Living the Shema

Man.

Wow.

Whew boy…

There’s an awful lot of competing voices out there within the community of faith. And a lot more outside. Can you tell I read the first 100 pages of Love Wins last night?

We need to hear the ONE true Voice.

“My sheep hear My voice—and I know them—and they follow me.”
(John 10:27)

That’s a bona fide promise you can take to the bank. For those who have ears to hear, that is.

Hear ye! Hear ye!

He’s speaking so we’d best sit up and listen.

The Jews reaffirm their faith daily by reciting the shema which derives its name from the opening word “hear” in Deuteronomy 6:4. Sit up, people. Pay close attention. One can almost hear the sound of fork on champagne flute or the clearing of James Earl Jones’ throat preceding the section.

It has been deemed appropriate by rabbis through the centuries for observant Jews to recite the sh’ma twice a day—at daybreak and as day closes—which has caused a slight dilemma: so eager have been the devout to get on with the business of recitation at dawn, some have jumped the gun and prayed when it was still technically night. Did it take? How early is too early?

The horns of the dilemma were smoothed down by rabbis who said it would only be appropriate when there was enough natural light to distinguish the color blue from the white background of the prayer shawl. Other rabbis said when you could distinguish a person from six feet away. Oh it’s you, George… Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil…Still others gauged it by the length of time it took Lot to walk from Sodom to Zoar, which was evidently 4-5 miles away. So…an hour before the first glint of sun?

Really? This is what the sh’ma has become?

Rabbi Jesus, who kind of invented the sh’ma, made it relevant and alive, minus the religious trappings—in the same paragraph He says He and the Father are “one”, he tells us that His true sheep are hearing (present, active tense) the sound of His Voice.

Not Bell’s. Not So-and-So’s. Or Whomever’s.

Living the Sh’ma means when He speaks, we follow. Not just recite. Or analyze. Or vote. If the Sh’ma tells us anything, it tells us God wants to be loved, and the fullest expression of our love language in return is obedience. He speaks. We listen. We go. And He goes with us. And His sheep love the arrangement.

That’s the nexus of faith. Isn’t it?

But, again, there’s the matter of competing voices. How can we tell the One from another? I like the illustration Lynn Anderson uses in his remarkable book, They Smell Like Sheep:

My friend Roy tells a fascinating story about a trip to Palestine some years back. One afternoon, he stood on a ridge overlooking a long, narrow gorge. Below him, the gorge opened out into rolling grass-covered pasture lands. A single trail meandered down the length of the gorge floor, then branched out into dozens of trails when it reached the grasslands. A group of shepherds strolled down the gorge trail, chatting with one another, followed by a long, winding river of sheep. At the forks of the trail, the shepherds shook hands and separated, each taking a different path as they headed out into the grasslands. Roy recounted the fascinating sight that followed.

As the shepherds headed their separate ways, the mass of sheep streaming behind them automatically divided into smaller flocks, each flock stringing down the branch trail behind its appropriate shepherd. When the various shepherds and their flocks were distanced from each other by a few hundred yards, each shepherd turned to scan his own sheep, noting that some strays had been left behind and were wandering in confusion among the rocks and brush.

Then one of the shepherds cupped his hands around his mouth and called in a strange, piercing cry, “Ky-yia-yia-yia-yia.” At his shout, a couple of stray Iambs perked up their ears and bounded toward his voice. Then a second shepherd tilted back his head calling with a distinctly different sound, “Yip-yip-yip-yipoo-yip.” A few more strays hurried straight toward him. Then another called his strays with a shrill, “Hoot-hoot-hoot!” Each shepherd, in turn, called.

Each of the strays, hearing a familiar voice, knew exactly which shepherd he should run to. “In fact,” my friend Roy marvelled, “none of the wandering sheep seemed to notice any voice but the voice of his own shepherd.”

He’s the Good Shepherd and He’s got something to say. It’s about the True path, not the path we like better, or the shepherd that seems to better “say what agrees with my perception” (watch out: he may not be a shepherd at all. Check under his woolly whites!).

Lord God, may I receive a love for Your Truth and hear Your Voice above the din and amidst the confusion. Here I stand. And prick my ears. And go to You. (to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life!)

I can do no other…

6 thoughts on “Living the Shema

  1. brotherjohnny says:

    I’m at page 119… but I’m taking my time through the book.
    I really like a lot of what Bell is saying and even *how* he is saying it… but you’re right, his voice is only one of countless others.
    My personal list of ‘essentials’ that I ‘require’ of others is growing smaller and smaller as the days go by.
    It’s not that these kinds of things do not matter, but for me, they do not matter nearly as much–to me– as Love for both one another and those who oppose us.
    Perhaps the Lord is dismantling the god of intellect/reason in order to work a deeper and more needful thing at present.
    If I am to be totally honest about what I believe His Voice to be saying to me in this hour (and sure, for others– this is just another voice), it is this: “Love one another”.

