The Spirit that sets believers apart

Many believers today are of the opinion that the Holy Spirit did not work among God’s people until the day of Pentecost described in Acts chapter 2.

Acts 2:1-4 – When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.

And yet we find David claiming that God’s Holy Spirit was with him in his day.

Psalm 51:10-11 – God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

In fact, we find the Spirit of God has been present and active since the very opening verses of the Bible.

Genesis 1:1-2 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Now, believers today might concede and say something like, “Well, yes, God’s Spirit has always been present, but he has not come to live inside believers until the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.” But is this really the case?

Numbers 11:16-17 – The LORD answered Moses, “Bring me seventy men from Israel known to you as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the tent of meeting and have them stand there with you. “Then I will come down and speak with you there. I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself.

Now if we are going to get into the semantics of whether the Spirit was IN or ON people, I think we will be missing the point, and quite honestly, we will be missing a beautiful continuity all throughout God’s Word, as well.

The Spirit of God is his Presence, active and working within his created order to maintain his purpose and will. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, the Presence that separates and distinguishes the profane from the sacred, the mundane from the spiritual.

When the Spirit of God acts in Creation, we consider the miraculous to be taking place. From the act of Creation itself, to guiding Israel through the wilderness, to speaking through Moses and the prophets, to anointing all of his people with knowledge, wisdom, and insight, the Spirit of God is the “thing” that distinguishes God’s people from the rest of the people living on the planet at any given time. This is what gives the Bible its uniqueness in its worldview, and what separates its adherents from all others.

How can we know if we “have” the Holy Spirit working in our lives? Well, primarily we have to recognize that the Spirit of God is not a possession we “have.” If we choose to abide in his ways as revealed through Yeshua, we are promised he will choose to abide with us.

1 John 2:3-6 – This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. The one who says, “I have come to know him,” and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.

When we keep his word, we obey his commands, and our lives should look like Yeshua’s. In his departing words to his disciples recorded for us in John’s gospel in chapters 14-17, Yeshua teaches about the intimate and powerful ways that God will continue to work through his people when they are obedient to God’s commands as he had related to them during his ministry among the people of Israel.

John 14:15-17 – “If you love me, you will keep my commands. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. “He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and is in you.
John 15:26-27 – “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father ​– ​the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father ​– ​he will testify about me. “You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 16:13 – “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.

The Spirit of holiness is the Spirit who would cause the disciples, and subsequently all believers, to testify to the Messiah-ship of Yeshua. This is an earmark of the Spirit’s work in our lives: testifying that Yeshua is the Messiah of God, sent to save his people from their sin.

The Spirit of holiness is the Spirit of truth, and the Spirit cannot direct believers of Messiah into falsehood. He was to declare to the disciples what was to come, and we have those declarations recorded for us throughout the New Testament writings as historical validations of all that was foretold.

1 John 2:20-21, 27 – But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. … As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, his anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in him.

The Spirit of God is what sets God’s people apart from all others. When we claim to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah of God, we are taking part in the miraculous fulfilling of God’s purpose in the world. As we remain “in” the Holy One, he remains “in” us. The Spirit of God is active today among his people, continuing to set standards of righteousness and belief in the Messiah for each new generation through what has been revealed to his set-apart people, his holy people, throughout the ages.


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

Cultivating a godly heart

Today we will be exploring the topic of holiness, and how cultivating a heart like God’s means to be moved and motivated by the things that move and motivate him. This godly empathy is what separates Gods people as a unique and set apart people.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Yeshua explains that in grieving for unrighteousness a blessing will result, as God will be near to comfort those who are passionate for righteousness.

Many times this verse is used to comfort those who are grieving the loss of a recently departed loved one. However, the intent of this wisdom goes beyond the general aspect of mourning for death. Instead, it is a promise of God’s comforting presence with those who have a deep and sincere grief over unrighteousness, whether personal or within their shared experience.

When coming to the Bible for inspiration, people are not typically thinking about grief, but are looking for passages to encourage and to bring joy and fulfillment. Yet, according to Yeshua, one of the most fulfilling things that brings blessing into life is to be circumspect in one’s own walk, and to be sorrowful over the wayward practices of those around us.

