The transformational power of salt in each generation

Core of the Bible Podcast #22 – The transformational power of salt in each generation

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of compassion, and how Yeshua uses a metaphor of salt, drawing on its various qualities to show how believers can transform relationships in every generation.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” -Matthew 5:13

This is such a fascinating saying of Yeshua. It actually appears to be a standalone saying that is recorded for us in several other passages as well.

Mark 9:50 – “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty [again?] Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Luke 14:34-35 – “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

So, there are a couple of aspects for us to explore. First and foremost, Yeshua seems to be cautioning against losing a salty flavor, because then salt becomes useless, and is only good to be thrown out and walked upon. Secondly, he is encouraging the retention of saltiness because it provides a measure of peace.

Now, in today’s jargon, saltiness has a connotation of someone being abrasive or rude. So in order for us to have a better understanding about what  Yeshua was saying, it may be helpful for us to see how salt is used in the Bible.

Of course, one of the most famous examples has been Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt after disobeying the command to not look back at the judgment being poured out on the plain of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 19:24-26 – Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked [back,] and she became a pillar of salt.

Later on, within the instructions of the sacrificial offerings, the grain offerings were commanded to be offered with salt as well.

Lev 2:13: “Every offering of your meal offering you shall season with salt; neither shall you allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meal offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.”

Also, salt is mentioned in the context of covenants with the idea that since salt acts as a preservative and therefore the covenant would have an everlasting nature to it.

Num 18:19: “All the wave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to Yahweh, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, as a portion forever: it is a covenant of salt forever before Yahweh to you and to your seed with you.””

Salt is also a means of causing fruitlessness, destroying the ability of an area to produce vegetation or grow anything.

Judges 9:45 – Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who [were] in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

Conversely, salt can restore that which is not useful by purifying it for safe and healthy use, as in the case of Elisha and a spring of water.

2 Kings 2:19-21 – Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought [it] to him. He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.'”

In the context of the Sermon on the Mount where we are taking our passage today, Yeshua is cautioning his hearers to not lose their saltiness, their distinctive nature and unique influence. The flow of this teaching moves immediately after this saying into the city on the hill parable.

Matthew 5:14-16  – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does [anyone] light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

The primary meaning of the salt reference in the context of the city on the hill is a reference of Yeshua to his own people for their unique place in the world. God had called Israel out of the nations to be distinctive, a people ruled only by him who would follow his ways as an example to the rest of the world. They were the physical forerunner of the prophetic Zion, the city on the hill that all nations would stream to to learn his ways.

Psalm 86:8-9  – There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name.

Isaiah 2:3 – And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Haggai 2:6-7  – “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. ‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.

Yeshua was reminding his hearers of their unique calling in the world, to not lose their distinctiveness amidst the corruption and evil of their day. They were to remember that they, as Israelites who were believing in God’s Messiah, were that city on the hill. Through their faithfulness and commitment to the Kingdom of God and his Messiah, God would ultimately reach out to all nations in compassion and hope.

Yeshua choosing the metaphor of salt was enlightening on many levels. Just like Lot’s wife and Abimelech overthrowing the city of Shechem, if they retained their saltiness, it would represent a measure of finality in judgment upon that rebellious generation. But the metaphor also recalls the seasoning of offerings, as many of them would be giving their lives in the persecution that was going to come upon them after his death. Finally, their saltiness would have a purifying effect among those whom he was calling, and would be a preservative of the peace and unity that God intends for all believers.

JUDGMENT

As salt is a type of judgment, the generation of Yeshua had filled up the measure of wickedness that God could tolerate, and they were about to be wiped out. This is the urgency contained in John the baptizer’s message to repent, and likewise Yeshua’s message of repentance.

Matthew 3:1-2  – Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17  – From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Yeshua spared no words of condemnation upon the corrupt leadership of his day.

Matthew 23:13 – “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

Luke 11:42 – “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every [kind of] garden herb, and [yet] disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

There are numerous other examples of this type of denunciation of the corrupt leadership; just type in the word “woe” into any Bible app to search many other instances where this is the case. The generation alive at the time of the ministry of Yeshua was under the pending condemnation of God, and he spent most of his time in public conveying the urgency and finality of the coming judgment upon them.

