“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. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, c.f. 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41).
Background ~ This passage is considered by many theologians to be the greatest theological statement in the Scriptures. It begins with “Hear, O Israel” which is known as the Shema (literally “Hear Thou”)—a traditional Jewish confession of faith. The complete Shema comes from a combination of passages.
Many religious Jews use leather straps to tie a small leather box containing this Scripture collection to their wrists and/or their foreheads. Likewise small containers with the Scripture are attached to door frames and gates. These containers with Scripture are known as phylacteries. The leather is from clean animals. Phylacteries are readily seen when visiting Israel.
Consider six things—in three related pairs—which this portion of Scripture teaches.
One: Internal Control ~ “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart” (v.6). God’s Word should be a integral part of your being. For some this may require the discipline of memorizing Scripture. For others it may involve regular reading of the Word of God. Others may gain much by meditating on passages or studying Scripture in depth. The key is that the words of God are internalized.
Two: External Control ~ “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (v.7). The key is that God’s Word is internalized to the point it controls your daily actions and overall lifestyle.
Three: Control Your Work ~ “Tie them as symbols on your hands” (v.8a). Hands symbolize your work whether performed at home, in private enterprise, for a non-profit organization, as a government employee, or whatever you do.
Four: Control Your Thinking ~ “Bind them on your foreheads” (v.8b). Foreheads symbolize the thought life. Thinking should be under control when you are alone, with your family, in social events, within the community, and in your career.
Five: Control Your Private Life ~ “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house” (v.9a). Door frames represent entering private life behind closed doors—not visible to the public.
Six: Control Your Public Life ~ “Write them… on your gates” (v.9b). Gates symbolizes public life where actions are visible to the public.
summary: The emphasis in all three pairs is on complete obedience in all areas of life!
The proper response to God as revealed in His Word is to love Him! “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). If we truly love Him we will love those around us.
Matthew records an incident where a Pharisee tested Jesus Christ by asking Him a question. Here is the account: “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:36-40). It has often been noted that these two commandments summarize the first four of the Ten Commandments.
the ultimate tests: Do you consistently give God control both internally and externally? How about your thought life and your actions—are they under His control? Are your private and public lives constantly under God’s direction and control?