“Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”
SONGS: 138, 112
1, 2. (a) Why are the words of Deuteronomy 6:4 so well-known? (b) Why did Moses speak those words?
FOR hundreds of years, Jewish people have used the words of Deuteronomy 6:4 as part of a special prayer. This prayer is called the Shema, which is the first word of that verse in Hebrew. Many Jews say this prayer every day in the morning and in the evening to show their exclusive devotion to God.
2 Those words are part of the final talk that Moses gave to the nation of Israel. In the year 1473 before Christ, the nation was in the land of Moab, ready to cross the Jordan River and conquer the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 6:1) Moses had led the people for 40 years, and he wanted them to be courageous in order to face the difficulties that would come. They needed to trust in their God, Jehovah, and to be faithful to him. So Moses’ final words encouraged them to do just that. After he mentioned the Ten Commandments and other laws from Jehovah, Moses gave the people the powerful reminder we read at Deuteronomy 6:4, 5. (Read.)
3. What questions will we consider in this article?
3 The Israelites knew that Jehovah their God is “one Jehovah.” Faithful Israelites worshipped one God, the God of their forefathers. So why did Moses remind them that Jehovah their God is “one Jehovah”? What is the connection between that truth and loving our God with our whole heart, whole soul, and whole strength? And how do the words of Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 apply to us today?
OUR GOD IS “ONE 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 expression “one Jehovah” means that Jehovah is unique, that no one is equal to or like him. Why did Moses use that expression? It does not seem that he was trying to prove that belief in a trinity was wrong. Jehovah is the Creator of heaven and earth and the Ruler of the universe. He is the only true God, and no other god is like him. (2 Samuel 7:22) So Moses’ words would remind the Israelites that they should worship only Jehovah. They should not imitate the people living around them, who worshipped many false gods and goddesses. Those people believed that their gods could control parts of nature.
5 For example, the Egyptians worshipped the sun-god Ra, the sky-goddess Nut, the earth-god Geb, the Nile-god Hapi, as well as many animals. Jehovah showed that he was superior to these false gods when he brought the Ten Plagues. The main Canaanite god was Baal, a false god who the Canaanites believed brought life into existence. He was also believed to be the god of the sky, rain, and storm. In many places, people relied on Baal for protection. (Numbers 25:3) The Israelites were to remember that their God, “the true God,” is unique. He is “one Jehovah.”
Jehovah God is not divided or unpredictable. He is always faithful, consistent, loyal, and true
6, 7. What is another meaning of “one,” and how did Jehovah prove to be “one”?
6 Consistent and Loyal. The word “one” in the expression “one Jehovah” also means that his purpose and actions are always reliable. Jehovah God is not divided or unpredictable. He is always faithful, consistent, loyal, and true. For example, he promised Abraham that his descendants would live in the Promised Land. And Jehovah performed many powerful miracles in order to keep that promise. Four hundred and thirty years after giving that promise, Jehovah’s purpose had not changed.
7 Hundreds of years later, Jehovah called the Israelites his witnesses and told them: “I am the same One. Before me no God was formed, and after me there has been none.” Jehovah also made it clear that his purpose never changes when he added: “I am always the same One.” (Isaiah 43:10, 13; 44:6; 48:12) What a great privilege the Israelites had to serve a God who is consistent and always loyal! We have the same privilege today.
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 Israelites that Jehovah’s love and care for them would never change. In return, Jehovah expected them to give him their exclusive devotion and to love him with their whole heart, soul, and strength. Parents were to teach their children about Jehovah at every opportunity so that young ones too would worship only Jehovah.
9 Jehovah never changes his purpose, so he will never change his basic requirements for his true worshippers. If we want Jehovah to be pleased with our worship, we must give him exclusive devotion and love him with our whole heart, mind, and strength. Jesus said that this is the most important commandment. (Read Mark 12:28-31.) Let us learn how we can show by our actions that we believe 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 Jehovah is our one and only God. We give him our exclusive devotion when we worship only him. We cannot worship any other gods or include any false ideas or practices in our worship to Jehovah. He is not simply a god who is above other gods or who is more powerful than them. He is the true God. We should worship only Jehovah.
11 In the book of Daniel, we read about the young Hebrew men Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They showed their exclusive devotion to Jehovah by refusing to eat foods that were unclean for worshippers of Jehovah. And Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down to an idol, Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. For them, Jehovah came first. They were completely loyal to him.
