I Pledge My Allegiance

April 6, 2011 - 5:00 am

“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.”—Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Just as you might recite a pledge of allegiance or a confession of faith, we Jews recite the Shema every morning and evening. Shema, the Hebrew word meaning “hear,” is the first word in the basic confession of faith in Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This is Judaism’s defining statement, and we make sure to speak it clearly as a witness to others. Because it is so important, we cover our eyes with the right hand when reciting it to prevent distraction.

In speaking the Shema, we join our voices with Jews throughout the world to assert that there is one God and to affirm that He is our God. We look forward to the fulfillment of this theological truth in the Messianic Age when “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name” (Zechariah 14:9).

The words following the Shema comprise the first of three paragraphs joined together for use in daily prayers:  Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:41. These three paragraphs have also come to be known as the Shema in a broad sense. They have been used together as a liturgy for prayer since the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Reciting these texts in prayer expresses our commitment to loyal, undivided, and wholehearted love for God; and devotion to study God’s Word and to teach it to future generations.

Jesus, as a Jew, affirmed the value and significance of the Shema. When a Jewish teacher asked Jesus which commandment was the most important, he replied by reciting the Shema: “‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus,‘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’” (Mark 12:29-30). In these words, Christians and Jews share and express a common confession of faith and love.

When Moses first spoke these words, the Israelites were surrounded by the false gods of other nations. God’s people needed this daily reminder of whom they served and to whom they belonged. That is still true today. We also hear the competing claims of false gods; we also need to affirm our loyalty and devotion to the one true God.

How could you affirm your love and devotion for God today? Why not start by memorizing the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as your pledge of allegiance?


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