This is not a sorrow for sorrow’s sake, just to feel sad about how disobedient we have been, or to languish in the wayward practices of the world around us. No, this grief is a grief that should spur us to action, to be personally repentant and to intercede for others.

This type of “active mourning” begins when one realizes their wayward actions are an affront to a holy God.

Prov 9:10: “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom. The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Cultivating a heart like God’s begins with understanding who he is. We need to know who God is in order for us to honor and respect him. However, if we are not aware of the nature and majesty of the God of the universe, then we will remain oblivious to all he has provided us.

All through the revelation of God’s word he describes himself so that we can have an understanding and come to know him.

Isaiah 40:25,28: “”To whom then will you liken me? Who is my equal?” says the Holy One. … Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God, Yahweh, The Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint. He isn’t weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”
Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Ezekiel 39:7: “My holy name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I allow my holy name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, the Holy One in Israel.”
1 Samuel 2:2: “There is no one as holy as Yahweh, For there is no one besides you, nor is there any rock like our God.”
Revelation 4:11: “”Worthy are you, our Lord and God, the Holy One, to receive the glory, the honor, and the power, for you created all things, and because of your desire they existed, and were created!””
Revelation 15:4: “Who wouldn’t fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you only are holy. For all the nations will come and worship before you. For your righteous acts have been revealed.””

Recognizing the glory and majesty of God has to happen before we submit to his ways. Once this recognition is in place, then we can begin to learn about what God expects of us.

Leviticus 22:31 “You are to keep my commands and do them; I am the LORD.
Deuteronomy 6:17, 25 “Carefully observe the commands of the LORD your God, the decrees and statutes he has commanded you. … “Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
Deuteronomy 8:6 “So keep the commands of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and fearing him.
Deuteronomy 11:1 “Therefore, love the LORD your God and always keep his mandate and his statutes, ordinances, and commands.
Psalm 119:131 I open my mouth and pant because I long for your commands.
1 John 5:3 For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden…

When we understand what God desires of us, then we can evaluate our own thoughts and actions to see how we measure up to his expectations. This can result in personal repentance and a recommitment to do what’s right.

First we must recognize where we have erred; then, we must react in a way that honors God.

Psalm 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Psalm 38:18 So I confess my iniquity; I am anxious because of my sin.
Psalm 51:2-3 Completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.  For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.
Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am cleansed from my sin”?

To sin is to be disobedient, a disobedience which separates and distances us from God. When we come to the realization that we have sinned against a holy God it should cause us grief; grief about our own situation, grief about how we have not measured up to his standards that he expects of us. This grief should move us to correct our ways and to ask God for his help in overcoming those things which keep us from being fully committed and obedient to him. Recognizing our own sin opens a pathway to a restored relationship with the God of the universe.

Mourning for unrighteousness is also a type of deep grief when one recognizes a state of unrighteousness among those around them. A godly heart is offended at the things that offend God.

Psalm 119:136 My eyes pour out streams of tears because people do not follow your instruction.
Lamentations 3:48 My eyes flow with streams of tears because of the destruction of my dear people.

Yeshua himself set the example for all believers as he poured out his heart in prophetic utterance over the hardness of the people of Jerusalem.

Luke 19:41-44 As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace ​– ​but now it is hidden from your eyes. “For the days will come on you when your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. “They will crush you and your children among you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst, because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.”

The apostle Paul also exhibited this characteristic with his intense desire for his countrymen to come to the knowledge of the truth of their Messiah.

Romans 9:1-5 I speak the truth in Christ ​– ​I am not lying; my conscience testifies to me through the Holy Spirit ​– ​ that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Messiah for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, God over all be praised forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 13:6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.
Philippians 3:18 For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

When we come to the recognition that we live among a people who are lost, confused, and vainly seeking their own ways, we should be moved with compassion. We should seek to pray for them and to help them understand the truth of God’s word. This can only happen when our motivation is springing from a deep desire for all people everywhere to know the God of the universe and to become a part of his Kingdom of righteousness on the Earth.

For us to have a heart like God, we must share his perspective. We can only gain God’s perspective of this world in this life by being routinely and deeply engaged with his word. In doing so, we are molded and shaped with the worldview that God desires for his people.

