Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (NRSV)
Chapter 6Now this is the commandment-the statutes and the ordinances-that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, Verse 2so that you and your children and your children's children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Verse 3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Verse 4Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Verse 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Verse 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Verse 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Verse 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, Verse 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Keeping God’s words in our hearts is a recurring theme in the Hebrew Scriptures. We are to have God’s commandments so deeply ingrained within our bodies that it is like they are inscribed upon the very flesh of our hearts. In much of Western Christian theology, we find tendencies to try to separate our minds and our thinking from our bodies and our feelings. We believe we can somehow “think our way into salvation.” I know I have been guilty of this mindset at times. However, this text is about how God’s words become so embodied within our physical beings that the words become a part of our actual bodies. It’s like we move around every day with God’s words as an essential piece of our biological functioning—held in our hearts, bound to our hands, affixed on our foreheads, ever-present before us, carried within us as we “live and move and have our being.”
Maker of all, help us to embrace the holiness and giftedness of our bodies. May we not only know your words, but also carry them in our hearts. May we experience ourselves and our neighbors as essential parts of Christ’s body, broken and given for the world. Amen.