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The Jewish Nation Speaks About God

J. Dan Gill

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; the
people whom he has chosen for his inheritance.
— Psalm 33:12

From the man harvesting wheat in his field, to the mother baking bread; from the most humble of servants, to the greatest king: These are people bound together by relationship with their God. The nation is ancient Israel. Their God is YHWH — the LORD.

He is The One! It is he who has made them. These people are in his care. They will speak of their God so that all may know him. They rejoice! They sing of him!

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Ps. 100, ESV).

They were his people: Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David and a myriad of others bowed only to the LORD as God. By their words and the lives they lived, they speak to us even to this day. They tell the world that the gods of the nations are created by men, but this God has created us.

 שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד
Shema ‘Yisrael, YHWH Eloheinu, YHWH echad

Six words in the Hebrew language — yet they are likely the most celebrated words in that language. Spoken in the era in which the nation was born, these six words came to characterize both the nation and its people. Translated, they are:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one. — Deuteronomy 6:4

Moses cries out — “Hear, O Israel!” And about what is he so passionate? It is that the LORD is their God. Wonderfully heralded, this supremely important declaration has come to be called the Shema. Named for the first Hebrew word in the proclamation, shema literally means, “Hear!” — “Listen!”[1] Those six words resound in ancient Israel. Their laws and precepts are predicated upon relationship to their God. In the Shema, “The One” is affirmed again. His first priority stands: “He alone is God.” His prime directive is understood: This nation will “serve only him as God.”

How Many Shall They Love?

As Moses declares the Shema, he proclaims:

And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deut. 6:5).

How shall a person love him with all his heart, all his soul and all his strength if he is serving any other as God? If he forsakes the LORD to serve others, the commandment is broken. If others are promoted as being the eternal God along with him, that too breaks the commandment. To love anyone other than YHWH as a supposed person of Deity divides one’s heart and diminishes the love that is due to him as the only true God.[2] The declaration in the Shema regarding who God is and the words about a person loving him with all his heart, soul and strength, are inextricably bound together. Without that love, the words of the Shema are rendered ineffective in one’s life. But, likewise, without knowing who God is, the love a person should have toward the LORD alone will be misdirected. Those who understand that we are to love YHWH with all of our hearts should feel the need to be accurately informed regarding him and about how many “he” is.

His people will honor his prophets. They will bow before his kings and rulers. They will bow their knees to his Messiah when he is born. When it comes to who their God is, however, they will love only the LORD.

The Children Know Him

On the occasion when Moses gives the Shema to the nation, he instructs the people to recite to their children the things he is telling them:

Keep these words in your heart that I am commanding you today. Diligently recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you get up (Deut. 6:6, 7).

Let us walk in ancient Israel. Let us talk to the youths tending the sheep. Let us ask the children playing along the way. What will they tell us about their God? They will tell us that he is the LORD: that he alone is God. Around the evening meal, at their going to bed, when rising in the morning, when they go out for the day — a nation of people and generations of their children will speak these words: “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.”

Continue reading – next in series

Gill, J. Dan (2016). Jews, Gentiles and the Battle Over God. In, The One: In Defense of God (pp. 239-242). Nashville, TN: 21st Century Reformation Publishing.


[1] The Shema or “Shema ’Yisrael” as a prayer and in liturgy is often extended and recited as Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.

[2] Of course, this relates to whom we love as being God. It does not prevent a person from loving the Messiah, fellow believers,spouses, children, parents, etc. in the various ways that are appropriate for them.

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