The Watcher and Influencer of hearts

“If you say, “Behold, we didn’t know this;” doesn’t he who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, doesn’t he know it? Shall he not render to every man according to his work?”

Proverbs 24:12

Yahweh is he represented as one who weighs the heart and keeps the soul. Scripture conveys the idea that Yahweh is observing, and guarding, and watching at all times. To say that he observes is to say that he keeps watch, as one who is guarding a fortress. A watcher must be alert and aware at all times of what’s going on. But a watcher is also a preserver, or a guard who protects what he has guarding. These meanings bleed together in the descriptions of how God is intimately involved with the inmost motives of his people.

Proverbs 16:2: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but Yahweh weighs the motives.”
Proverbs 21:2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Yahweh weighs the hearts.”

As a weigher of hearts, he is depicted as a measurer, balancing motives on a scale to see how they measure up. But there is also conveyed a notion of being a regulator of those motives which drive our actions. In this sense, Yahweh is depicted as being actively involved in molding and shaping one’s thoughts toward a desired outcome.

Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is in Yahweh’s hand like the watercourses. He turns it wherever he desires.”

Many great minds over the centuries have pondered these aspects of Yahweh’s involvement within the deepest recesses of those whom he has created. Some have concluded all is predestined and Yahweh’s hand guides everything without exception. Others have concluded that the free will of mankind is the only explanation for how God can hold us accountable for our actions.

However, I am of the opinion that these types of passages demonstrate how all of creation is balanced on the point of a needle. The very actions and motives of our heart are not only known by God but also at times purposefully planted with intent. To my mind, this is why predestination and free will are both sustainable arguments from Scripture, because they are both true, but neither is satisfactory in the extreme.

To be wholly predestined is to be a robot acting out a pre-programmed course of events. To have complete free will is to acknowledge the sovereignty of man above the will of God, hence, making mankind God.
The reality is that God holds men accountable for the integrity of their actions, and yet is actively supporting, directing, and regulating those actions for his perfect will.

I believe the practical key for our understanding lies in recognizing the outcome of our actions which are based on our motives. The more in line our actions are with God‘s word, the more we can know we are doing what’s right in his eyes. The integrity of our actions are the feedback loop on our motives. While this indefinable process of God’s influence on our heart and motives strains our understanding, we are not left without a recognition of the results of that influence in our lives.

We should join with the pleas of David, as he seeks Yahweh’s strength and wisdom in molding and shaping his heart, so that his actions would reflect and conform to the will of  God.

Psalm 51:10-13,17: “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Don’t throw me from your presence, and don’t take your holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways. Sinners shall be converted to you. … The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

When we offer up broken hearts, we demonstrate our willingness to conform our lives to God’s standards so that his will can be accomplished. Allowing his influence on our hearts through his Spirit completes the purpose of God to establish his ways in our hearts, and not just in a book.

Integrity is consistency of action with the revealed will of Yahweh. We should welcome his scrutiny and influence as a watcher and influencer of hearts while we seek to obediently chart our way through this world. The more we do so, the more he is honored and glorified.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The transforming nature of the kingdom

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and mixed into fifty pounds of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Matthew 13:33

This is one of the briefest parables of Yeshua, and yet it is rich with meaning and purpose.

In his parables about the Kingdom of God, Yeshua always likens an aspect of the kingdom that he is teaching about with some earthly counterpart; “The kingdom of heaven is like…” The simplicity of this method of teaching belies the profundity of its power. In a very direct way, these little “truth-bombs” summarize volumes of doctrine that explode into new areas of understanding and wisdom.

When studying the parables, we must also keep in mind that the parabolic style of teaching that Yeshua adopts was for a reason: so that the religious leaders would be given the message of the kingdom but they would also be confounded by it. This was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.

Matthew 13:10-15 Then the disciples came up and asked him, “Why are you speaking to them in parables? ” He answered, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. “For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. “That is why I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. “Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You will listen and listen, but never understand; you will look and look, but never perceive. “For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back — and I would heal them.

This is why we have to keep in mind that the parables always revolve around the centrality of Israel, both as a nation and a religious standard.

Viewed from this perspective, the simple message of the woman and the leaven was a direct challenge to the traditions and exclusivity that the religious leaders had assigned to their religion of Judaism. Yeshua explains that “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven.” While it is small and unseen, once the leaven is mixed into the dough, eventually the entire batch of dough will become leavened. Once underway, the process cannot be stopped. The good news of the kingdom was ultimately to consume and overrun the stale traditions and practices of the corrupt and dying religiosity of the nation.

