There is a word in the Hebrew language that I hold dear. It’s foundational. It’s life-changing. It’s where break-through lies.
The very essence of the word is what set me free, and it’s the core of not only our victory in Christ but also our relationship with Him.
If you were born Jewish, you are extremely familiar with it. The prayer that you were raised praying every morning and every evening without fail had this word as its title; because the very first word declared in this prayer is the title itself, spoken as a declaration of God’s command and His very heart over His Beloved.
We not only find it in The Old Covenant but when asked the greatest command, Jesus quoted that very prayer.
The question was asked of Him by the Pharisees, who were a people whose majority sought desperately to prove Jesus wrong. So often their questions of Him were actually a form of bait, trying to trap Him. Their motive was to reveal their superiority over Him, and of course, they never succeeded.
The reason it’s so important to know whom Jesus is addressing when He answers this question is because He knew what they knew. He wasn’t addressing pagans who had never been exposed to Old Covenant Scripture. He was addressing those who not only knew it but also had it memorized to the very letter and number, chapter and verse.
Quite often when Jesus and even the apostle Paul quoted scripture, there was quite a bit of both implied and well understood meaning that was chosen because He knew what His audience knew about that passage. He didn’t necessarily need to say what came before or after because He was well aware that they knew.
The same result would happen in my home if I were trying to communicate “SpongeBob SquarePants” to my children. I wouldn’t even need to say the name, I would merely need to start the song, “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” and make no mistake, they would have full knowledge of whom I was referring to.
Jesus used this tactic quite often with the Pharisees, and it was a common tactic of rabbis during His time.
Consequently, in Matthew 22:37, we see how Jesus replied when questioned:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
He was very aware that His audience knew He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
I could address the whole first sentence that was left out, but I’m not going to. Today I just want to focus on that one word. The first word. He knew that they knew what He was saying to them, and it goes very much deeper than how we translate it in English.
The name of the prayer and that first ever so important word is “shema,” pronounced “shmah.”
We translate it “hear,” and we take that to mean something to the effect of “receive sound.” However, the Hebrew language is quite a bit different than the English language. Our language contains roughly 600,000 words. We not only have several words for every meaning, but we sometimes have several different meanings for a single word.
The Old Hebrew language (of the Old Testament), has about 8,000 words. Dramatically fewer than English. Because there are so fewer words, each word is jam packed with more meaning than we are used to having in our native tongue. Hebrew words usually have a meaning and an implied result which is part of the meaning itself. The actual meaning of the Hebrew word “shema” is: to receive sound, but also to act in response to it. The receiving of sound is not enough in itself…shema is a call or even a command to move in accordance or agreement with what is heard. We define it incompletely when we omit the implied result.
That is a lengthy way of revealing to you that freedom and victory over whatever we struggle with comes from hearing and agreeing. That’s the basis of Lordship itself, which makes it a pretty big deal.
Hear the Lord.
Then agree with Him and respond accordingly.
When we hear Him but do not follow through in agreement with Him, He is not Lord of our lives. Because He created us to need Him as Lord, things get a bit messy when we aren’t surrendering to His reign in all that we are and in all that we do.
After being consumed with an eating disorder and all that is attached to it until the age of 28, all the while calling myself a Christian, I heard God loud and clear.
Many of us do.
But do we shema?
God said quite a bit to me……
“You call me Lord, but I’m really not your Lord. Oh, you have a religion and worship with all that you are, but let’s be honest here, you don’t worship Me.”
He was right. My heart was pierced. I couldn’t believe it. This life that I was living had never revealed itself to me as idolatry. Yet, as He pointed out, it most definitely was. I worshiped thinness, exercise, food, restricting, and beauty just for starters. I was consumed. Jesus took a back seat to all of those things and more. I was appalled…and heart-broken.
I had a vision of me face-to-face with Him, having to explain to Him why I put eating and my size higher than Him in my life. It made me sick.
That sickened feeling was a good thing. We need to feel that sometimes. I know there are some who would hear and not respond to that. They may know what they’re choosing is not God’s choosing and just not care.
There would be a response.
“You’ve tried everything the world has to offer to be free of this obsession, except Me. Because I’m jealous for that place in your heart, I won’t allow those things to set you free. I’m the only way to be free, and I’ll let you struggle until you turn everything over to Me.”
Again, I was dumb-founded. Did God really want to be involved in my eating and body image issues? I had made an incorrect assumption that He was just too big or that my issues were just too trivial for His input. I was wrong.
As my Lord, He had quite a bit to say about how I ate, how much I exercised, and more importantly, how I defined myself. Would I define myself by what He says, or what I say?
There are times in my life when I’ve missed it. But this time, I heard Him, I agreed with Him, and I responded.
What happened next, was that everything meant for harm in my life was turned for good. Anytime I was remotely tempted to define myself by something other than Him, I just took it as a reminder to ask Him what He thought of me.
Then I would shema.
Whenever I was tempted to enter into my old patterns, you guessed it: just a reminder to talk to Him, listen to Him, worship or read scripture that reaffirmed all He had done in me.
Shema really is repentance. The word for repent in the Greek means to change the way you perceive in such a way that your foundation is moved.
When we hear God, agree and respond, our perception is new.
What I had thought I would never be free from, now was gone. What I had previously thought was discipline and righteousness, I now saw as idolatry and pride. What I had previously seen as never good enough, ugly, and dirty, I now saw was holy, blameless and clean.
I was free.
I was new.
Defined only by Him.
Giving Lordship to Him and Him alone.
What He had/has for me, He has for you.
Will you ask Him today what He wants to say to you?
Will you give Him first and final say in every nook and cranny of your heart?
Watch out, because if you do, things are going to get REALLY new.