These two verses are commonly known as the Shema. They are titled after the first word of verse 4, the Hebrew word for “hear” or “listen.”
The Shema is the foundational principle for the Ten Commandments, which contain the essence of God’s covenant with Israel. The Shema is considered to be the greatest commandment. When Jesus was asked which commandment was greatest, He cited this passage (Mark 12:28-30).
The Shema is God’s Word, His command, that is worth hearing. It’s an eternal truth which we should stop and listen to. It’s like the television commercial that used to air advertising a certain stock investment firm by showing people stopping whatever they were doing to eavesdrop on a conversation about investing because “when [this firm] talks, people listen!”
Jesus was quite concerned with how we listen to and hear God’s word. Once after telling several parables Jesus said: “Therefore take care how you listen. For whoever has, more will be given to him and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him” (Luke 8:18).
To Jesus, ” listening” to God’s word meant hearing, believing and responding so that you became productive for His Kingdom. And not listening and, consequently, not believing and not responding to God’s word resulted in one’s own ultimate destruction.
So, listening to God’s word is transformative!
So what should we listen to in the Shema?
The Shema contains two main parts. It is divided between a statement asserting the nature of God and a statement enjoining people to a certain response to that understanding.
The statement asserting the nature of God can be interpreted as either God is One Being—of a single essence—or that only the Lord, Him and Him alone, is our God or that God is one Lord. Whatever way you interpret it, it means there is only one God in the universe and He is the Lord and King over it.
He is the all powerful Creator of the universe!
So, if you get this, that God is our Creator, our one and only Lord, then the obvious response is complete devotion to Him.
Just as with marriage, we believe the one whom we marry is our one and only and so we are, therefore, completely devoted to him or her. When you are under God’s covenant, He is your one and only and you, therefore, should be completely devoted to Him.
And when you are completely devoted to God, you will be productive in God’s Kingdom. You will use the light of His word to declare His love and His glory to others: “No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a basket or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lamptstand so that those who come in may see its light” (Luke 8:16).