If we view the message of the kingdom as the leaven, and the batch of dough as the nation of Israel, Yeshua is intimating that the kingdom message, though small and insignificant to start, will grow among the people until it transforms the nation completely.

That the nation is equated with bread can be shown by the pattern of the tabernacle. Within the tabernacle (and later the Temple), there was always to remain twelve loaves within the presence of God; hence the “bread of the Presence.” Each small loaf was arranged in rows on the table of show bread and represented one of the tribes of Israel.

Exodus 25:30 “Put the Bread of the Presence on the table before me at all times.
2 Chronicles 2:4 Now I am building a temple for the name of the LORD my God in order to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for displaying the rows of the Bread of the Presence continuously, and for sacrificing burnt offerings for the morning and the evening, the Sabbaths and the New Moons, and the appointed festivals of the LORD our God…

Yeshua’s message implies that the leaven was already at work. As it was being mixed into the dough (the nation of Israel), the process of leavening was already underway. Typically, the bread of the Presence would be removed and replaced week after week with fresh bread. However, Yeshua is implying that the bread dough was not to simply be removed and replaced by fresh loaves, but was itself to be transformed into a different type of bread entirely.

This is how the kingdom would come: through individual transformation working its way through the whole batch of dough. This is also why Yeshua instructed his disciples to spread the message to every town in Israel first.

Matthew 10:5-7 Jesus sent out these twelve after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road that leads to the Gentiles, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. “Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. “As you go, proclaim: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

All of Israel would have an opportunity to hear and believe the message. Those who received the “leaven” of the message would be transformed. This was how the kingdom was to come: by transforming individual lives until everything in their lives became new. And as the message continued to spread, it would ultimately transform the entire nation into the bread of life for the world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Exhibiting the compassion of a parent with a child

“Like a father has compassion on his children,
so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear him.”

Psalm 103:13

Almost every mention of compassion in the Old Testament is about God’s compassion toward his people. God is frequently depicted as a loving God who, like a father caring for a child, provides for the needs of his people in a gentle and caring manner.

Isaiah 49:15: ““Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, these may forget, yet I will not forget you!”

Psalm 103:13: “Like a father has compassion on his children, so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear him.”

The apostle Paul carries this idea into the New Testament as he quotes from the Septuagint, keeping this image of God as the Father of all those who believe.

2 Corinthians 6:18: “I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

The picture of a parent with a child helps us to more fully understand the compassion of God towards his people. A baby has no ability to help itself in any aspect of its life, whether being fed, changed, dressed, or comforted; all these things require someone else’s help and assistance.

It is small wonder than that God chooses to use this image as a way of describing his care for his people. As a parent tenderly cares for the needs of a helpless child, so God watches over those who call him Father.

Similarly, we are expected to demonstrate the same level of compassion to our own believing brothers and sisters, as well as to everyone else.

Colossians 3:12: “Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance…”

We can obtain a better grasp of the type of compassion God intends us to have with others by using the picture of a parent with a child. What physical or emotional requirements do they have? How can we make up for what they lack? In what practical ways can we comfort them?

This simple thought exercise may prompt us to evaluate how we connect with people and to truly reflect on the levels of compassion we are expected, as God’s people, to demonstrate in this world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The authority of the one true God is the basis of forgiveness

The primary thrust of Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount in regards to forgiveness focuses on our forgiveness towards others. However, most of the emphasis in Christianity today focuses on God‘s forgiveness towards us. To understand this principle of God‘s forgiveness better, we need to understand his standards that he holds us accountable to in order to know what we would be requesting to be forgiven from. This is where the Ten Commandments come in.

The Ten Commandments are  God‘s standards for all people, which is why Bible records that they were written in stone and delivered to an entire nation at once. While the commandments cover many behavioral and ethical practices, they all began with a focus on the one true God, and to avoid the worship of any other god besides him.

One of the most recurring themes throughout the entire Bible is God‘s denouncement of Israel’s idolatry, and the idolatry of the nations around them.

Exodus 34:17: “”You shall make no cast idols for yourselves.”
Leviticus 19:4: “”‘Don’t turn to idols, nor make molten gods for yourselves. I am Yahweh your God.”
Deuteronomy 29:16-18: “(for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; and you have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them); lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from Yahweh our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations; lest there should be among you a root that bears gall and wormwood;”
1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. amen.”

