The SHEMA

So as we saw in the last message, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, and He replied in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?And He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

To see these verses in context, we looked at Deuteronomy 6:4-9…..

We looked at the Pharisees and how they looked from the outside that they followed the law, but on the inside they were still sinning and hadn’t taken the law into their hearts. Outward religious observance without a changed heart is not what the Lord looks for.

I want to look a bit more at the Shema and what it means and look a bit more at the meaning of each word@

“SHEMA YISRAEL ADONAI ELOHEINU, ADONAI ECHAD.”

So, the Shema is a section of the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, written by Moses in the wilderness at the creation of the 1st temple Israel had to worship their Lord in. It is a prayer that serves as the centrepiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. For many Jews this is stated as “receiving the kingdom of heaven”. These words are seen throughout the new testament, and the word heaven is used by Jewish people as a metaphor for God.

The 10 commandments were said at these times as well as the Shema but were removed from the daily prayer books during the years 70-200ce. The Shema prayer is seen as an opportunity to commemorate the 10 commandments.

It is thought that the recitation of the Shema shows that they are a living witness testifying the truth of the message of the Shema itself. Some of the more Kabbilistic schools, (which is a form of Judaism – seen as a cult) teaches that when their members recite the word Echad meaning “one”, he is to intend that he is ready to die into God.

Judaism does not speak or write the actual name of God. Out of respect and honour to Him, they replace it with Adonai or Lord. This is why in the Shema, the name God was changed to Adonai.

So if we look at the words of the Shema

Shema – This word means to listen, to hear, to do. It is an active word not passive

Yisrael – Israel, the people or congregation of people, not the land on its own

Adonai – trandlated Lord from YHWH. Interestingly, Samaritans, who the Jewish people despised in bible times, they say Shema, which is Aramaic for the “divine name”. We know Jesus spoke Aramaic and therefore would have know this and was able to speak to the Samaritan woman at the well with her own tongue and words that she worshipped with.

Eloheinu – A plural word. Meaning our God.

Echad – Unified and cardinal number 1

The Shema relates to the kingship of God. It is the confession of belief in the One true God. There are other translations which say the same thing but with words mixed around. They are

Hear O Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai is One!

Hear O Israel! Adonai is our God! Adonai alone!

There is an addition, which is expanded. It was added rabbinically, and is used for silent congregation worship, except during the time of Yom Kippur where it is recited aloud together as worship. Yom Kippur means to atone. It is the day of atonement and is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, and for Jesus Himself. It is a day of atonement and repentance and the Jewish people even now spend the day in the synagogues worshipping and spending time with God. This is such an important day, even for us. It foreshadowed Jesus and His death and resurrection.

Baruch shem kvod l’olam was added which means blessed be His glorious name.

Over time, the words Malchuto, meaning His kingdom, and va’ed meaning forever and ever were added. Malchuto was added during the time of the Romans, as a counter claim over the land of Israel against the Roman emperors. Va’ed was introduced at the time of the 2nd Temple as a contrast to those who believed there is no life after death, which we can see around the times of Ezra and Nehemiah.

I was brought up in a messianic fellowship, which is a merge of Jewish and non Jewish believers, who come together as a congregation to worship the same Lord and risen Christ. There are many of the old traditions practised together with new and ground breaking songs and styles of worship. We were all taught the Shema in its full added to form which is:

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinh, Adonai echad.

Baruch shem kevod, malchuto

L’elom va’ed

So, today. These words from the Shema are straight from the Bible, and are correct. We have open eyes to see their true meaning, and have had the veils taken away by the blood of Christ. Sadly, most of the people who love God and say these words in worship every single day, have still got the veils over their eyes, and can’t see the risen Lord. They are still in darkness. They can’t see the joy and wonder of all that Jesus has done for us, or the Holy Spirit given as a gift for us, and who is at work within us all the time making us more and more like Jesus. I think it is time that more of the church prayed for these friends. Pray for the Lord to show Himself to them, so they may join us as brothers and sisters on the same vine, worshipping together with freedom.

I looked up the word Messianic and found these definitions

  • Relating to the Messiah “the messianic role of Jesus”
  • Inspired by the hope or belief in a messiah “the messianic expectations of that time”
  • fervent or passionate “ an admirable messianic zeal”

or these definitions

  • the promised and expected deliverer of the Jewish people.
  • Jesus Christ, regarded by Christians as fulfilling this promise and expectation. John 4:25,26
  • Any expected deliverer
  • a zealous leader of some cause or project

If only every eye could see who Jesus really is and how He really is the deliverer and saviour of the whole world and all peoples. We could give the whole earth back to God and live as we should have done in the first place, as it was meant to be before sin.

