The Attributes and Character of God

Here are nine of what I consider to be the most essential attributes or characteristics that help us understand more about who the God of the Bible is.

Core of the Bible podcast #110 – The Attributes and Character of God

In today’s episode, we are continuing our doctrinal study of the nature of God by looking at how God’s attributes and character are represented throughout the Bible. If we are to strive for the core Bible principles to become evident in our lives, we should understand why we would undertake such a challenging stance in this world. After all, in some ways it would be much easier for us if we didn’t need to act with integrity in every situation or provide forgiveness to others when we don’t feel like it. You see, how we view the nature and character of God influences our motivation for why we are seeking him in the first place, and how we live our lives.

So let me start by saying that I believe that the Bible reveals an almighty God, the Father, and that he is the eternal Spirit and Creator of all. In the Scriptures, his attributes are exhibited as being just, loving, righteous, truthful, all-powerful, demonstrating goodness and mercy, existing as set apart from his Creation, yet intimately engaged with it.

Since the Bible is a revelation of God to his Creation, it makes sense that we would look to definitions God has provided in the Bible about his own nature and character. I have brought together nine of what I consider to be the most essential attributes or characteristics that help us understand more about who the God of the Bible is. While the information presented here is not exhaustive by any means, it does give us a basis for a working understanding of what God wants us to know about himself.

1 – God is the Creator of all

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Psalm 104:30  You send forth Your Spirit, they [all living beings] are created; and You renew the face of the earth.”

Exodus 20:11 For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. 

I believe that in the beginning of what we consider the universe and time, God created all things, and that all existence is therefore dependent upon God who is the Source and End of all things visible and invisible. He created man in His own image, which set man apart from the animal creation. 

The Bible doesn’t tell us when God created everything, but it does tell us that he did. I know that many people have tried to use the genealogies that are recorded in the Bible to calculate the age of the earth; however, in my own studies of this topic I have found that not all of the genealogies are complete nor consistent enough for that type of inquiry. It’s not that the writers of Scripture were forgetful or careless; far from it. It’s just that they didn’t record genealogical information in the same way we do today, and many times they listed only the prominent individuals in a family line.

So, in a practical sense, by saying God created everything, the Bible is only attempting to convey that we are here on a world that came from the hand and mind of God; anything beyond that is speculation. 

2 – God is righteous and holy

Psalm 11:7 For Yahweh is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.

1 Peter 1:15-16 But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Psalm 119:172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.

God’s commandments and laws define God’s righteousness (that which is morally and truly right), and by obeying those laws we are imitating him and becoming more like him. In Matthew 5:48 Yeshua taught, “Be perfect [complete; mature], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” So as we continue to conform our lives to his revealed Word, we begin to act in ways that are considered righteous in his eyes.

To be holy is to be set apart from the corruption of worldliness. As the apostle Peter wrote, we are to “Be holy, for he is holy.” This is actually a quote from Leviticus which is repeated several times throughout the book:

Leviticus 11:45 – “For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.

Leviticus 19:2 – “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.

Leviticus 20:26 – “You are to be holy to me because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine.

This consecration or set-apartness is both a command and an attribute of those who would choose to follow the God of the Bible. By seeking his ways, we begin to emulate his nature and character, thereby reflecting his image in this world; a trait he desires for all people.

3 – God is compassionate, forgiving, and just

In one of the most famous passages of the Bible, God explains many of his characteristics directly to Moses while on Mt. Sinai:

Exodus 34:6-7 Then Yahweh passed by in front of him [Moses] and proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

Let’s look a little deeper to expand some of these representations of God’s character and his attributes. To be compassionate means he shows favor to those who are in need. His graciousness demonstrates his care for those who may not be in a position to deserve it. He is not easily angered by our unfaithful actions.  Lovingkindness is the only English way of describing his merciful treatment of those who are in need and unable to “pay him back” in kind. He is also forgiving beyond measure. However, we must always keep in mind that he is just, and when all other means of trying to have people do what’s right are exhausted, he will take action against those who maintain a rebellious attitude.

4 – God is the Most Powerful

Genesis 17:1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.

Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.”

The word Almighty literally means “most-powerful.” Two of God’s titles in Hebrew are El Shaddai, which is translated “God Almighty,” and El Yon meaning “the Uppermost or Most High God.” In the ancient world, there existed a cosmology of many different gods, all with different traits and characteristics. This is known to us in our day as we can read of the varieties of the classical Greek and Roman gods that existed in the recesses of their various mythologies, yet is still just as prevalent among many of the national peoples today who have elaborate temples and shrines to various deities. This world is still a very religious world and people still worship and honor a variety deities. This is why a recognition that Yahweh is the one true God over all is still a relevant declaration in our day. The Bible has declared from ancient times that Yahweh is the Almighty and most powerful God of all, and the events outlined throughout the Bible relate how he demonstrated that by calling a people to himself, delivering them from their enemies, and fulfilling all that he had promised them through his own Son, the Messiah. He revealed his most dramatic and universal power in the resurrection of the Messiah, demonstrating he is the God of life itself. There is no power of any god above the ability of transcending death and providing eternal life. 

5 – God is all-knowing and all-wise

Psalm 139:1-4 – Yahweh, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, Yahweh, You know it altogether.

Daniel 2:20 Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.

Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered…”

God’s wisdom is so far removed from our ability to comprehend its depths, we can only glean the revealed wisdom of God through the teachings of his prophets and his Messiah, the Anointed One.

Isaiah 46:9-10 – “Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me.  I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.”

For God to be able to declare the ultimate fate of an entire people over a millennium in advance and then bring it about down to the minutest detail is a clear and historical demonstration of his wisdom and knowledge of all things. To Abraham, God revealed how his descendants would become a numerous people, fall into slavery, but then be set apart to inhabit a land that he would provide them. Beyond the physical land of Canaan, Abraham was also promised to become the father of many nations, as his faith and those who would believe in his God would become widespread throughout the world.

All of these things have been fulfilled in the physical nation of Israel and spiritually fulfilled in Messiah. Those of us today who believe in the God of the Bible have the rich heritage and benefit of the entirety of the story to have seen it come about just as he had said. This recognition of his wisdom and knowledge should be evident within our own lifestyles as well, as we seek to base our actions upon the firm foundation of his revealed wisdom.

6 – God is present everywhere at once

Psalm 139:7-10 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol [in the grave, or in the ground], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Since God is spirit, his presence is not limited to any one specific location. He has the innate ability to be present at all places at all times. Within his physical Creation, all things are limited by space and time, but the Bible hints to us that in the spiritual realm of God’s existence, those limits do not exist. While it may be difficult for us to grasp this type of thinking, it is not impossible to conceive of the one true God relating to all of his Creation in personal ways which we can only approximate in our human existence on a one-to-one basis. With the spread of Biblical literature throughout the world, the universality of a single, all-powerful and ever-present God has become a recognizable understanding in a world which has always been filled with concepts of multitudes of regional deities. For the past four thousand years, since the time of Abraham, the monotheism of those who believe in the God of the Bible is one of the distinctive qualities that set them apart from all other religious belief, and stands as an ongoing witness against those religious systems.

7 – The Name of God

In the Bible, someone’s name and their character and purpose are very closely linked. For example, God changed the name of Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”). This exhibited the change in God’s purpose for Abraham, and was to be memorialized within his very name.

The root of the proper name for God comes from a Hebrew word meaning “(the) self-Existent” or “Eternal.” In English, it roughly translates out to “I am” or “I always have been and will always be”.


Exodus 3:13-15 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

So in this passage, we see how God has revealed his character through his name as Eyeh Asher Eyeh, the “I am who I am,” or “I am that which is,” the Eternal One. He also used the name “Yahweh, the God of your fathers.” Yahweh comes from a root word havah, meaning “to be,” colored with a continuous state or condition of abiding or remaining. These definitions, while weakened through the inferior English rendering, convey a sense of an eternal existence that has just always been. They provide us the insight that the very names of God relate to us that he has had no beginning and will have no end.

Due to the many aspects of ancient languages changing over the ages, currently there are lots of variations of spellings and pronunciations of this Hebrew name as it is attempted to be conveyed into our much more recent language of English. The most popular of these are “Jehovah,” “Yehovah,” or “Yahweh.” Since the J sound is not present in the Hebrew, and the V sound appears to be more recent in reconstructed modern Hebrew, Yahweh seems to be closest that we can get in English.

When this Hebrew proper name of God is represented in most English Bibles, it is typically written as the all-caps “LORD”, a word identifying God’s authority over all. This is based on a Jewish tradition of substituting the word “Lord” for Yahweh out of respect for name of God, which they have considered too sacred to pronounce. However, the deeper Hebrew meaning of Yahweh is colored with more intimacy of self-existence along with closeness, as “the ever-living God who is always with us.” While calling him “Lord” and saying he has authority over all isn’t incorrect, it really doesn’t capture the sense of his eternal and self-existent nature. Based on Exodus 3:15 that we just read, it appears God wanted these concepts of his eternal nature and yet closeness to his people, summarized as the Eternal Yahweh, to be in use as an everlasting reminder of who he is to each generation.

8 – God has all ultimate authority

Psalm 47:2, 8 For Yahweh Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth… God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Deuteronomy 13:4 “You shall walk after Yahweh your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”

Besides his self-existent, eternal nature, God truly is the sovereign power over everything that was created by him. We have already seen one of his titles, El Yon, means that he is the Most High God. He can rightfully expect complete loyalty, reverence and obedience. Surprisingly, he is saddened when people continue to choose to rebel against him. As believers, we must not allow anything in our lives to rival God. Our faithful obedience to him shows our love for God:

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

9 – Most importantly, God is love

1 John 4:8 – He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Matthew 22:37-39 Yeshua said to him, “‘You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Love really gets to the root of God’s nature, and love is what He most wants to see in the character of His children. Therefore, it’s no surprise that His greatest commandments are to love—to love God and to love people.

This pinnacle of love brings us full circle to the core principles of the Bible once again. To love God and to love people is a summary of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. It is the basis of the eternal Kingdom of God which has its outworking through the faithful obedience of those who claim to be God’s children. While we have only scratched the surface of the character of God, the Bible teaches that those who would claim to be his children should have the same character as the God who birthed them, and that we should recognize his power and majesty in the qualities which are uniquely his.

As the Eternal Creator, the Most Powerful, Most High and ever present God, we should stand in awe, honor and respect of who he is. But as his children, we should seek to emulate his image, his faithful qualities in this world: these are the qualities of righteousness and holiness, compassion, forgiveness, justice, and most importantly, love. As Yeshua taught in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect [complete; mature], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is our goal and ongoing challenge in a world that desperately needs to see the outworking of the Kingdom radiating to others through the children of God in each generation.


Well, I hope this overview of the character of God brought you some concepts and ideas to meditate on and to study out further on your own. But remember, if you have thoughts or comments that you would like to explore further with me, feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The Biblical Calendar and Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost

I believe the annual biblical holidays are the true appointments with God that he has established for all eternity.

Core of the Bible podcast #109 – The Biblical Calendar and Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost

In today’s episode, we are continuing our doctrinal topics but taking a slight detour from our study of the nature of God to discuss the biblical holiday of Shavuot, also known as Weeks and sometimes Firstfruits. Why is this significant, and why should believers today understand the biblical calendar and the feast days?

Most Christians today do not recognize or celebrate the biblical feast days. This is due primarily to the fact that Christianity teaches that the sacrificial aspect of the rites conveyed in the Torah have been fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua. I agree one hundred percent. But “fulfilled” does not mean “done away with.” I believe the Bible teaches that in Messiah, that which was a physical requirement for ancient Israel has become a spiritual reality for all time; more on that later. But what I want to focus on first is how the biblical calendar is filled with symbolism of the Kingdom and God’s relationship with his people. I believe it is as we maintain recognition of these days that we can be reminded of God’s, and our, purpose. These days become practical object lessons that point to the totality of God’s work among his people, and his presence in this world.

The annual biblical calendar contains seven appointed times known in Hebrew as moedim, meaning seasons or appointed times. I believe the annual biblical holidays are the true appointments with God, the seasonal moedim that he has established for all eternity. They are centered around three central “feasts” or “festival gatherings:” Unleavened Bread, Weeks/Shavuot, and Tabernacles/Sukkot. These occur in the first, third, and seventh months of the annual biblical calendar.

Deuteronomy 16:16 – “All your males are to appear three times a year before Yahweh your God in the place he chooses: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread (first month), the Festival of Weeks (third month), and the Festival of Tabernacles (seventh month).”

Interestingly, these festival-gatherings follow the agrarian timelines of the early barley harvest (first month), the early wheat harvest (third month) and the ingathering of all of the remaining crops (seventh month). All of these festivals surround God’s provision for his people. These three annual gathering seasons focus on seven appointed times which are described as memorials or re-enactments to be used to keep God’s people focused on his will and purpose.

I also find it fascinating that God has placed these appointments on the annual calendar in a way that can still be recognized today, even though worldly calendars and methods of timekeeping have come and gone. I believe this is why they are described the way they are, and why we are still able to keep those appointments with him.

How are we to keep these appointments? Certainly we are not to sacrifice animals; as mentioned earlier all sacrifice has been fulfilled in Messiah. However, on these special days we can still gather together as his people to review the symbolism of those sacrifices to bring greater awareness to our understanding of our relationship with God. Whether it is through deeper fellowship and community among his people, as well as renewing our total devotion to him and consummation in his service, we can become serious about our faith by living it out as object lessons that others can see and learn from, as well. After all, as you may know from previous episodes, I believe that God’s Torah or Word is eternal, and therefore has lasting influence on those who approach the God of the Bible as his people. These should be as much a part of our doctrinal understanding as any other major proposition such as the study of who God is or the Kingdom of God.

I would like to discuss all of these biblical holidays throughout the course of the coming year, but as I record today’s podcast, we are in the season of Shavuot or Weeks, which was recently completed. It is the festival which follows Passover and Unleavened Bread by seven weeks, hence its immediate namesake in Hebrew. The day itself falls on the day following the conclusion of 49 days from the barley firstfruits. This was technically the 50th day and became known by its Greek title of Pentecost, meaning “fiftieth.” 

Many Christians may recognize Pentecost as the day the holy Spirit came upon the disciples in a powerful way, allowing them to speak in different languages to the assembled Jews in Jerusalem, telling the Good News about the Kingdom of God. It is defined by many as “the birthday of the church,” but I believe that definition is not only a misnomer about its purpose, but a misunderstanding of the nature of the day itself.

To gain a better grasp of this holiday, we need to go back to its ancient Hebrew understanding as it is related in Torah.

Leviticus 23:16-21 – “You are to count fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath [that is, seven weeks after the barley firstfruits] and then present an offering of new grain to Yahweh. Bring two loaves of bread from your settlements as a presentation [wave] offering, each of them made from four quarts of fine flour, baked with yeast, as firstfruits to Yahweh. You are to present with the bread seven unblemished male lambs a year old, one young bull, and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to Yahweh, with their grain offerings and drink offerings, a fire offering of a pleasing aroma to Yahweh. You are also to prepare one male goat as a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a fellowship sacrifice. The priest will present the lambs with the bread of firstfruits as a presentation offering before Yahweh; the bread and the two lambs will be holy to Yahweh for the priest. On that same day you are to make a proclamation and hold a sacred assembly. You are not to do any daily work. This is to be a permanent statute wherever you live throughout your generations.”