If we are growing in our understanding of God and his desires for the ideals of his kingdom to be present here and now, then we are likely to also be demonstrating a sincere and passionate dissatisfaction with the unrighteousness that is exhibited within our experience each day. We grow to want what God wants, both for us and for others. This holy grieving over lack from the ideal is spiritually healthy, and helps to keep our focus on what is truly of eternal importance. This is growing in holiness.

“Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 20:7“

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:14-16

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

The holiness of fidelity

It is the very definition of irony then a meaningful lesson on fidelity should come from the hand of Solomon who is famous for seducing a multiplicity of women in the later years of his reign as king over Israel. Yet, who better to warn of danger than one who has seeing the depths of disobedience?

In giving instruction to his son, Solomon yearns to instill in the young mind of his child the significance of remaining faithful to one’s spouse.

Proverbs 5:18-19: “Let your spring be blessed. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe and a graceful deer— let her breasts satisfy you at all times. Be captivated always with her love.”

This type of love for one’s spouse, Solomon says, should be one that is captivating. The word itself has broader meanings to include exhilaration, or intoxication, or being led away by your senses. Different Bible versions may make use of some of those various terms.

  • may you ever be intoxicated with her love
  • always be enraptured with her love
  • be exhilarated always with her love
  • be lost in her love forever

But as strongly as Solomon urges to maintain that feeling with one’s spouse, he equally cautions his son to avoid that feeling with another. This leads us to understand how Solomon may have been let astray by so many women in his later years.

Proverbs 5:20: “For why should you, my son, be captivated [exhilarated, intoxicated, enraptured] with an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another?”

This same term for captivation, exhilaration, or intoxication is also used as the end result of the one who experiences this type of relationship indiscriminately with others, or who stops listening to the words of knowledge.

Proverbs 5:23: “He will die for lack of instruction. In the greatness of his folly, he will go astray [be lost, be captivated or intoxicated].”
Proverbs 19:27: “If you stop listening to instruction, my son, you will stray [be lost, captivated, intoxicated] from the words of knowledge.”

It’s as if the desires and lusts of this world are represented as a villainous folk-tale witch, casting a spell on the prince who yields to her ways, leading him in a haze and stupor, oblivious to the reality of the world around him.

This is why Yeshua also urged extreme caution around others that one is not married to. This captivation or intoxication can easily cause one to stray from the path of righteousness.

Matthew 5:27-28: “”You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery;” but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Holiness is about maintaining a clear head, a mind focused on the instruction of God, and an obedient and thankful heart filled with his spirit.

Ephesians 5:18-20: ” Don’t be drunken [intoxicated] with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father…”

If we keep our focus on God and his word, seeking to be filled with his spirit, only then we can avoid in the distraction, captivation, and intoxication of worldliness. This is how we maintain our fidelity and our holiness before him.

1 John 2:16-17: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s. The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.”


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

The distinct prayers of God’s people set them apart

One of the aspects that should truly set God’s people apart should be our prayers, specifically the unique aspects of prayer that may not be recognized or practiced by other religious adherents. Historically, people have prayed for millennia, yet Yeshua distinguishes the practice of prayer by God’s people through being extremely specific about what believers should pray for, and how to pray.

While not an exhaustive list of prayer, the following points are comprehensive in the main ideals put forth throughout the New Testament teachings that should stand behind our regular communication with God.

First and foremost in the narrative, believers should pray for persecutors.

Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Luke 6:28 “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Prayer is then identified as a private matter between the individual and God.

Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Prayer should be concise and specific.

Matthew 6:7 “When you pray, don’t babble like the nations, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. …

From Matthew 6:9-15, Yeshua teaches us that private prayer should include the following points:

  • For God to be recognized as the one true God.
  • That his kingdom would become evident on the earth
  • For personal daily provision
  • For forgiveness based on our forgiveness of others
  • For deliverance from being led astray

Other types of communal prayer are listed, as we are also encouraged to pray with like-minded believers.

Matthew 18:19 “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.
James 5:16 …confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.

We are to pray continually.

Luke 18:1 Now he told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up.
Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray constantly,

We are to pray guided by the Spirit of God and with full assurance of faith.

