As you’ve probably noticed by now, I love Jewish history and am always fascinated by how much there is to learn as a Christian from understanding the ancient practices of God’s people. On that note, in studying the traditions of the Hebrew rabbis, it’s interesting to me that there were actually seven or eight prevailing schools of thought amongst the teachers of the law as it pertained to interpreting the Scriptures. While we assume that Jesus took issue with the entire population of Pharisees over hypocrisy and legalism, the truth is that not all of them were the same; some were extremely rigid and others were much more gracious. Because their views differed so greatly, these opposing sects of teachers would frequently debate and have lively discussions about various aspects of the Torah. However, in spite of their divergence, there was one fundamental issue on which they all agreed — the first and most important commandment was shemah — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
My friend, now more than ever, it’s important to shemah. The very essence of life is found in the presence and power of your great God, and you need Him to stay afloat in this increasingly crazy and chaotic world. As you vow to love Jesus with every ounce of your being — heart, soul, and strength — you will grow deep roots to hold you firm, even when the troubles of life hit hard and threaten to tear down what you’ve built up. While your mind may be assailed by confusion, doubts, and uncertainty, your innermost being can be at rest, secure in the unshakable love of the Savior in whose strong arms you are held. As you keep your heart anchored in Him, your soul will be flooded with the peace that surpasses understanding, and it will overflow to bring hope to those around you.