Okay, so in this detailed passage we can learn several things. Shavuot was to be a special appointed day where no customary work was done, in which the people of God would gather and sacrifices and offerings were brought to the Temple. The primary offering of this day involves two loaves of bread as a grain offering of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. Along with the loaves are included burnt offerings, drink offerings, sacrifices for sin and sacrifices for fellowship.

How do these ancient sacrifices and offerings apply to believers today? Even though we don’t bring actual sacrificial animals before Yahweh anymore, I believe these offerings were designed by Yahweh to represent real aspects of our spiritual lives, and I think it’s important that we continue to recognize these. So let’s take a look at what each of these different types of sacrifices means from a symbolic perspective:

  • A burnt offering represents total consummation in God’s service.
  • A sin offering represents that which is a substitute for us due to our disobedience to God’s torah.
  • The trespass offering was offered for unintentional or unknown sin.
  • A fellowship or peace offering represents thankfulness for God’s mercy and enjoyment of his relationship.
  • The grain and drink offerings represent our gratitude for God’s provision as firstfruits of all he has provided us.

I think it becomes readily apparent how these emblematic sacrifices apply in the life of the modern believer. If we are to honor these appointed times throughout the year, I believe they should be memorialized in the spirit of these attributes.

There are many facets to the symbolism of the biblical moedim or appointed times, but one of the most glaring attributes relates to their numerical significance. As rich and enlightening as this can be to review, unfortunately, many people over the centuries have taken to a kind of numerology or study of biblical numbers which has become quite complex and frankly, unhelpful. Even the contemporary expression of Judaism has devised a whole system of numerology and mysticism known as Kabbalah, which is not at all what I am proposing here. I simply look for patterns in the Bible to see how they relate to and bring meaning to one another.

For example, the Bible outlines seven days in a week. Shavuot pertains to seven “sevens” of weeks. On the day of Shavuot, all of the sacrificial symbolism falls on the fiftieth day that occurs after the week of Passover and Unleavened Bread, both of which represent the miraculous rescue from the worldliness and slavery of Egypt.

Now it’s important to understand something here from a Hebraic perspective. In this worldly existence, seven is a number that represents this Creation. Why? Well, the weekly Sabbath was given to God’s people as a reminder that God is the Creator of all.

Exodus 20:8, 11 – Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:  … For Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.

In Hebraic understanding, the weekly Sabbath is the Sabbath of Creation. Everything in this Creation is governed by the limit of a cycle of seven. For example, a week is a cycle of seven days; there are seven appointed times throughout the year occurring within a seven-month time period. Even in the broader calendrical cycle of the Bible, every seventh year was to be a sabbatical year, a year of rest for the land.

Leviticus 25:1-4 – Yahweh spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to Yahweh. “You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years. “But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to Yahweh: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard.

Additionally, after seven “sevens” of sabbath years, or forty-nine years, the Israelites were to set aside the fiftieth year as a “Jubilee,” a sort of re-set for all economic activity, freedom for all slaves, and a realignment of all of the tribes with their heritage.

Leviticus 25:8-10 – “You are to count seven sabbatical years, seven times seven years, so that the time period of the seven sabbatical years amounts to forty-nine. Then you are to sound a trumpet loudly in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month; you will sound it throughout your land on the Day of Atonement. You are to consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for all its inhabitants. It will be your Jubilee, when each of you is to return to his property and each of you to his clan.”

Through these we can see how the Bible relates sevens of days, sevens of weeks, sevens of months and sevens of years, but the fiftieth is something special, something that points to realities beyond these sevens of this world.

I found this editorial comment in the Voice version of the Bible, relating the nature of the Jubilee in Leviticus 25:

“The year of jubilee is a far-reaching idea in the ancient world. In the 50th year, land that has been sold to pay debts during the preceding 49 years returns to its original owners. Israelites who had to sell themselves into slavery to pay debts are set free. All debts are declared “paid in full.” The jubilee is a regular reminder to God’s covenant people that every acre of ground, every soul belongs to God, not to those rich enough to buy them.”

So, the timing of the annual festival of Shavuot also has great significance mirroring that of the sabbatical years and the year of Jubilee which focuses on the centrality of Yahweh as Creator and Owner of all that exists. Shavuot, also being based on this principle of fifty, is a fulfillment of seven weeks (seven “sevens” of days) and then takes place on “the day after the seventh sabbath,” the fiftieth day. The remembrance, this regular reminder every year of the Exodus events on this fiftieth day represents a re-set, a new beginning, freedom from captivity and a restoration of all things to the God of the universe.  In a spiritual sense, it points to realities beyond this Creation, to eternal principles that exist outside of the sevens of this world. To my way of thinking, this is a perfect illustration of what occurred on that very famous Restoration Shavuot two thousand years ago.

Let’s take a closer look at that famous Restoration Shavuot or Day of Pentecost in which the holy Spirit came upon the disciples in a powerful way, allowing them to speak in different languages to the assembled Jews in Jerusalem, telling the Good News about the Kingdom of God. I said a few moments ago that this event is defined by many as “the birthday of the church,” and that I believe that this definition is not only a misnomer about its purpose, but a misunderstanding of the nature of the day itself.

You see, to say that is the birthday of the church is to imply that the “church” never existed prior to that time. What many call the “church” today (universally speaking) is called the ekklesia in Greek terminology, and it simply means “a called out assembly.” But the ekklesia was not “born” on that day, it had existed since the times of Moses. This is revealed in the speech of Stephen in his defense before the Sanhedrin.

Acts 7:38  – “He [Moses] is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us.”

If you check your King James or American Standard Versions of the Bible, you may notice that this verse here says that it was the “church in the wilderness” who received the living oracles. The translators were simply using the Greek word in a consistent fashion. But this highlights the point: if there was an assembly, something which could be called the church which was present in the wilderness with Moses, how could it have been “born” on Pentecost in the early part of the first century? I believe it can be shown that the ekklesia, the called out assembly, was always present in those through whom God was working at any given time in the biblical narrative.

For us to approximate a Hebraic understanding of this, it can be said that there has always been a faithful remnant among God’s people, even when the nation as a whole was steeped in idolatry and wickedness. For example, when Jerusalem was being attacked by Sennacherib’s Syrian army, Isaiah the prophet revealed how God would protect them:

2 Kings 19:30-31 – “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. “For a remnant will go out from Jerusalem, and survivors, from Mount Zion. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will accomplish this.”

When returning from captivity in Babylon with only the few thousand faithful who desired to reestablish the Temple, Ezra prayed the following prayer:

Ezra 9:8 – But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from Yahweh our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in his holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us a little relief and light to our eyes.

Even the apostle Paul, in teaching about the faithful among God’s people in that day, illustrates this idea of the remnant with the story of Elijah:

Romans 11:2-5 – God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Or don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah ​– ​how he pleads with God against Israel? Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and they are trying to take my life! But what was God’s answer to him? I have left seven thousand for myself who have not bowed down to Baal. In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace.

This “remnant” of God’s people was the assembly at each point in Israel’s history, sometimes even down to one person and their family, such as a Noah or an Abraham, or a Jacob. God’s purpose has always been based on the assembly of those who are faithful to him, so the ekklesia throughout the ages has been comprised of those who feared and served Yahweh.

So to carry this mental understanding into the events of the first century day of Pentecost, we can see that same principle applying there: a faithful remnant, the disciples, faithful to the principles of the Kingdom which Messiah had taught them, were given miraculous abilities by the Spirit of God to testify to the truth of the gospel of the Kingdom to the rest of the Jews who had come from all over the world. This faithful remnant was not “born” on that day, but, in alignment with the Jubilee symbolism of the day of Shavuot, they were the ones proclaiming the eternal re-set, freedom from captivity to sin, and a restoration of all things through the Kingdom of God. In a sense, this was the ultimate Jubilee.

Just as the original ekklesia was comprised of those who were assembled at Sinai and heard Yahweh speak the Ten Commandments of his Kingdom which were written in stone, the renewed ekklesia on that famous Day of Pentecost proclaimed the principles of God’s Kingdom which were to be written on their hearts.

The connection between these events is further established when it can be shown that, at the receiving of the Ten Commandments, due to their rebelliousness and idolatry, three thousand people were killed.

Exodus 32:28 – The Levites did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand men fell dead that day among the people.

However, at the Restoration Pentecost, due to their obedience, three thousand people were added to the ekklesia.

Acts 2:41 – So those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.

As another example, the big picture of the Bible story can be described in a similar type of parallelism. God established a physical Kingdom when he revealed his Ten Commandments to his assembled people at Mount Sinai. Those commandments were written in stone by his own finger. In the first century, God established an eternal, spiritual Kingdom when, through his Messiah, he revealed those principles to the to the assembled people listening to the Sermon on the Mount. These were spiritually based on the same commandments, but now they were to be written on the heart by God’s own finger, no longer in stone. These types of parallels and symbolisms are all through the Bible.

The apostle Paul, in the context of speaking about the comparison and contrast of Adam and Yeshua, states a principle that I believe carries over into a well-ordered understanding of the Bible.

1 Corinthians 15:46 – But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.

In the Bible, the natural things, people, and events were real things that happened to real people, just like those who heard the commandments at Mount Sinai, or those who heard Messiah preach his Sermon on the Mount. But I believe we are to look to those things as types, shadows, and examples of the spiritual realities that have become evident through the restoration of all things in Messiah Yeshua. The prophesied remnant was that first-century assembly, but with all things consummated by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, believers from that point on up until today are simply members of God’s eternal, universal Kingdom. Since the age of natural Israel ended at that time, there is no longer a “remnant” ekklesia or assembly; it had been fulfilled in that generation in that time.

When Paul illustrated his teaching with stories from Israel’s wilderness journeys, he also emphasizes the purpose of learning and re-telling these stories.

1 Corinthians 10:11 – Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

That first century ekklesia or assembly of Messiah believers in the natural world was to become the touchstone for all future generations of believers as spiritual descendants. The ancient biblical ages, the ages of Abraham, Moses, and of natural Israel, were coming to a consummation in the soon destruction of the city in 70 AD. Beyond that event, the spiritual principles of the Bible would be cast forward into the future, lighting the way for all future generations of believers as the eternal Kingdom of God would continue to spread throughout the world.

So I believe that Shavuot has not been done away, nor have any of the other biblical holidays, but I believe they have been renewed and elevated in this great spiritual restoration accomplished by Messiah. Paul writes how even believers were to view themselves as having been completely renewed within their faith in Messiah.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In Messiah, all things are new now, not just in the future!

So as we view this seasonal moed or appointed time of Shavuot, we can catch a glimpse of its renewed nature and purpose in the symbolism of its biblical parameters. That first-century restoration Pentecost was the fulfillment of the Jubilee symbolism, the fifty beyond the sevens and forty-nines of this world, declaring the eternal nature of the Kingdom of God. Just as Yeshua taught, this was to be a Kingdom based on the structure of the Ten Commandments, as both a near and present reality, a realm where vigilance would be required of those who sought to participate. These believers would be set apart and holy, trusting God for all of their needs, just as he did, and they would operate with God’s characteristics of forgiveness and compassion, demonstrating that they are the children of God.


Well, I hope this brief introduction to the biblical holidays and the restoration Shavuot or Pentecost brought you some concepts and ideas to meditate on and to study out further on your own. But remember, there is also a Core of the Bible virtual Bible study group that is hosted through the Marco Polo video chat app. It is designed to discuss the topics that we cover each week and to help people with responses to questions that may come up. If you are interested in joining the discussion, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at coreofthebible@gmail.com. I will be happy to send you a link to join the virtual Bible study group. You can also feel free to email me any of your thoughts or comments at that email, as well.

The Holy Spirit: The Word and Wisdom of God

I believe the holy Spirit is the Word and truth of God which is for us the regenerative presence and Wisdom of Yahweh God, the Father.

Core of the Bible podcast #108 – The Holy Spirit: The Word and Wisdom of God

In today’s episode, we are continuing our doctrinal topics on the nature of God and I’ll be discussing my views of the Holy Spirit; who he is and what he does. To be honest, I think in our modern reading of Scripture we make this a more difficult topic than it needs to be. It really isn’t a  difficult or mystical thing to understand the role of the Spirit of God. Since the Father is God and he is holy and he is spirit, I believe that the holy Spirit of Scripture is the very Spirit of Yahweh, God.

John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

God’s Spirit is his creative and life-giving presence in this world.

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

The Spirit of God is life itself; without life and without God’s Spirit, nothing would exist.

Genesis 2:7 Then Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Job 34:14-15 “If He should determine to do so, If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, All flesh would perish together, And man would return to dust.”

I believe God’s Word is a manifestation of his Spirit.

John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God.

The Word of God has been linked to the Wisdom of God, personified in the Proverbs and also within the ancient near Eastern writings of the Apocrypha. Just as your words are an outward manifestation of your inner thoughts and ideas, so is God’s Word for him. When he speaks, it is his Spirit that has been symbolically personified as the creative and guiding wisdom of the universe. A good example of this type of literature device is represented in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, where this personified Wisdom is foundational to all that exists and underlies the very life of God himself.

Proverbs 8:35 – “For the one who finds me [Wisdom] finds life and obtains favor from Yahweh…”

This same creative aspect of God’s Word is also represented in the Psalms:

Psalm 33:8-9 – Let the whole earth fear Yahweh; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.  For he spoke, and it came into being; he commanded, and it came into existence.

Throughout the Bible, we also see how God’s will and purpose is made known by his Word through his prophets.

Ezekiel 11:5 – Then the Spirit of Yahweh fell upon me, and He said to me, “Say, ‘Thus says Yahweh…'”

2 Samuel 23:1-2 – Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, The man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, “The Spirit of Yahweh spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.

2 Peter 1:20-21 – But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

God’s Word is represented as truth.

Psalm 119:160 – The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

I believe the holy Spirit is the Word and truth of God which is for us the regenerative presence and Wisdom of Yahweh God, the Father. He reveals to individuals the true understanding of his spoken and written Word, setting them apart for his purpose and will, and motivating faithful actions of believers. Through his Spirit and Word of truth, God convicts of sin, regenerates individuals causing them to be born again or from above, and sets them apart from the world for his purpose. 

1 Peter 1:23 – for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing apart of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 – For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.

Through his Spirit, God also attests to the truth of his word and validates the authority of his messengers. Through the consistency of the witness of the Spirit of God, along with our conscience and reasoning, we are enabled to discern truth from falsehood.

Romans 8:16: – “The Spirit itself [i.e, the truth of God], bears witness together with our spirit [our own reasoning] that we are children of God;”

As God continually acts through his Spirit and Word, we are transformed into children of God and the spiritual image of Yeshua, empowered to become effective witnesses to Yeshua and the gospel message of the Kingdom, filling our hearts with love for all men, and moving us to practice godliness.

Timeline of God’s holy Spirit

The workings of the Spirit of God encompass a past, present, and future aspect as recorded from the perspective of the writers of the Scriptures. It is important for us to recognize this internal timeline of the Bible to correctly understand the ongoing influence of God’s holy Spirit today.

The very beginning of the Bible relates how God, through his Spirit, has always been present in the workings of this world.

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

In the past God provided his Spirit for specific individuals and purposes.

Numbers 11:14, 16-17 [Moses speaking] “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. … Yahweh therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. “Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit which is upon you [Moses], and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone.

Judges 6:34 So the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily upon David from that day forward…

2 Chronicles 20:14 Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah…

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of Yahweh GOD is upon me, Because Yahweh has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners…

2 Peter 1:21: For not, by will of man, was prophecy brought in, at any time, but, as, by Holy Spirit, they were borne along, men spoke from God.”

