Sh'ma: Accepting the Yoke of G-d's Kingship
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Yeshua answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, HaShem our G-d, HaShem is one. And you shall love HaShem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one G-d, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."
The Purpose of Set-Time Prayer
- Set-time prayer is patterned after the Tabernacle/Temple service. Specifically, it follows the:
- The Time (morning, afternoon, and evening)
- The Place (facing the Temple mount in Jerusalem
- The Order (approaching from outside, and moving inward toward the Holy of Holies).
- The Words (Many of the Prayers are Psalms, and phrases from Temple times, prayed by the Levites and other worshippers.
- Set-time prayer is 100% about fellowship and worship. Even the petitions are focused upon Messiah’s Kingship, asking for the coming of the Messianic age.
- In the absence of a Temple, we have Daniel’s example. Daniel 6:5; 10.
- “Three times daily”?
- Shacharit (morning, corresponding to the time of the morning offerings).
- Mincha (afternoon, corresponding to the time of the last offering).
- Ma’ariv (evening, corresponding to the left-over offerings that are re-arranged on the altar to finish burning through the night).
- Corporate: Ezra and the men of the Great Assembly institutionalized it for all Israel (not just Levites, priests, etc.).
- The first disciples of Yeshua, reinforced the principle, and gave it additional context in light of Messiah’s work. Acts 1:14; 2:15; 3:1; 10:2-3
- Repeatedly throughout the Apostolic Scriptures, Yeshua, Peter, and Paul make either direct reference or allude to phrases from these set-time Prayers.
- It is one of the oldest liturgical prayers.
- It is Scripture, three paragraphs from three passages.
- The Sh’ma is like a “pledge of allegiance.” It is a verbal acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of G-d.
- Yeshua recognized it as the central declaration of the worshipper of the One True G-d. Mark 12:28-33
- The Sh’ma passages themselves are what command the praying of the Sh’ma (after rising and before laying down) twice a day - Shacharit, and Ma’ariv.
- There are traditionally two blessings before, and two blessings after the Sh’ma.
The Purpose of the Sh’ma
- Although the blessings before and after are addressed to G-d Himself, the three paragraphs of the Sh’ma are repeating back G-d’s own words to Him.
- “Sh’ma” means, “Hear, and Heed.” It is a word that demands response and is not passive.
- The second line, “Blessed is the Name…” is not Scripture, but is the response from Temple times upon hearing the Divine Name.
- Paragraph One: Deut 6:4-9:
- In the singular “you” – declaring the Kingship of G-d as individually His subject.
- Acknowledges His “oneness” and our completely loyalty to Him alone.
- Acknowledges individually your responsibility to place His word on your heart, and to act upon them because of obedience of the command to love Him.
- Paragraph Two: Deut 11:13-21:
- In the plural “you” – enjoining us to love G-d, and obey Him.
- Acknowledges G-d’s sovereignty is not limited to a mere mental exercise, but that it is real for today, and forever.
- States our collective responsibility to obey Him as a community. We are not only His “person” – we are His “people.”
- Paragraph Three: Numbers 15:37-41:
- Acknowledges G-d’s “marks” upon us, and our responsibility to remember His words.
Language and Posture
- Praying in Hebrew helps you see “key word” connections in the Scripture passages that are tied together.
- Praying in a language you understand is very important.
- Many parts of the prayers have melody in addition to the ever-present Hebrew cant illation.
- Excessive bowing is frowned upon, because it can become a contest. Normally there are only a few places for bows, at the beginning of the Shemoneh Esrei and toward the end.
- The “Shemoneh Esrei” is called the “Amidah”, ie. the “Standing Prayer.” The picture is of praying in the Temple.
- Worshippers are behaving as if ascending the Temple Mount, and ascending into higher levels of holiness – similar to moving into the Holy of Holies… all to worship the King.