Deuteronomy 6:4 – 5 is commonly known as the Shema and represents the genre of the covenant and law from God for the Israelites. The law provides Israel guidelines for successful living from plowing the land to protection from diseases. When the Israelites adhere to these laws, they not only reap the benefits of successful living, but they learn how to live a devoted and reliant life upon God. This devoted and reliant life occurred daily for pious Jews who recited this passage as a prayer morning and evening. In Deuteronomy 6:4 – 5, Moses calls the Israelites to recognize God’s oneness or singularity and implores them to wholeheartedly love Him.
God’s oneness is seen in the phrase, “the Lord alone” (Deut 6:4, NRSV). The Hebrew lexicon translates ehad to alone, which means one, same, single, or first. The word, ehad occurs nine hundred and sixty times in various forms in the Old Testament. For three instances in particular, Zech 14:9, Job 31:15 and Mal 2:10, the term denotes God’s finite existence over the decayed world and the one God that created all men. In the New Bible Commentary, McConville asserts that God is the only God, because His power covers every nation.
Moses calls the Israelites to wholeheartedly love God. God is divinely unique and is set apart from everything else. In Theological Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Brevard S. Childs, Moberly clearly identifies this understanding, by expounding upon the characters represented in Song of Songs. A man describes his love for the one and only woman who stands apart from all other women. In this context, only she matters and is held above all others. By elevating God above all else, the Israelites would possess total and exclusive allegiance to God. Throughout Deuteronomy, Moses continues to define the expression of wholehearted love to God. Israelites should hold to God (Deut 11:22, 30:20), listen and obey Him (30:20), fear Him (10:12), walk in His ways (10:12; 11:22; 19:9; 30:16), and serve Him (10:12; 11:13). By possessing these qualities, the Israelites demonstrate a love for God based on total commitment rather than emotion.
God’s authority and singularity allows Him to call the Israelites to love Him wholeheartedly. God’s oneness and loving Him wholeheartedly transcends to Christianity, where Christians are called to recognize the oneness of God and respond with wholehearted love (John 10:30, Luke 14: 25-27, NRSV). Like the pious Jews who prayed twice daily declaring God's oneness, we as Christians should imitate this example of devotion. This devotion can be in the form of daily prayer or setting time aside to meditate on the singularity of God. I believe such meditation will deepen our wholehearted love of God.