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.

To be in the Kingdom is to bear the Name and Character of God

You do not take up the Name of your God YHWH for a vain thing, for YHWH does not acquit him who takes up His Name for a vain thing.

Exodus 20:7

Those who belong to the kingdom of God should be honoring the Name, or character, of God with their thoughts, speech, and conduct. This is appropriate and expected kingdom behavior.

This verse has classically been used throughout generations for the purpose of not abusing or misusing the revealed Name of God, in the sense of using it as a curse word, or speaking it casually in conversation outside of an appropriate worship setting.

But that misses the intent of what God is attempting to teach us here, and throughout the Bible. The real sense of the passage is less about misusing God’s name carelessly, and more about our character in claiming to be believers or followers of him.

To “take God’s name in vain” is not expressly to use it flippantly (although that certainly in included). To “take” his Name is to take up, or carry his Name as identifying who we are, or rather, whose we are.

For example, when a wife has historically taken the name of her husband, she has identified with the honor of his family line. In the same sense, when someone comes to the knowledge of God and wants to be his follower, then they take his Name, identifying with his character. As God’s children, we carry his Name and his character in this world.

The admonition here is not to abuse God’s Name, but it’s about when we are identifying as belonging to him, we do not dishonor or defame his Name or character by our careless conduct. This could be paraphrased as “You shall not take my Name lightly or for no purpose.”

Our desire to follow his ways should not be rooted in our own selfish ambition or schemes. We should not join the kingdom impetuously, without any real thought for the responsibility we bear. Instead, we should be sincere in our desires to live for him and to bring honor and glory to his Name. When we carry his Name, our actions and our words should match his.

Yeshua demonstrated this so completely that it was impossible to distinguish between him and his Father.

John 5:19 – So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

John 7:16 – So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

John 12:49 – For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment–what to say and what to speak.

John 14:8-9 – Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

When we consider following the Messiah, we are accepting that he was sent from the Father, and carried the Name of God so completely that he was essentially indistinguishable from the Father. If we are to become more and more like Messiah, then this same characteristic should be evident in our lives. When people see or hear us, they should be seeing what the Father would want to do or say in that situation.

Does this sound like a heavy responsibility? Of course, which is why we should not take his name lightly or for no purpose. We are admonished by Yeshua to count the cost of kingdom living (Luke 14:25-33), but in so doing, to accept it willingly and gladly .

The nature of God’s kingdom and discovering God’s will.

Core of the Bible Podcast, Episode 9 – The Kingdom and the Will of God

In this episode we will be exploring the nature of the kingdom of God, and what we are able to discover about God’s will. We will be looking at how Yeshua explains those who participate in the kingdom, and also what the biblical writers have to say about accomplishing God’s will in the kingdom.

Now, you may be aware I have a previous episode where some of these kingdom ideas are discussed, looking at the kingdom of God thematically through the Bible. If you haven’t yet listened to that, it’s the second Core of the Bible episode titled simply The Kingdom, so be sure to check that out if you would like some further background on the topic today.

The kingdom of God is a topic that is debated among various groups regarding what it is, who it belongs to, and how will it be manifested over time.

Our  highlighted verse this week contains some vital instruction from Yeshua that can help to settle some of those questions. More importantly, he provides clarity as to who would be, and who wouldn’t be, participating in this kingdom:

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” 

You see, just claiming to be a disciple doesn’t make you a member of God’s kingdom. Anybody can claim to be something, but how are they truly determined to be what it is they are claiming to be?

Yeshua instructs us that it is the doing of the will of God that reveals who the real disciples are. This is the same principle he has expressed in other places such as Luke 6:

Luke 6:43-44 No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. 

While this admonition is contextually based in how to spot a false teacher, it still bears weight as a general maxim. It is our actions which show what we really believe, not just what we think or say.

To corroborate this general teaching, here are a few other verses that speak of the same principle:

Romans 2:13
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous.

Matthew 19:17
And he said to him, 'Why do you call me good? no one 'is' good except One -- God; but if you desire to enter into the life, keep the commands.'