Matthew 12:41-42 – “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. “[The] Queen of [the] South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Luke 11:50-51  – so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house [of God;] yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’

Yeshua knew that the time was at hand and those who were unrepentant would not be spared. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all convey the urgency of that message of judgment.

Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

The fact that Messiah was raising up believers was as if he was sowing the salt of destruction among the corruption of that day. While this may not sound very compassionate, the fact that God was providing opportunities for the leaders to repent demonstrated that at the heart of judgment lies compassion in the admonition for repentance.

Each generation likewise needs to understand the judgments of God, and it is only with this type of salty compassion that believers can continue the transformation of the kingdoms of the world into the Kingdom of God.

OFFERINGS

Since salt was also to be used among the offerings of the sacrificial system, Yeshua was letting his hearers know that one of their purposes of transformation was also to be a seasoning of sacrifice for others. This would come to pass as many of the believers would perish in the persecutions of the first century. Here is a collection of verses about Yeshua warning his believers, and then those things coming to pass.

John 16:2  – “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.

Matthew 23:34  – “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,

uke 11:49  – “For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and [some] of them they will kill and [some] they will persecute,

Luke 21:12  – “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.

This aspect of sacrificial transformation was exhibited starkly in the martyrdom of Stephen after he had boldly confronted the leadership with the truth of God’s word.

Acts 7:51-53, 57-58 – “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and [yet] did not keep it.” … But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they [began] stoning [him;]

Acts 8:1  – And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Acts 11:19  – So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.

This type of persecution and sacrifice drove the apostle Paul to remind the believers of the underlying mission: the love of Messiah was to be the continual motivator in all distress, and a reminder even to their enemies.

Romans 8:35  – Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 12:14  – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:1 – Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship.

The love that had been shown to the believers was to be exhibited in the compassionate outflow of that love to others.

PURIFYING

Remembering back to the incident with Elisha at the well of water, we can discern that salt has a purifying aspect as well. In his letters to Timothy and to Titus, Paul reiterates this dynamic with each of them to be conveyed to their congregations

1 Timothy 4:12  – Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but [rather] in speech, conduct, love, faith [and] purity, show yourself an example of those who believe

Titus 2:6-8 – Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, [with] purity in doctrine, dignified, sound [in] speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Titus 2:11-14 – For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age … Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

The grace of God purifies God’s people for good deeds. This message is all through the Bible. believers are encouraged to be engaged with good actions and doing positive things for others.

Psalm 34:14  – Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Psalm 37:3 – Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper

2 Corinthians 9:8  – And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

1 Timothy 6:17-18 – Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share,

Hebrews 13:16  – Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

Yeshua even goes so far as to instruct us that it is not just enough for us to do good to our friends and family, but those who are adversarial to us, as well:

Luke 6:27  – But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

With all of these admonitions to be doing good things, the purification that takes place in the lives of believers should result in compassionate opportunities for service to enrich the lives of those around us.

PRESERVING

Finally, in Mark 9:50, Yeshua says to “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” We can see that salt also has an everlasting quality as a preservative that is related to peace. Just as the everlasting nature of covenant was illustrated with salt, the preserving nature of salt is that it would facilitate an everlasting peace.

John 16:33  – “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:6  – For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

Romans 12:18  – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Romans 14:19  – So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

Galatians 5:22  – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.

In reassuring the believers in Philippi, Paul relates an aspect of the Spirit of God in providing his people peace in the midst of anxious situations.

Philippians 4:6-7  – Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The outworking of this peace should then be evident within the lives of believers. Since salt is a preservative, we need to apply that preservative to the compassionate peace and unity that should be evident among the people of God.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep [i.e., preserve] the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

In summary, let’s review where we started within this teaching of Yeshua on the Sermon on the Mount.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” -Matthew 5:13

According to Yeshua, we are called to be as distinctive and useful as salt while on this earth, otherwise we really have no purpose. Drawing on this metaphor, an encounter with a believer should be a unique experience, one that carries a distinctive taste amidst a world of bland, personal opinion and selfish actions. As we have seen, salt can be an instrument of destruction, but also has properties of sacrifice and purification, along with qualities of preservation. These are the characteristics and influences that a believer should have on those around them. These stem from a godly and compassionate heart that wants to influence others for their good through this transformational nature of salt.