Throughout Israel’s troubled history, the Spirit was also prophesied to be provided more abundantly at some future point.

Ezekiel 36:24-27 “For I will take you [Israel] from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Joel 2:28-29 “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

In just a moment, we will review the work of God’s Spirit as our timeline moves into the era of the New Testament writings, and the culmination of all that God was preparing to do among his people.

Into the New Testament writings

From the opening pages of the New Testament era, we see how the Spirit of God was intimately intertwined within the life and ministry of Yeshua. The prophecies of the pouring out of the Spirit of God spoken about by the prophets hundreds of years earlier were to begin with the miraculous event of the birth of the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.

Matthew 1:18-21 – The birth of Yeshua Messiah came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.  But after he had considered these things, an angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.”

At the beginning of the public ministry of Yeshua, John the baptizer relates the confirmation of Yeshua’s anointing with the Spirit of God:

John 1:32-34 – And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he rested on him. “I didn’t know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one you see the Spirit descending and resting on ​– ​he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

It was this anointing, or immersion, into the Spirit of God that provided Yeshua with the title “Christ” or “Messiah,” the Anointed One. Everything Yeshua taught and did was provided through his anointing by the Spirit of God. As we saw in our last discussion of Yeshua as the Messiah, the Bible clearly outlines how Yeshua’s teaching and works were accomplished by the Spirit of God working through him.

Acts 2:22 – “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Yeshua of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know.

Acts 10:37-38 – “You know the events that took place throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.

Yeshua himself claimed that the things he taught and the works he did was because of the power of Yahweh God, the Father, working through him:

John 12:49 – For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak.

John 14:10 – “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works.

Returning to the prophecies of Ezekiel and Joel, in the teachings of Yeshua, the “pouring out” of the Spirit, or the enabling and regenerative power of God, was very close and about to take place.

John 7:38-39 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were about to to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified.’

John 15:26-27 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

Within six weeks of the death and resurrection of Messiah, the Bible records that the pouring out of the Spirit occurred at that time.

Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost [Shavuot, or Weeks] had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

The apostles recognized that this event was the confirmed fulfillment of that past prophecy of Joel.

Acts 2:14-17 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of my spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…'” 

This was also the fulfillment of “the promise:”

Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 2:33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

Through the rest of the New Testament writings up until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the writers spoke of the holy Spirit being collectively present with believers at that time.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 3:4-5  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Messiah, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Further, this pouring out of the Spirit collectively provided for many powerful workings of God throughout the body of believers as confirming signs to the nation of Israel that Yeshua was the “prophet who was to come” whom Moses had spoken of. The apostle Paul called these “gifts” of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

These “gifts of the Spirit” were specifically given by God for the validation and rapid spreading of God’s Word and truth in those days.

Acts 8:5-6, 12-13 – Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs [attesting miracles] which he was performing. … But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Yeshua Messiah, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5 – and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the inspired records had fulfilled their purpose and ceased being written, having completed the story of God’s work among his people, Israel. This has been demonstrated historically in that no new scripture has been written since that first century generation two thousand years ago.

Likewise, the miraculous signs were provided as demonstrations primarily for non-believingIsrael. These signs testified to the truth of the Word of God through the apostles, that Israel’s promised Messiah had come, and that God’s Kingdom was being implemented within their generation. With the fulfillment of all things in the destruction of Jerusalem, the miraculous sign gifts were completed in that generation, the last days of the nation of Israel.

In his famous treatise on the supremacy of love, the apostle Paul spoke of how there would be a time where miraculous spiritual gifts would no longer be necessary, because the love of God would rise to prominence as the Kingdom was to become established.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10, 13 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; and whenever that which is perfect [completeness] may come, then that which is in part shall become entirely idle…Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love ​– ​but the greatest of these is love.

The fullness of the Kingdom of God, represented by the prophetic New Jerusalem, would be a Kingdom based on the supremacy of this love that Paul spoke of. This Kingdom could only become a reality through the destruction of its earthly and corrupt counterpart in that generation. I believe the New Jerusalem is “that which is perfect,” spoken of by the apostle Paul. It was a New Jerusalem, since the Old Jerusalem, in bondage to its traditions and idolatry, had become worthless and dead and was therefore destroyed. The new Kingdom, being a spiritual reality, would never cease, and it continues to grow to this day in completeness until it fills the earth.

The work of the Spirit today and into the future

Now, since God is eternal and his Kingdom is eternal, enduring characteristics of being influenced by the Spirit of God (fruit of the Spirit) that were present then will continue to be present for all time. As people continue to enter the Kingdom and learn about God through his Word and truth, he continues to bring people to new life by his Spirit through faith in Messiah Yeshua. They are then empowered by his Spirit to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control; all of the out-workings of the Spirit of God through his people today. I believe these are the “gifts” that believers have to offer the world today: positive spiritual influences that God uses to draw all people to himself.

Of course, I still believe a miraculous event is still a possibility, since God never changes. However, I believe any genuine miraculous event will ALWAYS point people to the truth and majesty of God himself as revealed previously in the Bible, and will not validate any false individual or reveal some new teaching contradictory to what has already been brought to conclusion through the completing of Israel’s story in the first century. 

Additionally, I believe God’s Spirit is still actively working through the everlasting Word and truth, God’s eternal Torah, constantly providing a corroborating witness for all generations for all time. This regenerating presence of his Spirit is shaping and molding hearts of people for the continual building up of his kingdom on earth for eternity.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Galatians 5:22-25: “But, the fruit of the Spirit [the empowering word and truth of God], is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, graciousness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such things as these, there is no law. And, they who are of Messiah Yeshua, have crucified the flesh, with its susceptibilities and covetings. If we live by Spirit [the empowering word and truth of God], by Spirit [the empowering word and truth of God], let us also walk.”

Summary

I believe the Spirit of God is a term used to describe how Yahweh God actively interacts within our human environment, whether through creation, revelation (wisdom), regeneration, sanctification (setting apart) and through empowerment. The Spirit of God is Yahweh himself, and his influence in this world.

Ultimately, I believe the core principles of the Bible, the basics of the eternal torah or Word of God, are the result of God’s Spirit. The Ten Commandments were spoken to Moses and ancient Israel and substantiated through the principles of the Sermon on the Mount taught by Yeshua, speaking everything the Father commanded him to teach. I believe these two pivotal episodes in the Bible, besides the Creation itself, represent the most profound work of God’s Spirit in this world.

The Spirit of God therefore separates (or sanctifies) his people to seek first the Kingdom and then empowers them to do so with vigilance. The Spirit of God creates in his people a love for himself with all of the heart, mind, and strength, trusting him for everything. And the fruit of that same Spirit prompts them to love others with integrity, forgiveness, and compassion.

Throughout Scripture, the Spirit of God is always associated with life, whether physical or spiritual. The life of God is what gives us existence and ability, and as the Creator of all, he manifests his Spirit as he sees fit. This life we have, whether physical or spiritual, is not our own, but a dynamic that comes from the hand of God for his purpose. Since everything we are is from him, I believe we should remain faithful to all he asks of us through the expression of his Spirit through us, and we should seek to faithfully emulate him in all of our ways.

Well, I hope that there were possibly some perspectives in the discussion today that provided you with some new insights for your own further study and review. Next time, I would like to provide a look at the biblical festival of Shavuot, also known as Weeks or Pentecost. This is a natural segue seeing as how we have been discussing the Spirit of God, and how, at the recording of this podcast, this is the season of Shavuot in the year 2023. Throughout our doctrinal discussions over the next year, I hope to cover all of the biblical holidays as well, so I hope you are able to join me in this continuing journey.


Remember, there is also a Core of the Bible virtual study group that is hosted through the Marco Polo video chat app. It is designed to discuss the topics that we cover each week and to help people with responses to questions that may come up. If you are interested in joining the discussion, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at coreofthebible@gmail.com. I will be happy to send you a link to join the virtual Bible study group. You can also feel free to email me any of your thoughts or comments at that email, as well.

Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God

The name and title of Yeshua describe who he is and his purpose within the plan of God.

Core of the Bible podcast #107 – Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God

In today’s episode, we will be talking about Yeshua as the human Messiah, the Son of God. You may recall from our last episode how I discussed the nature of Yahweh as the one true God, the Father, sole Creator and Maintainer of all that exists. He is the supreme authority of all people. He alone possesses inherent immortality, and has always existed.

When it comes to understanding who Yeshua is, we need to exercise care with a lot of time-honored Christian tradition that has built up over the centuries to see if we can peel back some of these layers of orthodoxy to reveal what the Bible actually says about this individual who has come  to be known as Jesus Christ.

So let’s start with his name. In modern vernacular, Jesus Christ has come to be used as a sort of first and last name for Yeshua instead of what it really is, a title of who he is. His “name” literally means that he is God’s deliverer, the anointed one of God.

Jesus is the English version of the Greek name Iesous, which in itself is a version of the Hebrew name Yeshua. However, if we were to take the name Yeshua and bring it straight over into English, it would not be Jesus, but it would be Joshua. Now the name Yeshua in Hebrew is not only a personal identifier, but also carries the meaning behind the name. In this case, the name Yeshua means “salvation or deliverance of God.” In fact, there are occasions in the Hebrew text where the word is used for just that purpose, and not as a proper name of an individual.

For me, that carries great weight. It was the name that Mary and Joseph were commanded to name him, and I believe we should be using, as well. That name was given to him to demonstrate his purpose, and we should always keep the purpose that God has in mind. Yeshua is the deliverance of God.

What’s a Messiah?

Throughout Scripture, there is mention of Yeshua as the Messiah.

John 20:31 – But these are written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Acts 2:36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Yeshua, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Acts 5:42 – Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Yeshua is the Messiah.

Acts 9:22 – But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Yeshua is the Messiah.

For us to have an understanding of this term, we need to look at some of the original Hebrew texts that use this phrase. The title of Messiah is based on the Hebrew mashiach, meaning anointed. In New Testament Greek, the word for anointed is christos, which is where we get the English derivative Christ.

To be anointed is to have oil of anointing, typically olive oil, smeared or poured over one’s head as an identifier of kingly leadership.

1 Samuel 10:1 – Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it out on Saul’s head, kissed him, and said, “Hasn’t Yahweh anointed you ruler over his inheritance?”

2 Kings 9:1-3 – The prophet Elisha called one of the sons of the prophets and said, “Tuck your mantle under your belt, take this flask of oil with you, and go to Ramoth-gilead. “When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi. Go in, get him away from his colleagues, and take him to an inner room. Then take the flask of oil, pour it on his head, and say, ‘This is what Yahweh says: “I anoint you king over Israel.”‘…

The oil of anointing can also be an identifier of religious leadership. For example, the priests of the tabernacle were anointed for the purpose of separation unto God in the ministering of the sacrificial and intercessory rites:

Exodus 29:21 – “Take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle them on Aaron and his garments, as well as on his sons and their garments. So he and his garments will be holy, as well as his sons and their garments.

In a metaphorical or prophetic sense, to be anointed is also God’s stamp of approval as a human leader that he has selected for a specific purpose. This purpose can be a religious one, or as an acknowledgement of political empowerment. God’s anointed one can be anyone he has chosen for a specific leadership purpose, including a non-Jewish world leader like Cyrus:

Isaiah 45:1: “Thus saith Yahweh to his anointed [literally, his Messiah], to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;”

In the spiritual sense, the anointing carries with it the idea of being empowered by the Spirit of God himself, as if enveloped within or overcome by his Spirit.

Judges 6:34 – The Spirit of Yahweh enveloped Gideon, and he blew the ram’s horn and the Abiezrites rallied behind him.

1 Samuel 10:10 – When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a group of prophets met him. Then the Spirit of God came powerfully on him, and he prophesied along with them.

1 Samuel 16:13 –  So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of Yahweh came powerfully on David from that day forward…

Of course, Yeshua is identified by John the baptizer as being the anointed one of God, immersed and enveloped with the Spirit of God.

John 1:31-34 – “I didn’t know him, but I came baptizing with water so he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he rested on him. I didn’t know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one you see the Spirit descending and resting on ​– ​he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Acts 10:37-38 – [Peter speaking] “You know the events that took place throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.

As can be seen, God’s anointed ones or messiahs have been numerous and characteristically fulfill a role as a priest (as an intercessor or mediator) or prophet, or as a ruler. They are all humans through whom God accomplishes his specific purpose. It is through his empowerment that they have been able to achieve what he has desired. So, for someone to be considered a Messiah, an intercessor, ruler, deliverer of God, they must be a human being who has been selected and identified by God for a specific purpose. This is the role that the ultimate Messiah, Yeshua, had been destined for since birth.

The Son of God

Scripture clearly describes Yeshua not only as the Messiah who had been prophesied to deliver his people, but as the son of God, both as a title of unsurpassed honor and as a human born miraculously into existence of a virgin mother.

Luke 1:31-35 [Gabriel speaking] “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Yeshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

Matthew 1:18-21 Now the birth of Yeshua Messiah was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins.”

There is no indication in the Bible that Yeshua pre-existed his birth, except in the eternal mind and plan of God.

Ephesians 3:8-9, 11 To me [Paul], the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the nations the unfathomable riches of Messiah, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; … This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Messiah Yeshua our Lord,

1 Peter 1:20 For He [Messiah] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

God was prophesied to be his Father:

Psalm 2:7-8 “I will surely tell of the decree of Yahweh: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

That God would be his Father is also a theme in the Psalms, where the Messiah is prophetically identified with David, the ideal King of Israel:

Psalm 89:20-29 “I have found David My servant; With My holy oil I have anointed him, With whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him. The enemy will not deceive him, Nor the son of wickedness afflict him. But I shall crush his adversaries before him, And strike those who hate him. My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, And in My name his horn will be exalted. I shall also set his hand on the sea And his right hand on the rivers. He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, And My covenant shall be confirmed to him. So I will establish his descendants forever And his throne as the days of heaven.”

We have seen so far that God’s messiahs have been humans selected by God for specific purposes. And yet, there has been prophecy regarding a very specific anointed prophet and king, one who would be known as God’s own Son. Beyond the religious implications, this title of Son of God was also a title of world rulers, and in the time of Yeshua, it was the title of the emperor of Rome himself.

The Son of God as political ruler

Throughout ancient history, and even into some contemporary times, it has been a common practice across many cultures to have the supreme leader of the society referred to as divine, or a son of heaven, or son of God. So for the title son of God to be applied to Yeshua was not just a statement of his physical heritage, but it had subversive political overtones during the first century, as well. To claim that anyone besides the Roman emperor was a son of God was to imply that someone was a rival power to the emperor. 

For the early believers, claiming that Yeshua is Lord, the son of God, was equivalent to defying the authority of the Roman emperor, who was also called Lord, son of God (or son of the Divine). It was an act punishable by death. This was the cause of much of the persecution that early believers faced. 

Mark begins his narrative with the statement that Yeshua is the Messiah, the son of God:

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Yeshua Messiah, the Son of God.

Unclean spirits also declared he was the son of God:

Matthew 8:29 And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

Mark 3:11 Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!”

Luke 4:41 Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Messiah.

The angel Gabriel declared he would be called the son of God before he was born:

Luke 1:35 The angel answered and said to her, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

A repentant centurion witnessing the crucifixion declared him as the son of God:

Mar 15:39 When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus (all three of whom were very close friends of Yeshua) declared he was the son of God:

John 11:27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, [even] He who comes into the world.”