Yet when people turned with all of their hearts back to the one true God, God was willing to forgive them.

Joel 2:12-13: “”Yet even now,” says Yahweh, “turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” Tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to Yahweh, your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and relents from sending calamity.”

This principle was played out among one of the New Testament congregations. Even amidst the prevalence of idolatry in that culture, the apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonian  believers and encourages them in regards to their turning from idols to the one true God. They stood as believers who were forgiven of the most basic of sins against a holy God, the sin of idolatry.

1 Thessalonians 1:9: “For they themselves [the believers in Macedonia and Achaia] report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,”

From the typical human standpoint of personal gain and pleasure, there really is no compelling reason to avoid sinning against God by committing adultery, or stealing, or even coveting unless there is an ultimate and final authority to hold us accountable for these very private and destructive actions. None of the other commandments have bearing unless they are rooted in the authority of the one true God.

It is only when we come to understand the singular nature of the God of the Bible and we recognize he is the Creator of all that we can begin to recognize our propensity toward actions that offend him; i.e., sin. To turn from idolatry to the one true God then provides context for seeking his forgiveness, as we desire to be pleasing to him, ensuring we have not offended him with our actions. It is only then that the rest of the Ten Commandments, and the biblical writings that follow, have any true bearing in our lives.

This is the basis of forgiveness. There is only one true God, and he has standards he expects of us. Yet this God has declared he is a forgiving God even if we are undeserving because of our selfish and careless motives. If we turn to him with all of our hearts, he then desires us to reflect his image in this world and expects us to exhibit that same forgiveness towards others who may exhibit selfishness and carelessness towards us. This is the message of the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:14-15: “”For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

The one true God desires us to recognize his sovereignty in all things, and in so doing, to honor and respect him by also abiding by the same principles we expect of him. If we are seeking his undeserved forgiveness, we should exhibit that same type of undeserved forgiveness towards others.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

An active trust that can calm our hearts

“”Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”

John 14:1

The disciples had many reasons for their hearts to be troubled. They were following an itinerant preacher, one who was being shunned by the local synagogues and who was calling out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. They had given up essentially everything, their livelihoods and their social status, if they had any, to follow him.

Yeshua reassures them that to have placed their faith in him was equivalent to believing God; that is, in the fulfillment of his purpose and plan for Israel and the nations.

Yeshua is speaking here of the validity of his ministry as the spokesman for Yahweh God. Trusting in the words of Yeshua is equivalent to trusting the words of the Father, because he spoke exactly what the Father wanted him to say.

John 12:49-50: “For I spoke not from myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. I know that his commandment is eternal life. The things therefore which I speak, even as the Father has said to me, so I speak.””

To have faith or to believe is to place one’s trust in some thing or someone. The disciples had demonstrated where their trust was placed by following Yeshua wholeheartedly and completely. Their lives were bound together with his, and therefore with the life of the Father. This unity with him in all things is what caused their faith and understanding to grow.

For those of us today who are placing our faith in the words of Yeshua, we can be assured that we are believing the very words of God himself. In the same way as those early disciples, our lives should be bound together with his. When we are faithful in this way, we can rest secure in the knowledge that his words are continuing to come to pass. When we commit our lives to his purpose, as the disciples did, we can know that his kingdom is being established throughout the world. And knowing that God is continuing to accomplish his purpose in this world should prevent our hearts from being troubled.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Holy among the unholy

“for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.”

Exodus 20:11

To be blessed by God is to be holy, or set apart. Just as the Sabbath day is unique among the “unholy” days of the week, so is the one whom God calls to himself.

The characteristics of holiness are exhibited by those who are blessed. In the passage in Matthew 5:3-12 known as the Beatitudes, we see the qualities of those who are called and set apart by God.

Humble
Grieving over unrighteousness
Gentle
Desperate for righteousness
Merciful
Pure in heart
Peacemakers
Unjustly persecuted for Messiah

These are not qualities for the faint of heart, or for those who is faith is shallow and temporary. These are qualities that are forged in the fires of affliction and struggle. They are only apparent amidst their counterparts.

