Shema: Hear and Understand

My husband complained recently because I often ask “huh?” or “what?” when he speaks to me. I tried to blame it on age but I really can’t blame my habit on an inability to hear what he said. As he pointed out, after saying “huh” I will then respond to his question or comment. The problem is, my ears hear but my mind is not focused on his voice. It takes a moment for me to switch gears, focus on and digest what he said.

The Hebrew word shema was the sermon topic at my church today. My pastor broke down the meaning of each of the Hebrew letters of the word shema. The first letter resembles teeth biting down. The second letter stands for the unknown and the third means to see. Taken together, the word shema means press into + unknown + to see. Or put another way, bite down and understand.

Shema is more than hearing; it is listening and paying attention to the words so that you can understand and obey. It is active, not passive, listening.

The Shema is a Jewish prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Jesus quoted from the Shema when he was asked to name the greatest commandment. I read that the Shema prayer is like a pledge of allegiance to God. It is hearing God and being fully committed to him. It is listening and writing his word on your heart.

Jesus knew that you can hear and not hear intelligently. He knew that just because you have ears to hear, does not mean that you will understand. You can hear God’s word and not act obediently.

Jesus knew that his words would be heard yet not take root in every heart (Matthew 13:19-21).

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Jesus often spoke in parables because his words had a meaning that many people would not grasp.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

 

Whoever has ears to hear, let him understand. Let Jesus sow his word deep in your heart.

3 thoughts on “Shema: Hear and Understand

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