We are using videos to do short word studies on each of the Hebrew words that we are using in the sermons. https://thebibleproject.com/videos/yhwh-lord/
Hear O Israel: LORD
Second in a series of six
Exodus 3:13-15 // Acts 2:32-36 // Mark 2:1-12
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are in the Green season, the season of Pentecost, where we seek to grow and deepen our Christian faith. We continue working our way through the Shema, the ancient prayer in Deuteronomy, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Dear friends in Christ,
This is the second in a series of six sermons on the Shema. The first sermon was on the first word of the Shema, which is Shema. If you weren’t here last week, you’re wondering what that word means, and here’s the answer: it means listen. But not just listen; it means, like we use the English word, it means listen, and understand, and obey.
It’s a command. Hear, O Israel. Do it. Hear this. Hear and obey! To which one of our kind and gentle members came up to me and asked, “Pastor is this really a prayer? It doesn’t sound like a prayer,” which is a good question, because she’s right; it doesn’t really sound like a prayer. Usually we start out prayers with “Dear Lord,” and usually, they are directed toward God, and yet here we have a command, a command directed toward us: Hear!
Maybe this is a better way of looking at it: Israel was to pray the content of these words. Let me give you an example. Many times in the funeral process, I speak the Words of Psalm 23 to the family – The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..., but sometimes I pray them: Lord, be our Good Shepherd in this place. Make us not to want. Do you see the difference? And yet, they are essentially the same.
In reciting these words at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, they were saying in essence, Lord help me to hear. Help me to remember. Help me to obey what you are asking of me.
Now, notice the progression of our prayer: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God. Notice the progression: Command, confession, Command. The first word is HEAR! Hear what’s coming next. Remember it. Hang it on your hearts, and don’t let go. And what does he say next? The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
What does that mean? It’s a statement of confession. What does it confess? The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
What does that say? Right? Because this is significant... it signals the reason, the confession, the ground, that allows Moses to give the greatest commandment (or at least that’s what Jesus calls it): Love the Lord your God. Remember that the Lord is God and the Lord is one, and when you remember this, then it gives rise to the greatest commandment, love the Lord your God, and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.
So, this confession, it’s significant; it's a big deal; it’s the basis for the whole Law, the whole idea of being moral. But what does it confess?
Three layers that we explore and two questions that we ask. For the beginning of an answer, we can turn back to Exodus 3, remembering that the same Moses who is preaching Deuteronomy to the people is the one who forty-odd years before heard from the burning bush the personal name of God himself.
I am who I am. Tell them, I AM, HE IS, He says to Moses, the LORD has sent you. We talked about this a few weeks ago, on Trinity Sunday. God is who he is. He depends on no one. He needs nothing. He has no flaws. He is first, and before him is nothing, and nothing could ever possibly come after him, because he is eternal.
The Lord our God, the Lord is One. He is number one. He is preeminent. He is one. There are none other like him. His power is unlike all other power. His love is unlike all other love. His holiness is of a different kind. He is one.
Remember the Nicene Creed? I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, in one Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord. And yet there are not three Lords but one Lord. There are not three almighties but one almighty. One in Three, three in one.
Let me add the second layer. Hear the poetry of this: The God who is before everything was and who will be after everything is not, who has no flaws, needs nothing chooses to make himself known by being incarnate as an infant. The God who depends on no one makes himself known by becoming the most dependent, helpless little creature, who (as I remind my 7th and 8th graders) couldn’t eat on his own, sleep without being told to sleep, who couldn’t even hold up his own head with his little neck.
Here is the significance of Acts 2:32-36. God has revealed himself as fully as we can handle to know in Jesus Christ, the infant Son of God, defenseless and dependent as he came into the world, and defenseless and dependent as he died, utterly emptied of his divine powers as he demonstrates the clearest picture we have of our God. The cross proves that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man; the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man.
Now, let me add the final layer. We go back to Mark 2. Usually in this passage we focus on the guys who let their friend down through the roof, but today, let’s focus on what Jesus does first, and what the reaction is. He forgives the man’s sin. If he did that today, no one would bat an eye. He forgives the man’s sin and the Pharisees bring up the charge of blasphemy – and remember that this is the charge that’s brought up against Jesus at the end of his life. No one can forgive sins but God alone.
Not only is the LORD one, not only does he choose to make himself known in weakness, the final layer of this all is that the God whose list of attributes is bewildering and eternal, the God who is fierce, who is Judge, who is holy, who is terrifying, who is every bit the God who to see means certain death, this God actively chooses to say that the first quality He wants you to know about him is his mercy.
He was and is able to be known in many other ways, but when he speaks (and let me remind you, he speaks with a voice that created the universe) when he speaks, he chooses to say words of mercy.
If our God in his might has chosen to reveal himself in weakness and dependence, then, what are we supposed to do?
If our God in his might has chosen that he desires to be known chiefly by his forgiveness, by his mercy, what are you known by?
Praise be to God that he chooses to be known by his mercy, in his weakness, in his Son, Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther