Shema God – One or Three
Shema God - One or Three

Shema God – One or Three

         The Word of God in its prophetical sense was proclaimed; in its written form was produced as Scripture and the Word incarnate is Lord Jesus and all comes about in the power and control of God the Holy Spirit, for what is emanating from God cannot be without Him. The One who controls is the One who takes shape and the same One brings this about – completing the purpose of God in His Triune form. Adam’s fall was anticipated and predestined to be overcome in the incarnation where what was proclaimed and written ‘became flesh’. All three forms reveal the truth of God to humanity blinded by the darkness of sin that has engulfed it to separate them back from darkness into His Light. 

        God revealed in creation process – As per the Scripture we learn that God first created the heavens and thereafter the earth and we are not sure how much of a time-gap was there between the creation of the two. The first mention of the Spirit of God as a separate entity from God is mentioned the, after the state on the earth as being inhabitable is mentioned. Despite the presence of the Spirit there is complete darkness over the whole earth till the Word of God comes “Let there be light” and this with the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, fills the whole universe with the wonderful light of God’s glory as revealed through the Word. Without the Word of God nothing happens and God ‘saw and appreciated the Light’ for it was His glory revealed on the earth and darkness was also allowed to remain but separated from light. Other lights in the form of sun, moon and the stars were created after three days “to divide day from night, for signs and seasons, and for days and years… and to give light on the earth”. The purpose and effect of the light of the first three days, was different from that of the created sources. The first light initiated the creation process that could make the earth habitable and the created things of the first four days shower their bounties on all without discrimination. The earth reveals its rich resources, the sun showers light while the trees and plants provided their fruits/produce to all as compared to the living beings created on fifth and sixth days. (Genesis 1)  

        The Triune nature of God is revealed in the creation process itself. We have God the Creator, His Spirit ‘hovering over the’ earth and God’s Word revealing the glory of God to light up the whole universe. This same light is then again revealed to be the source of illumination for the New Jerusalem whose ‘light is like a most precious stone’ and ‘there is no need for the light of the sun or moon for Lamb is its Light’ (Revelation 21:11;23). The other important disclosures of the creation process are – God does everything through His Word only and His Spirit combines with the Word to empower and give impetus to cause the desire action. Thus in the very first chapter of the Scripture, God reveals His Triune nature to the world in very clear terms.

        What is Shema – The Israelites were commanded by God to understand the unity of the Three that “The LORD (YHWH) our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This verse is the basis on which the Jewish elders refused to accept the claims of God’s only begotten Son, Lord Jesus, about His Divine status and they charged Him with blasphemy for making this claim. The opening words of this statement “Shema/Shama, O Israel” or Hear, O Israel, are taken as a command from God provided through Moses to all Israelites. The second part of the command is disputed by the Jews to this day and is the basis of rejection of Christian interpretation of Old Testament prophesies and other evidence about the Holy Trinity. Thus though they were then waiting for the coming of the Savior Messiah, they still wait for His coming ignoring Lord Jesus.

        “Shema, O Yisrael! YHWH Eloheinu YHWH echad” is the complete verse in the Hebrew language where translation of the word ‘echad’ is done differently by both Jews and believers. ‘Echad’ as per the Ancient Hebrew scholars is not a definite noun but an adverb showing the inclusive and not absolute Oneness of God. The Jews translate this verse as “Hear O Israel! Yehovah our God Yehovah is one” based on the absoluteness of echad as accepted by them. Echad means “one or alone” and thus this could also be translated as “Yehovah our Yehovah alone is God” implying that there is no other God. This then comes in conformity with the repeated message from God to the Israelites, through the prophets in the Old Testament, about there being no other gods accept Him.

       The inclusive oneness of God as meant in the verse (Deuteronomy 6:4) actually is in relation to what is already seen about God being His Word and Spirit also, thus establishing the Holy Trinity as God in His oneness and in three. The same word echad used about 2,500 times in other places in the Scripture is translated to mean inclusive and not absolute status. God declares morning and evening make one (echad) day (Genesis 1:5); man and woman in marriage (arranged for Adam and Eve by God) become one (echad) (Genesis 2:24); the whole assembly of Israel was one (echad) (Ezra 2:64). Thus Scripture reveals the same word echad being used to mean oneness of two or more things into oneness due to union. Another use of this word in the Scripture further illustrates this interpretation of the meaning of the word echad. “The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him’. Then take another stick of wood and write on it, “Belonging to Ephraim and all the Israelites associated with him’. Join them together into one stick so that they will become one (echad) in your hand” (Ezekiel 37:15-17). The two sticks carrying different names are symbolically supposed to be seen to become one and that is the “Oneness of God” also where God, His Word and His Spirit, though three become One in unity and essence in the shema command to Israel. 

