The Kingdom of God is near

“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.”

Mark 1:15

The words of John the baptizer rang in the ears of the first century Jews with a sense of impending urgency. The time was fulfilled; the kingdom of God was at hand! This reality was the motivation of John’s cry for repentance. If people were not serious about their torah obedience, they were to be left among those who would experience the coming judgment of God on the land.

This message of the nearness of the kingdom can be easy to misunderstand. Did John mean it was already present, or soon to come? The short answer is that both meanings are true; the kingdom was already unfolding and yet was going to be coming to pass as the judgment that would fall on them.

We can see this is the case as Yeshua continues this message in his ministry:

“Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off [in protest] against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.

Luke 10:8-12

He instructs the disciples to explain the nearness of the kingdom; to those who would receive their message, it was a message of comfort. However to those who were judged unworthy, it was a message of condemnation. It’s the same message: “the kingdom is near,” just with two completely different applications depending on how the message was to be received.

The message of the kingdom is a separator of individuals. To those who receive God’s kingship authority and turn away from disobedience to his Word, the message of the kingdom is a comfort and a blessing. But to those who reject the kingship of God and are unwilling to turn away from disobedience to his Word, the message of the kingdom is an annoyance and a burden; their judgment has come upon their own heads.

And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”

John 3:19-21

While this message still rings true for every generation, it was especially true for that first-century generation. Those who were to “come to the light,” as John mentions, demonstrated the grace and mercy of God among the remnant of his people. Yeshua says of these: “Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life,” (John 5:24). The crossing over had already happened; these individuals were not to come under the pending judgment of God’s people. However, upon those who were not willing to come into the light, it was as if the judgment had already come: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life,” (1 John 5:12).

The New Jerusalem of Revelation is symbolic of the Kingdom of God. Its purpose and glory is described there as being the home of the righteous, those who have received the message of the Kingdom of God.

But I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory. Its gates will never be shut at the end of the day, because there will be no night there. And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who practices an abomination or a lie, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Revelation 21:22-27

In like fashion to that exemplified group of Yeshua’s original audience, to each generation since that time the message of the kingdom is the same: “the light of the Kingdom of God is near.” Will we accept the kingship of Yahweh or not? Will we be obedient or not? Will we choose to enter its gates or not?

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.

Yahweh the King

Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them.

1 Samuel 8:7

The political kingship of Israel began with a rejection of Yahweh as their king.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel to Ramah. They said to him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” Samuel prayed to Yahweh. Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them.

1 Samuel 8:4-7

Even when presented with all of the tyrannous things a national king would do: the taxes, the conscription, the giving over of land, children, and slaves to the service of the king, the people would not relent.

Yahweh told Samuel that their desire for a political king, and their forsaking of Samuel as judge over them, was akin to their idolatry.

According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me and served other gods, so they also do to you.

1 Samuel 8:8

Throughout their tumultuous political kingdom, Yahweh still had plans to use Israel’s national kingdom as an object lesson for all time. Although Saul had originally been God’s choice for ruler, Saul became corrupt and demonstrated he was not obedient whole-heartedly to the torah, or instruction, of God. So instead, God raised up David as a man after his own heart to firmly establish the kingdom.

While David was originally rejected by the people of Israel, through him and his son Solomon, the pinnacle of the earthly, political kingdom of God was reached. The corrupted initial kingdom was replaced with a king who was yielded to Yahweh and who ruled wisely as God’s faithful representative with the wisdom of God.

Just like the kingdom of David and Solomon, God always had plans to consummate his rulership over his people with a representative who would honor and represent him whole-heartedly. The coming of a Messiah, a son of David, an anointed one (i.e., a king), was foretold through the prophets and longed for by the Israelites who suffered under each rebellious king and through exile in foreign lands.

Yeshua arrived into a world of immense national and political corruption, just like the conditions of the kingdom of Saul. However, just like the house of David, Yeshua demonstrated through his faithfulness that he was truly anointed of God, and the rightful king of God’s people.

True to form and the cyclical pattern of torah, Israel rejected God’s anointed king (for that is what the word “Christ” means). But God’s plan to go full circle back to his own rulership over his people was not yet complete. Through the demonstration of his power and through the resurrection of Yeshua, Yahweh maintained a rightful ruler of his people, one who would oversee the affairs of his kingdom as if he himself were king. Through his Messiah, his anointed king, the rightful rulership and all honor would ultimately return to Yahweh himself.

