This post is an article I wrote for the church magazine a few months ago, and is fairly self explanatory.
Apart from the Ten Commandments, as Christians we are often more familiar with the stories in the Books of The Law than we are with other aspects of them. I first started to look at The Old Testament in more depth about five years ago, and am now amazed and fascinated by it. The passage below is from Deuteronomy 6; in Judaism is called The Shema, and Jews say this first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deut 6 v 4 – 9 NLT
The first part of this will be familiar to you, it is often used in church, and is part of the communion service, as well as being the first part of the Great Commandment. The message is simple, love God more than we love other people, places or things.
Even verse 7 is fairly simple – keep telling your children about God and the need to love Him more than anything else, and tell them about Him throughout the day as you go about your daily business.
But verses 8 and 9? Tie words to our hands? And to our foreheads? Wont people think we are weird? And write them on our doorposts and gates? Surely, we ask, God cant expect us to do that – that was an instruction to the Children of Israel, not for us today.
We can interpret these verses in two ways. The first way, as observant Jews do, is to literally do what it says. Their homes have Mezuzah on the doorposts – small ornate cases containing the script of the above passage handwritten in Hebrew on a tiny scroll. During the daily morning services which observant Jews attend, they will wear Tefillin, containers holding tiny scrolls, tied to their arms and head.
Most New Testament teaching suggests that unless we are Jewish, we do not have to follow the rules laid down for the Children of Israel. However, I don’t think that means we can ignore it, or forget it exists. We can interpret these verses in a way which is relevant to us today. The Shema is about reminding the Children of Israel about God, and making their belief in God publicly visible.
- Make sure that your own children, and the children in your life know about God, and the Christian message. If you can, bring them to church, read them Bible Stories, teach them to pray, show them God’s love in a practical way, in all situations.
- Wearing Tefillin is culturally inappropriate for us as Gentiles; having God’s word to hand is, however, very relevant, and not difficult in 21st C Western culture. You can download the Bible onto most mobile phones free of charge, so it is always in your pocket or bag. If you don’t have the right kind of phone, CLC (and the church bookstall) sell cards which you can have in your pocket or bag with favourite Bible verses on them. Instead of tying a Tefillin on your head, you can carry God’s word within your head, by reading the Bible, (even the difficult bits), and memorising a few verses. I am editing this just a few hours after after hearing of death of a wonderful gentleman in my church, and he was a good example of someone who carried God’s word in his head; I heard him quote Romans 8 v 28 so often that it is imprinted in my own head and I find myself quoting it to others.
- These days most door posts are made of PVC (not sure what Jewish households do about that). But there are other ways to remind yourself of God’s love, and to show those who visit your home that you are a Christian, and love God. Look at your home as if you were a stranger visiting for the first time. Is there anything in the rooms in which you take guests to show your faith, or to remind you of it? Bibles visible, Christian images on walls and surfaces, your palm cross?
Where do you read your Bible? In bed? On the sofa? In the garden? In April? Have you tried reading it in less usual places? I first tried this a few months ago, I had a passage I needed to read before a Bible study, and I read it (on my phone) in a waiting room waiting for an appointment. It was ok, so I tried it in other places – coffee shops, hairdressers, other waiting rooms. Sometimes people comment, sometimes they dont. When they do comment, usually they will ask first what I am reading, and when I tell them I am reading the Bible, it provides wonderful openings to talk about God’s love. If you are worried about not knowing what to say, just pray, very quickly that God will put the words into your mouth. IT WORKS EVERY TIME.