Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Deuteronomy 6:4
What do you believe? We all must believe in something. For some it’s a sports team. For others it a political party or a particular form of government. Still some believe in the almighty dollar; many believe in themselves. We all must believe in something; it’s likely that we believe in a variety of things…a special cocktail of belief that’s unique to each one of us.
The Lord instructed the Israelites on the importance of believing is something…specifically in believing in him. In fact, one of the defining hallmarks of Israel was their radical belief in and dependence upon the Lord God Almighty. This is what the book of Deuteronomy is all about.
Deuteronomy is a sermon…well really it’s three sermons. Picture this if you will. The Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness for the past 40 years. Now they stand at the threshold of the promised land…their feet poised on the brink of walking into the land flowing with milk and honey. Their leader, Moses, is about to die and new leadership is about to step in. This is a moment, an occasion, of profound significance. It’s here in this moment that Moses gathers all the people together and preaches to them.
In the first of these sermons Moses recalls all that God has done for them throughout the 40 years of wilderness wandering. In the second they’re called to radical belief and dependence upon the Lord their God in this new wilderness of promise. And in the third Moses reminds them that despite their unfaithfulness…in fact they will be unfaithful…the Lord will remain faithful to them; he’s always just a repentant turn away!
Deuteronomy then is a collection of sermons expressing the three interrelated elements of belief. There is a past component: who are you; where have you been; whose are you; how have you gotten here; who has gotten you here? There is a calling component: because of all of this so what; what are you supposed to do; what does this mean for your life? And finally there is a future component: what happens if we fail; life’s hard, is there a plan; what does the future hold? Past grace, present call, and future promise; these are the three elements of belief.
For the Israelites this verse is known as the Shema. It is their most basic confession of belief. We Christians share this with them…the Shema is ours as well. We just expand it a bit. Each week we stand and boldly state what we believe in. I believe in God, the Father almighty…I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…I believe in the Holy Spirit…Here again we have those same three elements: past grace, present call, and future promise. Who and whose are we? We are God’s…made by him, saved by him, and holy by him. Where where we? We were nothing, we were sinful. Where are we now? We are sons and daughters of God, heirs of the kingdom, standing just this side of the Jordan river on the brink of crossing the threshold of the eternal promised land. What now? We are to be the church…a communion of forgiveness and new life. What about the future? There is forgiveness…and resurrection…and everlasting life. Just think how awesomely bold this great confession of belief is that we say each and every week amid the noisy gongs and loud clanging cymbals of this world!
Belief, we must have it. For the people of God our belief is always in one…one God in three persons…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That one belief in the one God is expressed in three ways: past grace, present call, and future promise. So, what do you believe?