Then the end comes, when he (Messiah) will deliver up the Kingdom to God the Father, when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power. …When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:24, 28

Through the faithfulness of his Messiah, Yahweh remains as rightful king over his people for all time, and is worthy of all honor and praise.

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.

Overcoming covetousness with love

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that [is] your neighbor’s.”

Exodus 20:17

As we have learned about the Kingdom of God, the Ten Commandments are the charter of the kingdom, its constitution of conduct. The command against covetousness is the last of the Ten Commandments, yet is in no way inferior to the rest. In Hebraic thinking, the tenth commandment is in fact a summary of the rest. Coveting can be viewed as lying at the root of all that comes before, whether it is forsaking God for idolatry, dishonoring his name, continuing to work on Sabbath, or rejecting the authority of mother and father for personal desires. People kill, they commit adultery, and they lie and steal due to coveting.

Yeshua teaches about coveting as being one of the unproductive soils of the heart that cannot bear fruit when the seed of the word is planted in it.

“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things [i.e., covetousness] entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Mark 4:18-19

James went so far as to teach how covetousness is the basis of sin itself:

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust [i.e., covetousness]. Then when [covetousness] has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

James 1:14-15

In our Western way of thinking, we would consider that if covetousness is likened to greed, that the opposite of covetousness might be something akin to generosity. However, the apostle Paul highlights a different view, a different way of viewing covetousness.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:8-10

You see, if coveting is the basis of all that is sinful and contrary to the Ten Commandments, if it is the foundation of all that is harmful to God and others, then love is the overcoming of that poisonous root. This is absolutely congruent with the teaching of Yeshua, since he taught that love fulfills all aspects of the law, both toward God and toward others.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD 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.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Love overcomes everything that is opposed to God, and everything that is opposed to right conduct with others. If covetousness is at the foundation of all that is sinful, then love is its opposite, and the only necessary ingredient to the demise of covetousness throughout the world.

Covetousness is the primary characteristic of the “old man” that must be done away with, as we seek to live the renewed life that God has provided us through Messiah.

… put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts [i.e., covetousness], and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24

True righteousness and holiness can be achieved when we love God and love others, as Yeshua taught. As we do, we fulfill the requirements of the Ten Commandments and we exhibit the type of renewed life that God desires for all in his kingdom.

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.

Always speaking the truth from a new heart

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16

Telling an intentional falsehood for personal gain is the simplest way to subvert any institution. Jealousy and selfish ambition lie at the root of deception. Recognizing this, and knowing the tendency of men to preserve themselves at all costs, God built in to the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, a specific command about not bearing a false witness against another.

Knowing that this was an unfortunate reality that would have to be dealt with, once a falsehood was found out by the judges, God had also provided a definitive way of handling the offender.

“If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.

Deuteronomy 19:16-20

So the punishment for the crime of falsifying a report was to apply to the deceiver the same action he intended for the other, and to do so publicly. In this way, a deterrent to falsification would be established within the community.

As God’s kingdom was moving from the natural to the spiritual, the arbiter was moving from the external  judges seat to within the heart of every believer.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

This is why James could speak so harshly to the remnant about the corrupting influences that could disrupt the community of God.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

James 3:13-16

James relates that selfish boasting and lying could be used to hide the truth, and were not within the wisdom of God.

The apostle Paul used the analogous contrast of the “old man” and the “new man” of the heart. As believers’ hearts were renewed, it was as if there was a new person who could only do what was right, and who would stand in judgment of the practices of the old man.

…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “[Let] each one [of you] speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.

Ephesians 4:22-25

The encouragement to truthful dealings within the community was to be based on this newness of righteousness and holiness of heart. Because of this community in which all were “members of one another,” that is, parts of an integral body, they were to always provide a truthful and honest example in everything, with everyone, in all of their words and actions.

In like fashion today, believers in Messiah, who was the embodiment of truth, should have this virtue imbedded deep within our hearts. Instead of deception and falsehood should come forth righteousness and truth.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I 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 thief who must become an example of generosity

You shall not steal.

Exodus 20:15

Within the founding charter of the kingdom of God, the Ten Commandments, theft is forbidden. Within the entire Biblical narrative, theft is never looked upon as a positive characteristic. To be a thief is to knowingly take something from someone else, usually associated with violent acts or even murder.

Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

Proverbs 28:24

The thief upsets the system of civilized conduct because they feel that the same rules that govern others do not apply to them. Whatever their justification is for taking something that belongs to someone else is to consider their reason more important than obeying the command to not steal and the rights of others to enjoy their own possessions. Theft is dangerous because it mocks the integrity of civil order in any society, and must be punished in order to maintain the economic integrity and security of the community.

