Deuteronomy 6:4 was Israel’s most basic confession of faith, the Shema. ‘Yahweh your Elohim, Yahweh is one. The God of Israel is the Creator of the universe, Genesis 1 and Israel’s Covenant Lord, Genesis 15, Exodus 3:1-12, 6:1-8. When Israel was on the verge of Promised Land Moses taught them the Great Confession, coupled with the Great Commandment, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 22:36-38.
1. God alone
What are we saying as we stand with Israel and confess, ‘The Lord your God is one’? He is one because he is the only God. This statement underlines the most important distinction that must be made between God and all other things: only God is God, Isaiah 40:25, 28a, 43:10-11, 45:22. Everything else in creation had a beginning. He is eternal. Everything else is subject to change. He remains the same. Everything else is located in the dimensions of space. The heaven of heavens cannot contain God. He is everywhere present in the fullness of his being. All other things are finite and imperfect. God alone is infinite and perfect. He is the One than whom none greater cannot be thought, known or imagined, Matthew 5:48. The Lord you God is not simply one because he is the best of many. He stands alone as one of a kind. For he alone is God and there is none like him, Psalm 96:5.
How then can we know him? He is the infinite Creator and we his creatures. Our knowledge of him cannot be the same as his knowledge of himself. God knows himself fully. We only known him partially. In fact, we can only know him if he is pleased to reveal himself to us. He has done that in world that he made, the sense of God he has inscribed on our hearts, the word he has written, the Son he sent and Spirit he poured out. Romans 1:18-23, Mat 11:27, 1 Cor 2:10-12.
2. Only God
In confessing ‘Lord your God is one’ we speak not only of the uniqueness of God, but his essential unity. God is pure Spirit without body or parts, John 4:24. When the Bible speaks of God in bodily terms, saying he has hands, eyes, ears, etc, we need to remember that his self-revelation in Scripture is accommodated to our capacity. Divine self-revelation is analogical, speaking to us of God in terms that are an analogy of our everyday experiences.
Neither is God is comprised of parts. In anything that is made of parts some components are more essential than others. A functioning car needs a chassis, engine, wheels and so on. Other things like upholstery, or a glove compartment are nice to have, but not essential. Similarly, some body parts more essential than others. I could live without a limb, but not without my brain or heart. As God is a perfect being, nothing in him can be less than absolutely essential. If anything in God was ‘nice to have’, but he could do without it, that thing would be ungodlike. All that is in God is God, Exodus 34:6-8, 1 John 1:5, 4:16. The divine attributes are not detachable 'parts' of God, but properties of his perfect, infinite, unchanging, eternal being.
Because he is a simple unity, God is never conflicted, with his love pulling him one way and his justice another. He always acts lovingly and justly. We sing, ‘His love is as great as his power, an knows neither measure or end’. God is absolutely sovereign. But he cannot will anything evil. God’s will is not separable from his goodness, or righteousness, Ephesians 1:4-5. God’s will cannot be detached from his power, which means his will always prevails, Ephesians 1:11. The simplicity of God means we can trust him totally. We need never fear that his raw power will crush us, for his power is good. We need never fear that his will won’t be carried out, for with Almighty God nothing is impossible. So we can sing, Lamentation 3:22-24.
3. God not alone
God alone is God and only God, yet God is not alone in the sense that he is solitary. In the one God are more than one; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Does that mean there are 3 parts to God? No three persons, each of whom is fully God. It is not that the Father has the main chunk of God and the Son and the Spirit have what’s left between them. God cannot be chunked up in that way. Son is of the same divine being as the Father, as is the Holy Spirit.
What distinguishes the three is not that one has more of the divine being than the others, but that the Son is eternally generated by the Father, and that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. That the one God is also three was revealed above all when the Father sent his Son into the world at the incarnation of Christ and the Father and Son poured out the Holy Spirt at Pentecost. This was hinted at in Old Testament, but the mystery was disclosed more fully in New Testament era: Matthew 3:13-17, Acts 2:33.
Deuteronomy 6:4: our God is supreme in being and mighty in his works as Creator and Lord. In Paul's version of the Shema Jesus included in divine identity, 1 Corinthians 8:6. As is the Spirit, who is often mentioned in t he same breath as the Father and Son, Mat 28:19-20, 2 Cor 13:18.
4. One God in faith, worship & witness
Faith - in God alone we trust, Psalm 62:5-8
Worship – Love the Lord your God, who loved you in Christ and has poured his love into your heart by the Holy Spirit Deut 6:5, Romans 5:8, 5. Theology must lead to doxology, 1 Timothy 6:15-16.
Witness - this is the God we proclaim. He is not a bigged-up version of ourselves. We cannot domesticate God, or cut down to size. He is the God of the gospel, Rom 1:1-5, 16-17, 3:21-22, 24-26.
Behold your God: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one'.