    • pasturescott says:

      If indeed that is what our great God is doing, I offer up my “amen!” enthusiastically. I love how you put that, JT: ‘dismantling the god of intellect/reason’–do we have the humility to accept that? As for Bell, I am in the camp of ‘argh!’ but am going to read it twice for an honest assessment. And, as Peter challenged, to “always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you YET WITH GENTLENESS AND REVERENCE…” (1 Pet 3:15,16).

      My ‘word’ is also in the vein of love, brother. A week ago the Lord lovingly made this His message loud and clear: “Do not close your heart to others.”

      Now why would He say that? I guess He’s clued me in on what He’s going to work on next. Here we go…

      Love and peace, brother!

      • brotherjohnny says:

        Trust me,I have no doubt the Lord works in you to have an open and loving heart. I know first hand.

        These pixels and light particles might feel cold and distant much of the time, but I know well enough the warm reality of who is behind them when we engage here (and other sites).

        I’ve plenty of “Argh!” in me too…. but in my case, that’s part of the problem. :-)

        Loving you my Dear Brother and I’m glad that you have been writing more!

  2. Patrick says:

    I came across your site this morning doing a search of “living the Sh’ma”. When asked which was the greatest commandment, the Master replied with “Hear, O Isra’el…” (Mark 12:29-31) My family, though not Jewish, recites the She’ma twice a day.
    Please forgive me if I come across as overly critical, for my question is this: why the polemical statements about how and when the people of Israel recite the She’ma? Don’t forget the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. It is best to not poke fun at others nor engage in sarcasm at their expense.
    In future teachings, could you break down each of the catagories of the She’ma of heart, soul and strength?

    • pasturescott says:

      Thank you, Patrick. I thank you for your very thoughtful response. No doubt I can learn much more about this from you. My point was only to see this beautiful gift as a living reality rather than a religious ritual. Jesus is the Living Shema, the Logos of the Father. He, too, castigated empty exercise, to see it apart from Himself.

      • Patrick says:

        Thank you for the kind words. Indeed the Sh’ma is a beautiful gift, not so much a theological statement about the nature of G-d but of the relationship of Himself to the nation of Israel who, once in Egypt and surrounded by many “gods” and many “lords” (see Ezekiel 20:5-7), now they were to be a set apart people, a redeemed nation whose One and True G-d is YHVH (Exodus 6:6-8). Sh’ma, translated as “hear” is the imperative to listen/obey. In the ancient Hebrew picture language Sh’ma, שְׁמַ֖ע, means “to see the name.” Sh’m (שֵׁ֣ם) is “name” which in the ancient world had to do with physical traits, personality and/or reputation and Ayin (ע) is the eye hence, to see. Sh’m is made from the letters shin ש and mem מ,ם. Shin was teeth and means to consume, as in eating, or destroy while mem is water, chaos likes waves of the sea. Chaos and confusion is destroyed when you “see” G-d’s Name, His reputation. Speculation about who He is and what His ways are has now been replaced with revelation. Hear [obey!] because He rescued you from slavery [to sin and bondage] and with great acts of judgement [Yeshua's (Jesus) crucifixion] and has taken you to be his people and He will be your G-d.
        The first of the ten words in Exodus 20 is “I am Ad-nai, your G-d who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…” All the others follow this one.
        Paul harkens back to the Sh’ma when he spoke of the work among the Gentiles who were leaving THEIR idols and idolatry to serve the One (echad) G-d of Israel in 1 Cor 8:5-6, “…yet for us,there is one G-d from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one L-rd, Yeshua HaMoshiach (Jesus the Christ) through whom all things came and to whom we exist.” “Hear Israel, the L-RD our G-d, the L-RD is one.” A paraphrase of the last line by the sages of Israel: “The L-RD is our G-d, the L-RD alone.”
        Remember my brother that the Master, the one in whom G-d was please to have His fullness dwell, knew the thoughts and attitudes of the hearts of those he rebuked while we do not, indeed can not, with absolute certainty. The Jews, we (Gentiles) are to comfort (Isaiah 40:1-2) and show mercy to because of the mercy shown us by G-d (Romans 11:28-32). They are still loved by G-d on account of the patriarchs and G-d’s gifts and calling is irrevocable.
        I must confess that within a couple of days of posting my first note on your site, I caught myself joking with my wife about someones hairstyle. I really felt convicted as G-d showed me what I was doing.

        “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, those who love it will eat its fruit.”

        “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
        keep your tongue from evil [speech] and your lips from telling lies.
        Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

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