Deuteronomy 11:16 – “Keep careful guard that you are not enticed to turn aside, serve, and bow in worship to other gods.”
As the nation of Israel was nearing the end of its wilderness journeys, Moses cautioned them to ensure they remain faithful to all that they have received, so they could have success in their new homeland. He cautioned them against the primary sin of the idolatry of the nations that were inhabiting the land.
As a method of remaining faithful, Moses provided an outline of some practical steps to ensure that they were guarding their souls and protecting their little ones so the next generation would not forget what they have experienced, and how God desired them to act in righteousness amidst the idolatry of their surroundings.
In Hebrew practice even to this day, Jews all over the world recite these several passages as a daily statement of faith, known as the Shema.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. “Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”
There are other passages included in the Shema recitation, however, if we break apart this passage we may gain some understanding for maintaining our own faithfulness as well.
“Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This is a prerequisite to any form of diligent faithfulness. The sole motivation for believers should not be a hope of future reward, but simple and sincere love of Yahweh that consumes every aspect of our being.
“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” When we memorize portions of Scripture, we gain the ability to recall in an instant an appropriate instruction that can assist us throughout the trials of each day.
Psalm 119:9-11 – How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.
“Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” To instill our biblical values in our children, we need to repeat them to our children in a variety of ways. When we are sitting in our house or walking or driving along the road with them, we should be drawing out spiritual understanding from these life experiences. Evening and morning prayers are valuable to model for them so they can learn how to pray and recite important passages as they grow.
“Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.” This practice is viewed literally by most orthodox Jews by physically tying phylacteries, scripture boxes, to their arms and heads. However, in other contexts where this same type of language is used, it can be taken metaphorically to represent that the hands should always be about the work of the kingdom, and the mind (between the eyes) should always be focused on God’s commands.
Finally, Moses commands them to, “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” This is the practice of affixing a mezuzah, a small scripture box, to the door frame of the home, and also ensuring that each city or village entrance identifies the commands of God in a visible statement. These visible reminders at the point of entrance provide touchpoints amidst the daily travels.
These practices, while intended primarily for the Israelites as they were about to be moving into a new form of living in the land of Canaan, still provide relevance for us today. God’s instruction, his torah, should be such a practical focus of our lives each day that we cannot stray from God’s commands. These types of practices provide physical reminders to us and help our children navigate the mazes of temptation and spiritual distractions of their generation, as well. Through memorization, recitation, and practical obedience, we can be continually reminded to stay focused on God’s purpose and be better prepared to successfully pass the faith to the next generation.
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