>Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

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“Hear, O Israel.” As I read over this passage again and again, I was sometimes stuck on the first word – “Hear.” In our culture, we have a proclivity for only listening to our own voice. How many problems have resulted because one side already assumes they know the position of the other and work off of that assumption instead of the truth? How often do we only listen to what is said and totally miss what needs to be heard? I see it happen all the time. I’ve done it myself, at home and at work. We think we know what needs to happen and so we begin to focus on what we think needs to be done rather than what actually does need to be done.

I think there is a disproportionate amount of credit that we give to this one small word compared to what it actually deserves. In this particular passage, it is a command. It is not a suggestion. It is not something that is thrown in just for the fun of it. The tone is set from the very beginning of the passage. “Hear, O Israel…” The other verbs that follow are also commands, not suggestions – “love the Lord your God… [these commands] are to be upon your hearts… impress them… talk about them… tie them… bind them… write them….” No, these are not suggestions. They show a greater way. They show a way to enter into relationship with the one and only God, the Creator and Father of all things. We cannot enter this relationship without first hearing what God has to say to us. Can you become a Christian without listening to Christ? No, I don’t think so, and Scripture is pretty clear on that point as well. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). You can be a moral person. You can make great decisions and have the highest of ethical standards, but for what reason? If you want to be separate from God for your life on earth, I believe you will be granted that choice in eternity as well. Scripture is clear on this point – there are not many ways, there is the Way. “Hear” isn’t such a small word now, is it?

Something else strikes me about the word and this passage in particular. While “hear” certainly implies some passive “action” on the part of the listener, it is not solely a passive word. The rest of the passage implies that some sort of action needs to take place. This is not just hearing for the sake of hearing. It is for the sake of instruction – not only of oneself, but also of those with whom we come into contact. The rest of the passage describes nearly every sort of situation that we find ourselves in as people living among other people. It describes teaching our children; talking about the commands when we are on the road, at home; when we lie down and get up; on our hands, which we see every day, and on our foreheads, which everyone else sees everyday; on the doorframes of our houses, which, again, we see every day and on the gates of our houses, which people we may not even now see from time to time (or everyday if they are driven by a routine, as am I). “Hear, O Israel” could easily be followed with “and teach at all times.” However, we cannot teach unless we are willing to learn ourselves. My prayer today is that I might hear. The challenge comes in discerning what to listen to in our busy world, but that’s for another time. For now, “Hear, O Matt!”

Just some musings from a traveling pilgrim.

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