Pride
Flaunting sin
Harshness
Rebelliousness
Cruelty
Corruption
Agitation
Persecution

It is only within the conditions of these negative and hostile qualities that holiness shines, just as the Sabbath is only apparent as set apart from the mundane days of the week. If it seems that we can’t escape these oppressive environments, it’s because this is the very reason we are put here: as counter-balances to, and overcomers of, the darkness of this world.

This is why it’s necessary for God’s people to maintain their qualities of holiness at all costs, so that God’s kingdom becomes manifest.  When we exhibit the qualities which God blesses, we are then set apart for the very purpose that God designed us for, and he is honored and magnified.

Matthew 5:16: “Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The priceless objective of accomplishing God’s will

Core of the Bible podcast #30 – The priceless objective of accomplishing God’s will

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of the kingdom, and how the kingdom of God, defined as doing his will, should be the primary and most urgent focus of our lives every day.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46

How invested are you in the kingdom of God? Yeshua taught us that we should be seeking the kingdom first, not somewhere further down a list of spiritual things we think we should be doing.

This parable illustrates the immense value that a true seeker places on the discovery of the kingdom of God. To be willing to sell everything you have in order to gain one single objective is a demonstration of the very highest commitment.

John Gill in his Bible commentary comes to this interpretation of this parable, which I have paraphrased a bit for clarity from the 18th-century prose:

“…in conjunction and harmony with the other parables, I believe this is to be understood of those who seek knowledge in all of its branches, natural, moral, and spiritual; and who, like a “merchant man seeking goodly pearls,” find the Gospel and prefer it to everything else. … for those who seek wisdom and knowledge through proper means are like merchant men who trade abroad and for valuables; and these, under divine direction, find the truths of the everlasting Gospel in the Scriptures, and through the ministry of the word, and by prayer and study…”

If the merchant is the seeker of truth and the pearl is the gospel of the kingdom, then we would do well to first of all ensure we know what the kingdom is.

What is the kingdom of God?

In a very small nutshell, the kingdom of God is exhibited anywhere God reigns supreme. While he ultimately rules heaven and earth, he is not always granted rule here by men who don’t believe in him or who prefer to follow their own ways rather than his. Hence Yeshua’s prayer that God’s kingdom would come and that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The carrying out of God’s will on earth is the demonstration of the reality of his kingdom. According to Yeshua, God’s kingdom is all about God’s will being done here on earth in the same way that his will is accomplished in heaven. Consider the following:

Matthew 6:10: “May your Kingdom come, your will being done, as in heaven, so on earth.”

Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

When we are doing God’s will, his kingdom comes, or is present. God’s desire is for his kingdom to cover the earth; that is, that his will would be accomplished in the lives of his creation. We can know God’s will by being in his word on a continual basis. Understanding God’s perspective helps us make the choices each day that honor him. As we live out his word, we become the light and salt of the world that Yeshua spoke of in other parables.

In this parable we are encouraged to be like this merchant. In a believer’s life, everything one has and does should stem from the reality of the kingdom. God’s purposes should have priority in all decision making. Once we find the treasure of God’s will in his word, we should engage every resource we have to see it come about by living it out. It should consume all of our actions and thinking.

—–

If the kingdom of God is all about accomplishing God’s will on earth, then how do we discern God’s will?

Matthew 12:50: “For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.””

We know that it must be possible to know and do God’s will, otherwise Yeshua has a set a standard that is unachievable in this life.

In a similar way, the apostle Paul challenges the Ephesian believers to the same standard of knowing what God’s will is so that they can bear fruit that is pleasing to him.

Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light —  for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth —  testing what is pleasing to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:15-17 Pay careful attention, then, to how you live — not as unwise people but as wise —  making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

In his letter to the Roman congregation, Paul provides some insight into how God’s will is discerned. In this specific instance, while sarcastically cautioning the Jews among the congregation against their potential for hypocrisy, he does let slip a secret on what God’s will is based.

Romans 2:17-18, 21 Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rely on the law, and boast in God, and know his will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law … you then, who teach another, don’t you teach yourself? You who preach, “You must not steal” ​– ​do you steal?

You see, he mentions the key principle that to know God’s will was to rely on and be instructed from the law. The law, or torah of God, is how we can know and approve what God sees as best for his created beings.

Paul continues this thought later on in the epistle, saying that the only way to really understand God’s will is to be transformed by not conforming to the world around us, and to have a renewed mind. Since he has already set the precedent that the knowing God’s will is based on being instructed from the law, we can know that this renewing of the mind comes from understanding God’s will from his law.

