Shema: The Remedy for the Lifeless Soul
There is a popular notion which has continued to prevail in the minds of many people who read the Scriptures regarding the gospel. The understanding is regarding the power and availability of the Spirit of God to transform the life before the death of Christ, and before the Day of Pentecost was fully come. The gospel summarizes that power which alone can transform the believing child of God, being called by the apostle Paul as “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” (Rom. 1:16) It is the gospel which brings the power of God; it is the gospel which alone brings a man to salvation; therefore without the manifest power of God witnessed in your life, you cannot be saved. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
Many today are asking the question how can I be born again? Nicodemus had the same question. The Jewish leader read the Scriptures only to behold fleshly forms powerless to save of themselves. Beholding the forms that proclaimed the gospel, he was blind to the lesson that they were teaching; hearing the Scriptures read every Sabbath, he was deaf to it’s true importance unto salvation. Could many of us be making the same mistake?
By Grace Through Faith
It is a grave mistake to think that there was no gospel committed to the people of God before the cross of Christ. Those who affirm such things go as far as to state that there was no power of God available before that time; that would suggest that no salvation was available to those who lived before the Messiah died, and such, since they cannot be born again, will not see the kingdom of God. But thankfully the Scriptures are clear on this subject. We’re told that the ancient Israelites had just as much as the gospel (and therefore just as much power available to the believer) as the early Christian believers. The apostle, in writing of that generation that died in the wilderness of Kadesh Barnea, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2) The gospel was available to them, and therefore the power of God unto salvation, but without faith in them that received it then, as with those who hear but fail to obey the gospel today, it cannot produce a new birth experience by the Holy Spirit. It is through the gospel that a man may be born again, but only through faith can such an experience be made manifest.
HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN INTRODUCTION
But we want to examine, in a practical manner, how may a man be born again, and what is the proof that such an experience has been apprehended by the believer in the gospel? The born again experience, where a man walks in the Spirit, may be realized by a single Hebrew word, “Shema”. It is regarded as one of the most important words in the Hebrew language, and is found in the first great commandment: “Hear [heb. Shema], O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
In English, it might not seem apparent why this word is so important. We know that it’s important to “hear”. We’re told that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). But the word shema takes in so much more than the auditory sense of the word where sound is perceived. Shema means to hear and obey; hearing, also as to perform that which is heard in obedience. Thus to truly hear will mean a continual self-surrender and self-sacrifice to the claims of the word of God. Shema blends both the reception of the spoken word with the doing of the word into one expression. It’s similar to when you tell your children, if they are misbehaving, “Listen to me!” Yet it is also translated in the Scriptures as “obey” (Exodus 19:6).
THE LIVING SHEMA
Most significant is that Jesus, is truly the living “shema”. John the apostle calls Him “the Word of God” (John 1:1). The book of Genesis calls Him the “Voice of God” who was “walking” in the garden. When God the Father speaks, it is Christ who performs that which was spoken. When The Father says, “Let there be light”, it is the living Word of God who caused the light to shine forth from the darkness. Even the Roman Centurion saw the evidence that nature itself responds in “shema” obedience to the work and authority of Christ as the Word of God, and was commended for greater faith than Jesus had witnessed in all of Israel. The Shema is the twofold act of both hearing and obeying, and the living Shema (Jesus), always performs and makes manifest the will of the Father. “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:29)
Here Christ drew from the words of the Father through Isaiah the prophet, saying “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”(Isaiah 55:11) Thus, the true hearing of the Word of God cannot but produce obedience, seeing as it is the Word of God which “shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Walking in obedience to the hearing of God’s word is an exercise of faith, and it is obedience called forth by the living Shema, Jesus Christ.”Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”(1 Peter 1:23)
HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN
When we understand the significance of the Hebrew word “Shema”, the command to hearing and “the obedience of faith” which comes with it, the word of God must necessarily produce the thing in the hearer which it says. We’re told that this receiving of the Word of God is how we are born again. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”(1 Peter 1:23) Luke 8:11 tells us that “the seed is the Word of God.” Seeds produce life when they are sown into good ground. So it is with the Word of God. It must necessarily bear fruit in season within the heart where it is found.
The apostle James tells us to “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21) What is able to save the soul? The engrafted word; the word that is planted. The Psalmist calls this experience the hiding of the Word of God in the heart, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11) What is able to save us? The word of God. What causes us to cease from the constant commission of sin? The word of God. And for this reason, the Lord stated, “And these words which I have commanded you this day shall be in your heart.” If the words are written in the heart, they will have an effect there.
Hear ye and Obey
And if they are written in the heart, not only upon the Day of Pentecost by the believers in the gospel, but by those Israelites in the wilderness to whom this promise was given, then they were told to speak the word always. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) Speak and teach the words that are planted in the heart always, that you might not only be made strong in them, but that you might plant them and strengthen their roots in the hearts of others. But the only way to effectively have this seed of God’s word planted in your heart is to keep it there, meditate on it, and walk in the light of it while you have it’s rays, however dim they may be. If you do this, the fruit of God’s word becomes a part of you.
RESISTING SIN OR RESISTING THE WORD?