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Love your neighbour, Love yourself

I have a simple message for you tonight, prepared at short notice. I would contend though it is a very important message and a clarion call to authentic Christian living in a society that is increasingly hostile to the true Christian Gospel.

We are going to have a look at some of the most significant words our Lord Jesus Christ uttered whilst He walked the earth among us – words in which our very relationship with Almighty God depends. Before we apply these words to ourselves it is vital that we understand the proper historical context of the word and the source of Jesus words from the Old Testament. So we’ll start with that, and we’ll move on to how it impacts us today……

Toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus was asked the following question by the Pharisees – the religious leaders of the day:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

He replied

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

38 This is the great and first commandment.

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

To fully understand how radical and important His reply was we need to look at the significance of these words and where they come from. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 6:4….

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.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)

This is THE most important of all Jewish prayers, the ‘Semah Israel’ (the Jewish word for ‘hear O Israel’) It is a declaration of faith and a pledge of allegiance to God. Twice daily, recitation of the Shema Israel is a commandant for the Jewish people — it is said upon rising in the morning and going to sleep at night. It is said when praising God and when beseeching Him. The Shema Israel is the first prayer taught to Jewish children (as soon as they can talk) and it is the last words Jew says before death. It is a prayer of praise to God and it is a prayer of pleading, as well. The Shema is recited in preparation for the reading of the Torah on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays and at the end of the holiest day, Yom Kippur.

His audience, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day prided themselves on meticulous observance of the Law, so they would practice all of the above observances. Along with the Ten Commandments, they would have paid rigorous attention to all the laws in the books of Moses some 613 according to tradition. They would spend their days reasoning out the implications of the laws, and to make sure that they avoided even the possibility of violating any of them – an outward perfect observance.

However, Jesus makes it clear here that religious observance is not enough – and indeed mere observance of the law without LOVE is a perversion of what the Shema teaches.

You see Jesus understood that the Pharisees had lost sight of the very heart of the matter; they were observing the law externally, but not observing the law out of a motive of a love for God.

A paraphrase of that verse reads “Love the Lord Your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence Matt 22:37 (MSG). So, it’s bluntly clear that outward observance of the law was not enough. Without the pure motive of obedience out of a love for God, the external observance of the commandments becomes just a ceremony. In another place in the scriptures we can see that Jesus specifically warned the Pharisees of the danger:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”

Matthew 23: 25-26 (NIV)

So, Jesus answers the Pharisees question with an extract from the Law. These are the highly religious men of the day – the very same men who constantly question Jesus’ authority, His teaching, His credibility; the men who out of ignorance and veiled eyes contrive his crucifixion. I don’t know what answer they expected to their question, but I am certain they did not expect Him to refer to the THE most important prayer that ever fell across their lips! But in doing so, He does not affirm them, He actually convicts them for their pious religious observance, which is rooted in self-indulgence, hypocrisy and outward appearance.

He takes it still further and contests that they should not only love God with every ounce of their being, but they are to love their neighbour and they are to love themselves. I shan’t be looking at the historical context of that second command today, but we shall certainly refer to it when we consider how this command of Jesus impacts on us as Christians.

Outward religious observance without a changed heart is not what the Lord looks for – it wasn’t then and it certainly isn’t now!

“……for the Lord sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (MEV)

So in summary, Jesus uses the most important prayer in the Jewish tradition to condemn the religious leaders who consider themselves to be the role model and the pinnacle of that religious practice! The point that Jesus makes so clearly is you can look religious but if you are hardened and dirty inside it is just a show and a sham.

So much for the historical context, but what does this mean for us today?

I am going to make it simple (because I’m simple!) God is not interested in how many times a year you go to church; He is not interested in your service for Him week after week, year after year; he is not interested if you know your Bible inside out; He is not interested that you have watched Songs of Praise diligently for 30 years: he is not interested if you give money to good causes

UNLESS

you are doing these things out of a right heart attitude!!!!!!!!

Friends, I want to reassure you that our Dear Lord is not looking for perfect Christians. I’m glad about that because I would fail miserably on that count; He is looking for passionate Christians. He is looking for disciples who will follow Him through thick and thin and love Him because He first loved them.