However, interestingly, the torah or instruction of God reveals that theft is not punishable by death. Instead, a thief must face a fate that could be worse than death for them: they must pay restitution. At a minimum, they must pay double what they stole (if the goods are recovered). But if what has been stolen has been sold or, in the case of a stolen animal, killed, then he must pay up to four or five times the amount. If they are unable to pay, then they must go into forced servitude to pay off the debt.

So it turns out that God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. They must give abundantly or they must give themselves.

Yeshua also taught that not only should believers not steal, they should be generous.

Matthew 10:8 Freely you received, freely give.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

In answering the questions of a wealthy young man, Yeshua also mentions a similar “restitution of generosity” for covetousness, which makes sense since extreme coveting can also lead to theft.

Jesus said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The young man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments. What else do I need to do?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, sell what you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he owned a lot of property.

Matthew 19: 18-22

In keeping with the torah or instruction of God within his kingdom, and as a follower of Yeshua, we should never secretly take anything that does not belong to us. Instead, we should always be willing to give generously of all resources that have been entrusted to us. And because the life he has given us is a debt we can never repay, the remainder of our existence should become an offering of servitude to the one who has provided us this immeasurable gift of life.

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 eternal Torah of the Kingdom of God

Core of the Bible Podcast #16 – The eternal Torah of the Kingdom of God

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of the Kingdom, and how the instructions about how to live in God’s kingdom, or God’s torah, is eternal.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law 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 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.” Matthew 5:17-19

In order for us to have a clearer understanding of this teaching, it would be best to break this down into at least a couple of parts. Now I just want to give you all a heads up that we will be covering a lot of ground today, so you may want to have a Bible or Bible app handy for reference from time to time and pause the podcast if you need to reference something that I’m talking about here.

So, with that caveat out of the way, let’s jump in to our topic today. First, what is the Law and Prophets and commandments that Yeshua talks about here, and secondly, when are these “all accomplished”?

What is Torah?

So let’s start with the first part concerning the Law and the Prophets and commandments. Without going into a whole review of texts and manuscripts, in essence, what is known today as the “Old Testament” in our Christian bibles was known in Yeshua’s day as the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Law or Torah included the five books of Moses, the Prophets included the major and minor prophetical works, and the Writings included the wisdom and historical portions.

This group of writings collectively became known as the Tenakh based on the acronym for the Hebrew consonants: T, N, and K. T stands for Torah, N stands for Nevi’im (the prophets) and K stands for Ketuvim (the Writings). Together the T-N-K is pronounced Tenakh for simplification. In Christian circles today this group of writings is called the Old Testament, but the more accurate term is the Tenakh.

In the Hebraic understanding, to mention one or two portions of the above was generally to speak of the whole thing. To speak of Torah can be used of the first five books of Moses, or of the Tenakh as a whole.  When you get right down to it, torah is simply the Hebrew word for instruction. Therefore, we should not be put off by the idea that God’s torah, his instruction, is eternal. 

Anytime God commands or gives direction to something or someone, torah exists. Torah is not just the ten commandments and the giving of the law at Sinai. Torah is through every fiber of the Bible, from the first page of Genesis all the way through the Revelation.

For example, God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and rule over the earth; this is torah.

Genesis 1:27-28 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Noah had the direct commands of God; this is torah.

Genesis 7:1-3 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you [alone] I have seen [to be] righteous before Me in this time. “You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

Isaac was told that Abraham had and kept the commands and statutes of God; this is torah.

Genesis 26:4-5 “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].”

In fact, all of Creation itself is based on the torah of God. In the Creation narrative of Genesis 1, every time God spoke and something happened, it means that what he commanded was fulfilled within the Creation itself. Creation itself came into being through the commands and instruction (torah) of God.

Genesis 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. … 

Genesis 1:9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. … 

Genesis 1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, [and] fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. … 

It is no wonder, then, that the whole Bible is based on torah, or instruction, from God.

We have an understanding of torah first and foremost from the books of Moses, whose narrative describes the Creation of the world through Israel preparing 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: How does God keep things in check?

The torah of God has a simple self-regulating principle: anything not conforming with torah originally related by God to Moses is not considered valid. The torah of God given to Moses is the standard of all subsequent scripture.

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 the LORD 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 added.

This same principle carries over into the writings of the NT. Since Yeshua did not add or take away from God’s torah, we must be careful to ensure we also do not do the same with his teachings.