The religious leaders knew that this was a common understanding of who he was, and accused him of this during his questioning:

Matthew 26:63-64 But Yeshua kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Yeshua said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Luke 22:70 And they all said, “Are You the Son of God, then?” And He said to them, “You have said it.”

John 19:7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

John the baptizer, the disciples Nathanael and John, the apostle Paul, along with Silvanus and Timothy all declare Yeshua as the son of God:

John 1:34 “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”

John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Messiah Yeshua, who was preached among you by us–by me and Silvanus and Timothy–was not yes and no, but is yes in Him.

1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

While Yeshua preferred to refer to himself as the son of man, in his teaching he was constantly referring to God as a heavenly father figure for all people, but more specifically, his own unique father:

John 8:54 Yeshua answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’;

John 20:17 Yeshua said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”

From these references, it is abundantly clear throughout the Scriptures that Yeshua was known as the son of God. This term not only described his miraculous physical heritage, but carried with it the subversive political overtones, as well.

This demonstrates that being represented as God’s son, he cannot actually be God himself. In the trinitarian view, “Jesus” is not just the Son of God, but through centuries of theological discussion he has become God the Son, a phrase which exists nowhere in the Bible. As we have seen, names and titles are important, and the Hebrew understanding of the name Yeshua is “deliverance of God” and Messiah means “anointed one.” The concept of an Incarnation, God becoming a man, is so foreign to the Hebrew culture and the complete texture of the Bible that it defies description. In pagan mythology, gods can take on human form and perform miraculous works, but the Bible never claims that about Yeshua.

In Peter’s preaching, he being one of the closest disciples to Yeshua, proclaimed how it was God working through an obedient human Messiah that he was able to accomplish the works that he did.

Acts 10:37-38 – “You know the events that took place throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.

Peter proclaims God was with him through the anointing of his holy Spirit, not that he was God. Paul also proclaims Yeshua’s humanity as the perfect counterpoint to the humanity of Adam:

Romans 5:17 – Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man [Adam], how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Yeshua Messiah.

Yeshua himself claimed that the things he taught and the works he did was because of the power of Yahweh God, the Father, working through him:

John 12:49 – For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak.

John 14:10 – “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works.

Look, I recognize that in this short time I cannot exhaustively provide the depth of the understanding of the human Messiah, but I am hoping that what we have covered here today begins to open up some areas of theological thinking that are admittedly difficult to summarize when so much tradition has been built up around it. Only a truly ancient Hebraic mindset, which no one shares today, including myself, can begin to understand the meaning of texts that have become muddled through modern Western thinking and anchored in medieval orthodoxy. However, I do believe that we can approximate that type of thinking when we begin to recognize the significance of the name of Yeshua as the deliverer of God, the title of Messiah as the Anointed One of God, and his uniqueness as the Son of God.

I believe it is when we begin to re-define terms related to philosophical theories about God that we begin to stray further from the language and meaning of the Bible. Over the centuries, the theology surrounding who God is and the nature of the Father, Son, and Spirit of God have become mired in the conjecture and imagination of men who try to use Greek philosophical terms like homeostasis, hypostases, homoousion, and ousia in attempts to describe what the nature of a trinitarian God is, but they all fall short of the simplicity of the Bible language.

In the Bible, Yeshua is revealed as the Son of God, in both the context of a miraculous birth and in his unique role as God’s deliverer and savior, his ultimate human Messiah. This places Yeshua at the center and the culmination of the Bible narrative becoming the exemplary human ideal in relation to his self-sacrificial service to God and to others.

This is why the principles of his Sermon on the Mount have such resonance with believers, even until this day, thousands of years later. He spoke of the Kingdom, a Kingdom based on the structure of the Ten Commandments, as both a near and present reality, a realm where vigilance would be required of those who sought to participate. These believers would be set apart and holy, trusting God for all of their needs, just as he did, and they would operate with God’s characteristics of forgiveness and compassion, demonstrating that they are the children of God.

As God’s unique Son, he was not God himself, but because of his faithful obedience even unto death, God resurrected him and exalted him to a position of honor and glory, that those who honor Yeshua would be honoring the Father God himself.

Summary:

The Messiah I follow was a man miraculously born of a virgin, divinely named as Yeshua, the deliverance or salvation of God.  I believe he was anointed and empowered with the Word or Spirit of God at his water baptism, and raised again after death by the power of God. Although unique because of his birth, because he was human he lived a life of temptation, suffering and trial, and overcame all by trusting in his (and our) God, the Father. As a man trusting in God, he has become our example of faithful obedience. Because of his faithfulness, he was raised by God to immortality, and exalted to the highest place of  honor that no one else can attain. As prophesied, he has been granted an exalted position to rule all of God’s Creation in the eternal kingdom of God, as God’s metaphorical “right hand,” in deference only to God who, through him, judges all and rules all in all. Because of his faithfulness, God the Father has ordained that he is to receive the same honor as God himself.

At the time the New Testament writings were made, to express faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, true son of God was to reject the authority of the emperor by expressing total allegiance to Yeshua. Still today, it is through acknowledging his sonship (his unique human status and authority) and expressing total allegiance to him as Lord that we also obtain new life:

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Yeshua is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

1 John 5:5, 12-13 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God? … He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

It is only through the example of Yeshua’s self-sacrificial obedience that we can also become the fully obedient humans that God desires us to be.

These are the things that I believe about Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of God. While much of this may be different than you may have heard or been taught before, I hope there are some nuggets of wisdom that you may want to ponder further in your own studies. Next time, I would like to move on to the topic of the Spirit of God to explore the biblical basis of the work and role of the Spirit in the life of believers.


Remember, there is a Core of the Bible virtual study group that is hosted through the Marco Polo video chat app. It is designed to discuss the topics that we cover each week and to help people with responses to questions that may come up. If you are interested in joining the discussion, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at coreofthebible@gmail.com. I will be happy to send you a link to join the virtual Bible study group. You can also feel free to email me any of your thoughts or comments there, as well.

One true God

The Bible teaches there is only one true God. He is known as Yahweh, Almighty God, and the Father, among other names.

Core of the Bible podcast episode #106 – One true God

In today’s article, we will be talking about Yahweh as the one true God, and how I believe this basic Bible truth has become muddled by tradition and orthodoxy.

So to begin with, let me start by saying that I believe that the Bible reveals that there is only one true God, Yahweh, the Father, sole Creator and Maintainer of all that exists. He is the supreme authority of all people. He alone possesses inherent immortality, and has always existed. There is no other God to whom praise, honor, and glory is due.

Deuteronomy 4:35, 39 To you it was shown that you might know that Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him. … “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that Yahweh, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

One of the primary features of Jewish culture revolves around the reciting of what is known as the Shema. The Shema is based on a very familiar passage to most believers.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one! “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The Shema has been the primary defining statement of the Hebrew people since it was revealed to them.  Shema means “hear” and focuses on the primary declaration that Yahweh is one, or is the only God, or is singular in essence. All of these meanings revolve around the idea that there is only one God. Faithful Jews recite the Shema twice a day, and it is traditional for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night. It is such an important Hebraic belief that it is also an ideal for Jews to say the Shema as their last words.

This fierce monotheism is what has distinctly set apart the Hebrew people since God first revealed himself to Abraham in approximately 2000 BC. The Babylonian, Egyptian, and Eastern religions (and later the Greeks and the Romans) have all been polytheistic religions, filled with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of gods. The Hebrews were first and unique in their strict rejection of all other gods but one.

Yeshua himself confirms the importance of this concept of one God through the Shema, as well.

Mark 12:28-29 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that [Yeshua] had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Yeshua answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one…’

Now, here are some other verses confirming the unique authority of one God over all.

Isaiah 44:6, 8 “Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. … ‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.'”

Isaiah 46:9-10 “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’…”

As would be expected, we find this same emphasis on one God in the New Testament writings.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him…

1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Messiah Yeshua,

So, if this has been the historical understanding of the nature of God as being singular, how is it that over the centuries after Messiah, a concept known as the trinity came about? The philosophy of a trinity suggests that the being we call “God” is a singular entity made up of three “persons”: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In this view, all three have co-existed for all eternity, and all are co-equal with one another and somehow combine to form one God. This very abstract and confusing definition of God’s essence is generally defended by saying that the nature of God is incomprehensible to our human understanding.

While I would agree that God’s ways can be incomprehensible to us as humans, we always need to focus on what the Bible actually reveals about God, not invent how we think God should be, and then try to fit that idea back into the Bible. This involves reading what the Bible says about God, doing our best to understand the literary, cultural, and historical context, and then lining up our ideas with the consistent patterns found throughout Scripture. Therefore, I have come to believe that the concept of a trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God with three eternal persons) is a philosophical misinterpretation of men that was devised hundreds of years after the close of the inspired record of God’s dealings with the Israelite people.

Now, before you write me off as a cultist or assign to me some other unfounded judgment, please consider something very basic about what I am presenting here. One of the most glaring demonstrations of how the concept of the trinity is a tradition invented by men is that it was not even an “official” doctrine of Christianity until approximately three to four hundred years after Messiah lived. Prior to the time of its acceptance, there are only sparse references among a few of what we know as the “church fathers” to a vague trinitarian formula that was to become more firmly defined at this later time.

Three to four hundred years is a longer period of time than it has been for us Americans since the revolutionary war. So if that’s the case, what were the masses of Christians believing about God for all of that time, since they never even heard of a trinity concept? Unfortunately, the early leaders of that time were approaching the idea of God from thinking that was based on Greek philosophy, and not from the Hebraic cultural and historical perspective of the Bible.

To refine this man-made definition of the trinity, many councils were held in the fourth century because there was no firm understanding of this view among the various groups of early Christian leaders. And the establishment of this view was not immediate; it was only after hundreds of years beyond this point that it ultimately spread to become the “orthodox” (established and approved) view, yet it still continued to be refined through further councils, even into the middle ages. All of this debate and definition over such a long period of time does not lead one to conclude this is a clearly revealed truth in the Bible, but rather a manufactured idea of men trying to explain God from a human point of view, the very thing God says is impossible.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Today, the concept of the trinity is so widely accepted it is considered a non-negotiable core doctrine of Christianity. In almost all Christian churches, if one does not accept this view, one is not considered a Christian. However, reviewing the history of debates over the doctrine it is clear that the trinity is not a self-evident concept in the Bible. 

Based on the Hebrew culture and beliefs from which the Bible came forth, the trinity is not only inconsistent, but in direct contradiction with the Hebraic understanding of God being one, as evidenced through the importance and constant recitation of the Shema. The Hebrew understanding of the nature of God has always held to the absolute oneness or unity of God, with no plurality in essence in any way.

Another correlation, at least culturally, is the fact that the other major Abrahamic religion, Islam, also attests to the absolute oneness of God (Allah). According to their own writings, this simple monotheism is the most important creedal belief in Islam. To be clear, I am not here endorsing or validating Islam; I simply mention it to highlight the fact that both of the religions springing from Abrahamic lineage, Judaism and Islam, have this uncompromising view of absolute and singular monotheism which to me is a testament to its historical authenticity. Only Christianity (and only hundreds of years after the fact, so to speak) has claimed a combination of monotheism and plurality, something that differs from the cultural bedrock of these original, near-eastern traditions. The monotheism of Abraham should be the view of those who claim to be Abraham’s sons, a discussion we will have in a future episode.

The trinity was not a concept of God maintained by any ancient Hebrews throughout their recorded history, including the disciples and Yeshua himself. If it was that important of a doctrine between orthodoxy and heresy, then I believe Yeshua would have taught it clearly so that there would not need to be multiple councils over hundreds of years later to define it.

Now that I have stated my initial disagreement with the trinitarian view, I would like to provide some insight into a little-known aspect of Jewish culture that, to my way of thinking, is a much simpler way of understanding the person and work of Yeshua and the nature of Yahweh God. It pulls together and reinforces other passages throughout the Bible helping us to approximate how the ancient Hebrew mindset would most readily have understood these passages that have led to trinitarian thinking.

The passages that cause confusion about the nature of God can be explained in other ways that fit better with the overall context, patterns, and message of the Bible. When reading English versions of ancient semitic documents with our Western mindset and making declarations of absolutism and orthodoxy, we are drifting into areas of pride and tradition that may be interfering with our understanding of what the message of the Bible is really all about. Rather, if we can look up from our creeds and councils long enough to expand our understanding of the ancient semitic culture rather than Greek philosophy, we may find some simplified answers to some of the deep questions we are seeking to resolve.

For me, as I began to dive really deeply into the trinitarian traditions, I was refreshed when I discovered something that I had never been taught in my Christian faith that I’d like to share with you now. It is an ancient cultural concept which the Hebrews labeled as shaliach in Hebrew; in English, we would call it the concept of agency, or one who is sent.

Agency is the historical near-eastern concept that a designated agent is fully vested with the authority of the one who sent them, to the extent that the agent is considered equivalent to the sender. This was a common understanding in the ancient societies of the near east represented in writings that have survived down to our present age. In fact, we see something similar in our culture today in the legal realm. Some modern examples of this would be:

  • A real estate agent represents a buyer or seller as if they were that person themselves
  • A sales agent represents the interests of a company towards buyers
  • A police officer is an agent of the law allowing him to enforce it
  • A lawyer is an agent of the person they represent in court

In a similar way, a misunderstanding of this concept of agency has led to belief in Yeshua as being God himself, when Yeshua explained time and time again he was God’s designated agent, sent by God. 

While there are many biblical examples of this concept, a few of the more familiar examples of agency can be illustrated with the stories of Joseph, Moses, and then also with Yeshua.

Joseph as an agent of Pharaoh

Genesis 41:39-44 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. “You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, “Bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “[Though] I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”

Genesis 44:18 Then Judah approached him, and said, “Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh.

Moses as God’s agent

Exodus 3:10 “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Exodus 7:1 Then Yahweh said to Moses, “See, I make you [as] God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.

God’s son as the agent of God

John 12:49 “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.”

John 5:22-23 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

John 14:8-9 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Yeshua said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

So we can see this concept of agency and full representation comes from the culture of the Bible itself, and aligns with the patterns, principles, and standards of torah while enriching our understanding of these, and many other, passages. By contrast, the trinity is a foreign and unnatural concept to the biblical culture, and causes division over man-made philosophical definitions in order to essentially shoe-horn it into scriptural passages.

In my view, how most run-of-the-mill Christians, not theologians, view the trinity being one God is actually a type of practical modalism. I guess I should say, this is how it worked for me since I was raised within the trinitarian tradition. Modalism is the belief that there is only one God who has revealed himself in different ways called modes, faces, or aspects. He has represented himself throughout most of the Bible as Yahweh, but he has also revealed himself as Jesus, and sometimes he appears as the Spirit. Modalism says this is not three different “persons,” just three different ways the one God has revealed himself. I say that this is a type of practical modalism, because this is how a trinitarian belief shakes out in practice; there can only typically be an emphasis on God as the Father, God as the Son, or God as the Spirit at any one time.

However, when viewed through the lens of the historical Hebrew culture, these kinds of distinctions are not necessary. Is it challenging to untangle some of these entrenched views? Absolutely, but it is not impossible. Once I began to see and understand the message of the entire Bible as a cohesive whole, the overwhelming message of the Bible through its literary, cultural and historical basis is that there is only one true God, Yahweh, the Father, God Almighty, the Creator of all, and that he alone is the ultimate authority or King over all.