“…….[his/her] sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much”

Luke 7:47b (KJV)

I know that many if not all of you here know the Love of God. Therefore I challenge you (and first and foremost myself) do you Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind? Or has that love grown a little – dare I say – lukewarm, cold even over the years??

You see it is my contention that when we look at that command of Jesus in it’s entirety, I believe that if we are following / experiencing the first part of the commandment (to love God first), then the second will follow WITHOUT US HAVING TO THINK ABOUT IT TOO MUCH!

What Jesus commands to is an ACTIVE love, not a passive love. You see, to love the Lord your God with all of your mind, soul, strength requires commitment and effort; although it does overflow from a heart full of thankfulness , there are of course times when it doesn’t come so easily such as times of sadness and testing.

I confidently believe that if a believer has a wholehearted, full-on relationship, Spirit filled with God – i.e. loves God with all of him or herself, then loving others will come naturally – or more correctly, supernaturally. This is because His love will be apparent in all that we do or say; it comes across in our appearance; our body language; our compassion for the lost and the disadvantaged; sinner or saint alike we cannot but love our neighbour.

Now…. I am the first to admit that I fall far short of that standard, so what am I do do? Try and love my neighbour more? Be a better person? Well, that’s no bad thing I guess, but the single most important thing I can do is ASK GOD TO HELP ME FULFIL THE FIRST OF HIS COMMANDS – TO LOVE GOD COMPLETELY. This is because if I do so, then the second command will be a natural extension of who I am.

Which brings me on to the last part of my talk and there are some sensitivities here, so I will try to tread carefully. Out of our love for God, we ought to love ourselves too. For some, this is actually the hardest part of that command of Jesus to fulfil. Some are damaged by life events, or the way they have been treated during their lives and they have a negative view of themselves. This can present itself in many ways and none of them positive. We can suffer from clinical depression (which is NOT a sin or failure in God’s sight!), or low self-esteem. Very often if we show a lack of love and respect for others because we do not love and respect ourselves, and that is not an easy one to offer an answer to. It’s certainly beyond the scope of my talk tonight.

I would merely point you to who our Almighty God says you are, and if you struggle with this area in your life I am just pray over you now that the reality of this scripture would hit home to you.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Pet 2:9-10 (NIV)

In conclusion:

Friends, be lovers of God – not lovers of religion!

Religion is not a dirty word (in some charismatic churches they pray for religion to be removed from the church). I don’t agree; religion is good BUT only when practised by the born-again believer. God does not require and indeed is grieved by empty religious activity, as evidenced by our passage tonight.

Keith Green once said “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more that going to McDonald’s make you a Hamburger” (great quote!)

So I would urge you to look at your walk with the Lord this evening. Is all well? DO you do things you do in God’s name out of your love for him, or is it just something you do because you have always done it?

Has your love grown a little cold?

DO you find yourself not loving yourself or your neighbour as you should?

Then I would urge you to pray with me as we close this message. That all of us would be so transfixed on the loveliness of our Lord Jesus; so captivated by His sacrifice; so astonished that He would love a sinner like me; that we offer all of our hearts, minds and souls afresh to Him.

 

continual worship

Psalm 34 vs 1

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 146 vs 1-2

Praise the Lord.

Praise the, O my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life,

I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

The Bible is full of praise to the Lord. And it’s not just the 2 hours we manage on a Sunday morning. Its more than trying to do the right thing in church, it’s an attitude of life. It comes from our hearts. The Psalms tell us to praise with everything, and at all times. It is constant.

Psalm 145 is a whole song of us recognising and worshipping God because we can see how He is full of love and what >He has done for us through the giving of His most treasured Son. We can trust God and know His love will never fail. Doesn’t that make us want to praise at all times? How hard are our hearts when we read how much He loves us, created us, cherished us, died for us, defeated death for us.

Praise doesn’t have to be only when we are with other people, only for when we are at church or a meeting. It is something we can do in our private times, the same as our private times of reading the Word and praying.

LaMar Boschman says in his book A heart for worship

“How do you know you are a worshipper? Worshippers spend time in Gods prescence. They like to linger thwere. They are not in a hurry to leave His prescence. They worship often because they delight in Gods prescence and in giving Him honour, reverence and exaltation”.

I want to spend more time just sitting and being in the prescence of God. To feel Him with me and sitting in silence together. That level of intimacy is what  I myself am aiming for. I want to be there, and know its up to me to get there through worship in my life

Reliance

I don’t know about you, but there are those weeks I am tempted to wish would go quicker, that there could be nothing else that could possibly be thrown at me! Surely!! Those weeks that are super busy, with no time for relaxation or even I feel quality times with God. Those weeks that feel like you are squarely in the fire line of the devil and that he must have sent all available bad stuff to be aimed at me! Those weeks!