Romans 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing praise with the spirit, and I will also sing praise with my understanding.
Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, everything you pray and ask for ​– ​believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

Personal and communal prayer should be the distinctives that set God’s people apart from other religious groups in the world. We have been given very specific motives and process on why and how to pray, and yet most of us struggle with doing so. For me personally, I am usually so busy trying to solve my own problems throughout each day that I get lost in the blur of activity and don’t stop to involve God in my process, or to involve myself in praying for others. I find it more natural to think about God and about the Bible than I do to actually participate with him and invite him into my situations for his purpose and plan to be enacted in tangible ways.

Following the command to intercede for all the saints, my prayer for believers everywhere is that we may all learn how to be more obedient and faithful in this practice that sets us apart. If you join with me in that prayer, we are agreeing in faith that this can be so, and God will be glorified through our faith and unity.


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

Holy among the unholy

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

Exodus 20:11

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

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

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

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

Pride
Flaunting sin
Harshness
Rebelliousness
Cruelty
Corruption
Agitation
Persecution

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

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

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


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

The intentional practice of holiness

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

This verse has been often quoted, but what is this holiness that is being discussed here? Other versions will sometimes render this word differently than holiness, and use instead the word separation or sanctification:

Young’s Literal Translation
peace pursue with all, and the separation, apart from which no one shall see the Lord,
Literal Standard Version
pursue peace with all, and the separation, apart from which no one will see the LORD,
World English Bible
Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord,
English Revised Version
Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord:
NASB 1995
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

The context of this verse is tucked in amidst many admonitions alluding to passages from Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Proverbs and Genesis to do what’s right even if being disciplined by God. The believers were encouraged to:

12 …strengthen your limp hands and weak knees. (Isaiah 35:3)
13 Make straight paths for your feet, (Proverbs 4:26) so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God, and that no root of bitterness (Deuteronomy 29:18) springs up to cause trouble and defile many.
16 See to it that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his birthright (Genesis 25:34).

To seek peace with all men and pursue holiness is what these things are all about. Pursuing holiness involves a separation or sanctification from the things of this world (sexual immorality, godlessness) and being a peacemaker (ensuring there is no root of bitterness, strengthening the weak).

Sometimes we can gain additional insight by finding where else the same form of a word in the text is used in other places in the Bible. In this case, this specific form of this word for holiness is used twice, but in only one other passage.

Romans 6:15-23 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reviewing all of these admonitions from the letters to Rome and the Hebrews, we see a picture emerging of a holiness that is the fruit or result of conscious and intentional effort at removing sinful practices. Holiness is not some mystical status that is conferred upon believers, but is the result of the believer choosing to become a slave to righteousness, eliminating everything that is unrighteous in their lives. The writer of Hebrews says without this effort, without this separation or sanctification, no one will see the Lord.

As we consider ways in which we can build others up and eliminate unrighteous behavior in our own lives, we then have the promise of being separated out from the rest of the world. Only then can we truly begin to see, understand, and know the Lord.


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

The separation of the righteous is holiness

See that you walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and men of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Proverbs 2:20-22

God is a god of distinction; everything in his creation is set against its opposite: light and darkness, high and low, near and far, good and bad. In Hebrew thought, this duality is what actually defines the created world; everything stands in contrast with something else.

In a similar way, holiness is a process of being set apart. A contrast is created; a distinction between one thing or person and something or someone else. The vessels of the tabernacle were holy because they served a unique and special purpose in the tabernacle. The priests were holy because they served a unique and special purpose in the work and operation of the tabernacle. In a similar fashion, God’s people are holy because they are set apart for a unique and special purpose.

Yeshua alluded to this principle as he shared the dynamic of the kingdom of God, and how the good and bad would be distinguished from one another.

Matthew 13:47-48 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad.

Proverbs 2:20-22 above (as many of the proverbs do) also makes this distinction between the good and the bad, the righteous and the wicked. In the language of the law of God, only the obedient and faithful individuals were guaranteed to remain in the land that God gave them. They would be set apart as holy and distinct from all other nations. However, if they became disobedient and pursued other gods, they would be removed from the land.

Deuteronomy 28:58, 64 – If you are not careful to obey all the words of this law, which are written in this scroll, by fearing this glorious and awe-inspiring name ​– ​the LORD, your God ​– ​ … Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will worship other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.

