Aids to Devotion

Aids to Devotion – Deuteronomy 6:1-9

The Israelites recited the Shema daily. This confession of faith, which takes its name from its first word, begins: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). By reciting it every day, they were to remember that they were not like the other nations who had pluralistic religions. They worshipped the one true God; no other gods were acceptable.

They were also to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (v. 5). To the Israelites the “heart” was the organ of the will, the source of decisions; the “soul” who we are at the core of our being; our “strength” the measure of our intensity. Jesus viewed this as the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28–30). It is liberating to know that Christianity is not primarily a burdensome set of duties, but a love relationship with the God who loves us.

Both the Shema and the call to love God were so important that Moses was emphatic that the Israelites pass them on to their children. They were to “impress” on or repeat the laws to them, and “talk about them” at any time of the day or in the midst of any activity (Deuteronomy 6:7). Persistent teaching by parents is key to a child’s growth (Proverbs 1:8; 22:6). Today, we can contribute greatly to a child’s learning by having Scripture-oriented conversations at mealtimes, family devotion time, just before sleeping, and during family trips

Moses then advocated the creative use of symbolic visual aids to help impress biblical truth on the mind (Deuteronomy 6:8–9). He suggested using armbands and headbands with scriptural messages to remind the faithful that they must always let God’s laws influence their lives, and inscriptions at the entrances to houses and property. Unlike how Israel’s neighbours used these with a superstitious attitude (much like how people use charms and talismans today), the Israelites transformed, redeemed, and used these methods to communicate God’s truth.

Christians today are sometimes afraid to use symbols because people may give to the symbol the honour that should go to what the symbol symbolises. And their fear is not unfounded. However, when used with the right posture of the heart, symbols can be useful tools to encourage us in our faith journey.

Jesus himself instituted two symbolic rituals, the Lord’s Supper and baptism. We can also use symbols with biblical messages like banners, armbands, and pictures. My grandparents had hung on their wall a painting of some roses with the words “kept by the power of God” (1 Peter 1:5 KJV). It obviously had a huge impact on me as a child. When I preached my first sermon in my late teens, that is the text I used! These rituals and visual aids have no power in themselves, but are constant reminders of the truth of who God is. We must use symbols as aids to devotion, and not objects of devotion.

Think Through:

List ways in which your fear of God and love for God motivates you as a Christian.

What are some ways Christians can turn aids to devotion into objects of devotion? Are there any things that you need to repent from?

Taken from Journey Through Deuteronomy: 60 Biblical Insights by Ajith Fernando..

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