In those times, I know I am probably in the wrong frame of mind, and having a wrong attitude to the things that are going on around me and what I feel are happening to me. In those times, I can feel God’s presence and voice calling me to just take 5 minutes to be with Him, and it is then that I know He is always there with me, always my Rock. In those times, I know I can rely on my God. He shows me even in the quick verse I read on my way to the next meeting, the word that is given by a stranger, the prayers that are answered daily, that He never leaves us in those places where we might feel He is too far away.

My husband read recently,

“Don’t be scared when the devil attacks you,

Be scared when he doesn’t”

I know this is just a quick saying, but it says so much to me. I know more scary stuff, more bad things happen on weeks when our church is praying for revival, when there is an important service we are part of, a prayer for Israel meeting. I know those times are coming now, and so know thst my God is there, and helping me to be stronger in Him, and that He is always Reliable.

I hope you know how Reliable God is too in those times.

Captivated

Psalm 113:4-6 says,

“The Lord is high above all nations,

His glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God,

Who dwells on high

Who humbles Himself to behold

The things that are in heaven and the earth?”

LaMar Boschman says in his book A heart for worship, that he wanted to look for new words to describe the Lord. Words we don’t use normally, that we havn’t repeated so many times we forget how awesome our God is. He found these words, and I think they truly do describe God in new and exciting ways. LaMar uses them before services and shouts the to the Lord as part of his worship.

Lord, You are unrivalled, unparalleled, unequalled and unsurpassed.

You are peerless, matchless, faultless and flawless.

God, you are choice, fine, elite splendid,

marvellous, glorious, fabulous and wondrous.

Phenomenal, sensational, spectacular, majestic, fantastic and terrific is my King.

Your presence is amazing, awe-inspiring, astonishing, outstanding, stirring, stimulating and electrifying.

You are so large, grand, great, immense and massive.

You are magnificent, brilliant, radiant, resplendent and transcendent.

Your Person is superior, superb  and sublime.

I have discovered you to be excellent,  exquisite, exceptional, extraordinary, remarkable, incomparable,

impeccable, irreproachable and unimpeachable.

There is absolutely none like You.

You stand alone.

How good is it to be able to recognise the Living God in all of those words. He does indeed stand alone as the only One worthy of these descriptions. Thank you God.

Praise is my strength

Praise, not complaining. Praise is my strength, my joy, my peace. The Word of God is where my praise comes from. Its where my strength is the written word. The Word is where my God and Saviour is. He is in every letter, every word, every book.
Have you noticed that when we complain or whine, that we seem so tired? It is as if it takes from us. What is the answer to this? The only thing that can change us from the inside out…. Praise to and of our Father God!
God and praise of, and to Him goes before us into any battle we have. It shows itself in how we react to others, how we relate to everyone we have in our life or meet in the street. It shows itself in how we spend our times with God, and even the depths we go in the Word.
God loves our praise, and if we love Him as much as we sing about in church on a Sunday, we will want to do what He loves us to do. God knows what is best for us. He loves us to praise and He knows it brings so much back to us.
There is a saying “dance like no one is watching”…. why dont we praise like no one is watching? No one to judge how we worship. No restraint. No one to laugh or tell us we are doing it wrong. Just praise as if we are in the throne room of our Father. No fear, just praise.

Is praise easy?

It is very easy to praise and worship when we feel all is going ok and nothing seems to be disturbing our peace. But what about when all is not right? When things are tough and life seems to be a struggle? How much more faith at those times do we need to then say to God “You are good and faithful”?

God is always good. He never fails and is always worthy of praise. It doesn’t depend on feelings. He is the same whatever we are going through. He has been the same throughout the generations since we were created. He has never changed, but we can change to Him. We can be the ones who move that little bit further away from Him when all goes bad.

It is ok to praise God with our joyful worship when we are happy and all is well. It is also ok to praise Him with our tears and cries of pain and when we are lonely.

Whatever we are going through, God is still as awesome as He always has been. He continues to be awesome and sovereign in every circumstance, and we can still worship and adore Him. Don’t move away from God when times are tough. Move closer to Him and see the Fathers love for you at work. God never moves away from us even when we sin and do bad stuff. Keep close to Him, and keep worshipping, even if your worship holds your cries and tears.