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.

Trusting in the Provision of the King

Core of the Bible podcast #13 – Trusting in the Provision of the King

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust in God, and how God’s provision is promised within the activities of the kingdom.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25

In the core of the Bible paraphrase, I have stated it this way:

“Unnecessary anxiety over the essentials of life can consume us and cause us to lose our eternal perspective.”

Life is about so much more than the temporary things of this existence in this world. And yet we are constantly distracted with the basics of living that we forget about the true life that only comes from God. For believers, this is an ongoing struggle: to remain focused on God while overcoming the flash and noise of this world.

But a way to overcome this is to change our perspective. If we are able to get our focus off of ourselves and our problems, and focus on the important things like the Kingdom of God, we have more strength to overcome our struggles, which by comparison, are much less significant. Having our perspective changed from temporary to eternal will change how we respond to these hurdles. We will find over time that the anxiety and distress over temporary things will begin to fade as we focus more on the eternal things.

So to begin looking at this passage in Matthew 6, according to Yeshua, life is more than food.

Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.

He is reassuring his hearers that if God is able to provide animals their food, he can certainly provide it for those who are serving him in his kingdom.

This is an echo from the Psalms:

Psalm 104:20-21 – You send the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about. Then the young lions roar for their prey, stalking the food provided by God.

Those who are serving God in his kingdom may not always know how or what kind of food they will have, but God is able to provide it when the focus is first and always on him.

Continuing in Matthew 6:26, Yeshua states the conclusion of this provision for animals by saying, “And aren’t you far more valuable to God than they are?” The implied answer, of course, is yes you are! You have far more worth than many sparrows or lions because you are created in the image of God; your whole being is modeled on his.

Yeshua also teaches us that the body is more than clothing.

Matthew 6:28-30 – “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

God’s provision of food and clothing for believers is being compared to the natural order within God’s creation. Just as being a participant in God’s creation entitles his creatures to the natural provision of their needs, being a participant in God’s kingdom naturally entitles his children to the basic necessities of living.

Psalm 37:23-25 – The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.

The provision of these basic needs belong to those who are seeking first the kingdom, i.e., believers. However, if there is no kingdom-seeking going on, there is no guarantee that this provision will be met. The benefits of the natural order of creation belong to those who trust in the Creator, as the benefits of the natural order of the kingdom belong to those who trust in the King.

Also, the basic needs being discussed here may not be what one would expect or is accustomed to. What we consider basic and what God considers basic may be two different ideals completely. But if we are trusting in him for our spiritual needs, Yeshua is implying that God will meet our physical needs. We may not be rich, but we will be able to get by. We may not always have the type and quantity of food that we want, but we will not actually starve. That gives God a wide latitude of options when it comes to meeting our needs.

Our role is to recognize his provision and to be grateful and content with what he has provided for us. As Paul writes:

Philippians 4:11-13 – Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Messiah, who gives me strength.

To understand more about how God can provide, we can view some examples of how he has done so in the past.

The most apparent and significant example of this principle is expressed in how God provided for the priests who spent all of their time regarding the things of God involved with sacrifice and maintaining the Tabernacle. Because they spent all of their time in this necessary service and ministry, they were not granted any land inheritance, and they could not farm for themselves. God provided for their needs by allowing them to eat (with specific limitations) the choicest offerings of the people that were brought to God.

Leviticus 10:12-15 And Moses said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that remains from the offerings made by fire to the LORD and eat it without leaven beside the altar, because it is most holy. You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your share and your sons’ share of the offerings made by fire to the LORD; for this is what I have been commanded. And you and your sons and daughters may eat the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the contribution in a ceremonially clean place, because these portions have been assigned to you and your children from the peace offerings of the sons of Israel. They are to bring the thigh of the contribution and the breast of the wave offering, together with the fat portions of the offerings made by fire, to wave as a wave offering before the LORD. It will belong permanently to you and your children, as the LORD has commanded.”

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 The Levitical priests—indeed the whole tribe of Levi—shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They are to eat the offerings made by fire to the LORD; that is their inheritance. Although they have no inheritance among their brothers, the LORD is their inheritance, as He promised them.