2 Kings 19:15 Hezekiah prayed before Yahweh and said, “O Yahweh, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.

I know at this point, many of you who have been brought up in the trinitarian tradition will call to mind specific verses that are said to attest to Yeshua’s divinity. That’s understandable, but please know that I would not make a claim against the trinitarian view without having looked at all of the evidence closely. Remember, I was raised with a trinitarian world view, so I totally understand how these types of arguments that I am providing here can appear jaded, or even heretical. I was brought up to believe that if you didn’t believe in the trinity, you were most likely involved in some sort of cult. I can assure you I do not claim allegiance to any one organization or denomination, and I seek to rely only on what I believe God has brought to my attention within his Word.

Summary:

  • I believe the Bible teaches there is only one true God. He is known as Yahweh, Almighty God, and the Father, among other names.
  • The Shema of Judaism practiced to this day is the echo of the monotheism of Abraham which was even validated by Yeshua himself. This concept of only one God separates a biblical worldview from most of the other world religions besides Judaism and Islam, demonstrating how the Abrahamic tradition was unique in its day.
  • I believe that the trinitarian view was a forced philosophical imposition on the revelation of God within his torah, or his Word, that took centuries to be established and accepted by the Christian people. Instead, the Hebrew concept of shaliach or agency more clearly represents the relationship of Yeshua with his Father, and is reinforced by other similar Bible passages involving Joseph, Moses and Pharoah.
  • In essence, I believe the Bible reveals that the holy Spirit is represented as the life-giving influence of Yahweh God himself, and in the New Testament Yeshua is clearly identified as the divinely born son of God, not God himself.
  • The nature of God is essential to understanding the core principles of the Bible which we discuss here each week, as his Kingdom, the primary emphasis of the whole Bible, is based upon the fact that Yahweh God is the ultimate King over all.

I’m sure that what I have mentioned here raises lots of questions and objections among those of you who have also been taught about the trinitarian world view. While I cannot address every trinitarian verse in the course of these podcasts, I will provide some resources in the show notes for those who would like to look more deeply into specific texts and verses that other, more scholarly folks than me have analyzed so they can draw their own conclusions. For what it’s worth, I do promise we will look more closely at what I believe the Bible reveals about Yeshua (and also the holy Spirit) in the next few upcoming podcasts. Hopefully some of those discussions will also provide you some further insights into my thinking about the nature of God. So, if you feel differently about this topic, I encourage you to continue to hear me out through those discussions, as well.

And I leave you today with one final verse that I believe encapsulates what I’ve tried with the best of my ability to express here today:

John 17:3 – [Yeshua speaking] “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua Messiah whom You have sent.”


Other helpful sites and resources regarding monotheism of the whole Bible:

Trinity Delusion | TrinityDelusion.net

What is a Biblical Monotarian – The Biblical Monotarian (Copyright 2023)

Why Biblical Unitarianism? | BiblicalUnitarian.com

Trinities – Theories about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The UCA Affirmation – Unitarian Christian Alliance

Remember, there is a Core of the Bible virtual study group that is hosted through the Marco Polo video chat app. It is designed to discuss the topics that we cover each week and to help people with responses to questions that may come up. If you are interested in joining the discussion, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at coreofthebible@gmail.com. I will be happy to send you a link to join the virtual Bible study group. You can also feel free to email me any of your thoughts or comments there, as well.

The eternal Torah of the whole Bible

It is when we act reflexively with the spirit and intent of torah that we know life has actually come into being and changed us.

Core of the Bible podcast #105 – The eternal Torah of the whole Bible

Typically in these articles, we review the core bible principles of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom, integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. But if you’re a regular listener you may remember that I’ve begun a year long journey of exploring some of the bigger doctrines in the Bible, and how those core principles apply to the larger biblical worldview.

As we go through these doctrinal statements in the coming weeks and months, I think you’ll find I typically do not hold to traditional perspectives on many of these topics, which is one of the reasons I am very excited to share them with you and possibly help you explore concepts and ideas that you may not have previously considered. 

In today’s episode, we will be talking about and defining what torah is, what its purpose is, and how it is relevant for believers today.

So let’s begin with: what is torah? Torah is instruction. Torah is also known as the law of God. Anytime God commands or gives direction to something or someone, torah exists. I believe torah is through every fiber of the Bible, from the first page of Genesis all the way through the Revelation; yes, even into the New Testament.

Of course, this goes against the common understanding of the Torah being relegated only to the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. This is even how Jews view their own holy writings, as we discussed in our last lesson. Their holy writings, what most Christians call the Old Testament, are made up of the Torah (law), the Nevi’im (prophets) and the Ketuvim (writings); the Tanakh.

However, regardless of this tradition the word torah itself simply means instruction or direction. It comes from a Hebrew root word, yara, meaning to throw or shoot, as in shooting an arrow toward a target. This is what torah’s purpose is, what it is designed to do; to point us to the target, or goal, that God would have us accomplish. This is why I believe that torah is all through the Bible: the whole collection of these writings is designed to point us toward the goal God has for every one of us: Messiah-like obedience as God’s children in the Kingdom of God. One of the primary reasons that I believe torah is eternal and not just from Sinai forward is because both Noah and Abraham are said to have kept God’s torah.

Many people don’t realize that Noah was given direction as to the making of a distinction between clean and unclean animals.

Genesis 7:2-3, 5 – “You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.” … And Noah did according to all that Yahweh commanded him.

How is it that Noah knew about clean and unclean animals when he lived over thousand years earlier than Moses receiving the commandments at Sinai? This implies that God’s torah was revealed previously, even if only in oral form at that point.

With Abraham also, even though he lived about five hundred years earlier than Moses, the Bible tells us that he followed God’s torah. In the book of Genesis when God was reinforcing the promises to Isaac that he had promised his father Abraham, God recounted to him how Abraham had and kept his commands and statutes.

Genesis 26:4-5 [God speaking to Isaac] “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws [torah].”

If God is here explaining how Abraham kept torah five hundred years prior to Moses and Sinai, and we’ve seen how Noah was diligent to maintain torah over a thousand years earlier than that, it should come as no surprise, then, how the whole Bible is is based on torah, or instruction, from God. And if this is true, then it becomes obvious why I believe torah is relevant for believers today, since it is essentially God’s eternal word that he always expects his people to abide by.

We have an understanding of torah first and foremost from the books of Moses, whose narrative describes the back-story and beginnings of the nation of Israel through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then to Joseph and Moses, preparing them as a people to enter the land of Canaan. Those principles established in that root story are repeated and expanded through the Prophets and the Writings of the Tenakh (OT), along with the writings of the Messianic Believers (NT). 

The regulating principle of God’s torah

Now here is something interesting about torah. The torah or instruction of God has a simple, self-regulating principle: anything that claims to be instruction from God but is not conforming with the revelation provided through the books of Moses (that is, Genesis-Deuteronomy) is not considered a valid teaching from God. These five books are the baseline recorded narrative of God’s interactions with men since the beginning, which is why they have collectively come to be primarily known as THE Torah. And this conformity to the revelation provided to Moses isn’t just my opinion, let’s see what the Bible says about it.

Deuteronomy 4:2 “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.

Ecclesiastes 3:14 I also know that whatever God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken away from it. God has made it this way, so that men will fear him.

Therefore, if some new doctrine or teaching comes along that does not fit the principles, patterns, and standards of torah as previously revealed, then it cannot be considered a legitimate spiritual teaching from God, and should not be heeded.

As the biblical books and writings of the prophets were being written and added to the body of the Tanakh or Old Testament writings, they were being judged as to whether they were aligning with the revelation provided to Moses in those earlier books. For believers in Messiah, they also were also faced with ensuring the apostolic teachings were also in alignment with the principles, patterns, and standards of torah as revealed to Moses. We see that the New Testament writings are based on the teachings and revelation of Yeshua as the Messiah. So, for believers, we see Yeshua as the “prophet who was to come” whom Moses spoke of.

Deuteronomy 18:15 – “Yahweh your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. You shall listen to him…”

The coming of this Prophet was the ultimate goal and expectation of the revelation to Moses, along with all of the rest of the Tanakh, so much so that Jews today are still waiting for a Messiah since they don’t believe in Yeshua.

Since Yeshua did not add or take away from God’s torah, but simply clarified and fulfilled it, we must take care that we don’t add to or take away from what he taught, as well. Taking away something that has been previously revealed is equally as destructive as adding something that does not belong. Yeshua was careful to demonstrate he was not advocating taking anything away from God’s torah.

Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law [torah] or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law [torah] until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

This idea of adding or taking away from torah is essentially a principle of testing. Moses warned about false prophets:

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 ‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Yeshua also warned about testing false prophets in a similar way. Just as Moses instructed that the results of a prophet’s prediction will prove him right or wrong, Yeshua explained the same principle using the fruits that are produced by those who have false teachings as an indicator of their falsehood.

Matthew 7:15-17, 20 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. … So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

In this way, Yeshua demonstrated that his teaching on the testing of prophets was established upon the same principles of God’s torah as revealed to Moses. 

The early believers in Messiah were also commanded to carry on this same practice of testing false teachers.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits [of the teachers] to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

How would they know what was “good” and what was false? Since they didn’t have a “New Testament” to go by, they were instructed to examine everything in light of the only torah that was already established, the Tanakh, which includes the torah originally related by God to Moses, to ensure they would not be led astray. In the process of following the Tanakh by believing in its fulfillment in Messiah, some of them then created the letters and epistles that have become the New Testament writings of today.

Fulfillment of Torah

True torah cannot be added to or diminished, but according to Yeshua, it can be fulfilled or brought to fruition. Yeshua fulfilled the ultimate purpose of torah, but that does not mean there is no longer a need to follow the principles of torah. He is our example of how to be obedient to the Father. He did not come to destroy torah, but to fulfill it. If he fulfilled it, so should we.

1 John 2:3-6 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

As we fulfill God’s torah by following its direction, then it accomplishes the intent that God had for it in the first place. This in itself is a principle of torah that the prophet Isaiah spoke of.

Isaiah 55:10-11 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

According to the apostle John, the very definition of sin is exemplified as not abiding by torah. 

1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness [literally: torah-lessness].

Therefore, the opposite must also be true: obedience to torah leads to non-sinfulness, that is, to righteous and holy actions. 

Romans 7:12 So then, the Law [torah] is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

However, we must remember that torah obedience on its own does not totally accomplish freedom from sin. This is because even though we may become aware of God’s righteous commands, we many times still desire our own ways.

In a moment, we will dive a little further into why this is so important when it comes to keeping the torah of God.

So, while we may understand with our minds the importance of keeping God’s word according to his instruction or his torah, many times we still struggle, desiring our own ways. This is primarily due to the fact that, even though we may know what the right thing is to do, our hearts are still not right and we can’t find the strength necessary to be obedient.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, Yahweh, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.”

Zechariah 7:8-12 Then the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah saying, “Thus has Yahweh of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’ But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. They made their hearts [like] flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which Yahweh of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from Yahweh of hosts.”

Torah can tell us the right things to do, but it can’t make us do the right things with the right attitude and for the right reason. 

Yeshua accused the Jewish leaders of this very thing. They tried to follow the letter of the Torah in scrutinizing detail, even adding their own man-made traditions in an effort to ensure the Torah commands themselves would not be violated. However, they missed the intended goal of torah because their hearts were not right before God.

Matthew 15:7-11 “You hypocrites [the Jewish leaders], rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hear is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines [of God] the precepts of men.'” 

Matthew 23:23, 27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness [torah-lessness].

The Jewish leaders were guilty of what the apostle Paul calls following “the letter of the law”, but not the spirit of it, and it resulted in hypocrisy which led them further from torah. Following the spirit of the law, and not just the letter of it, is what brings life. 

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as [coming] from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Jewish leaders were trying so hard to follow all of the rules that they missed the intent or spirit of the rules in the first place. This can be likened to a person at a busy traffic intersection who wants to cross the street. However, they are focusing so hard on staying within the lines of a crosswalk that they forget to check for traffic.

The letter of torah alone can be deadly if misapplied with the wrong spirit or intent. This is why acting on Bible verses taken out of context is so dangerous. For example I’ve heard people who claim to be believers justify retribution against others by saying, “the Bible says, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'” Yes, it’s true the Bible does say that, but the context is ancient Israelite civil law, not current day individual morality. Yeshua made it clear we are to love our enemies and do good to others as a way of demonstrating the love of God to them.

In a similar way, even though the Bible tells us the right things to do, it cannot bring life on its own.

Galatians 3:21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

The righteousness that Paul is speaking of here is the type that says we have right-standing in God’s eyes because we are doing what’s right. Paul is saying it takes more than just following a set of rules to be exhibiting true faith in God. Faith that honors God is simply believing what God said is true, and then being obedient to it; not the other way around.

God continues to teach people about his ways and lead people to Messiah through the symbols and object lessons of all of his torah. But just like graduating from one grade to another does not make all of what you previously learned vanish, it simply indicates that you have now earned a basic understanding of the rudiments of that grade level, and can now apply and follow those things that you have learned as you continue to grow. 

Galatians 3:23-26 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua.

This passage is famous for causing confusion, as most Christians take away from it that if Paul is saying believers are no longer under the tutor of the Torah, then it must be done away with. Since we have already seen that we cannot take away from God’s torah without violating it, we should understand that Paul must be trying to teach something else here.

Here’s an analogy that may help: Once you graduate from school, the lessons you have learned don’t disappear as if they no longer apply. You are now able to take what you have learned and use it in practical ways all the time, even though you are not in school anymore. Therefore, you no longer require the tutor or the teacher, because what the teacher taught you is now ingrained in you, and you now do textbook things naturally without always needing to reference the textbooks. Therefore, you are no longer “under” the tutor, who would need to constantly go over the basics with you. The textbooks are still valuable and still true, and you will still abide by the principles in the textbooks, you just don’t need to reference them because you are already understanding and practicing what they teach.

Remember what the apostle John wrote to the early Messianic believers:

1 John 2:4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…

1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

His commandments are his torah, his instruction, his direction. If we are not abiding by the principles of torah, then that is evidence that we haven’t had our hearts truly changed. This is why believers should still follow the principles of God’s torah, even though we technically no longer need it as a tutor. It is being fulfilled in us as we live it out in sincerity and truth. 

It is true that torah can give us indications of the right actions to do that lead to life. But it is when we act reflexively with the spirit and intent of torah that we know life has actually come into being and changed us.

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua. For the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Jeremiah 31:33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares Yahweh, “I will put My law [torah] within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

So, my question to those who would maintain that torah has been done away in Messiah is this: If God always intended to put his torah in the heart of his people, why would torah be done away with? It’s the very thing that he wants to reside in our hearts!

This is what Paul was trying to show in relation to God’s torah; it hadn’t passed away, but those in Messiah were to consider themselves as passed away, jointly dead with Messiah. He wanted believers to consider themselves as dead to the letter of the law (i.e., from trying to earn their favor with God through it) so they could instead obey the spirit of it from the heart. This is because they had simply believed God, just like Abraham, and become risen as new creations in Messiah!