1 John 2:4
He who professes to know Him, and yet does not obey His commands, is a liar, and the truth has no place in his heart.

Entering into the kingdom of heaven is possible only by consistently doing the will of the Father in heaven, not by merely claiming to be a disciple. This is how we demonstrate what we believe.

I happen to be a fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies starring Christian Bale as Batman. The writing and dialogue is challenging and can be morally confrontational in many different areas. In one pivotal and climactic scene, when the Batman character in full costume has helped save some individuals from harm, the female lead, wanting to know who to thank for their rescue asks him, “At least tell me your name.” He responds with a line she had previously chastised him with: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

Christopher Nolan here is not inventing some new philosophy; he is simply tapping into a moral and philosophical truth that is timeless in its simplicity and plainness. People can say they believe anything, but the truth of what they actually believe as a practical outworking of that professed faith is demonstrated by what they actually do. We know this simply as “actions speak louder than words.”

This is the principle expressed most clearly in a very famous passage from the book of James, which speaks about our actions revealing our faith:

James 2:14-18 What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? So too, faith by itself, if it does not result in action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

The Psalmist was also a proponent of the active nature of our believing faith, imploring God that his actions would match the righteous principles of God.

Teach me Your way, O LORD, that I may walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. Ps 86:11

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. Ps 143:10

Through passages like these, I hope it is becoming apparent that the kingdom doesn’t have an entrance gate, or a ceremony that one must pass through in order to participate in it. Being attentive to, practicing, and obeying God’s instruction IS the kingdom.

To illustrate this further, this can also be shown by looking at examples of who is depicted as NOT participating in the kingdom: those who are sinful, disobedient and willfully defiant.

In the book of Revelation, the writer expresses many truths symbolically and with reference to many other poetic and apocalyptic writings in the Hebrew scriptures. One of those symbols is a reference to Zion or the New Jerusalem. In his depiction he illustrates who is “in” the city and who is “outside of” the city:

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by its gates. But outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Rev 22:14-15

The tree of life, the new Jerusalem, the kingdom: these are all symbols of doing God’s will, being obedient to his instruction, his torah. Those who are not obedient to the will of God (i.e., the sorcerers, sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, etc.) are not participants in the tree of life, the new Jerusalem, and the kingdom.

Alphonsus de Ligouri was a spiritual writer and theologian living in the 1700’s in Catholic Italy. He has been quoted as writing:

The man who follows his own will independently of God's, is guilty of a kind of idolatry. Instead of adoring God's will, he, in a certain sense, adores his own.

And isn’t this true? If we are not accomplishing God’s will, then we are seeking to accomplish our own, which can place us with the idolaters outside of God’s kingdom.

The kingdom is not defined by where you are (Jerusalem) or who you are (which denomination or descent you belong to), but WHAT YOU DO. This is why it is NEAR at all times; we always have a choice to obey God.

You see, the kingdom is being defined throughout the Bible as any place where God’s will is done. It is metaphorically idealized as a tree of life, or a city with open gates, but these are just metaphors for the reality of the actualization of God’s will in our life. God desires we accomplish his will from the heart, and if we are truly living out his will, then that’s where God’s kingdom really resides: in our hearts, and in our actions.

This is why Yeshua can say:

Matt. 7:21 ...he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter [the kingdom].” 

The very definition by Yeshua of the kingdom IS the doing of God’s will on earth

may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matt. 6:10

That’s the kingdom.

So now, you might be thinking, “If participating in the kingdom involves actively knowing and doing God’s will, the question then becomes, what is the will of God?” Let’s take a closer look at understanding what God’s will is.

Now that we have established that the kingdom is the doing of God’s will, that naturally leads us to ask, “What is God’s will?”

The short answer is the will of God is his word. As we live and conform our lives more and more to his word, we are accomplishing his will for us.

The longer answer is that we can actually make a practical list of characteristics from biblical writers who were describing what living according to God’s will looks like:

1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7-12- God's will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. ... God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. But we don't need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more. Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then outsiders will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

In this passage we are taught that God’s will is to avoid sexual sins, to live a life that is set apart from the sinful lives of others. We are to love each other, mind our own business, keep busy by working hard to support ourselves. In so doing, we can also gain respect of others and independence. This sounds very familiar from our former discussion, as we are demonstrating our faith to others through what we do.