So we see that because the priests were wholly occupied with the work of the Tabernacle, God was providing for their needs in the very acts of their service.

The Tabernacle or Mishkan in Hebrew was the symbolic root of God’s kingdom on the earth, which is why it is explained in such detail in the Old Testament. It represented God’s presence on the earth; it is where forgiveness was offered as repentant people brought their offerings. It was the center and heart of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, and everything in that community revolved around the presence of God in that place and his guidance in every aspect of their lives. To be a member of the Levites who were continually working within the courts of the Mishkan was considered a great honor, and they were highly regarded by others in the community.

This was the initial and primary pattern of how God would provide for those who were sacrificing all of their worldly inheritance to participate in this model of the kingdom on earth. And this is an eternal pattern that is established for us right down to our current day and age. As we seek first his kingdom, we need to trust that God will provide for us so we can keep our attention and focus on him and his purpose at all times. And when we truly trust him for our provision, he will not disappoint us.


Another interesting aspect of God’s provision is brought out as we look at the sacrifice of Abraham. In the story, Abraham is preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac in amazing and unswerving obedience to God’s request. As they are assembling everything necessary for the sacrifice to take place, Isaac innocently asks where the lamb is for the sacrifice.

Genesis 22:8, 14 – “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.”

Well, of course, all along Isaac was intended to be the sacrificial offering, and yet just as Abraham is about to fulfill his duty in faithful obedience, something happens.

Genesis 22:12-14 – “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of Yahweh it will be provided.”

While this famous passage is used to teach many wonderful and, yes, challenging aspects of God’s character and purpose which we do not have time to explore in this lesson, it primarily focuses on the idea that God is a provider; in fact, that is one of his names: Yahweh-Yireh (Or Jehovah Jirah, as the song goes).

While this passage confirms God’s ability to provide, let’s take a step back from the imagery of the story into the text itself. I find it interesting to note that the word for provide actually has a root in the word ra’a: to see, perceive, appear, cause to see. It’s as if at a point, God’s provision is made apparent when it wasn’t apparent previously.

Genesis 22:13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

As soon as the test was over, Abraham saw the ram caught in the thicket. So then the question becomes, had the ram been there the whole time, or did it just happen to get  caught right at the time Abraham needed it? Well, the verse doesn’t actually say, but it does raise some interesting ideas of just how God’s provision comes to pass.

We can see a similar idea of seeing God’s provision another narrative involving Abraham with the story of Hagar. When she was being sent away by Abraham into the wilderness, the passage says she saw a well of water when the need arose:

Genesis 21:14-16, 19 – So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears. … Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.

So the question is, did God miraculously provide a well that wasn’t there previously, or did he just reveal its location, make it apparent, to Hagar when her need was greatest?

Another famous example revolves around the rivalry between the nation of Aram and Israel. Elisha was the prophet of God at the time, and knew that God would deliver the Israelites from the hand of Aram:

2 Kings 6:14-17 – So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city [of Dothan]. When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

By contrast, just like revealing provisions that were not apparent previously, God can also cause some not to see when the reality is right before them.

2 Kings 6:18-20 – As the Aramean army advanced toward him, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, please make them blind.” So the LORD struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked. Then Elisha went out and told them, “You have come the wrong way! This isn’t the right city! Follow me, and I will take you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to the city of Samaria. As soon as they had entered Samaria, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, now open their eyes and let them see.” So the LORD opened their eyes, and they discovered that they were in the middle of Samaria.

Yeshua touched on this concept of “seeing and not seeing” in the preaching of the kingdom:

Luke 10:23-24 Then Jesus turned to the disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Mark 4:11-12 “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside everything is expressed in parables, so that, ‘ they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.’”

Of course, this is a quote from a famous passage in Isaiah, demonstrating how God would be very intentional with reaching out to Israel, and yet they would reject him, being blind and deaf to his pleadings:

Isaiah 6:8-10 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” And I said: “Here am I. Send me!” And He replied: “Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the hearts of this people calloused; deafen their ears and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

So what can we take away from all of these stories of God’s provision, and seeing and not seeing? Well, according to the example of the Levites, we can see that God will provide for those who are wholly engaged in the service of the kingdom. We can also understand from the stories of Abraham, Hagar and Elisha that God’s provision becomes apparent when it is needed, in his timing.