Romans 12:2: ” Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

Further, in other epistles, both he and Peter specify aspects of God’s will for his people that are once again based on his torah. Let’s look at each of these admonitions and compare them with their roots in the law of God.

SEXUAL IMMORALITY

1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” What defines sexual immorality? The law does in Lev.18 and 20:9-21 when it explains all of the different family members and and appropriate and inappropriate relations.

GIVING OF THANKS

1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.” Where are we encouraged to give thanks to God? From God’s law:

1 Chronicles 16:8 Give thanks to the LORD; call on his name; proclaim his deeds among the peoples.

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song.

Psalm 92:1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praise to your name, Most High…

DOING GOOD

1 Peter 2:15: “For this is the will of God, that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Where are we encouraged to do what’s right? Once again from the law:

Deuteronomy 6:18 “Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that you may prosper and so that you may enter and possess the good land the LORD your God swore to give your fathers,

2 Chronicles 19:11 … Be strong; may the LORD be with those who do what is good.”

Psalm 34:14 Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.

All of God’s word is his torah, his instruction for his people. By purposefully and intentionally spending time each day in his word, we are transformed by understanding what things God desires for his people, so that his will can be done on earth by us. This is the way his kingdom comes.

1 Peter 4:2: “that you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”

1 John 2:17: “The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.”

—–

When you are fully invested in seeking the things of God, this desire for conformity to the kingdom becomes second nature. It becomes all-consuming and touches every aspect of your life. Living out the principles of God’s kingdom brings it to life among all of those around you.

How do you know what the most important things are in your life?

The things you value most are the things that consume your time, your energy, and your resources.

In the case of this merchant seeking the pearl of great price, we can imagine his search consuming all three of those qualities.

He would have spent time searching for what he was looking for. We can imagine this to have been a lifelong pursuit. He was a merchant, a trader, this is what he did for a living.

He would also have had to expend energy in his search. Day after day he would have continued to travel to market after market and comb through merchandise. There could have been wasted trips with no results. Long, hot days would have been spent jostling among the crowded venues, trying to find the ultimate prize.

And when he finally discovered what he had been looking for, imagine his relief! All of the efforts and time expended was worth it. He had obtained his goal, the most amazing pearl he had ever seen in all of his travels. He knew he needed to obtain it, whatever it took, because it was valued above every other precious treasure he had seen. So all of his resources then went in to obtaining it to make sure he would be able to purchase it for himself.

Yeshua explains that this is what the kingdom of God is like. It’s like this merchant, spending his time, his energy and his resources to obtain the most precious treasure. The kingdom should be made up of individuals who value God’s principles and his will above everything else. All of our time and energy should revolve around the goal of accomplishing God’s will in our lives. We should be willing to travel long distances, struggle amidst crowded marketplaces and invest all that we have in this commodity which contains the highest value in our lives.

Is the kingdom to you a pearl of the highest value, or only one of many other similar pearls strung together that you wear to adorn yourself to be admired by others? By applying the principles of accomplishing God’s will in all we do every day, we can overcome our vain efforts at shallow beliefs and be engaged in the most rewarding pursuit of all: the kingdom of God on earth.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The silence that speaks volumes

“He who spares his words has knowledge. He who is even tempered is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is counted wise. When he shuts his lips, he is thought to be discerning.”

Proverbs 17:27-28

In a day of instant opinion and broadcasting of folly, it is rare to find the individual who maintains a solid disposition and yet feels no compulsion to enter the fray of argumentative debate.

Solomon relates that it is the even-tempered person who has understanding. When emotions run high, foolishness cannot be far behind. And yet, one of the most difficult aspects of spiritual vigilance is to not speak out just for the sake of being heard.

The marketplace of opinion is wide and shallow and typically caters to the loudest voices. Yet it is proven time and time again that the loudest voice is not always the voice of truth. Unfortunately, this appears to be a lesson that needs to be learned generation after generation.

Interestingly, Solomon states that even if someone is legitimately foolish, they appear to be wise and discerning by not always disclosing their opinion. This wisdom is wryly captured in a quote that is commonly attributed to both Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln: “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Those who are truly wise have no need of the popular affirmation that comes from always seeming to have the most correct viewpoint. They are content in knowing their position is correct, and to only speak out when invited to do so.

