First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ May 3rd, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-31
What do you do when you’re stressed out over things beyond your control? What do you do when you feel trapped by your circumstances? Unfortunately, our natural response is to worry. Worry makes the situation a lot worse. Someone said that worry is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it will accomplish absolutely nothing.
Well, in the light of what has been going on in our world today, I am drawn this morning to bring you a word of encouragement from the Book of Deuteronomy chapter six. “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.”
You may remember that in the gospel of Mark chapter 12:29-30, Jesus pointed to our Scripture passage for this morning as “the most important” commandment. A rabbi, a teacher of the Law, once asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” In Mark 12:29-30, Jesus answered, “The most important one is 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 mind and with all your strength.’”
This prayer from Deuteronomy 6 is called “The Shema” and it serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.”
Why I am preaching on the Shema prayer today? Two reasons that have encouraged me to bring this amazing Scripture passage to your hearing today. First: These are a couple Bible verses that are densely packed with theology and are absolutely foundational to our Christian life. I truly believe it speaks to our fears today like no other. Second: Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself pointed to this Scripture passage as “The most important commandment.”
This morning I will consider very briefly the meaning and significance of this short Scripture passage. “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.” Three short observations:
First: Hear, O Israel
“Sh’ma Yisrael …” The Hebrew word behind the English “Listen!” or “Hear!” in Moses’ call is “Sh’ma.” “Sh’ma”, as I said, means listen, do, and accept a certain truth. Speaking to stubborn Israel, the Prophet Isaiah lamented the lack of obedience as he spoke those words in Isaiah 48:18, “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”
Jesus echoed the same truth in Matthew 7:24-25 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” With this invitation, “Hear, O, Israel” Moses urges the community of God to tune their senses toward a glorious, life transforming truth: “The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
Second: The LORD our God
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God …” Wherever you see “LORD” in all caps in your Bible, that is the Hebrew word “Yahweh” although Jews pronounce it “Adonai” to keep the LORD’s name sacred. “Yahweh” is God’s primary name of God in the Old Testament. This name is so significant. Yahweh is the God who is, and who was, and who is to come. He is unchanging God. He is trustworthy. He is reliable. You can depend on Him. You can rely on Him. He is a very personal God.
The name “Yahweh” highlights another amazing truth about our God. It reminds us of that our God is the God of the covenant and He is faithful to that covenant. The covenant stated that “He will be our God and we are to be His people.” But we failed to keep the terms of the covenant and that’s why Christ came and established the New Covenant by the shed of His blood. Christ’s obedience and righteousness have been credited and imparted to us. Theologians call this “imputation of righteousness.” So as we celebrate Communion today, let’s remember the New Covenant Christ made with God on our behalf.
Third: The LORD is One
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” “The Lord is one.” This tells us that the LORD is one of a kind. He alone is God. He is not just a god. He is the GOD. He is not one of many. He is the one only true God. He stands alone.
In the Ancient World this belief in one God made the people and nation of Israel unique. Israel's neighbors, the heathen nations, believed in multiple gods. There was a sun god, a moon god, a god of fertility, a god of war, a god of thunder, a god of the river Nile, and so on.
This belief in one God gave the Israelites a sense of security that was impossible for the pagans with their multiple gods. You see, the pagan gods were jealous of each other and acted against each other. They rarely acted in harmony with each other. Each god was unpredictable and impulsive. So a pagan worshiper never had a sense of security. Loyalty to one god might make a pagan worshiper in trouble with another god. The Israelites, however, did not have to worry about this because they had to deal with only one God who loved them and cared for them and saved them and was bringing them to the Promised Land.
Friends, we believe in an awesome God. He is a covenantal God and He is indeed one of a kind. He will never disown us. He will never abandon us because He is filled with compassion and abounds in love and faithfulness. He desires that YOU know Him and I want to invite you to this journey today. Every day you will get to know Him and the more you know Him, the more you will be prone to love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.