Just as Yeshua was risen from the dead, believers were to consider themselves as also alive from the dead; the dead obedience of rote tradition to the letter of the law. The torah was never meant to be done away, but it was meant to be fulfilled; fulfilled in God’s children as they obey it from the heart! It was to serve as an ongoing foundation for the believers heart-service to God which has only become possible based on the new life of faith in Messiah.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

So, as long as there are people who don’t know the God of the Bible, these principles, patterns, and standards of God’s torah will continue to lead people to the truth of his Messiah. This is how and why torah must be eternal. It is through the torah of God that they can become born from above, renewed in heart as new creatures in Messiah. Therefore, God’s torah is ultimately still a tutor for all among the nations, so that people will continue to learn and practice his ways and be led to new life in the Messiah where they can then obey it from the heart. As they come to believe in and follow his Messiah, the torah of God will then reside in their hearts and bear fruit among all men.

Psalm 119:142, 144, 152 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law [torah] is truth. … Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live. … Of old I have known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever.

Micah 4:2 Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh And to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law [torah], Even the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem.

Zion is the New Jerusalem, the residence of believers everywhere.

Hebrews 12:22-24 – But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the gathered throngs and assembly of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Yeshua the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

It is from Zion, this place of believing heart-obedience, that God’s eternal torah goes forth into all the world. This is how God’s kingdom is, and will continue to be, established on the earth.

Alright, so let’s quickly review some of the key points we covered today:

  • I believe torah is not just limited to the first five books of the Bible. Torah is instruction or direction from God that is throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation.
  • Torah has a self-regulating principle. For something to be considered torah or instruction from God, it must be in agreement with the patterns, principles and standards that were revealed within the books of Moses. This applies to the teachings of Yeshua and the apostles, as well, since Yeshua clearly taught that he had no intent on abolishing torah, and in fact, upheld and fulfilled it.
  • The purpose of torah is that we also would fulfill it, not by simply following the letter of the law, but by fulfilling it in spirit from the heart, as new creations in Messiah. This is the intent that the prophets looked forward to in the New Covenant in Messiah.
  • Torah continues to instruct people and direct them to Messiah; that is its eternal purpose. We who are inheritors of the Kingdom of God shine forth from the prophetic city of Zion, the New Jerusalem, for the rest of the nations to be healed and brought into fellowship with their Creator.

Ultimately, I believe the core principles of the Bible, the basics of the eternal torah of God, were revealed through the Ten Commandments revealed to Moses and substantiated through the principles of the Sermon on the Mount taught by Yeshua. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Separate yourself to seek first the Kingdom with vigilance.
  • Love God with all of your heart, mind, and strength, trusting him for everything.
  • And love others as yourself with integrity, forgiveness, and compassion.

Next time, we will look at the doctrine of there being only One True God. This was the fierce monotheism of the ancient Hebrew people. I hope you can join us.

Remember, there is a Core of the Bible virtual study group that is hosted through the Marco Polo video chat app. It is designed to discuss the topics that we cover each week and to help people with responses to questions that may come up. If you are interested in joining the discussion, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at coreofthebible@gmail.com. I will be happy to send you a link to join the virtual Bible study group. And if you’re not sure about joining the group, you can always just email any questions you may have, as well.

The Bible: A Divine Revelation

What is the Bible and what does it say about itself?

Core of the Bible podcast #104 – The Bible: A Divine Revelation

Today, we will be looking at the Bible itself and what some of the historic creeds have stated about the nature of the Scriptures. I will also be sharing some of my own views on the Bible and aspects of these creedal positions. Before we end today, I would also like to discuss how these positions influence the core Bible principles we discuss here each week.

So I’d like to begin by describing my view of the Bible and its purpose.

The word Bible comes from the Greek “ta biblia” meaning “the books”. It is a collection of books that have been written over a period of one and a half millennia. They were written by a variety of Hebrew people primarily to and about the Hebrew people during various stages of their history as a nation, from approximately 1,500 BC to the 60’s AD.

The Hebrew Bible is generally what would be called by Christians the “Old Testament”. In Hebraic communities, it is known by the acronym TNK, or Tanakh. TNK stands for the Hebrew words Torah (Instruction), Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).

Here is a broad outline of the categories of books contained within the whole Bible:

Beginning with the Tanakh, the Torah (Law or Instruction) is considered to include primarily the first five books of the Bible, and they are attributed to Moses. They describe the beginnings and the establishment of the nation of Israel and its religious system of worship. These books provide a foundation for the rest of the Bible story to be contextually understood and built upon.

The Nevi’im or prophetic books were largely written as urgings to God’s people to return to the right ways of God when they had gone astray, and described the hope for future reconciliation.

The Ketuvim or Writings include the historical books explaining the origins and out-workings of the physical kingdom of Israel, and the rise and fall of various Hebrew leaders. Through these stories we learn of God’s faithfulness and justice with his people and with those of the nations surrounding them. The Ketuvim also include other poetic writings which describe God’s wisdom and care for his people through elaborate word pictures, hymns of praise and worship, and proverbs.

Now as we move from the Tanakh into the “New Testament” writings, we also move from Hebrew documents into Greek. The New Testament or Apostolic Writings is a collection of books written in Greek in the early first century by the followers of Yeshua. Some believe these also may have been originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. These books relate stories and instruction regarding the life of Yeshua (the Gospels) and the lives and experiences of those who would form new communities based on his teachings (Acts and the letters to the various congregations). They include historical narratives, correspondence between communities, and a form of Hebrew literature known as apocalyptic prophecy (the book of Revelation). They are all filled with references to and quotes from the Tanakh and its stories.

Different groups today will categorize the books of the Bible in different ways, and some will include different books here and there. The important thing to remember, however, is that within these pages, I believe God has revealed his mind and purposes for the benefit of his creation.

Okay, so that’s my perspective on what the Bible is. As we consider the writings in the Bible, it is important to keep in mind that these books are a collection of ancient middle-eastern writings that cover a wide variety of literary styles and are not all literal “newspaper accounts” of God’s dealings with men. They were not written specifically to us in our present day. They were written to the Hebrew people in a context appropriate for their moment in the history and culture of that nation. However, even though they were not written to us, we can say they were written for us, that is, for our benefit. Through these writings we are privileged to see how God has chosen to express himself and work with and among those whom he has chosen to do so. Understanding this distinction is one of the most important aspects of coming to know what the Bible narrative is really all about.

With that background, if we take all of these books as collectively telling a cohesive story, let’s see what the Bible books have to say about themselves.

  • 2 Peter 1:20-21 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

This statement, attributed to the apostle Peter, demonstrates how the books of the Bible, and here specifically speaking primarily about the Tanakh, claims to be divinely inspired. Believers in Messiah will typically include the New Testament writings within this category of divinely inspired writings, since they are completing the narrative of the Tanakh.

Besides considering the writings to be inspired, the Bible also teaches God has chosen to reveal himself through nature, the people of Israel, and most significantly through his Son, Yeshua.

In regard to the natural revelation of God in nature, the psalmist writes:

  • Psalm19:1-4  The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world…

The apostle Paul also used the creation as a basis of his speech to the Greeks assembled in Athens:

  • Acts 17:22-27 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all [people] life and breath and all things; and He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined [their] appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…

The Scriptures also portray God specifically revealing himself and His will for men to and through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel.  

  • 1 Kings 8:53 “For You have separated them [Israel] from all the peoples of the earth as Your inheritance, as You spoke through Moses Your servant, when You brought our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord Yawheh.”
  • 2 Kings 17:13-14 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.” However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in Yahweh their God.
  • Nehemiah 9:30 “However, You bore with them [Israel] for many years, And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, Yet they would not give ear. Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

Finally, the Bible claims that the ultimate revelation of God has been through his Son, Yeshua:

  • Hebrews 1:1-2 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things…
  • John 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Yeshua, Messiah.
  • John 14:6 Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
  • 1 John 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

The Bible therefore claims to reveal God in nature, Israel, and most significantly, through his Messiah, Yeshua. It is in this sense that I believe the Bible to be a divine revelation.

Now let’s take a look at some of the creedal descriptions of various organizations and denominations. All denominations and faith traditions within the Christian tradition understand that if we desire to have a biblical worldview, then we need to recognize some basics about these documents that shape our faith.

Here are a few examples of some random organizations that I pulled up in a quick search for “Statements of Faith”:

  • National Association of Evangelicals: “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.”
  • BasicChristian.org: “We believe the Holy Bible is God’s word Personally spoken by God for mankind for the purpose of revealing who He is and it is without error in all issues to which it speaks.”
  • Chicago Statement on Biblical Application: “We affirm that this God can be known through His revelation of Himself in His inerrant written Word.”
  • Church of God in Christ: “We believe the Bible to be the inspired and only infallible written Word of God.”
  • Torchbearers International: “The Bible is, in its entirety, the revelation of God for mankind, inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
  • Simplyscripture.org: “We believe the Bible to be the only revealed, pure, complete and preserved Word of God throughout all the ages. Scripture is solely contained within the 66 books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. We believe the Scriptures to be the inerrant, infallible, unchangeable Word of God and is the final authority for all matters of faith and practice.”

Okay, so you get the idea. Among the list of qualities about the Bible, it is considered by churches and para-church organizations to be revelatory, inspired, inerrant, infallible. So let’s define some of these qualities for a better understanding of what they are saying, and then I will add some comments about my own perspective on each of these qualities.

First of all is the idea that the Bible is REVELATORY: God has revealed himself in the Bible and he can be known through his workings as related within its pages.

I don’t disagree with this, other than different groups may define what God has revealed about himself differently from one another. I would simply say that God, who is unknowable outside of his own revelation of himself, desires his people to honor and represent him, living according to the principles his kingdom. I would also include the fact that nature itself is a form of God’s revelation of his power and majesty. And while general principles about God can be deduced from nature, it is only in the written revelation of the Bible where the specifics of God’s desires for mankind are revealed.

Secondly, these creeds say that the Bible is INSPIRED:  The writers of the Bible were inspired by God or the spirit of God to convey what he wanted to communicate.

Based on  my previous statement about God being unknowable, then it follows that those who would write about the nature and workings of God would necessarily have to be inspired to do so. This type of inspiration is typically recognized as God working through the various authors of the Bible to communicate. Again, many different groups define this inspiration differently, whether being immersed in God‘s spirit, or receiving ideas and wisdom from God and writing it out in their own way. Even Jewish thinkers throughout the centuries have had varying opinions about levels of inspiration for the various writings.  In my mind, I am simply content to recognize  God‘s influence over those who wrote the actual texts to ensure his will would be made known.

Thirdly, these creeds assert that the Bible is INERRANT. Now the specifics of inerrancy are typically defined further by the organization, but in general, it means the Bible is 100% without error. However, this is usually qualified by saying inerrancy was only in the original written documents, not necessarily the many manuscripts we have today. This qualifier is necessary because, quite honestly, there are errors in the manuscripts that we use for Bible versions that we have today. There are spelling differentials, numerical differences in some generations or years of a king’s reign, and some insertions into the text from later hands.

However, for me, this makes for a more robust understanding of the reality of just how old these documents really are. If we had perfectly preserved autograph documents from the original authors there would be more questions as to how something could be so perfectly preserved when everything else in the natural world of antiquity has been diminished. Therefore, they would more likely be considered forgeries of some type. In reality, the Bible can’t win with this type of logic. Either it’s too perfect, or not perfect enough.

The reason these minor grammatical areas do not pose a problem for me is that through tireless research they have been identified, and we know where they are and how little they impact the overall message of the Bible as a whole. So stating that the Bible is inerrant is kind of not true unless it is defined further. For me, to say the Bible is inerrant is difficult to do. Even to say that the original written documents had no errors is a stretch, because they no longer exist anywhere. Therefore that is a statement that cannot be validated.

Lastly, we come to the topic of the Bible being INFALLIBLE. This theological term simply means the Bible is considered unable to be wrong on the topics it covers.

Again, I don’t necessarily have a problem with this concept in theory, because I do believe the Bible contains the word of God, but infallibility isn’t something practical and  readily understandable to the general person. Infallibility is a theological term that for me connotes a high religious supremacy of some type. This is not untrue about the Bible. But with the concept of infallibility comes judgments of infallibility about practice based on fallible interpretations of these ancient texts, and this is why I try to avoid this type of terminology.

I believe it is simpler to say I believe the Bible is true primarily because Yeshua believed in what the Scriptures said. Since I am a follower of Yeshua, then it makes sense that I would also place the same level of regard on the Scriptures as being God’s word as he did. He repeatedly referred to the authority of Scripture by saying “it is written” and then quoting it, and by using the argument that “Scripture cannot be broken” when making an argument with the religious leaders. Since he trusted the writings as authoritative and reliable, then I also do. To me, this is the crux of the issue: not inerrancy and infallibility but reliability. I want to know the textual basis of my worldview and belief system is reliable.

Now as for the New Testament writings which were penned after Messiah, a primary reason I believe these books are also trustworthy as inspired records is due to the evidence of recurring patterns and consistent themes throughout all of the writings. Many of the patterns and themes begun in the Tanakh are carried over to fulfillment in the writings of the New Testament.


TanakhNew Testament
Paradise lostParadise regained
Scattering of God’s people due to disobedienceReconciliation and return provided for
Seeking of God’s Anointed leader (Messiah)Messiah realized in Yeshua
Natural principles of instructionSpiritual principles based on the natural
Hope for God’s future kingdomGod’s kingdom a present reality

These types of parallels is what makes the Bible such a cohesive whole, and is the joy of those who study it deeply.

I believe it was God‘s good design to entrust the bulk of his communication with the Jewish people who were extremely faithful in maintaining his revealed word. Even in the past one hundred years, this has been evidenced by documents discovered among the dead sea scrolls which were much earlier than previous manuscripts texts available to us. These earlier documents showed remarkable consistency with manuscripts generated centuries later.

So for my own creedal position on this issue, I want to make it clear that I do believe the Bible, as a repository of the witness of God about himself to mankind, is a reliable collection of books in which the truth of God is found. I have come to recognize that even though there are legitimate textual questions about specific biblical passages, the Bible is still trustworthy, and maybe even more authentic because of them.

So if I was to make a declaratory statement regarding the Bible, it would be something like this:

  • I believe that complete message of the Bible points to the faithfulness of God with his people Israel, culminating in the person and ministry of the Lord Yeshua.
  • Through God’s holy Spirit and his Word, the Bible, God desires to lead people to faith in Yeshua and to guide them in a life of faithful obedience to his will.
  • I accept the entire Bible as authoritatively testifying to the nature, work, and wisdom of God. These are the Scriptures or sacred writings concerning God’s revelation of himself to mankind. 
  • God’s purpose in these revelations has been an exhibition of his own glory and the establishment of his Kingdom on the earth.

In summary, the broad statements of my own understanding and faith concerning the Bible are:

  • The Bible is the authoritative revelation of God for us, for the purpose of establishing his Kingdom on the earth.
  • It was not written to us in this 21st century, but it was written for us, for our benefit.
  • I believe it’s a stretch to say the Bible is inerrant, and it’s equally vague to claim infallibility where poor interpretive principles are usually apparent; however, I also believe the intent behind those claims of inerrancy and infallibility are made with the intent to honor God.
  • I do believe the Bible is absolutely reliable and contains the Word of God for people today. Indications of its reliability are found in its recurring themes and patterns.

It is because of the Bible’s reliability we can see the broad basis for the importance of understanding its core principles which I believe God has revealed through the Ten Commandments and the principles of the Sermon on the Mount:

  • Separate yourself to seek first the Kingdom with vigilance.
  • Love God with all of your heart, mind, and strength, trusting him for everything.
  • And love others as yourself with integrity, forgiveness, and compassion.