2 John 1:9 Anyone who does not remain in Christ’s teaching but goes beyond it does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son.

The guiding principles of torah as revealed to Moses also ensure we don’t take anything away from God’s torah. 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.

According to Yeshua, the kingdom of God is directly connected to his instruction, and his instruction is directly connected to his kingdom. Yeshua ties the keeping of torah (or God’s instruction) to greatness in the kingdom of God, and the anullment of torah (or God’s instruction) to being least in the kingdom. 

This idea of adding or taking away from torah is to be corroborated with the principle of testing. Moses warned and wrote about a method for testing false prophets, or those who would teach something contrary to the torah of God:

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 the LORD has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD 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;

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 Tenakh, which includes the torah originally related by God to Moses, to ensure they would not be led astray. In the process of following the Tenakh by believing in its fulfillment in Messiah, some of them then created the letters and epistles that have become what we call the New Testament writings of today.

Fulfillment of Torah

Let’s look at the other aspect of Yeshua’s instruction: “not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law [or torah] until all is accomplished.”

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 the sacrificial aspects of the Torah, but that does not mean there is no longer a need to follow the principles of the Torah. He is our example of how to be obedient to the Father. He clearly states that 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. The apostle Paul corroborates this.

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

We must remember that torah obedience on its own does not totally accomplish freedom from sin because our hearts are still not right in God’s eyes, and ultimately we still desire our own ways. 

Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the LORD, 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 the LORD came to Zechariah saying, “Thus has the LORD 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 the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD 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 HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES 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. This resulted in hypocrisy which led them even further from torah. But Paul taught that 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 pedestrian at a busy 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. Even though it 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. 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.

Torah as tutor

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 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 Christ, 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 Christ Jesus.

This passage is famous for causing confusion, as most Christians take away from it that if believers are no longer under the tutor of the Torah, it is 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.

You can look at it this way: 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 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. The textbooks are still valuable, 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. 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 exhibit that we are following 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 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 who 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 Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Torah in the heart

The culmination of everything prophetically promised about the future of God’s people was that there would be a point where the people of God would no longer be a rebellious people, but that they would obey his torah from the heart.

Jeremiah 31:33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “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.

If God always intended to put his torah in the heart of his people, why would it be done away with?

This is what Paul was trying to show in relation to God’s torah; it hadn’t passed away, it simply served as an ongoing foundation for the believers heart-service to God based on their new life of faith in Messiah. Believers had been set free from the restrictive confines of the letter of the torah because they were now able to follow the intent of the rules (the spirit of it) from the heart at all times. This has only been possible through new life in Messiah.

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

As long as there are people who don’t know the God of the Bible, these written standards of God’s torah will continue to lead people to the truth of his Messiah. His torah is ultimately a tutor for all among the nations, so that people will continue to learn and practice his ways. As they come to believe in and follow his Messiah, the torah of God will reside in their heart and bear fruit among all men. This is how God’s kingdom is, and will continue to be, established on the earth.

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 the LORD 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 the LORD from Jerusalem.

Looked at in this light, we can see that Yeshua’s admonition to maintain God’s torah or his instruction, takes on a different shade of meaning. Rather than pass away, it becomes something that needs to be constantly fulfilled. In essence, Yeshua is saying: Do not relax even the smallest standards of Torah for yourself and others; do it and teach it. This is how the kingdom operates: it is based on God’s torah, his Word, being fulfilled in the hearts of individuals populating the kingdom.

If the kingdom began in the days of Yeshua and is a kingdom that would never end, then it makes sense that the instruction of God is also eternal and will not pass away unless it is fulfilled within every individual he intends.

Many are of the opinion that Torah has passed away with the death of Messiah. To the contrary, his death was exactly what Torah predicted would happen. Like a seed planted in the ground, the Torah principles taught by Yeshua are continuing to grow into a mighty tree of life as they are practiced by those who follow him.  Yes, it is true that Yeshua fulfilled many of the sacrificial aspects of torah, but that does not mean we no longer experience the effects of those sacrificial aspects in our spiritual journey today, otherwise no would would be forgiven today. Our forgiveness is based upon the very torah that many Christians are saying was done away with. These two things cannot be true at the same time. 

Yeshua said that it would be easier for the world to pass away than for Torah to pass away.

Luke 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for a single stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

What this implies is that Yeshua is saying that Torah, because it has been issued from an eternal God who exists beyond this earthly creation, is likewise eternal. It is not tied to this earthly realm. It lasts forever and will never pass away.

