Thursday, February 14, 2013

Poor in Spirit – Torah and Sh’ma

Have you ever seen a Mezuzah?  It’s a little box many Jews put near their front door.  Inside this box is a piece of scripture from the Torah, they call the “Sh’ma.”  This is the single most important command for Jews and Christians, and found in our bibles here:

“Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one! You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Deuteronomy 6:4-5

When people put this scripture on their doorposts, they're obeying the Law of Moses (Torah), for God continued on to tell the people:
“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall …
talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Then it shall come about when Yahweh (your God) brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you didn’t build, and houses full of all good things which you didn’t fill, and hewn cisterns which you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive trees which you didn’t plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you don’t forget Yahweh who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall fear only Yahweh (your God); and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. 

Deuteronomy 6:6-13

This teaching, if followed diligently can help produce poverty of spirit. 

What God knew when He commanded this was that when people get involved in daily living, we get deeply involved in our own little dramas, and we forget that ultimately we can’t do anything by ourselves or by our own strength. 

This command was to a specific group of people: descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as they took the land God had promised them.  But in a broader sense, the same thing is true of us today, isn't it?  After all, did you build your dwelling?  Did you even pay for it?  Did you grow your food or carry your water?  No … ultimately whatever else has happened in our lives, we are all completely dependent on God.  We just forget. 

Not only do we forget to recognize our complete dependency on Yahweh, but we often further compound our problems by trusting in other gods.  People think if they don’t have a job, they can’t have money, and then they won’t be able to eat or enjoy the things they want.  We think if we lose a friend or family member we won’t be able to go on.  And our dependencies are widely varied, aren't they?  Arguably the most popular idol in our culture is the idol of “self.”  Self-esteem, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-worth, even self-discipline … we put way too much power in the hands of “self” instead of the hands of God.  What are your idols?  Do you have the faith to identify them and deliberately destroy them? 

Pay attention to this command.  God knew what He was doing when He commanded this to be constant: when you sit, walk, lie down or rise up … on your forehead and doorpost … this is the constant theme of one’s life, if you would be completely and continuously reconciled to God.  Be surrounded by reminders of Him, His greatness and His love. Count your blessings, and give God the glory.  Talk to Him constantly with gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18).  

Those of us disciples who are not Jewish, we don’t “have to” obey this command, but it’s still a very wise thing.  If you’re truly willing to be Poor in Spirit … make the Sh’ma a regular, frequent, even constant prayer.  Never – even for a moment - allow yourself to forget the Source of your every blessing.  If you are constantly in touch with this reality, you’ll: serve Him, fear Him, love Him and worship Him increasingly and your faith and love will grow.  

Every time you forget Him as you go about your daily life, you get a bit weaker, and each time you recognize Him, you get a bit stronger - because you're learning to rely on God instead of yourself or people or things around you.  

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