reckon with him.
If he truly is the One, True, Magnificent, Creator God…..we have a singular focus. Will we “hear” and listen and obey, as Moses calls Israel to do, or will we ignore? Will we believe the Lord or doubt him? Will we pay attention to or trifle with him? Will we love him with all we have, or will we hate him? Will we exalt him to the highest place in life or will we trivialize him?
If God is who he says he is, then our choices narrow down instantly.
We must contend with God, that he claims to be “one”, so he must become our focus.
A 2nd Implication:
Second, if God is who he says he is, and we believe him, in him we have security. Who can thwart him? If you are on the Lord’s side, who can thwart his plans for good for you?
For those who believe there are many gods, there is no security. Rarely do polytheistic believers think of the gods as acting in harmony. Each god is unpredictable. Working independently. Who can they trust in implicitly? In whom can they hope?
And all these many so-called gods….Are they all-powerful? Do they have all wisdom? Are they humble and good and beautiful and majestic?
But for those who are God’s people—for those who embrace the One True God— there is great security.
Who can keep him from rescuing his people? Can the mighty Egyptian nation with their great army stop the Lord from rescuing his people? When you sin greatly, can anyone NEGATE the blood of Jesus Christ from delivering you from condemnation? When you are in trouble, can anyone stop the Lord from helping you?
Who can stop him? Who can stop him from fulfilling his promise to give his people this Land of Canaan? Who can hinder him from fulfilling his promised spiritual blessings to us today who are in Christ? The promised Holy Spirit who seals us? The promised glorious inheritance in heaven?
For us who are in Christ, if God is for us, who can be against us, as Romans 8 tells us?
Psalm 65:5 says that he is the HOPE of all the ends of the earth. Who else can make such a claim?
Acts 4:12 tells us that Eternal Salvation is found in no one else besides the Son of God. To whom can we compare to that?
Who else is so near and so caring? Moses told Israel, “The Lord OUR God….” He was Israel’s God. They belonged to him.
As much and even more today, we who are in Christ can say, “The Lord is OUR God.” He is near. He loves us. He cares.
To say and believe, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” provides security and hope.
Love the Lord
So let’s go back to Deuteronomy 6. So far, we’ve looked at only one verse.
Verse 4 could be described as the Central Tenet of faith. Israel’s Creed. Their Statement of Faith.
And to complement that is verse 5.
Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Where Verse 4 is the Central Tenet of faith, verse 5 could be considered the Central Tenet of “Practice.” What should Israel DO in light of their God, the One, True God? How should they live?
So the Great “SHEMA” that pious Jews would recite daily is a Statement of Faith and Practice. What they should believe and how they should live.
So let’s talk more about verse 5.
Today, we are quite familiar with this because Jesus told us this is the Greatest Commandment. All other commandments connect back to this one. (Dave spoke of this last week.)
In light of Faith in Israel’s God, the One God, the calling is to LOVE him. Logic would call Israel to this, I think.
If he is the Only True God…their Creator….the Holy One…the one who rescued them from cruel slavery in Egypt…the one who longed to fulfill his promise to Abraham and give his people extraordinary good….the one who chose them out of all the nations….the one who says he LONGS to show kindness to them….the only LOGICAL response for Israel is to love him in return.…with everything they have. All their hearts. All their souls. All their strength. To love him in totality. No excuses. Holding nothing back.
These Central Tenets of Faith and Practice are inseparable.
If Israel believed….truly believed….that this is who the Lord is, they would love him and obey him.
Israel could not…..and today we simply cannot… separate what we believe from what we do.
The NT offers a similar thought many, many times. One example:
Ephesians 4:1 ESV “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”
You been saved and called to this glorious kingdom of God in Christ. Now walk in way that is befitting to that calling. Live in a way that is appropriate to what you believe.
The Rest of this Passage
Now with all this in mind in Deuteronomy, vs. 4 & 5—with this great call to Believe in the ONE TRUE GOD—what does the rest of the chapter say? I would say it like this: Verses 4 and 5 are the CENTER of the passage.
Who we believe is CENTRAL to all else.
And our LOVE for him is CENTRAL to that covenant relationship.