Jehovah must have first place in our life
12. In giving Jehovah exclusive devotion, against what must we be on guard?
12 Jehovah must have first place in our life. If we want to give him our exclusive devotion, we must be careful that other things do not take his place. What could those things be? In the Ten Commandments, Jehovah said that his people should not worship other gods. They should not practice any kind of idolatry. (Deuteronomy 5:6-10) Today, there are many kinds of idolatry, and some of these may be hard to recognize. But Jehovah has not changed his requirements. He is still “one Jehovah.” Let us see how we can avoid idolatry today.
13. What could we begin to love more than Jehovah?
13 At Colossians 3:5 (read), we read about things that could ruin our exclusive friendship with Jehovah. We see that greediness is related to idolatry. How so? When we have a strong desire for something, such as for a lot of money or luxuries, it can control our life, like a powerful god. All the sins mentioned at Colossians 3:5 are related to greediness, which is a type of idolatry. So if we have a strong desire for these things, we could begin to love them more than we love God. Then Jehovah would not be “one Jehovah” to us. We would never want that to happen.
14. What warning did the apostle John give regarding our love for God?
14 The apostle John emphasized something similar. He warned that if anyone loves the things in the world, that is, “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) So we need to examine ourselves regularly to see whether we love the world. We may discover that we have started to be attracted to the entertainment, people, and styles of dress and grooming of this world. Or we may want to achieve “great things” by seeking higher education. (Jeremiah 45:4, 5) The new world is very near. So we need to remember Moses’ powerful words! If we understand and really believe that “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,” we will give him our exclusive devotion and serve him the way that he wants.
MAINTAIN CHRISTIAN UNITY
15. Why did Paul remind Christians that God is “one Jehovah”?
15 The expression “one Jehovah” helps us to understand that Jehovah wants his servants to be united and to have the same purpose in life. In the early Christian congregation, there were Jews, Greeks, Romans, and people of other nationalities. They had different backgrounds, customs, and preferences. Because of that, it was difficult for some of them to accept a new way of worship or to abandon their former practices. So Paul needed to remind them that Christians have one God, Jehovah.
Jehovah wants his servants to be united and to have the same purpose in life
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 Christian congregation today? The prophet Isaiah said that “in the final part of the days,” people from all nations would come together to worship Jehovah. They would say: “He will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) We are happy to see this prophecy being fulfilled today! Our brothers and sisters come from different places, speak different languages, and have different cultures. But we are united in our worship to Jehovah. However, because we are so different, sometimes there may be difficulties.
17 For example, how do you feel about brothers and sisters who are from different cultures? Their language, clothing, manners, and food may be very different from yours. Do you avoid them and mainly spend time with those you have things in common with? How do you feel about the elders in your area who are younger than you or who are from a different race or culture? If we are not careful, we may allow those differences to affect us and damage our unity.
18, 19. (a) What counsel is mentioned at Ephesians 4:1-3? (b) What can we do to help the congregation stay united?
18 How can we avoid such difficulties? Paul gave practical advice to Christians living in Ephesus, a rich city with people from many different backgrounds. (Read Ephesians 4:1-3.) Paul mentioned qualities such as humility, mildness, patience, and love. These qualities are like strong pillars that keep a house standing. But to keep a house in good condition, hard work is also needed. Paul wanted the Christians in Ephesus to work hard to “maintain the oneness of the spirit.”
19 All of us must do our best to keep the congregation united. How can we do that? First, we need to cultivate and show the qualities that Paul mentioned: humility, mildness, patience, and love. Second, we need to work hard to promote “the uniting bond of peace.” Misunderstandings are like small cracks in our unity; thus, we need to work hard to resolve these misunderstandings so that we keep peace and unity among us.
20. How can we demonstrate that we understand that “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah”?
20 “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” That is a powerful statement! That reminder strengthened the Israelites to endure difficulties when they entered and conquered the Promised Land. Those words can strengthen us too so that we can make it through the great tribulation and contribute to the Paradise to come. Let us continue to give Jehovah our exclusive devotion. We need to love and serve him with our whole heart, mind, and strength, and we need to work hard to keep peace and unity with our brothers. If we continue to do those things, Jesus will judge us as sheep and we will see his words come true: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.”