Next week, closely aligned with this topic of the Bible, we will take on the concept of the Eternal Torah.

Remember, if you are interested in joining the Core of the Bible virtual Bible study, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at coreofthebible@gmail.com. I will be happy to send you a link to join the virtual Bible study group.

Digging into doctrines

Rather than showing where believers all agreed, creeds began to reveal how believers had many different opinions about many important biblical topics.

Core of the Bible podcast #103 – Digging into doctrines

For those of you who have been regular readers, today we will be doing something a little different. As I have now been doing this blog and podcast for a couple of years, I feel that I have made it pretty clear that the core principles of Kingdom, integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion resonate throughout the entire Bible. Any Bible believer can produce fruit in keeping with God’s will by staying focused on these principles which I believe are contained within the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

But lately I have felt a need to expand the scope of this podcast, and to broaden the application of those principles in light of wider doctrinal topics and issues. For the past couple of years I have been focused on showing how those core principles apply in practical ways in the life of the believer, but I have done so by skirting around many doctrinal issues, and purposely so, in an effort to maintain as wide a reach as possible that almost anyone from any Christian denomination could relate to.

Now, however, I have come to realize that in order to continue to build on these core principles, I’ll have to begin delving into areas of historical doctrine and show not only how those core principles apply, but also reveal a more detailed rendering of my own personal, biblical worldview.

It seems that everywhere we look for information on religious institutions today, whether churches or schools or even online ministries, they will typically have a Statement of Faith or What We Believe section to provide the reader with a broad understanding of their worldview. This is nothing new, as denominations have had creedal statements all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity with what has been called the Apostles’ Creed. The Billy Graham website, answering the question, “What is the Apostles’ Creed?” states the following:

“The Apostles’ Creed, though not written by the apostles, is the oldest creed of the Christian church and is the basis for others that followed. Its most used form is:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.

“In its oldest form, the Apostles’ Creed goes back to at least 140 A.D. Many of the early church leaders summed up their beliefs as they had an opportunity to stand for their faith—see, for example, 1 Timothy 6:12. These statements developed into a more standard form to express one’s confession of faith at the time of baptism. It is not Scripture, but it is a simple list of the great doctrines of the faith.”

As ancient Christianity was trying to understand itself, its writings, and its beliefs, there were historical councils that were organized to make official statements about these types of practices and beliefs. While too numerous to explore here, any interested student can search “early christian councils” and find a host of information on details of these various gatherings and how they impacted the growth of Christianity over the centuries.

For our purposes here, the relevance of these types of councils was to provide official stances on biblical topics ranging from the nature of God to what religious holidays should be celebrated and when. However, while the intent may have been to unify believers into a cohesive orthodoxy, the end result was that these councils actually tended to cause fragmentation, as people began to choose sides over various important biblical topics. Rather than showing where believers all agreed, they began to reveal how believers had many different opinions about many important biblical topics.

For example, not all Bible believers agree even on the ramifications of the topics mentioned in the Apostles’ creed: did Jesus really descend into a fiery hell? Is his coming to judge the living and dead something future or past? Is the Holy Ghost the third person of a trinitarian godhead? Who makes up the holy catholic or universal church? What is the communion of the saints and who are they? What is the resurrection of the body, is it something personal or united with other believers? And so on…

Below are some examples of concepts taken from church Statements of Faith that have created schisms over the centuries when in reality they should be just sub-categories of those things that could unite believers.

  • The nature of God the Father
  • The nature of Jesus Christ
  • The Holy Spirit
  • The Trinity
  • Inerrancy of Scripture and the Bible
  • Role of the “Church”
  • Creation
  • Salvation
  • Revelation (or eschatology)
  • Sacraments
  • Sin (or good and evil)
  • Heaven and Hell
  • Human nature
  • The believer’s mission (as it pertains to these topics)

Two thousand years later, we now have a wide diversity of versions of Christianity that exist among the various denominations. Almost all of these versions exist due to some theological philosophy, or geographical or cultural ideologies that are distinct from one another.  According to various online sources, the number of Christian denominations worldwide can be viewed as reflecting the cultural and theological diversity of Christianity, as well as the historical and contemporary factors that have led to its fragmentation. Some critics of Christianity view this as a sign of division and contradiction, while others see it as a manifestation of the richness and complexity of the Christian faith. Add to this the fact that polls of Christians have shown repeatedly that the majority of adherents to the various denominations do not agree with the “official” denominational stance on many issues, even though they may continue to remain engaged with their local congregation, and we end up with an even wider variation of beliefs among those who claim to be Christians.

In light of this overwhelming diversity of historical opinion, I feel I am in good company as I explore what it is that I personally believe about the Bible, and these are the thoughts that I will continue to share here. For the record, I am not affiliated with any denomination or specific branch of Christianity. I consider myself merely a student of the Bible, but I also cannot elude the ideas of others through my studies of history and commentary about the Bible. While I have studied some Hebrew and Greek, I am no linguist and I am limited to evaluating the various English translations and versions of the original documents. Like every other historical denomination to date, I have personally been on a long and winding journey of creating some sort of systematic theology of the Bible, seeing how all of the various pieces fit together, and making the best sense out of them that I can with my knowledge of the culture and times within which they were originally written.

To this end, as of this recording in 2023 I am embarking on a new project for the next year and beyond, and I invite you to come along with me as I explore 52 different aspects of my worldview and the doctrines that form its basis. Each week, I intend to focus on a brief overview of my understanding of some of the key topics that are usually brought up in statements of faith or denominational creeds, like “the Character of God,” or “Man and Sin,” along with some additional insights into topics that may not typically be covered within other denominational literature and thinking, like studies on the biblical feasts.

I understand that, based on the history of the creeds over the centuries, my perspective of many of these topics is not likely to be in agreement with the doctrinal positions you may have grown up with, or that your congregation or denomination may hold, and that may be uncomfortable. But I believe that honestly exploring these topics and why I have arrived at the conclusions I have has the potential to encourage open dialogue between some of these philosophical differences. For honest seekers of the wisdom of the Bible, it is my hope this can help to build bridges across denominational divides.

It is not my goal to say my worldview is the only way to understand the Bible, as my own views on many of these topics continue to be refined with further study. However, I do believe my current understanding on many of these topics combine to make a compelling and unified story that has value for the daily life of those who believe in the God of the Bible, as well as hope for the future of its continued influence in our societies. If I can effectively share ideas, planting seeds that others can take to new levels, then this has the potential to grow God’s Kingdom in ways that even I do not have the ability to foresee.

As a unique experiment tied to this project, I would like to interact on a more personal level regarding these topics with anyone who is interested in doing so. I am always available by email at coreofthebible@gmail.com. However, for those who may want a more immersive communication style, there is an app that allows people to create video discussion groups called Marco Polo. It is a free app that you can download to your phone that allows you to have video conversations back and forth, kind of like video messages that can be watched and responded to by anyone else who is in the group. It is not publicly shared online, but anyone in the group can see and respond to anyone else’s video conversation. Additionally, joining the group does not require one to talk on video; members can simply watch the conversations going on in the group. The goal is to have this as a kind of on-going virtual Bible study in between the weekly podcast episodes.

Just to be clear, I have no affiliation with the Marco Polo program but only suggest it here as another method of communication. It is a free service to use, but like everything these days, it also has a paid subscription level that allows you to access other features. But the paid features are not necessary to simply be in the group and interact with others. Again, I want to make it clear that I am not affiliated with Marco Polo and am not supported by any of its paid features; I only mention this in full disclosure.

If anyone on this journey would like to join the Core of the Bible virtual Bible study, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at coreofthebible@gmail.com to receive a link to join the Core of the Bible group. Once you’re in, you’re free to watch and listen to everyone’s video chats and add your own comments, as well.

But I caution anyone wanting to join the group with the caveat that I am experimenting with this as a way of opening dialogue and sharing encouraging ideas and genuine interest in furthering our collective understanding of the Bible, not as a way of providing anyone an opportunity for denomination- or doctrine-bashing. The group will be administered by me accordingly, so I hope we can remain respectful, abiding by the biblical principles of maintaining peace with all men as much as is possible by us. We have to remember that differences of opinion are just that, opinions, and for those of us who claim to be believers, we are all at different areas in our walk with God and we should extend much grace to one another in love.

Finally, throughout this upcoming project of worldview exploration, I also do not want to lose sight of the Core of the Bible topics, as that is the overall focus of my endeavors with this podcast. I hope to show how the wider theological topics are imperative to the core principles which should guide the daily lifestyle of the Bible believer. So, since today’s episode is essentially an introduction to the launch of this new project, let me just restate those core values so that we can keep an understanding of where all of these larger theological discussions should end up.

Remember, I believe the core principles of practice for any believer of the God of the Bible should be based on the spirit of the Ten Commandments and the principles of the Sermon on the Mount written on the heart. These are what I believe to be the foundational statements of the Kingdom of God, imbued with the heart of God for every person who would reflect his image in this world. So I have summarized it into three simple statements:

  • Separate yourself to seek first the Kingdom with vigilance.
  • Love God with all of your heart, mind, and strength, trusting him for everything.
  • And love others as yourself with integrity, forgiveness, and compassion.

It is my belief that these simple principles sincerely put into practice from the heart have the ability to produce godly fruit in the life of any believer, and are the ultimate goal of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth. 

Next week, we are going to begin the worldview discussions with “The Bible: A Divine Revelation.”

I look forward to having you along on this journey of exploration in the coming weeks and months, both as listeners to the podcast and potentially joining the Core of the Bible virtual study group in the Marco Polo app. 

Vigilantly protecting our hearts keeps our way sure

When the heart is right, right actions will follow.

Core of the Bible podcast #102 – Vigilantly protecting our hearts keeps our way sure

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of vigilance, and how the strength to stay on the right path begins in the vigilant commitment to keep our hearts pure. We will be reviewing some of the Proverbs of Solomon and a history of civil strife in Israel to help us understand how important it is to have hearts that are pure.

The Proverbs contain a wealth of instruction and wisdom, and yet even amidst this treasure of understanding, there remains an indication of something more that is necessary for a righteous person to stay within the boundaries of God’s wisdom. In a brief statement in Proverbs 23, Solomon reveals that right actions of the children are likely to follow the right actions of the parent.

Proverbs 23:26 – O my son, give me your heart. Let your eyes observe my ways.

This requires a large measure of vigilance on the part of the parent in order to ensure they are always setting an appropriate example for their children in all their ways.

Throughout the Proverbs, Solomon is writing in the context of conveying all of this information and instruction to his child. As a parent wants to instill their children with all of the right information they can, he continually reminds his son to maintain what is right in the face of surrounding adversity.

But the point of the message today involves a wider background and some context to fully grasp the ramifications of choices we make. This involves choices in regard to following wisdom that has been exemplified for us, or following our own way, or even bad examples that have been set for us. In order to understand more about the importance of the heart and the examples we set, we must glean some insights from a turbulent time in Israel’s history. This is the story of two men who succeeded one of the wisest rulers the world has ever seen.

The books of Kings and Chronicles in the Bible tell similar stories of the history of Israel’s earliest kings. Saul was the first king over the nation, and he was followed by David. David then prepared the kingdom for his son Solomon to rule after his death. While Solomon had enjoyed God’s favor and provision during the early part of his reign, the latter part of his rule had become marred with the poisonous stain of idolatry.

1 Kings 11:4-6 – When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to Yahweh his God, as his father David had been. Solomon followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the abhorrent idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not remain loyal to Yahweh.

Now, as disappointing as this may be to read of the demise of God’s anointed ruler, God knew that this eventuality would lead to a new condition in Israel. During this period, God brought to Solomon’s attention one of the young men in his service, a man named Jeroboam, an industrious and energetic individual.

1 Kings 11:28 – Now the man Jeroboam was capable, and Solomon noticed the young man because he was getting things done. So he appointed him over the entire labor force of the house of Joseph.

It was about this time that God had also arranged for a prophet to meet Jeroboam and reveal what he was about to do with Solomon’s rule, since Solomon had allowed the nation to fall back into the corruption of idolatry.

1 Kings 11:29-32 – During that time, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met Jeroboam on the road as Jeroboam came out of Jerusalem. Now Ahijah had wrapped himself with a new cloak, and the two of them were alone in the open field. Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he had on, tore it into twelve pieces, and said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what Yahweh God of Israel says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand. I will give you ten tribes, “but one tribe will remain his for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city I chose out of all the tribes of Israel.

Here we find the first indication that God was going to split the physical kingdom of Israel into two main groups: the northern ten tribes which would be called Israel, and the southern two tribes of Benjamin and Judah which would be blended under the name of the larger tribe of Judah. Civil war was about to break out; it was only a matter of time until Solomon would die, and Ahijah prophesied that the nation would become two rival kingdoms: Israel and Judah.

When Solomon found out about the exchange that took place between Ahijah and Jeroboam, the text says he attempted to kill Jeroboam to squash the rebellion. But Jeroboam fled to Egypt and stayed there out of Solomon’s reach until Solomon’s death. It was then that we find out about Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, and how he assumed the throne after his father’s death.

1 Kings 11:42-43 – The length of Solomon’s reign in Jerusalem over all Israel totaled forty years. Solomon rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David. His son Rehoboam became king in his place.

Just as Solomon had received the throne of Israel from his father, David, Rehoboam received the throne from his father, Solomon. Now, here’s where we can begin to consider some ramifications of the teachings of the Proverbs and how it relates to the heart. It is not beyond reason to consider that Rehoboam, as Solomon’s heir, was the son who is mentioned throughout the Proverbs.

  • Proverbs 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel.
  • Proverbs 6:20 My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
  • Proverbs 7:1 Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.

If this is the case, one would think that Rehoboam would have been groomed as a righteous and upstanding individual who would have been well-fitted to sit on the throne of Israel. These wise admonitions from his father, proverbs which we are still learning from three thousand years later, should have been so relevant to Rehoboam that there would have been no question of his integrity or wisdom.

However, the Bible records that Rehoboam did not follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, David, or in the wisdom of his father, Solomon.  When given the opportunity to act wisely regarding what the tenor of his new kingly administration would be, Rehoboam disregarded the wisdom of his father’s advisors and instead chose to follow his own ambition and the advice of his friends.

1 Kings 12:1- Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king.

Now the plot thickens. Solomon is dead, his son Rehoboam is about to be crowned as king. But what about Jeroboam, the industrious and energetic leader that the prophet Ahijah had said would rule over the ten northern tribes, who had fled to Egypt?

1 Kings 12:2-3 –  When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard about it, he stayed in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon’s presence. Jeroboam stayed in Egypt. But they summoned him…

Those who had heard about Jeroboam and Ahijah sent for Jeroboam and told him that Solomon had died and what was about to transpire with the transfer of the entire kingdom to Solomon’s son Rehoboam. They must have convinced Jeroboam to come back and represent the labor forces of the ten northern tribes, much like a union negotiation might take place today.

1 Kings 12:3-17 –  …Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam: “Your father made our yoke harsh. You, therefore, lighten your father’s harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”  Rehoboam replied, “Go away for three days and then return to me.” So the people left. Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon when he was alive, asking, “How do you advise me to respond to this people? ”  They replied, “Today if you will be a servant to this people and serve them, and if you respond to them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever.”  But he rejected the advice of the elders who had advised him and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and attended him. He asked them, “What message do you advise that we send back to this people who said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’? ”  Then the young men who had grown up with him told him, “This is what you should say to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you, make it lighter on us! ‘ This is what you should tell them: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! “Although my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with barbed whips.’ ”  So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had ordered: “Return to me on the third day.” Then the king answered the people harshly. He rejected the advice the elders had given him and spoke to them according to the young men’s advice: “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with barbed whips.”  The king did not listen to the people, because this turn of events came from Yahweh to carry out his word, which Yahweh had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat. When all Israel saw that the king had not listened to them, the people answered him: What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Israel, return to your tents; David, now look after your own house! So Israel went to their tents, but Rehoboam reigned over the Israelites living in the cities of Judah. 

