“Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”—DEUT. 6:4.
SONGS: 138, 112
1, 2. (a) Why are the words of Deuteronomy 6:4 well-known? (b) Why did Moses speak those words?
FOR centuries, the six words of the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6:4 have been used by people of the Jewish faith as part of a devotional prayer. They say it daily, morning and evening. This prayer is called the Shema, which is the first word of the verse. With this prayer, devout Jews declare their exclusive devotion to God.
2 Those words are part of Moses’ parting speech to the nation of Israel gathered on the plains of Moab in the year 1473 B.C.E. The nation was about to cross the river Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land. (Deut. 6:1) Moses, their leader for the past 40 years, wanted the people to be courageous when facing the challenges ahead. They needed to trust in Jehovah and be faithful to him as their God. Moses’ final words would understandably have a profound effect on the people. After mentioning the Ten Commandments and other regulations that Jehovah had given the nation, Moses made the powerful declaration found at Deuteronomy 6:4, 5. (Read.)
3. What questions will we consider in this article?
3 Did the Israelites gathered there with Moses not know that Jehovah their God is “one Jehovah”? Of course, they did. Faithful Israelites knew and worshipped only one God—the God of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That being so, why did Moses call to their attention that Jehovah their God is “one Jehovah”? Does the oneness of Jehovah relate to loving him with one’s whole heart, whole soul, and whole strength, as stated in verse 5? And what meaning do the words of Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 have for us today?
THE ONENESS OF JEHOVAH
4, 5. (a) What is one meaning of the phrase “one Jehovah”? (b) How is Jehovah different from the gods of the nations?
4 Unique. The word “one” in Hebrew and many other languages can mean much more than a simple number. It can imply being unique, the one and only. It does not appear that Moses was here refuting the false religious teachings of a triune god. Jehovah is the Maker of heaven and earth, the Sovereign of the universe. There is no real or true God but him; no other god is like him. (2 Sam. 7:22) Thus, Moses was reminding the Israelites that their worship of Jehovah must be exclusive. They were not to follow the peoples around them, who worshipped various gods and goddesses. Some of those false gods were viewed as ruling over certain parts of nature. Others were separate forms of a particular deity.
5 For example, the Egyptians worshipped the sun-god Ra, the sky-goddess Nut, the earth-god Geb, the Nile-god Hapi, and numerous sacred animals. Many of these false gods were dealt devastating blows by Jehovah through the Ten Plagues. The prominent Canaanite god was Baal, the god of fertility, who also appeared as the god of the sky, rain, and storm. In many places, Baal was the local patron deity as well. (Num. 25:3) The Israelites were to remember that their God, the “true God,” is “one Jehovah.”—Deut. 4:35, 39.
6, 7. What is another meaning of “one,” and how did Jehovah prove to be “one”?
6 Consistent and Loyal. The word “one” also suggests unity and oneness of purpose and activity. Jehovah God is not divided or unpredictable. Rather, he is always faithful, consistent, loyal, and true. He promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the Promised Land, and Jehovah performed mighty deeds to fulfill that promise. The passing of 430 years did not diminish Jehovah’s determination to do so.—Gen. 12:1, 2, 7; Ex. 12:40, 41.
7 Centuries later, when identifying the Israelites as his witnesses, Jehovah told them: “I am the same One. Before me no God was formed, and after me there has been none.” Emphasizing his unchanging purpose, Jehovah added: “I am always the same One.” (Isa. 43:10, 13; 44:6; 48:12) What an extraordinary privilege for the Israelites—and for us—to be servants of Jehovah, the God who is consistent and loyal in all his ways!—Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17.
8, 9. (a) What does Jehovah require of his worshippers? (b) How did Jesus emphasize the import of Moses’ words?
8 Yes, Moses reminded the people that Jehovah was constant and unchanging in his love and care for them. That being so, it logically followed that they were to render him exclusive devotion, loving him unreservedly with all their heart, soul, and strength. Young ones too were to follow this way of complete devotion because the parents were to teach the children at every opportunity.—Deut. 6:6-9.
9 Because Jehovah is unchanging and constant regarding his will and purpose, it is clear that his fundamental requirements for true worshippers remain the same today. For our worship to be acceptable to him, we too must give him exclusive devotion and love him with our complete heart, mind, and strength. In fact, that is exactly what Jesus Christ told an inquirer. (Read Mark 12:28-31.) Let us, therefore, see how we can show by our actions that we truly understand that “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”
GIVE JEHOVAH EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION
10, 11. (a) In what sense is our worship of Jehovah exclusive? (b) How did Hebrew youths in Babylon demonstrate their exclusive devotion to Jehovah?
10 To have Jehovah as our one and only God, we should give him our exclusive devotion. Our worship of him cannot be divided or shared with any other gods nor tinged with ideas or practices from other forms of worship. We must bear in mind that Jehovah is not just one among many gods; nor is he even the highest and most powerful among them. Only Jehovah is to be worshipped.—Read Revelation 4:11.