Yeshua prophesied the same thing to the Israelites as he ministered among them, sharing the news of the kingdom.

Luke 21:22-24, 32 – …these are days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for there will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will be killed by the sword and be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled by the nations until the times of the nations are fulfilled. … Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place.

As this prophecy came to pass in the fiery destruction of Jerusalem in the first century, we can see that God is consistent in his view of separation; the good are rewarded the wicked are removed. Since he has demonstrated how seriously he takes this principle of holiness, we would do well to heed the admonition of Moses to “fear the awe-inspiring name of Yahweh our God,” along with abiding by the advice of Solomon:

Proverbs 2:20 – See that you walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.


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

God is holiness

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 6:9 

This very famous verse of Scripture has been undergoing changes in recent English versions and translations. Some parallel editions try various renderings to try to convey the depth of this simple statement by Yeshua, such as:

  • Let your name be kept holy
  • Let your name be treated with reverence.
  • Let your name be honored as holy
  • help us to honor your name
  • may your holy name be honored

But far and away, the most common English rendering is “hallowed by your (or Thy) name.”

Hallowed is a word that has generally fallen out of use in English, unless we are speaking of hallowed ground (as a uniquely special place) or Halloween (a derivative of All Hallow’s Eve, meaning a day to honor Roman Catholic saints, or those individuals who were considered holy).

The American Heritage Dictionary defines hallowed as, “sanctified; consecrated; highly venerated; sacrosanct,” like the hallowed halls of a great university. To hallow is “to make or set apart as holy.”

The Collins Dictionary says: “Hallowed is used to describe something that is respected and admired, usually because it is old, important, or has a good reputation.”

The Bible Dictionary has this definition: “Hallow. to render sacred, to consecrate ( Exodus 28:38; 29:1). This word is from the Saxon, and properly means ‘to make holy.’ The name of God is ‘hallowed,’ i.e., is reverenced as holy ( Matthew 6:9).”

However, it may be worth keeping or reviving that word hallowed in English as uniquely special to this quality and nature of God.

The word hallowed means, to render or pronounce holy. God’s name is essentially holy; and the meaning of this petition is, “Let thy name be celebrated, and venerated, and esteemed as holy everywhere, and receive of all men proper honours.” It is thus the expression of a wish or desire, on the part of the worshipper, that the name of God, or God himself, should be held everywhere in proper veneration.

Albert Barnes

“Hallowed” is not a word frequently used in the contemporary English language, and so it’s meaning is not immediately apparent. Hallowed means to consecrate, to be made set apart as holy. So when we pray “hallowed be thy name” we are asking that His name may be recognised as sacred. This flows out of the first line of the prayer “Our Father, who is in heaven”, who is distinct from us and lives in eternity. However, there is another element to this. The Good News Translation puts it this way “May your holy name be honored” (Matthew 6:9). For God’s name to be kept as revered on Earth, this will necessitate a response on our part. We can not fully pray this line unless our lives desire to reflect this wonderful holiness. Honouring God as holy will lead us into a closer walk with our Creator and the development of holiness in ourselves.

https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/commentary/hallowed_be_thy_name.html

“According to Hebrew notions, a name is inseparable from the person to whom it belongs, i.e. it is something of his essence. Therefore, in the case of the God, it is specially sacred.”

Alexander Souter

This Hebrew understanding, that the name of God is wrapped up in his character and his essence, conveys a deep sense of wonder and connectedness. This isn’t so much about what name we should label him with as much as it is about who he is. While we as believers strive to be holy, God IS holy; that’s not just what he is, but who he is. In like fashion, if we are to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:15), then it should also not just be what we become, but who we become.

If, as Yeshua suggests, this is the God whom we pray to every day, a Father who is in heaven, the Creator of the universe who is in his very essence and nature set apart from his Creation, then we should step lightly and respectfully in his courts. We should be ever mindful that this is the God who will be recognized by all and honored as he deserves when we faithfully abide by his precepts and his kingdom is indeed come over all the earth.


