I heard about a preacher who asked, “Are you listening?” throughout his sermons. I’ve never done that. What if no one answered? If that happened, move to the benediction as soon as possible.
Hear, O Israel is more a command than a question (v. 4). The Deuteronomy writer is calling Israel to attention. This phrase indicates that the Holy One wants the undivided focus of the hearers. With these emphatic words, I picture the people snapping to attention.
What does God want listeners to hear? First, they need to know who God is. The LORD is our God, the LORD alone (v. 4). This is no wimpy God shuffling around at the edges of our lives. This God demands to be heard and to be central in our stories and experiences. What we can’t do is turn God into one among many that we revere, paying our respects once in a while then going about our own business.
No, Deuteronomy tells us, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (v. 5). In other words, when we say, “I do,” to this God, we love God with all that we are. This is not a marriage of temporary convenience. It is a commitment of our whole selves to God for our whole lives.
When we love God in this way, the community that surrounds us will feel the impact. We will think about God when we are awake and when we go to asleep. We will tell our children and our friends about this First Love of ours. God tells us to keep reminders around to help us remember our most essential relationship. Hear, O Israel are not just ancient words directed at others, but words that include us, the new Israel, as the people of God.
J.B. Phillips entitled a book, Your God Is Too Small. When are you tempted to treat God as smaller than God is?
God, we adore you. You are beyond our understanding, but your immense love and grace are wide and near enough to hold our heaviest challenges, burdens, pasts, and futures. We are grateful. Amen.