Shalom and Sh’ma

We gathered in an ancient stone alley just inside the city gates of Jerusalem. It was early morning, quiet and cool, on the tenth day.

As usual, we prayed the Shema together. The Shema (shu-MAH) is the daily prayer that has been recited by devout Jews – morning and evening – for millennia.

Hear, O Israel:
The LORD is our God,
The LORD alone!

Love the LORD your God,
With all your heart,
And with all your soul,
And with all your might.

And love your neighbor,
As yourself.

Jesus, being Jewish, prayed the Shema and lived the Shema. It’s the first prayer learned as a Jewish child and the final prayer spoken at death. 

It’s recorded that many first-century Christians were rounded up, impaled on stakes; dismembered and disemboweled; tarred and set on fire; crucified, and ravaged by beasts for sport – and that they died with the prayer of Shema on their lips. 

Love the LORD your God,
With all your heart,
And with all your soul,
And with all your might.

Millions of Jews prayed the Shema on cattle-cars and bitter-cold road marches during the Holocaust. They prayed the Sh’ma together – aloud and in unison – while facing the firing squads or entering the gas chambers.

And love your neighbor,
Because he is like yourself.

When the teachers of the law asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” his answer should have surprised exactly no one. He offered them the prayer of Sh’ma.

For nine days, and for over a hundred miles, we’d followed our rabbi around the incomparable land of Israel. We’d carefully wound our way up the unforgiving Sinai mountains where God carried – and married – his people after delivering them out of Egypt. 

“I love you, Israel. I am your husband, and you are my bride. Stay faithful to me, as I will always be to you.”

We crossed the craggy wilderness where David hid from King Saul, and crawled through caves above the Red Sea where the Essenes lived holy and pure lives, far from the rampant corruption of the Temple priests. 

Love the LORD your God,
With all your heart,
And with all your soul,
And with all your might.

We hauled ourselves up Mt. Carmel to see where Elijah battled the god of Baal. And climbed Mt. Gamla, high above Galilee, to see where 5,000 Jews hurled themselves off the mountain rather than bow to Caesar.

Hear, O Israel:
The LORD is our God,
The LORD alone!

We walked the narrow Jericho road up to Jerusalem. And we walked the wide, paved roads of Caesarea. And every morning and every evening we said Sh’ma.

And on the tenth day, we walked Jesus’ last day: the betrayal; the scourging almost to death; stumbling up, up, up the narrow Via Dolorosa with a splintery cross on a raw back; leaving the side city gate to enter the rock quarry of Golgotha; crucified; naked and at eye-level with passers-by; the thirst; the dread; the loneliness; the deafening silence of his Father.

Was Jesus praying the Shema throughout his last day? I believe he was.

Forgive them, Father.

I give up my body, my strength, my own will, for your beloved bride.

Love them, Father, as you love me.

Israel (which means “wrestle”) has given me much to consider, and I’m sure much of my wrestling will get worked out in this space. But for today, I want to eat the Shema. I want to chew on it – have it take root deep in my soul’s marrow – so that I might walk more and more in the way of Jesus.

Forgive them, Father.

All I have – my body and my will – is yours.

Into your steadfast care I commit my spirit.

Because you, alone, are my faithful God.

Shalom to you and yours today,

Kim

7 responses to Shalom and Sh’ma

  1. Flo Wolfe says:

    Powerful journey, Kim. Though I cannot physically walk with you, I can pray Sh’ma with you.

  2. Helen Davy says:

    Thank you Kim. You moved me to tears.

  3. Kim says:

    I took this Journey with Rod & Libby in 2012. This brought me right back there…blinking back tears. Thank you!

  4. Nancy Tran says:

    Kim,

    Can you give some contact info about your tour guide? My husband and I have talked about going to Israel and I would love to learn more about this trip.

    Thank you, Nancy Tran

  5. Kim says:

    Nancy! GTI Tours. “Intensive Study Tour”. Rod and Libby Vansolkemma. I couldn’t recommend it (or them) any more! Go!

  6. Daily in His Presence says:

    Thank you for this, Kim.

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