Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
It seems like a simple proposition, but it wasn’t then, nor is it now. “The LORD is one.”
One God, what a strange concept to the ancients. Abraham is often considered the first monotheist. He was no doubt reared in polytheism; extra-biblical material explains that his father Terah was a some sort of priest in a temple dedicated to a multiplicity of gods. In those stories we read about Abraham recognizing the nonsense of the situation when his father has to repair the “gods” after they fall over and are cracked. In comments reminiscent of quotes later shared by biblical prophets, Abraham tells his father that it is he who should be worshipped since he is the “creator of the gods.” But alas, those ancients were so silly that they worshipped man-made objects. Thankfully, we live in a more advanced culture…right?
One God, what a difficult concept to early Christians. Though Israel struggled to maintain monotheistic purity through the times of the judges and kings, the exile seemed to communicate the jealousy of the one true God who expected to be the sole object of their worship. The prophets explained to Israel that contrary to common assumptions of the day, exile did not represent the defeat of YHWH, rather YHWH was seen as the goldsmith refining his people by passing them through the refiner’s fire in Babylon. The purified remnant that returned was still imperfect, but they became increasingly passionate about their God being the only one, so we should cut them a little slack about being so sensitive to Jesus’ claims to divinity. It took Christians about three centuries to develop a consensus understanding of how the God we worship could be one substance yet three personalities. The idea that God is 3-in-1 has rich implications for our faith and spirituality, so much so that we must take it up another day.
One God, what a challenge to the fabric of our culture. We would like to sit back and cast stones at those ignorant ancients who put their faith in man-made things. When we do so we avoid the painful analysis of our own selves. Capitalism, Democracy, Military – could these be the trinity of components that unite to form the idol known as the American Dream? Are we not guilty of putting our faith in our bank accounts, political heroes, and human alliances? Do we ever put our faith in our human philosophies, religious systems or traditional methods?
I could go on…but suffice it to say, we aren’t perfect. When it comes to idol worship let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I am guilty of trusting my intellect and interpersonal skills to protect me. That has not always worked out so well! Where are you looking for a savior? What messiahs do your children see you worshiping?
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. In order to listen and obey, we must learn to hear the voice of the ONE TRUE GOD. The Shema, this great daily prayer, calls us out on our idolatry and calls us to the God who revealed His name to Moses at the bush and His true nature to the world on the cross – LOVE. May God bless us as we seek to identify and mute the competing voices in our lives and more faithfully live in response to the voice of the One in whom we live, and move and have our being. May you sense this week the peace, hope and love that can only be found…