The Lord Is One

Travis West

READ : Deuteronomy 6:4-9
1 John 4:7-12

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deut. 6:4)

Different communities of faith interpret the claim that God is “one” in different ways. Jewish communities around the time of Christ began to understand it to claim God's quantitative singularity—God was one, not three. Christian communities have often interpreted it to affirm God's essential unity, but with room for diversity: three in one. Both of these interpretations have mostly to do with a particular theological doctrine: monotheism. Is God one, and only one? Is God three in one?

The Hebrew word “one”—echad (eh-HAHD)—can actually be interpreted both ways, so the argument will likely always remain. More recent reflection on the Lord as echad has moved away from theological propositions and in a direction that is likely much more faithful to the understanding of the original hearers. The connection between Deuteronomy 6:4 and Deuteronomy 6:5 has to do with the lack of division. As the Lord is one, so Israel is to love the Lord with “all . . . all . . . all” of themselves. God is “one” because God loves people with an undivided heart; we have God's undivided attention!

To say “God . . . is one” is to be reminded that God is love, which in turn inspires our loving response. Far from being a theological proposition about God's number, this verse is a revelation of God's character. God is one (read: God is love), and so our only appropriate response as God's people is to be one in the same way!


Lord, thank you for being one.