1 Peter 3:17 - Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is God's will, than to suffer for doing wrong!

1 Peter 4:19 - So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

Sometimes, it might be God’s will that we suffer, even if we are doing good things. This is one of the reasons we need to maintain a close relationship with him through his word and prayer at all times, so that we can endure when needed and to be encouraged through these times. This allows us to persevere and to continue to do what is right in all aspects of our lives.

1 Peter 4:2-3 ESV - so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Nations want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Again, we can learn what God’s will is by learning what it ISN’T: sensuality, fleshly passions, drunkenness, idolatry, etc. As our lives conform more and more to the ideal that God expects, these aberrations become less and less prevalent in our lives.

1 Peter 2:15 - 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

It is God’s will that we do good. Doing good means our actions should back up what we say and believe. In so doing, we will be silencing our detractors who would only capitalize on our hypocrisy if we lived in an inconsistent fashion.

Micah 6:8 - 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

We are encouraged to be just, merciful, and humble in all of our dealings with others. This requires careful attention and wisdom.

Ephesians 5:15-20 - 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here we are encouraged to live wisely, and to make the most of every opportunity presented to us. We are not get drunk on wine, but instead to be filled with the Spirit of God. Singing and making music from the heart are lyrical ways of expressing thanks to God for everything he has provided us.

Closely linked to this admonition is Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV - In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This famous passage teaches us that God’s will is for us to be thankful, to be demonstrating thankfulness in all aspects of our lives.

One of my favorite examples of what God’s will is, or the “works” that God expects we should be doing is:

John 6:28-29 KJV - Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent.

Luke 9:23 23 Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

To be a follower of Yeshua, which is the work that God would have us do, is to deny ourselves, and to take up our own cross, that is, to bear that symbol of continual self-sacrifice before him in all things.

Hebrews 13:21 - May this God of peace prepare you to do every good thing for his will. May he work in us through Jesus Christ to do what is pleasing to him. Glory belongs to Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

God’s will is us doing what is pleasing to him. How do we know what is pleasing to him? By remaining in his word on a regular basis, and allowing his word and his Spirit through his word, to transform us:

Romans 12:1-2 1And so, dear brothers and sisters,a I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.b 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Hebrews 10:36 - 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

And what has God promised? Yeshua states it plainly:

Matthew 12:50
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

To be an obedient believer is to be a brother or sister to Yeshua; a true child of God who is exhibiting the characteristics our Father here on earth.

John 1:12 However, he gave the right to become God's children to everyone who believed in him. 13 These people didn't become God's children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband's desire [to have a child]. They were born from God.

I John 3:1 See how much the Father has loved us! His love is so great that we are called God's children--and so, in fact, we are.

It is the doing of God’s will that provides entrance to this kingdom of obedience, where we are living in obedience to God among other brothers and sisters with the same goals and objectives. It is not the hope of entering some mystical realm at some future point in an incomprehensible future. God’s kingdom is here and now.

All of these verses simply show us that, if we’re honest with ourselves and we know our Bible, we already know what God’s will is for us. We just need to overcome any reluctance that may be inhibiting us from carrying it out.

When we are being faithful to God’s word, and doing his work in this world, we have entered his kingdom and are demonstrating ourselves to be his children. Additionally, we are lighting the way for others to join, also. As we faithfully serve him now, the evidence of God’s kingdom continues to touch and transform the lives of others. By choosing to live in the kingdom through our righteous actions and faithful example, we are expanding the reach and influence of heaven on earth.


Well, as always, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. The kingdom of God is the active doing of God’s will, and his will is expressed all throughout the Bible.

We need to keep in mind that the Kingdom of God is the overarching concept that is integral within the teachings of Yeshua. Within the kingdom are exhibited the core of the Bible qualities of integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness, and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.

If you found today’s information helpful, you can view all other episodes of the podcast by clicking here.

