One of the oldest prayers performed by the Jewish people every morning and night is a prayer called the Shema. It says:
HEAR O Israel, the LORD is our God, the Lord is One. And as for you, you shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, and with all of your STRENGTH. Deuteronomy 6:4-5
This is the first and most regarded out the set of three prayer series – other two taken from the passages Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41.
The first word of this prayer is “Hear or Listen.” It is the Hebrew Word “Shema.” That is actually where the prayer gets its name.
Hearing is amazing activity of receiving sounds that performed by humans. It is performed with the physical organ called the ear. The Bible connects both entities.
“The Ears that Hear (
shema) and the eyes that see, the LORD has made them both” Proverbs 20:12
Biblical Principle of Hearing
Hearing in the Hebrew Biblical concept is not just about sounds going through your head. It also means to listen, focus, take notice and pay attention. Let’s go through some examples.
Jacob had two wives. However, he loved Rachel more than Leah. Therefore when Leah gave birth to her second son, she called him Simeon (Shim’on) which means hearing. Why did she call him that? Here’s the reason:
Because the LORD heard(
shema) that I am not loved, He gave me this one too. (Gen 29:33)
The usage of this word shema in this context implied that God took notice of her predicament and helped her out with another son.
Respond & Act
To shema also means to respond to what you hear. In many instances in the Scriptures, there have been cries for help to unto the Lord in this regard. Here’s one example:
shema) me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me,and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1
This wasn’t just a cry for God to help her, it was a cry for God to respond and act on their behalf. David wanted God to have mercy upon him and answer his prayer.
In the Bible, sometimes when a word wants to be given much emphasis, it is used twice in a sentence or an instruction. Here is one example:
shema) attentively ( shema) the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth. Job 37:2
Shema used twice in this passage gave an emphasis on the hearing. Notice the phrase “hear attentively”? Well, you get what I mean.
After God called His people out of Egypt, He led them to the Mount Sinai to form a covenant with them. This was what He told them:
“Now if you obey me fully (
shema shema) and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine…”
Exodus 19:5 NIV
God laid much emphasis on the listening part. Listening to him meant more than just hearing what He said. It meant keeping His covenant. Did you notice the English translation used here was “obey fully? This brings us to the next and most important aspect of this word shema.
To Listen Is To Obey
Obedience and listening are two sides of a coin. There is no different Hebrew word for obedience. It is the same word shema.
Samuel was angry with Saul because Saul disobeyed the instructions the God gave him through Samuel. Samuel reprimanded him with these words:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying (shema) the LORD? To obey(shema) is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22 NIV
When Saul was told to do something; what would have showed that he actually listened to the instruction? Well, acting on it. When you obey, you prove that you have actually heard.
The same idea is seen in Paul’s writing about faith:
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Romans 10:17 NKJV
The word hearing mentioned twice gave it more emphasis. And Paul didn’t just mean listening to the word of God. He meant faith comes when you act on what you listen. James, the brother of Jesus, had the same ideology of how faith works.
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works (action), is dead.”
James 2:17 NKJV
The Word Shema is not just about listening. It’s about giving respect to the speaker and performing the necessary actions to prove that you have indeed heard. Learn to shema more closely.