Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ecḥad.
This is the opening line of The Shema, the core prayer of Judaism. The English translation is –
Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.
Christians share in the proclamation– Our God is one, God is God alone.
The City of Jerusalem was and is a testament to the One God. In the biblical era it was a city surrounded by and inhabited by people who held many gods. For every mystery, they had a god who held sway over the mystery. And to each god, they erected temples. Not so with the Israelites. They worshiped the One God for which one Temple was sufficient. The Bible is replete with stories which address the question, “Is one God enough?” and which respond, “Absolutely.” These were themes Dr. Jack Beck returned to again and again as we trekked through Israel a few months ago.
On the heels of that trip, I learned N. T. Wright’s friends and former students gifted him with a book of essays they wrote on the occasion of his 70th birthday last year. The book is entitled One God – One People – One Future. This title is lifted from one of his books and is a recurring theme of most, if not all, of his books. There is but One God, and he has revealed himself to one people who place their hope in one future, the future in which God ultimately triumphs and “sets the world to rights” in Professor Wright’s words.
At the outset of our Israel Field Study, Dr. Beck elucidated three overarching proclamations God makes to his people and which resonate throughout the Bible:
I am One.
I am with you.
I forgive you.
On first hearing them, I was overwhelmed with gratitude, but as we traveled through The Land, sensing as well as hearing the Bible stories, these three proclamations rang in my ears again and again. In every location, with every Bible story, I heard one… or two… sometimes all three spring forth.
Even today, I find them reverberating in my Bible reading each day (on those days when I slow myself enough to adequately absorb the text).
What more can we ask than a God who is sufficient, who abides and who forgives?
Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One, indeed.
Humbled, yet assured,
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