Serving in a kingdom without icon

You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them…

Exodus 20:4-5

But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4:23-24

Have nothing to do with tangible representations of any god, including the one true God. Worship the Father (Yahweh) alone, and in spirit and in truth only.

Humans love icons. We seek to identify everything with a symbolic representation of some sort, whether it is a brand logo, an app, or a digital navigation menu. In honesty, I must admit there is a logic to this mode of communication: it acts as a type of shorthand for a larger idea or concept that can be communicated quickly and simply.

Throughout history, civilizations have represented their concepts of their gods with a plethora of iconic representation, from statues to intricate carvings of various symbols to grandiose temples. To this day, iconic representation can be found throughout the world, some even becoming popular tourist destinations due to their magnificence.

However, God warns us that although this is typical and commonplace among our cultures, we are not to identify him in this sort of way. He is to be worshiped in spirit and truth only, not by some sort of symbolic representation. The wisdom in this instruction is that he knows that the thing that is created to represent him can then replace him in the minds of the worshipers.

Consider the golden calf incident. The Israelites created the golden calf as a representation of the gods who had brought them out of Egypt (Ex. 32:4), and bowed down to it and danced around it. This shamed the magnificence of the one true God and Moses rightly and immediately destroyed it.

Consider the bronze snake that Moses had made in obedience to Yahweh’s command for healing of the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21:6-9). When Hezekiah became king, he ended up having to destroy it because it had become an object of worship in and of itself (2 Kings 18:4).

Consider the ephod that Gideon made to represent the victories of the Israelites over the Midianites (Judges 8:22-27). While his intent was to honor God, it became an object of worship itself and created corruption among the Israelites.

Idolatry is the most represented affront to God and his majesty throughout the entire Bible.

Idols of other gods are an offense to him, because there are no other gods that have created all things, and ascribing power to something other than him is an insult to his sovereignty over his Creation.

Idols meant to represent him or aspects of his power are also offensive to him, because no one thing can represent his majesty and glory in all of Creation. Ultimately, as we have seen, he knows that the representative thing becomes the object of worship. Any created thing is not a thing to be worshiped, even if we believe it is representing the one true God. No one thing in all of Creation can represent him, and is therefore offensive to him.

What if I was to create an icon of my wife, and in order to honor her, I burnt incense to that statue every day, or got down on my knees and professed my love for her to the image? I don’t need an iconic representation of my wife to honor her; I just need to demonstrate my love to her every day in how I live my life by respecting her and caring for her.

In the same way, God doesn’t want to be worshiped through some shallow representation of a portion of his being; he wants to be recognized for the beneficent Creator that he is in all of his qualities and honored from the heart. God expects the same simplicity and sincerity that I would show my wife in my worship of him.

God sets himself apart from all other gods by demanding we stop trying to represent him or his kingdom symbolically. It can’t be done, and if it is attempted, whatever we make becomes an object of corruption.

There are thousands of faith traditions in regards to the God of the Bible. Whatever your personal faith tradition, you must remove all idolatry, iconography, statues, and symbolic representation in your practice. God hates all of it. He just desires our sincere honoring of him everyday by the outworking of our practical faith among the rest of his Creation. This is what living in and for his kingdom should be.

What is your motivation for seeking first the kingdom?

I am the God who redeemed you out of slavery, therefore you shall have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:2

There is only one God, Yahweh, eternally existent, who liberates from worldliness, and separates a people for himself. No one and nothing else must rival or supersede God’s importance in life.

Israel was admonished to always remember why God was worthy of their allegiance: he had redeemed them out of their bondage in Egypt. This is so central to the entire Bible narrative that it cannot be overstated. It is of such primary importance that it is memorialized for all time as the first of the Ten Commandments.

The Hebraic and Christian traditions differ on whether this is the first commandment, or if this statement is just an introduction, and the first commandment is the verse that follows: “You shall have no gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3).

Part of this misunderstanding arises from our use of the word “commandment” in this passage. In reality, the Hebrew text speaks of the Ten “Words” of God, not necessarily commandments. There are other Hebrew designations that designate specific aspects of commandments, statutes, and requirements. But here, what we call the commandments should really be considered the Ten Words, sayings, or statements of God.