What this implies is that God’s provision is already here, but many times we just can’t see it. Though we may be physically incapable, mentally incapable, or spiritually incapable of seeing clearly, we can be certain that God’s provision is always at hand for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

When we are trusting in God and his Messiah, we are placing ourselves in line with those believers in the past who have had real provision of needs shown and available to and around them. God’s bounty is abundantly more than we can ever ask for.

Learning to trust God in this way liberates us from micro-managing. Trusting God allows God to be God, and for Yeshua to reign as Lord in our lives, because then we can be freed to live for him. As we focus on the kingdom and the righteousness of God, God provides for our needs.


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 If we are truly trusting in God, we can know that he will supply these basics of life through whatever means he chooses. They may not be in the brand or style that we would choose for ourselves, but knowing that they can and will be provided can free us up to focus on the more significant aspects of this life. When we truly trust God, we demonstrate that we are not subject to the typical anxieties of this life. We are then living out the values of his kingdom, knowing the King provides for his subjects.

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.

You can also view all previous episodes of the podcast here.

Vigilance on the Narrow Path to Life

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 11 – Vigilance on the Narrow Path to Life

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance necessary in a believer’s life to follow the narrow path that leads to a small entranceway of life.

Yeshua stated it this way:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

This narrow path analogy runs deep in religious circles. There is a general recognition of the unique nature of this path in the believers’ quest for life; it is narrow and rarely traveled compared to the broad way that leads to destruction, as Yeshua says.

The images usually used to convey this concept have to do with a narrow footpath, perhaps through a wilderness or along a mountain ridge. The idea typically put forth is that it is a path in out of the way places, away from the wider conveyances of the general population, just as a hiking path differs from an interstate highway. They are completely different ways of getting from point A to point B, and they take travelers to two different destinations.

All of this is not untrue in the context of the passage at hand, but if we dig a little deeper into some of the words Yeshua used to express this concept, we may come away with a slightly different and more profound understanding.

Charles Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
Narrow is the way.–Literally, pressed, or hemmed in between walls or rocks, like the pathway in a mountain gorge.

This narrowness is defined by obstacles that are standing nearby, preventing movement in either direction but forward. It is also expressed as a way that is “compressed,” there is affliction and tribulation associated with this way.

To summarize this type of understanding, in the Core of the Bible paraphrase I have restated it this way: “There is a constricted entryway into life which has many obstacles standing about it. Labor fervently to stay on the difficult path that leads through the cramped passage to life along with the few others who also perceive its value and find it.” In my view, this description sharpens some of the terms in our English versions like “small gate”and “narrow path.”

A typical understanding of this verse might leave one with the picture of a small, one-person garden gate that must be entered after walking along a beautiful, winding, narrow path through meadows and forests. The sun has been shining, the birds have been singing, and beautiful flowers line the sides of the path. The way has been relatively flat and we have rarely had to exert ourselves in our protected way.

However, I would like to propose a slightly different picture, a fictional parable designed to illustrate the narrow path that Yeshua speaks of.

The way of life is to traverse the desolate high plateau of Arizona or Colorado through a narrow slot canyon which twists and turns in confusing patterns. You are never able to see more than 100 feet in front of you, and confusing side-canyons are passed from time to time. It’s where rockfalls tumble in front of you and must be climbed over; where poisonous reptiles lurk in sun-warmed hand-holds while you are consistently scraping through passages only wide enough to pass through sideways, sucking in your stomach and putting your arms out flat to ensure you have clearance to get through.

Finally, after braving the obstructions and challenges of the slot canyon, the destination is not a single-person garden gate at the end of the meadow path, but a weathered and heavy door that opens to an indiscriminate rough cave opening at the end of the canyon. To enter the darkness of the cave, you have to get down on your already-scraped and bruised knees as you move into a cramped passageway with loose rubble strewn in the way.

Ahead, the darkness gives way to some dim light peering around the bend ahead. Sweating due to the exertion of the journey, and repeatedly hitting your head on unseen obstacles hanging from the cramped cave passage, you reach forward with a dirt-stained arm to push through the rubble of the partially blocked passageway ahead to see where the light is coming from.