Learning to have this measure of control and discernment over our opinion-sharing would provide a welcome respite from the incessant and oppressive background noise of this generation. My belief is that if we can be vigilant in abiding by this principle, the world would be a much quieter, and indeed more balanced, place.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The beauty of a long life of integrity

“Gray hair is a crown of glory. It is attained by a life of righteousness.”

Proverbs 16:31:

In the ancient Middle Eastern culture of three thousand years ago, this saying would have had a much different connotation than we might see today. In fact, reading through the proverbs of Solomon, one might easily skip over this simple statement as being a quaint observation from the past.

In today’s society, we look less upon advanced age as the reward of a righteous life, and more of an expected right for all. We see little connection between the ethical quality of the life lived, and the duration of that life. Everything now is about advanced medical opportunities and mindful health practices. Whether a person is good or bad is rarely considered a factor in the role of longevity.

In the ancient world, growing older was considered a sign of blessing and honor. Generally speaking, the role of elders in society was viewed as being filled with gravity and wisdom. Elders in villages were looked upon as repositories of wisdom and guidance for the community. We see this was even a recommended practice among their early believing communities, as elders were to be appointed to lead the spiritual life of the congregations of Messiah.

To attain an advanced age was to have lived a life of right choices, and therefore worthy of respect. In our day, we see echoes of this mentality when individuals who live to be 100 years or older are interviewed as to what their “secret” is for having lived so long. If for no other reason than this, I would enjoy living to that advanced age only for the opportunity to share that a life of obedience and righteousness to the God of the universe provides wisdom for happiness and longevity.

Proverbs 9:10-11: “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.
The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied. The years of your life will be increased.”

Matthew Poole in his commentary has this interesting observation regarding the white hair of the aged:

“…[it is] a great honour and ornament, as it is a singular blessing of God, a token of great experience and prudence, as it comes nearest to God, who is called the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9.”

To be ancient of days is to be considered having qualities of wisdom approaching those of God. The white hair of age is not something to be dyed and colored to mimic the vibrancy of youth, but is to be a visible representation and celebration of longevity and honored living.

Of course, as with any general rule or maxim, there are always exceptions. Sometimes the wicked people continue on, while lives of integrity are cut short. This leveling truth was also revealed by Solomon:

Ecclesiastes 9:11  Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them.

While time and chance have a role to play within the wisdom of God, I think it can easily be demonstrated that, on the whole, short or long, a life of integrity and wisdom is its own reward. But for the aged among us who have genuinely lived lives of integrity, we should seek to provide the appreciation and respect they deserve.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Knowing and doing God’s will in his kingdom

According to Yeshua, God’s kingdom is all about God’s will being done here on earth, in the same way that his will is accomplished in heaven.

Matthew 6:10: “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.”
Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 12:50: “For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.””

We know that it must be possible to know and do God’s will, otherwise Yeshua has a set a standard that is unachievable in this life.

The apostle Paul also challenges the Ephesian believers to the same standard of knowing what God’s will is so that they can bear fruit that is pleasing to him.

Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light ​– ​ for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth ​– ​ testing what is pleasing to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:15-17 Pay careful attention, then, to how you live ​– ​not as unwise people but as wise ​– ​ making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

In his letter to the Roman congregation, Paul provides some insight into how God’s will is discerned. In this specific instance, while sarcastically cautioning the Jews among the congregation against their potential for hypocrisy, he does let slip a secret on what God’s will is based.

Romans 2:17-18 Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rely on the law, and boast in God, and know his will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law,

The law, or torah of God, is how we can know and approve what God sees as best for his created beings. Paul continues this thought later on in the epistle, saying that the only way to really understand God’s will is to be transformed by not conforming to the world, and to have a renewed mind. Since he has already set the precedent that the knowing God’s will is based on “being instructed from the law,” we can know that this renewing of the mind comes from understanding God’s will from his law.

Romans 12:2: ” Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

Further, in other epistles, both he and Peter specify aspects of God’s will for his people that are once again based on his torah.

1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality,” (Lev.18; 20:9-21).
1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.” (1 Chron 16:8; Psalm 28:7; 92:1).
1 Peter 2:15: “For this is the will of God, that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” (Deut 6:18; 2 Chron 19:11; Psalm 34:14).

All of God’s word is his torah, his instruction for his people. By purposefully and intentionally spending time each day in his word, we are transformed by understanding what things God desires for his people, so that his will can be done on earth by us. This is the way his kingdom comes.

1 Peter 4:2: “that you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”
1 John 2:17: “The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.”


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.