So what else does Moses say?
Let’s go back to vs. 1.
Deuteronomy 6:1–3 ESV “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”
In short, Moses says, “Do what the Lord is telling you to do. OBEY FULLY.” Obey fully, and it will go well with you. Do what the Lord says, and He will pour out rich blessings on you.
If Israel’s God truly is the One True God, then they have to come to grips with this. Will they obey what he says? It’s not complicated. Even for us today. It’s not always easy, but it’s not complicated.
You see, when Israel WAS and when we are confronted with the reality of One, Majestic, All-powerful, Eternal God, then the wrestling match really begins. We wrestle in our souls:
• Will I believe him?
• Will I obey him?
• Will I worship him?
Why do we wrestle with this?
Why didn’t Israel and why don’t we simply yield once and for all? When I read the OT, I can shake my head at Israel. I think, “Wow, why don’t they simply believe the Lord? It’s SO OBVIOUS he loves them and wants to bring good.” But then I typically realize, “Oh, wait. I am much like them.”
Why do we wrestle with BELIEVING and LOVING him?
The FIRST and most obvious reason is that ever since Genesis 3 when Man and Woman first sinned against the Lord, the Lord JUDGED them. Death came upon them. They FELL from glory. And life has never been the same. Man has been corrupted. As long as we are in these bodies, we will be in a wrestling match with the TRUTH. There is something in our flesh that fights against what is good and true and right.
There is a SECOND reason why we wrestle with the reality of God. There is a war going on in the invisible, spiritual world.
The authors of the NT make it clear to us that we are in a spiritual war that fights against the One True God.
Ephesians 6:11–12 ESV “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Our wrestling over our response to “the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” is a spiritual wrestling. Spiritual warfare. And if we are not alert, we can lose the daily battle for rulership of our hearts. Will the One God rule us, or will some lesser so-called God? Moses tells Israel, “Do what the Lord says. Fully do what he says. WHY? He wants to bring good to you, not evil.”
One significant theme in Deuteronomy is that God wants to pour out GOOD on his people. He wants to BLESS them richly.
Just a few statements before this, near the end of Chapter 5, Moses lays out the heart of God.
Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”
Can you hear God’s kind and good heart, pleading with them to walk with him in obedience? “Oh that my people would have a heart for me!! I so want to bring good to them!!”
While I was studying chapter 6, I noticed how many times Moses told Israel of the rich blessings God wanted for his people. We tend to think that the Law is just about commands. It is that, but it is also filled with riches of God’s promised blessing if they would just believe him and love him wholeheartedly.
Look at this slide from my Bible software.
On it, I have highlighted all the commands in YELLOW.
And I have highlighted all the promised blessings in PURPLE.
And the ORANGE are the only two warnings in the entire chapter.
Can we not conclude that the Lord is a good and gracious God, longing to be good to his covenant people?? Do we believe this, that God is good?
Then next is Vs. 4-5 which we’ve already covered as the CENTER for the Covenant God has made with his people.
PAY ATTENTION DILIGENTLY
Deuteronomy 6:6–9 ESV “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets [like symbols] between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
All that Moses has told Israel is extraordinarily important. God wastes no words. He says precisely what he wants them to hear. He says ALL he wants them to hear.
And none of his words should fall to the ground…None of God’s words should be ignored…Nothing that God says should be viewed as optional……not if he is the One God. And Israel’s God.
The Lord is calling Israel to “Pay attention diligently.” Don’t forget. Remember.
We could say this: Go to extreme lengths to remember who God is.
Take notes during the sermon.
Get to bed early enough so that you can up in the morning and read your Bible.
When you go to Life Group, engage in the discussion to learn about God and his ways.
What would God do in our lives if we simply took more extreme measures to learn and remember who he is??
One grave mistake we can make is to NOT pay careful attention to who God is. We can neglect his magnificence and power and glory. And we focus only on the commands. What we are to DO. And we can even forget the GOOD he has done and wants to do.
When we do this, we will eventually fail.
Do not let yourself FORGET him. That’s why Moses says, “Hear, O Israel….LISTEN, O Israel…the Lord OUR God, the Lord is one.”