Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. — Deuteronomy 6:4
For centuries, the six words of the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6:4 have been used by people of the Jewish faith as part of a devotional prayer. They say it daily, morning and evening. This prayer is called the Shema, which is the first word of the verse. With this prayer, devout Jews declare their exclusive devotion to God.
Those words are part of Moses’ parting speech to the nation of Israel gathered on the plains of Moab in the year 1473 BCE. The nation was about to cross the river Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 6:1). Moses, their leader for the past 40 years, wanted the people to be courageous when facing the challenges ahead. They needed to trust in Jehovah and be faithful to Him as their God. Moses’ final words would understandably have a profound effect on the people. After mentioning the Ten Commandments and other regulations Jehovah had given the nation, Moses made the powerful declaration found at Deuteronomy 6:4, 5.
Did the Israelites gathered there with Moses not know Jehovah their God is “one Jehovah”?
Of course, they did. Faithful Israelites knew and worshiped only one God — the God of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That being so, why did Moses call to their attention Jehovah their God is one Jehovah? Does the oneness of Jehovah relate to loving Him with one’s whole heart, whole soul, and whole strength, as stated in verse 5? And what meaning do the words of Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 have for us today?
The word “one” in Hebrew and many other languages can mean much more than a simple number. It can imply being unique, the one and only. Jehovah is the Maker of heaven and earth, the Sovereign of the universe. There is no real or true God but Him; no other god is like Him (2 Samuel 7:22). Thus, Moses was reminding the Israelites their worship of Jehovah must be exclusive. They were not to follow the people around them who worshiped various gods and goddesses. Some of those false gods were viewed as ruling over certain parts of nature. Others were separate forms of a particular deity.
For example, the Egyptians worshiped the sun-god Ra, the sky-goddess Nut, the earth-god Geb, the Nile-god Hapi, and numerous sacred animals. Many of these false gods were dealt devastating blows by Jehovah through the Ten Plagues. The prominent Canaanite god was Baal, the god of fertility, who also appeared as the god of the sky, rain, and storm. In many places, Baal was the local patron deity as well (Numbers 25:3). The Israelites were to remember their God, the true God is one Jehovah (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39).
The word “one” also suggests unity and oneness of purpose and activity. Jehovah God is not divided or unpredictable. Rather, He is always faithful, consistent, loyal, and true. He promised Abraham his descendants would inherit the Promised Land, and Jehovah performed mighty deeds to fulfill that promise. The passing of 430 years did not diminish Jehovah’s determination to do so (Genesis 12:1, 2, 7; Exodus 12:40, 41).
Centuries later, when identifying the Israelites as His witnesses, Jehovah told them: I am the same One. Before Me no God was formed, and after Me there has been none. Emphasizing His unchanging purpose, Jehovah added: I am always the same One (Isaiah 43:10, 13; 44:6; 48:12). What an extraordinary privilege for the Israelites — and for us — to be servants of Jehovah, the God who is consistent and loyal in all his ways (Malachi 3:6; James. 1:17)!
Yes, Moses reminded the people Jehovah was constant and unchanging in His love and care for them. That being so, it logically followed they were to render Him exclusive devotion, loving Him unreservedly with all their heart, soul, and strength. Young ones too were to follow this way of complete devotion because the parents were to teach the children at every opportunity (Deuteronomy6:6-9).
Because Jehovah is unchanging and constant regarding His will and purpose, it is clear His fundamental requirements for true worshipers remain the same today. For our worship to be acceptable to Him, we too must give him exclusive devotion and love him with our complete heart, mind, and strength. In fact, that is exactly what Jesus Christ told an inquirer (Mark 12:28-31). Let us, therefore, see how we can show by our actions we truly understand Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.
To have Jehovah as our one and only God, we should give Him our exclusive devotion. Our worship of Him cannot be divided or shared with any other gods nor tinged with ideas or practices from other forms of worship. We must bear in mind Jehovah is not just one among many gods; nor is He even the highest and most powerful among them. Only Jehovah is to be worshiped (Revelation 4:11).
In the book of Daniel, we read about the Hebrew youths Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They demonstrated their exclusive devotion to Jehovah not only by abstaining from eating foods that were unclean but also by refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. Their priorities were clear; there was no room in their worship for compromise (Daniel 1:1–3:30).