Because verses 3 and 4 of Exodus 20 are linked together with speaking of other gods and their representations (idols), the Hebraic understanding of isolating the “introduction” in verse 2 as the first of these Words makes sense. This is consistent with the overarching view that there has been revealed to them only one God who deserves complete allegiance.

Love Yahweh your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Because they viewed God’s revelation of himself in this manner provided a solid basis for every commandment that follows. The motivation for abiding by any or all of the commandments rested in the realization of why there was any reason to listen to God at all: because he had recently redeemed them from slavery. This was a miraculous and undeniable testimony as to why he was worthy of their worship over any of the gods that existed in the “superpower” nation of Egypt, or anywhere else, for that matter.

Why should anyone follow a king who has not liberated them? Or why should anyone obey a king’s commandment if they do not believe he is all-powerful?

The King of the kingdom that was being formed in that desert wilderness of Sinai deserved to be king because he had demonstrated himself faithful to the promises that had been made to the forefathers. He had exhibited real, demonstrable power in breaking them free from their yoke of slavery that had overcome them. There was no greater exhibition of power than that which had not only removed them from their oppressors, but destroyed those former masters completely so they could now worship and obey Yahweh in that freedom which he had obtained for them,

A true king establishes and maintains the freedom of his people, and is therefore worthy of all allegiance. Sometimes, in our day, we become so enamored with trying to understand the kingdom that we lose sight of the King. If the primary motivation for all we do does not stem from a recognition of the power and authority of the King, then we need to reevaluate our participation in his kingdom.

However, if we take to heart the example of how God has revealed himself as the God who redeems out of slavery and worldliness, we can be reminded of why we have been drawn to follow him in the first place.

The God of the universe has provided us a way out of our blind and unthinking bondage to worldliness. In this new freedom, we have been liberated to worship him in spirit and truth which then enables and motivates us to abide by his instruction.

This is all the motivation we should need to make him central to all of our thoughts and actions each day. In so doing, we demonstrate we are his people, and that we are seeking his kingdom first by honoring him as he truly deserves to be, as our King.

An invisible kingdom, a present reality

When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Luke 17:20-21

All throughout his ministry, Yeshua spoke of the nearness of the kingdom. This nearness was to be demonstrated through healings (Luke 10:9) and it was to be a witness against those who would not believe (Luke 10:11). The nearness was to be the motivation for repentance (Matt. 4:17) and for a reevaluation of accepted expectations, as discussed here in Luke 17.

The nearness of the kingdom presents these same challenges even today. Most believers in our day have the same expectation as the Pharisees: that the Messiah of God will come to rule and reign over a physical kingdom, and all nations will be a witness to the power and majesty of God.

However, to hold this view misses the essence of what Yeshua was teaching: the kingdom is not the coming visible manifestation of a political entity, but is a present reality already changing hearts, minds, and bodies.

Commentators have split over the interpretation of the words expressing that the kingdom of God is “in your midst,” or “within/inside you.” Even in English, we can sense the similarity of these meanings, and both present different shades of the reality of the kingdom as Yeshua describes it.

Many modern commentators have sided with the “in your midst” interpretation citing the fact that the kingdom was already being manifested in that day as Yeshua ministered to the people of Israel. Many others have chosen to interpret the meaning as “within you,” pointing to the internal nature of being born from above, and how God desired to rule their hearts.

Both interpretations have merit, and both present the obvious truth that Yeshua was making with the Pharisees: whether internal to each individual or already present in their midst, either way, the coming of the kingdom has nothing to do with the setting up of a visible organization or entity ruling over the entire earth.

The kingdom of God is not to be observed outwardly as a place or destination one can go to or inhabit. However, the kingdom is being manifested every day in the lives of believers through changed hearts, minds, and bodies. It is promised to continue to grow until God is “all in all,” (1 Cor. 15:28).

In that day, there will be no need for a physical representative kingdom, because God will be ruling every heart as he intended from the beginning, and all the world will manifest his glory and majesty.