I freely admit torah has not been fully accomplished, as we still have murder, adultery, and any other number of commandments from God’s instruction which remain unfulfilled in the lives of people today.  However, since God has provided instruction for mankind in his word, we, as believers, should do all we can to be faithful in keeping it (i.e., obeying it) and sharing it with others who will listen. Only as it is fulfilled in our lives will it bear good fruit for the continued growth of God’s kingdom.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that the torah of God is the instruction of God. Anything God has commanded is torah, and we need to ensure that we do not add new aspects or take away existing aspects that are as of yet unfulfilled in us and in others around us.  Since his torah is eternal, we can know that it will never change and that what God has promised about his kingdom will come to pass.

Have questions about todays topic, or comments or insights you would like to share? Perhaps you have found this podcast helpful or encouraging. If so, I would love to hear from you and include listener comments in future episodes, so feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Thanks for your interest in listening today. As always, I hope to be invited back into your headphones in another episode to come. Take care!

The command to refrain from adultery is about much more than marriage

You shall not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14

While the command to ancient Israel was focused on ensuring that men would remain faithful in marriage, the term was equally used of spiritual adultery; i.e., the apostasy or turning from the one true God to idols. The emphasis is the same in both applications.

Psalm 106:39 They defiled themselves by their evil deeds, and their love of idols was adultery in the LORD’s sight.

As always, Yeshua sharpened the understanding of this command when he broadened its context within the bounds of marital faithfulness.

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:27-28

The meaning is clear: be faithful to your spouse at all times, and don’t even think about others lustfully in your heart. If a man was to maintain purity of heart by not even straying with his eyes or his thoughts, his actions would remain faithful and pure with his wife.

The spiritual aspect of adultery was consistently brought to Israel’s attention throughout their history. As they would fall into the idolatry of the nations around them, God would raise up a prophet to admonish them to return to the purity of their faith in him.

Isaiah 57:7 You have committed adultery on every high mountain. There you have worshiped idols and have been unfaithful to me.

Jeremiah 3:2, 6, 9 “Look at the shrines on every hilltop. Is there any place you have not been defiled by your adultery with other gods? You sit like a prostitute beside the road waiting for a customer. You sit alone like a nomad in the desert. You have polluted the land with your prostitution and your wickedness. … During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, “Have you seen what fickle Israel has done? Like a wife who commits adultery, Israel has worshiped other gods on every hill and under every green tree. … Israel treated it all so lightly–she thought nothing of committing adultery by worshiping idols made of wood and stone. So now the land has been polluted.

Jeremiah 13:27 NLT – I have seen your adultery and lust, and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills. What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem! How long before you are pure?”

The kingdom of God, represented by natural Israel, was allegorically considered God’s bride, and when they strayed from their worship of him to the idolatry of the nations around them, God viewed it as a form of adultery.

In the kingdom of God today, by applying the same principles that Yeshua commands regarding natural adultery, we can see that if we keep our eyes and our hearts focused on the one true God, we will not stray into the idolatry and spiritual adultery of the nations around us.

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.

A renewed heart will abide within the Kingdom law

“You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.

Matthew 5:21-22

Within the natural or physical kingdom of God of ancient Israel, it was necessary to establish rules and safeguards for the population. For a private individual to purposely take the life of another for personal reasons was forbidden, and an offense for which the natural judgment of capital punishment was necessitated for the good of the community.

However, Yeshua uses this basic tenet of the kingdom charter, the ten commandments, as a way of elevating the principle to include any act of unrighteous anger toward another. In one sense, just as some thought is necessary before an action, any act of murder begins with unrighteous anger towards another. By highlighting and restricting the offense of the emotion, the act will not be carried out. Therefore, to prevent murder, one must eliminate the unrighteous anger behind the action.

Stated another way, as Yeshua points out, the judgment that an individual could face by committing murder could equally be leveled by God against the emotion. The action starts there, so the ultimate judgment would apply there, as well.

This would have been a revolutionary way for Yeshua to be confronting the Jewish leaders with their own practices, and he knew it would have a condemning effect; that was the point. They were so focused on practicing the letter of the law that they were violating just about every intent of it.

According to Yeshua here, the true intent of the command not to murder is to reach to the emotion underlying the act. By condemning the emotion, the act is eliminated, and the command is enhanced. In essence, Yeshua is saying, “While everyone knows that murder subjects you to judgment, I tell you, in God’s eyes, the same applies to unchecked emotions. Therefore, do not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone.”