Okay, so this slot canyon analogy expands quite a bit on the narrow path contained in the imagery used by Yeshua. I think you might notice a slight difference between this depiction here and how that concept is typically presented.

But that’s the point. We have to look at things differently because it really isn’t all sunshine and roses and mountain meadows on the path to life.

ou see, believers have chosen a difficult option when it comes to a life path. One cannot just fall into the Kingdom of God by accidentally stumbling into it; it requires grit, intentionality, and determination to pursue the things of God.

It’s not just a sunny walk on a garden path (although it can be at times), but it’s more typically a perilous journey around obstacles and through constricted passageways, all the while wondering if you’ve heard God correctly. Then a confirmation appears on the way ahead, but only far enough to get you to the next corner or the next obstacle, and then you must continue pushing on.

Testing happens at every corner, but testing is for the purpose of strengthening. Strengthening provides stability of footing and the opportunity to grasp the hands of others whom you may encounter inside this narrow canyon and help them on the way.

Vigilance on this path means being intentional, listening for God’s direction. It includes being strengthened through testing, and looking beyond yourself to the needs of others along the way. This is the path of the disciple of Yeshua, the narrow path of vigilance that leads to the constricted entrance of life.

However, in learning about the path, it is necessary to discuss why one would even seek such a path in the first place. If someone is to go through all of the struggle and hardship mentioned previously, then it makes sense that they should have a clear understanding of the goal. Yeshua says “the way is narrow that leads to life.” What is this life he mentions?

First of all, the type of life mentioned here must be some other sort of life than just raw existence somewhere. We know he can’t just be speaking here of life as existence, because someone who is striving for a goal is already physically alive.

Looking at some perspectives from over the centuries since Yeshua spoke those words, we find different ways of viewing this concept of life.

Matthew Poole, a British theologian in the 1600’s, states what is likely a very common understanding of this passage when he writes:

The sum of what our Saviour here saith is this: There are but two ultimate ends of all men, eternal destruction and eternal life. The course that leadeth to destruction is like a broad way that is obvious to all, and many walk in that. That course of life and actions which will bring a man to heaven is strait [not straight, but as in a narrow, restricted passageway], unpleasing to flesh and blood, not at all gratifying men’s sensitive appetites, and narrow, (the Greek is, afflicted), a way wherein men will meet with many crosses and temptations; and there are but a few will find it.

John Gill, also a British theologian living a generation after Poole, in his Exposition of the Bible states a similar view:

which leadeth unto life: unto eternal life: it certainly leads thither; it never fails of bringing persons to it; believers in Christ, all that walk in Christ the way, though they are said to be “scarcely” saved, by reason of their afflictions and trials they meet with in their way to the kingdom; yet they are, and shall be certainly saved: they shall be safely brought to glory; which will be an abundant recompense for all the troubles and sorrows that have attended them in their journey.

I find it interesting that those who equate the kingdom of God with some ethereal after-life existence will typically align the term “life” with “eternal life,” as in, unending after-life as a reward for faithfulness during this temporary existence.

However, various commentators over the centuries have described this idea of “life” that Yeshua expresses here in different ways than just eternity. Some have thought of this life as more of a description of an ideal than just a state of existence.

The Expositor’s Greek Testament states it this way:

The right way… is described as narrow and contracted, and as leading to life.—, a pregnant word, true life, worth living, in which men realise the end of their being—the antithesis of [destruction].

Pulpit Commentary

That leadeth unto life. Observe, Christ does not say, “life eternal.” He only cares to emphasize the thought of life in the fullest nature of life – life as “the fulfilment of the highest idea of being: perfect truth in perfect action”

Charles Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

Which leadeth unto life.–Noteworthy as the first passage in our Lord’s recorded teaching in which the word “life” appears as summing up all the blessedness of the kingdom. The idea is developed as we advance; the life becomes “eternal,” and finally we are taught that the eternal life consists in the true and perfect knowledge of God and Christ (John 17:2-3).

We will explore John 17 further in a little bit.

Matthew Henry straddles both the concepts of this present life and eternity when he writes:

And yet this way should invite us all; it leads to life: to present comfort in the favour of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which at the end of our way, should make all the difficulties of the road easy to us.