11 In the book of Daniel, we read about the Hebrew youths Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They demonstrated their exclusive devotion to Jehovah not only by abstaining from eating foods that were unclean but also by refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. Their priorities were clear; there was no room in their worship for compromise.—Dan. 1:1–3:30.
12. In giving Jehovah exclusive devotion, against what must we be on guard?
12 To give Jehovah exclusive devotion, we must be careful not to allow anything to take, or even to share, the place in our life that Jehovah alone should occupy. What might such things be? In the Ten Commandments, Jehovah made clear that his people must have no other gods besides him and that they must not practice any form of idolatry. (Deut. 5:6-10) Today, idolatry can take many forms, some of which might be hard to recognize. But Jehovah’s requirements have not changed—he is still “one Jehovah.” Let us see what meaning that should have for us.
13. What could we begin to love more than Jehovah?
13 At Colossians 3:5 (read), we find strong counsel to Christians regarding what might break their exclusive relationship with Jehovah. Note that greediness is linked to idolatry. That is because the object of one’s desire, such as riches or luxuries, can become so controlling in life that it takes on the role of a powerful god. But when we look at the entire verse, it is not hard to see that all the other sinful practices mentioned are in some way connected with greediness and thus with idolatry. The craving for such things can easily take the place of our love for God. Can we take the risk of allowing any of these things to control us, so that Jehovah is no longer “one Jehovah” to us? No, we cannot.
14. What warning did the apostle John give?
14 The apostle John made much the same point when he warned that if anyone loves the things in the world—“the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life”—then “the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15, 16) This means that we need to examine our heart constantly to see if it is being enticed by worldly entertainment, associations, and styles of dress and grooming. Or the love of the world might involve efforts to attain “great things,” such as through the pursuit of higher education. (Jer. 45:4, 5) We stand at the threshold of the promised new world. Thus, how important it is that we keep well in mind Moses’ powerful words! If we clearly understand and firmly believe that “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,” we will do all we can to give him exclusive devotion, serving him as he approves.—Heb. 12:28, 29.
MAINTAIN CHRISTIAN ONENESS
15. Why did Paul remind Christians that God is “one Jehovah”?
15 The oneness of Jehovah also implies unity and oneness of purpose, characteristics that we as his worshippers must have as we serve him. The first-century Christian congregation was made up of Jews, Greeks, Romans, and people of other nationalities. They had different religious backgrounds, customs, and sensibilities. Because of that, some had difficulty accepting the new way of worship or fully relinquishing their former ways. The apostle Paul found it fitting to remind them that Christians have one God, Jehovah.—Read 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.
16, 17. (a) What prophecy is being fulfilled in our day, and with what result? (b) What could undermine our unity?
16 What about the situation in the Christian congregation today? The prophet Isaiah foretold that “in the final part of the days,” people of all nations would flock to Jehovah’s elevated place of true worship. They would say: “[Jehovah] will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (Isa. 2:2, 3) How happy we are to see this prophecy undergoing fulfillment before our eyes! The result is that many congregations have become multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual, giving praise to Jehovah. This diversity, however, can present issues that merit our serious consideration.
17 For example, how do you feel about fellow Christians who are from cultures very different from your own? Their first language, style of clothing, manners, and food may not be what you are accustomed to. Do you tend to shy away from them and associate mainly with those who have a background similar to yours? Or what if those appointed as overseers in your congregation—or in your circuit or branch—are younger or are culturally or racially different from you? Do you allow such matters to undermine the unity and oneness of purpose that should exist among Jehovah’s people?
18, 19. (a) What counsel is mentioned at Ephesians 4:1-3? (b) What can we do to help the congregation stay united?
18 What can help us to avoid such pitfalls? To the Christians in Ephesus, a prosperous and diversified city, Paul offered some practical counsel. (Read Ephesians 4:1-3.) Note that Paul first mentioned such qualities as humility, mildness, patience, and love. These might be likened to the pillars of a house that keep it standing. But besides having strong pillars, a house needs maintenance, which must be done regularly; otherwise, deterioration could set in. Paul appealed to the Ephesian Christians that they earnestly endeavor to “maintain the oneness of the spirit.”
19 Each of us should accept it as his or her personal responsibility to contribute to maintaining the oneness in the congregation. What can we do? First, cultivate and display the qualities that Paul mentioned—humility, mildness, patience, and love. Then, put forth earnest effort to promote “the uniting bond of peace.” We should work to repair, as it were, any fissurelike weaknesses that may appear. Doing so, we contribute to the maintenance of our precious peace and unity.
20. How can we demonstrate that we understand that “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah”?
20 “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” What a powerful statement! That reminder fortified the Israelites to confront the challenges facing them as they entered and took possession of the Promised Land. Our taking those words to heart will empower us to face the great tribulation just ahead and contribute to the Paradise to follow. Let us go on rendering exclusive devotion to Jehovah by loving and serving him whole-souled and putting forth earnest effort to maintain oneness in the Christian brotherhood. If we continue to do so, we can look forward with confidence to seeing fulfilled what Jesus said about those whom he will judge as sheep: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.”—Matt. 25:34.