If judgment is the result of the emotion and the action, then a blessing can be inferred from the inverse emotion and action: If we always safeguard the lives and interests of others, without being unrighteously angry with anyone at any time, then the true intent of the command will be fulfilled in us resulting in blessing, not judgment.

We do well to keep in mind that the physical kingdom of ancient Israel was the template, the basis, for the universal and spiritual kingdom of God. As such, the principles in place then, such as the command not to murder, are still in force in the universal kingdom.

However, through the instruction of Yeshua within the gospel of the kingdom, he highlighted how they are enhanced further. This was the meaning and the promise of the law being placed on the heart of the believer within the universal kingdom. If the heart has been renewed, then no law will be violated. In effect, if all of the actions come from a renewed heart of righteousness, then the law will be kept perfectly.

This is the goal that Yeshua came to express. This was the intent of the gospel of the kingdom, and why it was considered good news. As believers, we have been freed from the condemnation and death of the natural law, because the law placed on our heart ensures we are abiding within the instruction of God for all time.

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.

Honoring parents respects God’s kingdom authority here on earth

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

Exodus 20:12

Within the kingdom of God, there would be many roles requiring to be fulfilled. While most people look to define and embrace roles like prophets, priests, teachers, helpers, there are no roles as basic and impactful as the roles within each family: husband and wife, mother and father.

This significance of man and woman in the kingdom is a basic building block upon which everything else is built. The male and female component is inherent within the DNA of the kingdom, right back to its origins in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden.

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Genesis 1:27-28

The very first royal edict of the kingdom had to do with man and woman reigning and having dominion over God’s Creation. In Hebrew culture, the father and the mother are therefore figures representing divine authority over the family. They are the representatives of God, made in his image, and to be respected as possessing and implementing the wisdom of God.

This is brought out throughout the biblical stories, but is most blatantly evident in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 1:8-9 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are a garland of grace on your head and a pendant around your neck.

Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.

Proverbs 15:20 – Sensible children bring joy to their father; foolish children despise their mother.

However, children who are disobedient to this most basic sense of authority are shown the end that results from choosing their own way.

Proverbs 19:26 – Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace.

Proverbs 20:20 – If you insult your father or mother, your light will be snuffed out in total darkness.

Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

Proverbs 30:17 – The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be plucked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.

This recognition of the authority of the father and mother carries over into the kingdom dynamic of the New Testament as well:

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”

Paul writes here that this commandment to honor father and mother is the first command with a promise for well-being and long life. The idea is that a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best guidance and direction that would lead to those things for the children who are obedient to their instruction.

The respect and honor of father and mother is therefore part of the eternal torah, or instruction, of God for all time. As the mother and father “rule” righteously over the kingdom of their family, they are fulfilling a role that is embedded within the Creation itself, a role that hearkens back through ancestral lines all the way to the original parents in the Garden. The Garden imagery of Paradise (the idealized kingdom) is therefore brought to life for each generation through every faithful father and mother.

As believing parents recognize this awesome responsibility of the authority they carry, the Kingdom of God can continue to grow in righteousness, honoring the original parents whom God set over all Creation.

The Sabbath is a feature of the kingdom built into Creation itself

Then he told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27

The kingdom of God has been designed by God to be not just an ideal to strive for, but to be a practical outworking of his desire for human behavior.

In the Kingdom Charter, the Ten Commandments, lies an aspect of the kingdom that is largely neglected among Christians today. God’s people have been instructed to remember the Sabbath and keep it set apart. It is a gift from him, a sacred memorial honoring the Creator (Yahweh), his provision, and his eternal purpose.

Most people assume the Sabbath was instituted for Israel at Sinai. However, we find that the seventh day was actually set apart at Creation, as God demonstrated a practice of rest from his work of creating on that day.

On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.

Genesis 2:2-3

From the very beginning of all things, God declared that this day was to be set apart as special. The word Sabbath actually conveys more than just rest, but an intermission; the cycle of days is intentionally interrupted by something different, a unique day unlike the others.

Yeshua, seeing that the Jewish authorities had corrupted the purpose of the day into a long list of requirements and restrictions, stated simply that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath. The day was intended to be a benefit, not a burden.

The New Living Translation brings this out in its rendering of this verse:

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 – NLT

As humans come to recognize and honor their Creator and the Kingdom of God expands, the Sabbath cycle instituted at the creation of all things intentionally interrupts our daily routine and becomes the mode of reconnecting with the Source of our true life.