Throughout Yeshua’s teaching, he always spoke of the kingdom as being near or “at hand.” In my view, the life of the kingdom should not be relegated solely to some after-life existence or some future worldwide paradise. Life and kingdom are a reality now, as we live obediently and faithfully in our present existence.

By contrast, the way of destruction that is broad and contains many travelers is then a life without knowing God, without knowing Yeshua. That life leads to destruction or loss because the things done in that life have no lasting value.

Some other Jewish writings from the time of the New Testament state the plight of the wicked from their perspective as they realize the error of being on the wrong road:

Wisdom 5:6 So it was we who strayed from the way of truth,
and the light of righteousness did not shine on us,
and the sun did not rise upon us.
7 We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction,
and we journeyed through trackless deserts,
but the way of the Lord we have not known.
8 What has our arrogance profited us?
And what good has our boasted wealth brought us?

That’s a sad commentary on a life that is recognized as having been wasted. If we were to view those on the wide road of destruction as lost from the narrow path, and not just on some inevitable  conveyer belt to damnation, we might be more inclined to reach out to them to at least show them the option of the way of life, the way of the kingdom, and to exemplify its standards. They may not be attracted to it because of the challenges it presents, but some will. 

GK Chesterton is quoted as saying, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

But even though this may be the case, we should never give up hope for others to also be drawn to this Way. Some will instinctively know it is the right way to go, regardless of the challenges. After all, we are here, and learning from each other how to move further down the canyon, and identifying which side-canyons and areas to avoid. It is possible for others to come off of the way of destruction as many of us had when we saw the alternative potential of the, albeit more challenging, way of life.

Earlier, I had mentioned in a portion of the Ellicott commentary how I liked his bringing of John 17:3 into the discussion at hand, as that verse captures this view of life that I also hold as my own:

John 17:3- And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life is knowing God and recognizing Yeshua as sent from God. This life that is stated as eternal here is expressed through the Greek word aionios. While it certainly conveys the idea of enduring, perpetual and everlasting (what we would consider eternal), it also implies that which has always been and will always be. It is typically translated as age, as in distinguishing one era of time from another.

If this eternal life is “life of the age,” what is the age that Yeshua is speaking about here? I believe he is speaking of what, to Yeshua’s listeners, would have been considered a “new” age to them; an age of life available through faith in Messiah, an age that would never end. I believe we are continuing to live in that age today.

The path of that life is narrow, constricted, and full of hardship and travail. Yet it is one that results in true life: knowledge of the only true God and his Messiah Yeshua. That is a life worth striving for.

If we are to conclude our fictional parable of journeying through the constricted passageway to life, the description might proceed as a milestone is reached, making our way toward the faint light ahead:

The final obstructions of rock tumble down a slope ahead of you as you push through the cramped passageway into a lighted cavern beyond, which opens up into a hidden paradise. A waterfall empties into a vast lake of clear, cool water. Sunlight from above, hurtful to eyes which had strained through the darkness, streams abundantly over all , nourishing the fruit trees and berry bushes lining the shores of the lake.

Tumbling headlong down the slope, you stumble wearily to the refreshing waters and drench yourself at the shore, cupping the running water coming from the waterfall and drinking liberally. You and your companions take pleasure in having reached this place of rest and refreshment along the way. The knowledge of this place reassures you that you are on the right path. On the opposite end of the lake, another canyon beckons toward the continuing journey.

The way of life is a way of vigilance, of watching for obstructions and challenges, and it is a way of grit, determination, and effort. But the reward is a knowledge of our Creator and his Messiah that enhances our every step in the here and now. He provides the refreshment and strength we need to complete the journey.

As we seek to follow Yeshua, we are drawn not only to him, but to each other. And if we have this perspective of reassurance and reward,  we can hold one another up and help each other on the way.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Vigilance is a challenging way of living, of keeping an eye out for the dangers around you while intently listening for God’s direction and constantly scanning and looking for the continuation of the narrow way to life.

We need to keep in mind that vigilance is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, 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.

Have questions about todays topic, or comments or insights you would like to share about your own path? 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.

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

Integrity: A Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 10 – Integrity: A Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

In this episode we will be exploring the deep desire for integrity that is a hallmark of believers. This desire wells up from the deepest recesses of our spiritual being, driving us to be conformed to the life of Messiah, a life of truth and righteousness.

