Welcome to part five of the V’ahavta, the penultimate line of the prayer that comprises part of what Jesus said was the Greatest Command.
Deuteronomy 6:8, in its simple interpretation, refers to tefillin. Yes, I know for my Christian readers, this is so foreign, and I am trying to avoid the temptation to spiritualize it away somehow, but we already know what the spiritual abstraction is: the abstraction is loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength/resources. The progress through the V’ahavta is one of more and more concrete expression in the real world.
Ripple Effect: Love on the Body
As an illustration, if the word God is commanding your today is the droplet in the image above, the heart is spot where the drop will finally come to be integrated with the water. From there, the effects ripple outward into our mouths, to our children, into our houses (physical and spiritual), along the pathways that we travel, permeating our evenings and our mornings.
But by Deuteronomy 6:8, how far out have these ripples traveled? They have made it from the heart to an active acceptance in some faith-act on the body, binding them as a sign on our right hands, and having them as frontlets between our eyes. Indulge me as I repeat myself: this cannot mean only that our right hands, our power, is ready for the service of God, an idea already covered, and it cannot mean only that we think and direct our minds on these godly pursuits, also covered earlier. This is physical, tangible, even more tangible than words spoken to our children. In this verse, the love of God is showing up in our muscle memories and our bodies. If we’re told to bind them, that implies that we can choose not to, that it does not happen automatically. It represents a choice, an act of will.
For some beautiful messianic insights, and to quell some of the questions that might come up if you’re encountering this scripture as a gentile believer in Jesus, I’d refer you to First Fruits of Zion’s article and book (advertised at the bottom of the article page) on the matter.
Does God wear tefillin?
I’ve been adding the “What does this teach us about God” flip to this series, but on this one, I’m going to refer you to the experts on the idea of God wearing tefillin. I remember how I reacted when I first heard of that idea, but now that I see this pattern of “on earth as it is in heaven” all over in the commandments, it doesn’t seem so strange anymore. If you follow the link, enjoy it. It’s interesting to see how they use scripture to come to the conclusion that they do.
Moses explicating Moses
Meanwhile, for all of us, Deuteronomy 11:13+ has a kind of explication of parts of the V’ahavta, too, some promises Moses teases out of the lines related to prosperity and security. The themes make sense: if you love God with all your soul (nephesh), the life within you, God will care for your life and send rain so that the environment sustains you. If you speak to your children and bind the commands as a sign on your right hand and as frontlets between your eyes, God will watch over the battlefield. Environmental threats and human threats thwarted from on high.
Quick personal note on tefillin: One drizzly morning, I popped over to my Jewish friend’s house. He was in the midst of morning prayers when he came to the door, so he opened the door and waved me inside without speaking to me, carrying on with his prayers, barely audible and incomprehensible in rapid Hebrew. He was not a tall man, but that image of him at the door, arm wrapped up so much leather with the phylactery box on his head, was quite a shock. I remember thinking he looked like a spiritual cowboy, larger than life, a swaggering Clint Eastwood of the spirit realm, and as I was standing by waiting for him to finish, I felt I’d slipped into an entirely different kind of world.
Maybe that moment had such an impression on me partly because prayer in my world, at least at that time, was not necessarily something done in a position of power. He wasn’t hunched over, wasn’t kneeling, wasn’t making himself small and weak. He was standing before the King of the Universe, warring with words to close the gap between heaven and earth.
Kneeling before the Lord is perfectly biblical, I’m not saying anything against that. It’s odd, though, that as I searched for an image of a man praying on Unsplash for this post, all I found were defeated postures. I tried “warrior” as a key word, and got an abundance of women in powerful stances. “Soldier” pulled pictures of inactive men in uniform. I’d like to address this more in a different post, but men of God, this thing is about to shift. You are going to step into your glorious destinies, and you’re going to do it with strength, and you are going to do it with the united blessing of your wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters who will celebrate your victories and admire the unconquerable power of Christ in you.
Life, health, strength, and peace,