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

Holiness above the twin sins of adultery and idolatry

Core of the Bible podcast #26 – Holiness above the twin sins of adultery and idolatry

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of holiness, and how our commitment to God, first and foremost, needs to be absolute. But this relational commitment needs also to be reflected within our spousal relationships; the two types of relationships are equivocated in the Bible.

Looking first at our spousal relationships,  Yeshua stated it this way:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. … “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:27-28, 31-32

Believers are commanded to never forsake our commitment to our spouses. Yeshua emphasizes that we should not even think about others lustfully in our hearts.

The topic of marriage and divorce can be very complicated. As you may know, one of my primary goals with the Core of the Bible information that I present each week is to try to keep things stated as simply as possible, and to reduce complexity where possible.

While the Bible speaks very clearly about marriage and divorce, it is also very sparse with the information it provides.

Surprisingly, marriage as an institution is never explicitly commanded in the Bible. However the concept of spousal unity is present on the opening pages of the Bible.

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.”

Now the word wife in this passage is actually the Hebrew isshah, which is the Hebrew designation for “woman.” This passage could therefore be more literally rendered as “the man will join with his woman and they will be one flesh.” This is the idea of one man and one woman being united together as a sacred relationship before God, in obedience to the laws of our creator. Beyond this meager description, we find no other definitions specified within the Bible regarding marriage.

We do know that historically and culturally marriage was a communal celebration that could last up to a week.

Genesis 29:22,27: “Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. … Fulfill the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you will serve with me yet seven other years.””

This passage also indicates the ancient Near Eastern people practiced polygamy, but that is not necessarily God’s ideal, as is evidenced by the confusion and strife that such situations caused.

Yeshua clarified marriage and divorce for his audience when he explained about it in the following terms:

Matthew 19:3-9: “Pharisees came to him, testing him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” He answered, “Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall join to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’ So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.” They asked him, “Why then did Moses command us to give her a bill of divorce, and divorce her?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been so. I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries her when she is divorced commits adultery.””

This should also be understood in the context of the day, in which the men were garnering divorces for the slightest of infractions that a wife may have caused, such as not preparing a full meal, or working later in the field then she was expected to. The concession provided by Moses, just like the other commandments of God, had become corrupted and abused by the elite of the day.

According to Yeshua, the ideal of marriage is one man and one woman. Divorce is not a requirement, but a concession, and should be reserved only when unfaithfulness has occurred between the spouses.

The severity of this teaching which also revealed how rampant divorce had become, is illustrated by the response of the disciples:

Matthew 19:10: “His disciples said to him, “If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.””

Even they had recognized that if marriage was this big of a commitment, that it should not be entered into lightly.

Now for anyone listening to this who may be divorced and possibly remarried, I’m certain there were any number of unique circumstances that have led to your current situation. And as your understanding of God‘s word grows and changes over time, you may feel differently about past decisions that were made that led to where you are now.

However, it’s important to remember that God is always willing to forgive and to provide strength and wisdom to assist those who are earnestly seeking him, right here and right now. We should all always be faithful to God‘s word as we understand it at any given time and whatever situation we are in, and allow God’s Spirit to mold us and shape us in ways that are appropriate to his purpose.

The most intimate of human relationships conveyed in what has become the institution of marriage is likened to our relationship with our Creator. Just as we should have no other intimate relationships except with our spouse, we should also have no other gods before God. These commands against idolatry and adultery are tied together; one is in our horizontal relationships with our spouses, and the other is in our vertical relationship with God.

In the Bible, adultery, while wrong in and of itself, is a metaphor for idolatry. Time and again, Israel’s unfaithfulness with the gods of the surrounding nations is compared to adultery with God. Just as the act of adultery is an affront to the spousal relationship, an act of spiritual adultery in pursuing idolatry is an affront to the holiness of God, and destroys that relationship.

As if to emphasize this point, both of these admonitions are contained within the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery,” and “you shall have no other gods before me.”

Yeshua carries these base commandments even further into the realm of their origin, in our thoughts. The wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions, and wrong actions are sin. Just like our straying eyes can cause marital unfaithfulness, when our eyes stray from the things of God to the things of this world, we can lose our perspective and make harmful choices.

Let’s gain some of that perspective by reviewing what Yeshua said, along with some historical commentary for insights.

Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, the focus is shown to be even stronger than in the English.

