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. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 6:4-7
You have probably heard or read these verses many times. Maybe you learned about how it is part of the Shema, a prayer that is spoken daily in Jewish tradition. It was so important in Jewish culture that those verses were commonly the first to be memorized by Jewish children.
Hear and Remember
The word Shema means to “hear,” just as the passage begins with a charge for all of Israel to listen well to what God wants to tell them through Moses. In the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses recounts Israel’s history and how God saved them from slavery and is delivering them into the Promised Land He has for them. Moses stands before the nation and instructs them to hear what God has for them, but more than that, to remember.
God had worked in miraculous ways, and He wanted His people to keep that in the forefront of their minds. Previously, God was more visible and tangible while they were in the wilderness. He provided manna daily as food and was visible by day as a cloud and by night as fire. As our four-year-old son learned from this account in church a couple of months ago, God can show me the right way (Thanks, First Look!). God was visible daily, but that wouldn’t always be the case. Israelite children, just like our children, would need to be reminded as well.
Remember and Share
After Moses challenges his listeners to hear and remember, he tells them to share this with their children. He even provides specific times and moments daily when they can remind their children of what God has taught them. You see, now that God would not be as visible as He was before, talking about who He is and all He has done was more important than ever. In order to transfer faith to the next generation, parents would need to tell their children of God’s greatness every day.
Moses gives this charge to all of Israel. Parents are the primary ones tasked with impressing this on their children, but all of Israel was listening. Together, everyone would need to seize the opportunity to help children know God and follow him.
Our charge today is the same. We are called to remember who God is and all He has done. As parents, it’s primarily our job to pass this onto our children. As church leaders, we are called to share this with everyone and help transfer faith to the next generation.
Though we are charged in the same way Israel was, our context is very different. Israel was God’s chosen nation, and though they defied Him countless times, they knew Him. Their children knew Him. God’s commands, laws, and decrees were not new. Later on in chapter 5 of Deuteronomy, Moses says:
“In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” – Deuteronomy 6:20
He then goes on to tell parents to remind their children of how God saved them from slavery and to the land He promised to their ancestors. Moses assumes children will know of God and His commands, he just wants to make sure they know why He gives those commands.
Tell God’s Story
We have the amazing opportunity to serve kids, parents and families who do not know what those Israelite children knew. The charge for parents is the same, but it is our job to help them learn, for the very first time, who God is and how much He loves them. It is our job to create environments at church that tell God’s story to parents and to children. It is also our job to help parents who are brand new to faith begin to pass this on to their kids, just as they’re learning it themselves.
Deuteronomy 6 is a reminder of who God is, all He has done, and the amazing opportunity we have to respond to Him with love. It’s a reminder to tell God’s story well, to all people, and especially to children. Parents, how are you telling His story to your children? Church leaders, how are you telling His story to families? How are you helping parents, especially ones new to faith, tell His story to their children?
Tell God’s story well.
Tell it to your children.
Tell it to all children.
Tell it a thousand times.
Tell it for the first time.
Tell it with your words.
Tell it with your life.