       Exclusive oneness of beings – The Hebrew word ‘yachid’ has been used in the Scripture to specify absolute singularity of beings and is used more than 200 times, where this word means ‘only one, solitary or substantive’. Abraham was commanded by God to take “your son, your only (yachid) son….. for a burnt offering on one (echand) of the mountains”  and the same expression of ‘only son’ is used twice more for Isaac in the same chapter (Genesis 22:2,12,16). The same word ‘yachid is used for showing the exclusive oneness as of an only son in Amos 8:10 and Jeremiah 6:26 also. While expressing his anguish at his sufferings at the hands of the wicked men, he seeks God to save his soul and his life (yachid) from them. Similar solitariness or being alone is expressed by the psalmist in psalm 25:16 and 68:7 using the same word yachid. Thus wherever one singular being is represented in the Scripture the word used is different from other places about composite oneness.  

       Even while mentioning God in the Scripture, the plural word Elohim has been used in many places where God’s plurality is in action while in other places Eloah, the singular noun is written. Thus it is written, “God (Elohim) said, Let us make man” (Genesis 1:26); “LORD God (Elohim) said, Man has become like one of us” (Genesis 3:22) and “Who will go for us” (Isaiah 6:8). Abraham is known to have met God face to face, yet he also used Elohim for God on many occasions (Genesis 20:11;13) and the singular and plural both versions are used repeatedly in a single chapter in Old Testament where Adonai and Yahweh are used with Elohim for the LORD God (2 Samuel 7:20;22) and uses the same differently in verse 23 “from other nations and their elohim” or their multiple gods. The Scripture specifically refers to two Gods on various occasions – “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Genesis 19:24) – thus referring to one LORD on earth and one in heaven. In like manner the Psalmist refers to Elohim Your Elohim has anointed you (Psalm 45:7-8) referring to at least two Gods. “I will have mercy on Judah and save them by Yahweh their Elohim” (Hosea 1:7) and many more such references point to more than one God of Israel.  

          “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, there (am) I; and now Adonai Yahweh and His Spirit has sent Me. Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I (am) Yahweh your Elohim who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:16-17). God the Creator is distinguished from His Spirit and the Redeemer of Israel through the command of Yahweh as recorded by the prophet.

         Why was “Shema” given to Israelites – From the very beginning itself God has set holiness as the most essential trait of a human being and to this is linked the sin of disobedience. It is for this reason that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and when sin further increased ‘God was greatly grieved that He had created mankind’ and He decided to destroy everything from the face of the earth. But mankind was saved for Noah and his family found grace in the eyes of the LORD and he was commanded to prepare the Ark (Genesis 6:6-8). Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by raining brimstone and fire from heaven because of their sin and only Lot and his family was saved (Genesis 18-19). God had separated light from darkness, man from animals and likewise Israel from others and God called Israel “My son” , His chosen people (Exodus 4:22). God commanded the Israelites to obey all His commands and in Deuteronomy 28 the first 14 verses list out the blessing that would come on them for this while verses 15 to 68 reveal the curses that would befall them for their disobedience. Israelites were moving into the land of Canaan where the inhabitants were being destroyed for their sinful living and a new ‘holy people of God’ were being brought in to occupy the same.

         Shema was given to the Israelites to caution them from falling prey to the worship of many gods that the Canaanites were involved in and that is why the command to worship only one God – Yahweh – who is mentioned as Elohim- and no other god. While attacking Jericho, the command was very clear, “destroy it and all who are in it except Rahab and her family” and “to abstain from the accursed things lest you be accursed.. and make the camp of Israel a curse” (Joshua 6:17-18). The capture of Jericho was completed in the power of God and not one Israelite suffered death despite the fact that this was a big fortified town. The next battle was for Ai, a small habitation, and Joshua dispatched only 3,000 men to capture it. But the Israelites fled before the men of Ai and 36 were killed after being chased by the men of Ai. Joshua and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for the great advantage of the earlier victory was lost and God finally revealed Achan as the culprit for having concealed a Babylonian garment, 200 shekels of silver and 50 shekels of gold from Jericho. Then the Israelites took Achan, his sons, daughters and animals and the accursed things of Jericho outside the camp and stoned them to death and created a huge plie of stones over them (Joshua 7).

         However, despite the warnings and the commands, the Israelites repeatedly strayed away from Yahweh, their God, and worshipped other gods of the other nations. They offered sacrificial offerings, incense and even the sacrifice of their own children to these gods. They worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth, the gods of the Cananites and went into slavery for eight years (Judges 3:7-8). After the reign of King David, Solomon, his son, though accepted as the wisest man, sinned  by worshipping other gods and eventually his son Rehoboam became the cause of split of the kingdom into the Ten Tribes Kingdom and In Jerusalem the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin. What was warned against through the command of ‘shema’, the Israelites ended up doing the same and went into captivity.

         The very purpose of the command of God, known even to this day as ‘Shema’ and recited by the Israelites before every prayer, was defeated and they sinned against Yahweh God by worshipping other gods. This happened due to the influence of the women they married from other nations, loss of faith and even narrow personal gains. However, this verse has been taken as the sole command, disregarding the Scripture as a whole – even various prophesies concerning the Messiah which were fulfilled completely in Lord Jesus. The two disciples travelling from Jerusalem to Emmaus met the resurrected Lord and during the journey “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Saul, a scholar of the Old Testament searched the same knowledge under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and became enlightened while others continue to reject Him.

         Are we to study the Scripture as a whole or base our faith on only one verse?   


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