This is what hinders so many from bearing a fruitful experience in the Spirit of God. They do not keep the thing which God sows into their heart. Jehovah sowed His law from Mount Sinai into the Israelites, but it was not long until the seed was aborted from them, and failed to produce any real fruit. When the Israelites made the golden calf in sin, instead of resisting against sin that it might die, they cast out the Word of God from them. If you are to be born again by the power of that word, how can this experience take place if you are continually rebelling against what God is seeking to instruct you in? It’s little wonder that there are fruitless professed Christians devoid of the Holy Spirit; they are too constant in living in sin, and resisting God’s word, rather than living by God’s word and resisting sin! And what happens if we resist the word? To resist the word hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he made war against the collective body of “the son of God” (See Exod. 4:20-21). “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” (2 Timothy 3:8)
Corrupt minds resisting truth are not born of incorruptible seed, but are numbered with the false prophets. We’re told that the word of God “is truth” (John 17:17), and that “the fruit of the Spirit is in all…truth.” (Eph. 5:9) Therefore to resist the word of God is to resist truth, and is to resist the fruit of the Spirit. For this reason not only is there an abundance of sin in the professed church, but there is also abounding grave heresies. “We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God hears us not. Hereby we know the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6) Be assured that error will never produce a born again experience, but will give corrupt fruit after the flesh, where no sweet love, joy, or peace from the Spirit of truth may be found.
Yet must we resist sin if we are to be born again? Absolutely yes, we are to be “struggling against sin” resisting it “unto blood” (Heb. 12:4), that the holy thing which is planted in the heart, teaching us the way of God, might remain in us and bring forth the fruit that is meet for one who is repentant. It is also that we must remain humble and teachable, that the Word of God may impart it’s light in truth to us, making the seed of God strong within us, removing not only the sins it reveals, but also the errors it exposes.
GROWING IN THE WORD OF GOD: COMING TO MATURITY
When the Word of God confronts the disposition of a sinful heart, here is hard, unbroken soil that the roots of the Word of God must necessarily break through. This is a painful process of denying yourself, that the tiny seed of righteousness might become a mighty branch borne with the glorious abundance of fruit to the Heavenly Father. The seed must grow in you, and not be thrown out. It must come to bud, and blossom, and coming to maturity unto fruitfulness. The Word of God itself is to bring about a cleansing from unholiness, which will produce that Word’s holiness “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in them which walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3). This requires you to walk in obedience to the word preached as an revelation of living faith in that word. Christ’s object for His church is entirely this experience, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…” (Ephesians 5:26) Indeed, “wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word… Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalms 119:9-11)
THE SIGN OF GOD OR THE MARK OF THE BEAST
May we yet have this experience within us? We may. In the shema commandment in Deuteronomy, after it says we are to have the words in our heart, and to speak of them continually, it states that we are “bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:8) A sign upon our hands is the work of obedience, which is the sign which corresponds to God’s word; our works and His word say the same thing. Yet the frontlets between the eyes is something much more. What are “frontlets”? It is literally an immoveable, fixed crown. “Let these words of Mine be unmoveable in your mind, as a fixed crown that cannot be shaken”. Some Jews, who make a pretense of religion, but have not the Spirit of the word abiding in them, put a literal fixed strap around their heads, with a box on their forehead containing the words of Deuteronomy. But is this what the Father meant? God forbid! He wants a mind that is so deeply stayed in the Word of God, that nothing can uproot it. Like the warning given in the parable of Christ, that no unclean fowl, no devil, can snatch the word of God away. Thou are not fearful in your mind, for the Word declares the perfection of His love and perfect love casts out all fear. Thou are not angry in your mind, that the Word of God’s law of kindness might have gracious dominion over you and keep you in perfect peace. Thou are not full of doubt and unbelief, for the Word of God is thy meat continually to strengthen thy faith, that thou mayest walk in it.
Persevere and Overcome
A deep experience in the Shema will make you immoveable in your mind, and working consistently to reveal the faith that cometh by the Word of God. Nothing but this experience will suffice to resist the advances of the enemy of souls in the mark of the beast crisis. When the law of the beast is written as a sign upon the hand, and not the sign of God’s word written on the hand, and when the law of the beast is fixed immoveably in the mind (ye can be sure this is like a crown of thorns), instead of the crown of the life of God’s truth, God’s people are to have nothing less than the experience of the Shema fully borne out in our lives. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12)
Be of Sober and Sound Mind
The more we think on the word of the living God, the more we speak on the word of the living God, the more we walk in this word of the living God, the brighter the light of life grows within us; it becomes us who have truly listened (shema) to His voice. We become a fountain of washing of the water of His word to those about us if they will not resist it; we become sowers of the good treasure of heaven, even the Spirit of God. If we therefore let the Word of God cleanse us from this sin, we will keep the Word of God, that is, we will keep the seed sown in our heart, and since the words of God are “spirit and they are life” (John 6:63), it will cause us to grow up into mature sons and daughters of God, into the full measure of Christ’s image. If we resist walking against it, we will manifest that we are walking in it; and it will shape us and mold us into perfection, for “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Ps. 19:7). Those who have such an experience of the warfare against sin, that they might be cleansed and sanctified by the Word, have the promise: “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.” (Psalms 37:31)