After all that had transpired, everything unfolded just as God had foretold through the prophet Ahijah. The kingdom was now divided under two rival leaders, Solomon’s son Rehoboam ruling over Benjamin and Judah, and the popular leader Jeroboam ruling over the northern ten tribes of Israel.

In a moment, we will take a look at how all of this applies to the matters of the heart, and how a loss of vigilance over the purity of the heart can lead to strife and division.

Solomon’s admonitions to his son throughout the book of Proverbs fall along the same lines as the charge of David that Solomon himself received as a young man.

1 Kings 2:1-3 – As the time approached for David to die, he ordered his son Solomon, “As for me, I am going the way of all of the earth. Be strong and be a man, “and keep your obligation to Yahweh your God to walk in his ways and to keep his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn,

The narrative then tells us that this is what Solomon did, at least early on in his reign over the people of Israel.

1 Kings 3:3 – Solomon loved Yahweh by walking in the statutes of his father David…

Here we see unfolding the roots of Solomon’s upbringing, how early in his adult life he followed his father David by following the righteous example David had set in regard to the commands of God. It appears that, throughout the Proverbs, Solomon was attempting to instill that same sense of vigilance and right actions in his son, Rehoboam. In the fourth chapter of Proverbs, in typical Hebraic fashion, Solomon lays out a string of admonitions for Rehoboam that each build upon one another:

Proverbs 4:20-27 – My son, pay attention to my words. Open your ears to what I say. Do not lose sight of these things. Keep them deep within your heart because they are life to those who find them and they heal the whole body. Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it. Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead and your sight be focused in front of you. Carefully walk a straight path, and all your ways will be secure. Do not lean to the right or to the left. Walk away from evil.

Here we see revealed for us how the root of remaining vigilant and keeping one’s way pure is centered on the heart: “…keep [my words] deep within your heart…Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.”

According to the Bible, the heart is the wellspring of life. All thoughts and consequent actions flow from the heart, therefore, a pure heart means a pure walk.

A thousand years after Solomon, Yeshua also instructed his followers that what one says, and thereby does, comes from what is within the heart:

Luke 6:45 – The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

So, taking the full counsel of God’s wisdom into account, in like fashion, when we keep God’s word deep within our hearts, our walk becomes more sure. Dishonesty and deceptive speech disappear. Distractions from the way of truth become less frequent. Our way becomes more firm as we stay on the path laid out for us. We find the strength to walk away from evil.

It would seem that Rehoboam acted foolishly by following his own ambition and the advice of his friends, not because he didn’t have the instruction of the wisdom of God from his father, Solomon, but because his heart was not right. He desired to “make his mark” by becoming a harsh and unreasonable ruler over God’s people. Even though he had been personally counseled by the author of the Proverbs, it appears that it wasn’t that the instruction was faulty, but the example set by his father Solomon.

Proverbs 23:26 – O my son, give me your heart. Let your eyes observe my ways.

As Solomon’s rule continued to slide further into idolatry and slave labor of his people, Rehoboam must have seen that as a path to his own future administration. Rather than following the clear-headed wisdom of his father from his younger days, he appears to have chosen the way of his own ambition and popularity with his friends, following the ways of the example of his father during the latter years of his reign. The end result was not a stronger nation, but a civil war that split the kingdom in two.

This proverb now takes on the light of a different color. While the story of Rehoboam is not a picture of encouragement, it still has the power to teach us one of its lessons. It may be that Rehoboam actually followed his father’s direction by “following his ways.” As Solomon’s rule became more compromised by idolatry, Rehoboam simply took his father’s “ways” to a new level.

Now, I am not suggesting that Rehoboam had no responsibility in the matter, as we all make decisions that have real-world consequences. But what I am proposing is how powerful the example of a parent is to a child, or even a mentor to the student. It is not always what is said or taught, but what is lived.

I believe this is why Yeshua stressed the importance of the heart condition above obedience to the letter of the law.

  • Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Matthew 15:19 – “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander.
  • Matthew 18:35 – “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”
  • Mark 7:6 – He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
  • Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
  • Luke 10:27 – He answered, “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

When the heart is right, right actions will follow. And when right actions are evident, then positive examples are set for others to see and follow, as well. This story of Rehoboam should sound a note of of warning to our ears. While it is a prime example of how we cannot be vigilant in the wisdom of God unless the wisdom of God is in our hearts in the first place, it also demonstrates how the example of our life has the powerful potential to influence others in ways that honor God.

This is why the motivation to stay on the right path begins with vigilance: a vigilant determination to keep our hearts pure at all costs. By being committed to remain faithful to the deep truths God has placed there, then, just like a true child of the Proverbs, we can find deep reserves of strength to always do what’s right, bringing forth “good treasure” and positive examples for others to see. When we do so, God’s purposes can be continually fulfilled within each generation as we remain faithful to his will in both our hearts and our actions. And when God’s will is accomplished on earth as it is in heaven, this is the tangible expression of the Kingdom of God and how it will continue to spread until it fills the earth.


If you enjoy these articles, 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 blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

How to do what is right in God’s eyes

Meditating on God’s word and understanding it in its entirety provides us the correct context for our outward actions.

Core of the Bible podcast #101 – How to do what is right in God’s eyes

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of integrity, and how it is only when we understand what God’s perspective is that we can know what’s truly right and what’s wrong.

Deuteronomy 12:28 – Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God.

Doing what is right in the sight of God is the biblical definition of integrity. It means following his instruction or acting according to his precepts. Today, I would like to take a look at some examples of ancient Israelite kings who have done what is right in God’s eyes: King Asa and King Josiah. I believe this can help us to understand what this practical righteousness or biblical integrity looks like.

  • 2 Chronicles 14:2-5 – Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of Yahweh his God. He removed the foreign altars and the pagan shrines. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded the people of Judah to seek Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his law and his commands. Asa also removed the pagan shrines, as well as the incense altars from every one of Judah’s towns. So Asa’s kingdom enjoyed a period of peace.
  • 2 Kings 22:1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. … He did what was pleasing in Yahweh’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.
  • 2 Kings 23:24 Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in Yahweh’s Temple.

Notice in these examples that Asa and Josiah were considered doing what was right in God’s sight because they were taking action according to God’s Word. The texts tell us that “Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of Yahweh his God,” and that Josiah “did what was pleasing in Yahweh’s sight.” How did they know what God’s perspective was? It says that Asa followed God’s “law and his commands” and Josiah acted “in obedience to the laws written in the scroll” that had been found in the temple.

These reforms did not get underway until each king had a standard to act on. In the example of Asa, the details of this reform are actually backfilled in the following chapter from the narrative we read previously. Looking at the wider context of his reforms, we can see where his motivation to enact these reforms came from.

2 Chronicles 15:1-4 – The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. So he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Asa and all Judah and Benjamin, hear me. Yahweh is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you. For many years Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without instruction, but when they turned to Yahweh God of Israel in their distress and sought him, he was found by them.

Notice here how Azariah mentions two main points: first, Israel has been without God and instruction for many years and, secondly, he recounts God’s dealings with Israel in the past (i.e., a biblical narrative) that were examples for them to understand and learn from. The narrative continues:

2 Chronicles 15:5-8 – “In those times there was no peace for those who went about their daily activities because the residents of the lands had many conflicts. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every possible distress. But as for you, be strong; don’t give up, for your work has a reward.”  When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage and removed the abhorrent idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He renovated the altar of Yahweh that was in front of the portico of Yahweh’s temple.

See how the reforms did not begin until Asa was made aware of God’s perspective from the previous examples from Israel’s history? What is even more startling is the fact that Asa reigned in Israel a scant 100 years after the broad successful reign of Solomon, somewhere around 900 BC. And in that short amount of time the nation had fallen into deep corruption; so deep, in fact, that the Word of God had become lost to where there was no true instruction of God available, and idolatry had quickly overtaken the people.

As amazing as this seems, it’s the same way with Josiah’s reforms, as well. When we look at the “backstory” of his reforms, we find a similar pattern to Asa.

2 Kings 22:8, 10-13 – The high priest Hilkiah told the court secretary Shaphan, “I have found the book of the law in Yahweh’s temple,” and he gave the book to Shaphan, who read it.  … Then the court secretary Shaphan told the king, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a book,” and Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.  When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes [which was an act of repentance]. Then he commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, the court secretary Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah: “Go and inquire of Yahweh for me, the people, and all Judah about the words in this book that has been found. For great is Yahweh’s wrath that is kindled against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this book in order to do everything written about us.”

For context, Asa reigned around 900 BC and Josiah reigned approximately 625 BC. Josiah’s reign ended less than a decade from the nation of Judah’s capture and carrying off to Babylon.

Again, Josiah was motivated to conduct these reforms only when he became aware of God’s requirements, God’s view on how things should be conducted. It wasn’t until Hilkiah the high priest “found a book of the law in the temple” and Josiah was made aware of it that his motivation was kindled. His response to hearing and understanding the instruction of God was to repent of his ignorance and lack of understanding, and then take full action based on the clear directives of God.

By contrast, those who instead follow their own ways do what they think is right, not paying any attention to the commands of God.

  • Proverbs 16:25 – There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
  • Proverbs 21:2 – People may be right in their own eyes, but Yahweh examines their heart.

Essentially, we as humans have the capacity to justify whatever we think is right and appropriate for ourselves, whether those things are right in God’s eyes or not. Unfortunately, as Solomon wrote in his Proverbs, typically those ways “end up in death.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that our own ways always lead to our physical death (although many times they do), but the path of “death” in these ancient texts is typically the antithesis of the path of “life.” Our own ways driven by our own understanding cannot come to the realization of what is truly right. This is the symbolism contained within the meaning of the story of Adam and Eve: they had the right to eat from the tree of life (i.e., in obedience to God’s righteous ways) or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., operating within their own understanding of what they thought was good or bad). When they chose incorrectly, they experienced “death” and were cast away from God’s presence.

Solomon also says that people may do what they think is right in their own eyes, but God looks at their heart. Similarly, we can see peoples’ stature and the impressive way they present themselves, but unlike God, we don’t always know what’s in their heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 – But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. Yahweh doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.”

We may think that someone is being super-righteous because of their outward actions, but in reality they may actually be hypocritical because they are doing things only to be seen as righteous by others. This is a heart condition that God recognizes, even if we don’t. Yeshua had to combat this type of unrighteousness among the leaders of his day.

Luke 16:15 – He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

There are things that are right in the sight of God, and there are things that are an abomination in the sight of God. The key factor is understanding what God’s perspective is, then we can know what’s truly right and what’s truly wrong. He has revealed what he considers right and wrong within the pages of the Bible, and it is up to us to saturate our lives with his Word so we can operate from the baseline of his principles with the power he provides us.

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Asa and Josiah were two faithful kings of integrity living approximately 350 years distant from one another. Yet, they had similar experiences of repentance and renewal based on their exposure to God’s Word, demonstrating the power of a constant and intentional review of biblical information.

As kings, they had the ability to make laws and take actions that would guide and protect the people of Israel. They had chosen to take action, to do what was right in God’s eyes (according to his Word), in regard to the corruption and idolatry they saw which had continually crept in among God’s people. They were men of practical vision who recognized that the idolatrous influences of the surrounding cultures had been polluting God’s people, and so they both chose to act in accordance with God’s Word; they did what was right in God’s eyes.

Now, based on the fact that these two stories seem so similar and that this process of reform needed to be repeated, some might say: “Well, look how hopeless things are. Regardless of the faithful integrity of these kings and the widespread reforms they brought about, the nation still fell back into its idolatrous ways and was carried off to Assyrian and Babylon anyway. What they did had no effect at stopping the corruption of the land.”

Well, if we step back and look at the bigger picture, God already knew that the nation would remain rebellious despite these reforms; it had been prophesied since the days of Moses hundreds of years earlier. But that’s not the point. The point is that both kings acted with integrity when they were confronted with the Word of God that had become lost in their respective generations. I believe that what we should take away from this is not to feel hopeless in the continual fight against corruption, idolatry and worldliness. The point is for believers to act on what we know is right in the face of that corruption, idolatry and worldliness. God doesn’t ask any believer to single-handedly correct the entire world, only to be faithful with the truth that they have received.

Paul wrote about this type of mindset as he encouraged the Philippian congregation to strive for a mature realization of their faith by continually looking ahead:

Philippians 3:13-16 – …Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Messiah Yeshua. Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.

We can’t be faithful in the things we don’t yet know about, but we can be faithful with the truth that we have received, and this is all God expects of us. When we do so, God then has the opportunity to bless us for our obedience to what he has revealed to us so far.

Consider how both kings, and the people under their reign, benefitted from the integrity of these two men.

2 Chronicles 15:12-15 – Then they entered into a covenant to seek Yahweh God of their ancestors with all their heart and all their soul. Whoever would not seek Yahweh God of Israel would be put to death, young or old, man or woman. They took an oath to Yahweh in a loud voice, with shouting, with trumpets, and with rams’ horns. All Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn it with all their mind. They had sought him with all their heart, and he was found by them. So Yahweh gave them rest on every side.

2 Kings 22:14-20 – So the priest Hilkiah … went to the prophetess Huldah, wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. … She said to them, … “Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of Yahweh: ‘This is what Yahweh God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, “because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before Yahweh when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’ ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration. “‘Therefore, I will indeed gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster that I am bringing on this place.’ ” Then they reported to the king.

Because of the faithfulness of these men, the land had rest from its enemies. People under their reigns could prosper within the safety of this favored status before God. Their repentance led to peace; peace with God and peace with their enemies. The integrity of these men had real impact on themselves and the people of their respective generations. Sure, the land would eventually lapse back into their idolatrous ways, but within their lifetimes and within all of their capacity that they had available to them, these men stood as shining lights amidst the darkness of their generations to create a safe haven for those under their rule.

What about us? It is easy for us to become overwhelmed by the negativity, divisiveness, and corruption we see around us every day. But, as believers, that’s what we’re here for. We are to be the city on a hill, the light shining in the darkness, standing up for what’s right according to God’s Word. We have to take action on the instruction of God for it to be impactful in the lives of those around us. It’s been said that believers are the only Bible that some people will be exposed to, so what kind of example of God’s instruction do you want your life to emulate?

As believers, even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand our motivation, we can still do what’s right in God’s eyes. Meditating on his word and understanding it in its entirety provides us the correct context for our outward actions. Like Asa and Josiah before us, this type of obedient integrity purifies God’s people and accomplishes God’s purpose in each generation.

I know it’s popular in these days to be part of a movement that seeks to change the world. But changing the whole world is not our job; that’s God’s job. His expectation for us is that we change OUR world, those people we see and touch and interact with each and every day. We do that by acting on the instruction of God in a way that others around us can see and know what God’s perspective is: what’s right and what’s wrong in HIS eyes. This is how we make a difference for God. And when we collectively do so as faithful individuals of biblical integrity, God ends up, through us, changing the world.


If you enjoy these articles, 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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.