“To lust after her.—The intent is more strongly marked in the Greek than in the English. It is not the passing glance, not even the momentary impulse of desire, but the continued gaze by which the impulse is deliberately cherished till it becomes a passion.”

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible adds:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery…Our Saviour in these verses explains the seventh commandment. It is probable that the Pharisees had explained this commandment, as they had the sixth, as extending only to the external act; and that they regarded evil thoughts and a wanton imagination as of little consequence, or as not forbidden by the law. Our Saviour assures them that the commandment did not regard the external act merely, but the secrets of the heart, and the movements of the eye. He declares that they who indulge a wanton desire, that they who look on a woman to increase their lust, have already, in the sight of God, violated the commandment, and committed adultery in the heart. Such was the guilt of David, whose deep and awful crime fully shows the danger of indulging in evil desires, and in the rovings of a wanton eye.”

Additionally, Matthew Poole writes the following:

We must so interpret the commandments of God, as not to extend them only to forbid or command those acts which are plainly mentioned in them, but the inward pleasing of our hearts with such things as are forbidden, the desires of our hearts after them, or whatsoever is a probable means to give us that sinful pleasure of our thoughts, or further inflame such unlawful desires in our souls.

If we carry those same principles over to the parallel concept of idolatry, we can see how damaging and destructive our lustful imaginations toward things other than God can corrupt and destroy us.

Idolatry is more than just worshiping a statue or believing that an inanimate object has power beyond itself.

The prophet Samuel conveyed how stubbornness is a form of idolatry.

1  Samuel 15:23: “For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry….”

The apostle Paul considers greed and covetousness to be a form of idolatry.

Colossians 3:5-6: “Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, depraved passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.”

Notice how Paul lumps in this idolatrous longing amidst characteristics of depraved passion and evil desire. These are the types of thinking that draw us away from the things of God and from staying true to the path of holiness to which we have been called.

We are urged to maintain our holiness, being set apart for the purpose of God, by keeping ourselves from being swept away by the lure of the created things that would distract us from our true purpose. Keeping our thoughts pure keeps us from these parallel sins, whether through adultery or idolatry.

The solution for both paths of sinfulness is to keep our eyes on God at all costs. Paul writes the following in one of my personally most-quoted passages of the Bible:

Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

To avoid adulterous inclinations is to be transformed by focusing on the needs and desires of our spouse based on God’s word. To avoid the dangers of idolatry is to be transformed by maintaining focus on our relationship with our Creator. Both of these remedies involve a whole-hearted commitment to another, and not to our own selfish desires. Therein lies a powerful principle of ongoing holiness.

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

All music in todays episode: Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3460-brittle-rille

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Becoming more useful to the work of God

So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:21

In his ongoing work of training up Timothy for his role as a leader among the early believers, Paul uses an analogy of different types of vessels that would have been present in the great households of the time. The larger context of the verse above is as follows:

2 Timothy 2:19-21 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord must turn away from iniquity.” A large house contains not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. Some indeed are for honorable use, but others are for common use. So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.

This saying also implies the great house, standing for the kingdom of God, would have a variety of “vessels” within it, all of varying degrees of usefulness to the work that God has planned for it.

Paul encourages Timothy to turn away from iniquity, and in so doing, to become a vessel of honor which is set apart for every noble work that God would have him do. This idea is one of ongoing sanctification, or setting apart, of those who are striving to honor God with everything in their lives.

This was not a new concept, but one that has been encouraged all throughout the sacred writings.

Job 36:7, 10 [God] withdraws not his eyes from the righteous: … He opens also their ear to instruction, And commands that they return from iniquity.

Job 28:28 And He [God] said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'”

Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

These admonitions were especially relevant in the time of the early believers, as false teachers with corrupt doctrine were widespread, and cultural defilement within the general population was rampant. The congregations were in need of dedicated and worthy individuals who could withstand the onslaught of the societal tides that threatened to flood the tender shoots of the growing tree of the kingdom of God.

We are no less susceptible nor less exposed to wickedness in this current era, and we would do well to also heed these admonitions voiced by our early spiritual forebears.

2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, beloved, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

If we are faithfully doing so at every opportunity, we also can then become “useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.”


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