The Lord Is One

December 24, 2022

When the Shema is recited by the Jewish people (and Christians), it begins with this statement: Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Pronouncing God’s name YHWH is considered a sin, so the Jewish people use other words to replace God’s holy name. Sometimes it is ‘HaShem’ (the name); sometimes it is ‘Adonai’ (which means ‘master’ or ‘Lord’); Jesus used ‘our Father’ and ‘the Power’.

In this instance ‘Adonai’ ‘Lord’ is used. The Hebrew word for ‘one’ is ‘echad’.

So in Hebrew, ‘the Lord is one’ is said as ‘Adonai echad’.

Hear O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. Shema Yisrael: Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad.

(Why don’t you try to say it out loud right now). What does it mean to say that God is one?

This is not about whether God is a trinity or not (as the Jewish mystics speak of God expressing Himself in ten different emanations, and they see no difficulty in reconciling those ten emanations with the truth of God’s singularity in (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Nor is it a statement on the composition of God’s essence or nature.

When the Torah says that ‘God is one’, it is simply declaring monotheism—meaning that there are no other foreign false gods or idols that can contend for His title of God.

God is the only God; the absolute reality; there is no creator and power but He. He is singular and unique, and the only one in His own category. He is preeminent above all other beings. He is above time and space and is present everywhere.

And while we describe Him in terms that are understandable, such as ‘His face’, ‘His voice’, ‘His arm’, He does not have any physical attributes and is not subject to any limitations whatsoever.

Everything else has its partner—heaven and earth; sun and moon; Adam and Eve, the present world and the future world. The only exception is—God. (Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah)

He is ‘Number One’. The Lord is One. 

Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah writes:

This God is One God; He is neither two nor more than two but One to whose unity there is no comparison … therefore, it is impossible for Him to be but One. And, the knowledge of this doctrine of monotheism is a mandatory commandment, saying: ‘The Lord our God is One God’.

Consequently Maimonides listed, ‘the Lord is One’ as the second positive command which applies not to just the Jewish people but ultimately to all mankind everywhere.

The Yoke Of The Kingdom Of Heaven

The sages teach that by reciting the Shema, we are acknowledging God’s oneness and agreeing to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and strength.

We therefore willingly take upon ourselves what is called the ‘yoke of heaven’ or ‘the yoke of the kingdom of heaven’ in our lives. (Mishnah Berakhot 1:1 Talmud Berachot 13a:21)

To acknowledge that there is a God who exists and that He is one—is to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.

This belief is the fundamental philosophy of monotheism: the God who exists—is also the Creator—and is also the God of the Bible—who is also the God of Israel—and He alone is in this unique category called God: there is none like Him in heaven, earth or under the earth—He is one.

Therefore, the opposite is also true—to cast off the yoke of the Kingdom is defined as denying God’s existence, following foreign gods, and revealing facets of the Torah that differ from its true meaning. (Rashi on Deuteronomy 13:13; Talmud Shevuot 13a:1)

Only after believing that God exists, and that He is one, does a person realise that he must follow God’s commands and His plan of salvation. (Talmud Berakhot 14b:11)

Faith Towards God

The Bible compels us ‘to acknowledge the oneness of God‘ and therefore accept the ‘yoke of the Kingdom of heaven’.

The patriarch Abraham believed that God is the one true God. It was because of this truth that He left his father’s household in Haran, where idols were sold and worshipped, and gathering up his small family, headed for Canaan. This was Abram’s message for the world—‘the Lord is one’.

The prophet Isaiah repeated it as the core belief of his people who faltered in the face of idolatry.

Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God.

Jesus declared God’s oneness to be the first command—echoing the Torah and Rabbis; and as such He drew the praise of the scribes.

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Vs 32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.”

The Apostle Paul confirmed the Jewish commitment to ‘the Yoke of the Kingdom.’

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Messiah, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.”

James the brother of Jesus acknowledged that it is right to believe in one God but even the demons believe—and tremble. (James 2:19)

The writer of the book of Hebrews says that when a person first believes in the existence of God—it is the very starting place of his faith and should prompt him to say, ‘If God really does exist, and He created me, then does He require something more from me?

Yes He does.

But to discover what it is I must begin to diligently seek Him for that answer and I will be rewarded for my effort.

Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Paul brings the point home—that faith in the existence and oneness of God truly is the very core of our faith, but it subsequently leads us to learn and understand that the one true God has His own unique plan for our salvation—Jesus the Messiah.

1 Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Why don’t you spend a minute or so reflecting on the oneness of God—the God you love and worship and the wonder of His plan for your salvation.

Hear O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.



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