To give Jehovah exclusive devotion, we must be careful not to allow anything to take, or even to share, the place in our life Jehovah alone should occupy. What might such things be?
In the Ten Commandments, Jehovah made clear His people must have no other gods besides Him and they must not practice any form of idolatry (Deuteronomy 5:6-10). Today, idolatry can take many forms, some of which might be hard to recognize. But Jehovah’s requirements have not changed — He is still one Jehovah. Let us see what meaning that should have for us.
At Colossians 3:5, we find strong counsel to Christians regarding what might break their exclusive relationship with Jehovah. Note greediness is linked to idolatry. That is because the object of one’s desire, such as riches or luxuries, can become so controlling in life, it takes on the role of a powerful god. But when we look at the entire verse, it is not hard to see all the other sinful practices mentioned are in some way connected with greediness and thus with idolatry. The craving for such things can easily take the place of our love for God. Can we take the risk of allowing any of these things to control us, so Jehovah is no longer one Jehovah to us?
No, we cannot.
The apostle John made much the same point when he warned if anyone loves the things in the world — the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life — then the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15, 16). This means we need to examine our heart constantly to see if it is being enticed by worldly entertainment, associations, and styles of dress and grooming. Or the love of the world might involve efforts to attain “great things” (Jeremiah 45:4, 5).
We stand at the threshold of the promised new world. Thus, how important it is we keep well in mind Moses’ powerful words! If we clearly understand and firmly believe Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, we will do all we can to give Him exclusive devotion, serving Him as He approves (Hebrews 12:28, 29).
The oneness of Jehovah also implies unity and oneness of purpose, characteristics we as His worshipers must have as we serve Him. The first-century Christian congregation was made up of Jews, Greeks, Romans, and people of other nationalities. They had different religious backgrounds, customs, and sensibilities. Because of that, some had difficulty accepting the new way of worship or fully relinquishing their former ways. The apostle Paul found it fitting to remind them Christians have one God, Jehovah (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6).
What about the situation in the Christian congregation today?
The prophet Isaiah foretold in the final part of the days, people of all nations would flock to Jehovah’s elevated place of true worship. They would say: [Jehovah] will instruct us about His ways, and we will walk in His paths. (Isaiah 2:2, 3) How happy we are to see this prophecy undergoing fulfillment before our eyes! The result is many congregations have become multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual, giving praise to Jehovah. This diversity, however, can present issues that merit our serious consideration.
For example, how do you feel about fellow Christians who are from cultures very different from your own? Their first language, style of clothing, manners, and food may not be what you are accustomed to. Do you tend to shy away from them and associate mainly with those who have a background similar to yours? Or what if those appointed as overseers in your congregation are younger or are culturally or racially different from you? Do you allow such matters to undermine the unity and oneness of purpose that should exist among Jehovah’s people? What can help us to avoid such pitfalls?
To the Christians in Ephesus, a prosperous and diversified city, Paul offered some practical counsel (Ephesians 4:1-3). Note Paul first mentioned such qualities as humility, mildness, patience, and love. These might be likened to the pillars of a house that keep it standing. But besides having strong pillars, a house needs maintenance, which must be done regularly; otherwise, deterioration could set in. Paul appealed to the Ephesian Christians they earnestly endeavor to maintain the oneness of the spirit.
Each of us should accept it as his or her personal responsibility to contribute to maintaining the oneness in the congregation. What can we do?
First, cultivate and display the qualities Paul mentioned — humility, mildness, patience, and love. Then, put forth earnest effort to promote the uniting bond of peace. We should work to repair, as it were, any fissure-like weaknesses that may appear. Doing so, we contribute to the maintenance of our precious peace and unity.
Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. What a powerful statement! That reminder fortified the Israelites to confront the challenges facing them as they entered and took possession of the Promised Land. Our taking those words to heart will empower us and contribute to the Paradise to follow. Let us go on rendering exclusive devotion to Jehovah by loving and serving Him whole-souled and putting forth earnest effort to maintain oneness in the Christian brotherhood. If we continue to do so, we can look forward with confidence to seeing fulfilled what Jesus said about those whom He will judge as sheep: Come, you who have been blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world (Matthew 25:34).
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If Jesus is calling, answer Him. You can’t afford to miss His call!