Rhett P. Dodson

The Significance of the Shema

Written by Rhett P. Dodson |
Saturday, July 15, 2023
Our Christian discipleship should be no different. God calls us to live a Bible-saturated life so that the truth of Scripture fills us to overflowing and spills from us in our speech. Then, by speaking God’s powerful Word, we make other disciples, men, women, and children who love the Lord and seek to walk in the way of devotion, reflection, and instruction because they, too, serve the only true and living God. This is the path of discipleship. This is the path of the Shema.

Before there was the Westminster Confession of Faith, before Christians affirmed the doctrines of the Nicene Creed or recited the Apostles’ Creed, the people of God summarized their faith with the words of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). The Shema derives its name from the Hebrew imperative translated “hear,” the command with which the verse begins. The Lord called on His people to listen, to receive the truth about Him so that the truth might mold and shape the way they lived. The Shema is a theological affirmation that provides a foundation for discipleship. Let’s look at that foundation and at three of the ways that we are to build a godly superstructure on it.

The theological foundation that we have in the Shema emphasizes the uniqueness and unity of God. The Lord our God is one because He is the only God who truly exists. Israel first heard these words on the plains of Moab. Though the people had left the idols of Egypt behind, they were about to enter Canaan, a land filled with gods, where they would face great temptation to give their devotion to someone or something other than Yahweh. All other gods, however, are meaningless. They can offer no hope or comfort to their devotees. The Lord God of Israel is the only true and living God. As Christians who read the Shema in the light of the full canon of Holy Scripture, we realize that this affirmation also stresses the unity of God. Yahweh is a plurality in unity—or to put it another way, Yahweh is the triune God. The one true God exists in three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What kind of life should God’s people build on this foundation? First, a follower of Christ should exhibit a life of wholehearted devotion to the Lord. Immediately after the declaration of God’s uniqueness and unity, Moses writes, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (v. 5). Love is a central characteristic of obedient discipleship. When a Pharisee asked Jesus to identify the greatest commandment, the Savior quoted Deuteronomy 6:4–5.

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Written by Rhett P. Dodson |
Sunday, August 14, 2022
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus urged His disciples to have salt in themselves (Mark 9:50). This exhortation occurs at the end of various warnings about sin and temptation that conclude with the solemn reminder that a day of judgment lies in the future when “everyone will be salted with fire” (v. 49). Christ’s followers are therefore to possess the good qualities of salt and not let them dissipate (v. 50). The fire of God’s judgment will salt and purify the world. Believers should therefore be a purifying influence in the world through their Christlike testimony. Believers are, after all, the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).

Salt appears throughout the Bible, and people most readily identify it with its ability to season food that would otherwise be bland. Salt is also a well-known agent in the preservation of food and a means of purification. The prophet Elisha employed salt to heal a spring and remove impurities found in the water (2 Kings 2:20–21). Ezekiel’s reference to the practice of rubbing a newborn baby with salt was possibly to prevent infection (Ezek. 16:4). Salt in the ancient world was very expensive, and people used it sparingly and with care. These multifaceted characteristics of salt as a valuable, taste-enhancing, preserving, and purifying agent play varying roles in the passages where this compound appears.

The first reference in the Bible to salt as an ingredient occurs in Exodus 30:35. The perfumer who made incense for the altar combined sweet spices with frankincense and seasoned the mixture with salt. Since this incense was not for consumption, salt was not a flavor additive. It did, however, depict both purity and preservation. Incense wafting heavenward from the altar was a symbol of prayer (Ps. 141:2; Luke 1:10; Rev. 5:8). Salt added to the mixture reminded Israel that when the priest burned this incense on the altar, their prayers were pure before God and not forgotten. As Christians, we pray in Jesus’ name so that all the virtue and value of His atoning sacrifice will purify our prayers. We also pray with the assurance that the Lord never forgets what we pray (Ps. 38:9; Rev. 8:3–4).

In addition to the incense, Moses instructed the Israelites to season their grain offerings with salt, which he called “the salt of the covenant with your God” (Lev. 2:13). Similar language occurs in the book of Numbers.

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