Yeshua stated it this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I have restated it this way: Crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied.

I like the idea that righteousness or integrity is a craving. We can relate to that sensation from a physical point of view, so it is easy to translate that into a spiritual perspective. A craving or a thirst is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated. A life of integrity is one in which those cravings are striven for in every area of life.

Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible. In like fashion, a believer cannot deny the indicators of holy injustice and inequity which can only be satisfied with right actions. Just like the correct food and drink allow us to live healthy lives, believers thrive on righteousness.

Isaiah 41:17-18 NKJV – “The poor and needy seek water, but [there is] none, Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the LORD, will hear them; [I], the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in desolate heights, And fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, And the dry land springs of water.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 107:9 For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Hunger and thirst are the physical representations of the deeper spiritual needs that we all share, and therefore we have a common bond with all other humans in the pursuit of having these needs met.

According to Yeshua, the life of integrity is a life that is hungry and thirsty for righteousness. The world is a barren desert wilderness where righteousness is not to be found, unless God meets that need for us. And he can, and he will.

The Bible is filled with stories and parables regarding hunger and thirst, and the provision of God. For example, as Moses is recounting to the Israelites their struggles in the wilderness for 40 years, and how God had provided for them, he says:

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. … “

This passage is rich with the imagery that speaks in more concrete terms about spiritual truths. The example of Israel wandering in the wilderness is akin to our own wandering journey through this life. The uncertainty of the daily provision was a real struggle that had to be endured. Yet, God overcame that uncertainty of daily food by providing manna. But the text also says WHY God did this:

He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Just as their physical hunger was provided for, their spiritual hunger could be provided for if they would seek his word and his wisdom as earnestly as they sought the manna each morning, and with the same regularity. The Bible teaches us is that whatever is needed, God can provide. Wandering Israel needed food; God provided manna. They needed water; God provided miraculous pools and springs to sustain them.

Drawing on this very imagery of the wilderness journeys, Yeshua states further:

John 6:31-32, 35 NLT – After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. … Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Yeshua spoke not only of the bread of life that he could provide, but of the water of life to satisfy every thirst:

John 4:14 But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”

John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”

God knows we have a need, and he has provided for that need. In some cases, people don’t recognize their need for this spiritual food and drink, and therefore carry on through their lives oblivious to the richness available to them. This is why it is the person of integrity who recognizes this need, and feels the hunger and the thirst for righteousness every moment of every day, and pursue those cravings by drawing near to God. Their cravings drive them to seek for the truth of God’s instruction, and God provides.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible regarding Matt. 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger … – Hunger and thirst, here, are expressive of strong desire. Nothing would better express the strong desire which we ought to feel to obtain righteousness than hunger and thirst. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily, and when long continued, as in case of those shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands, with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for anything is often represented in the Scriptures by hunger and thirst, Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1-2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isaiah 55:1-2.

They shall be filled – They shall be satisfied as a hungry man is when supplied with food, or a thirsty man when supplied with drink. Those who are perishing for want of righteousness; those who feel that they are lost sinners and strongly desire to be holy, shall be thus satisfied. Never was there a desire to be holy which God was not willing to gratify, and the gospel of Christ has made provision to satisfy all who truly desire to be holy.

Isaiah 55:1-2 1“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why spend money on that which is not bread, and your labor on that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of foods.…

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God.

How can you tell if you’re hungry? Well, if your hungry you’re most likely going to eat whatever small bit of food is put in front of you. But if you’re full even the most generous portion of delicious food will not seem appealing in any way.

The person hungry for righteousness will eat every little scrap of it that comes their way, while those who are not hungry wouldn’t touch it if it was served in the very center of the most delicious cake. The hungry yearn for even crumbs of righteousness to fall from the table. Those who are full do not value integrity and righteousness at all, and would rather use any means and any methods to get what they want.

So, in my mind, a natural question arises: If those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are filled and satisfied, then could the opposite also be true? If one doesn’t hunger and thirst for righteousness, will they not be filled?

The Bible speaks of it in this way:

Job 38:15 – Light is withheld from the wicked, and the arm raised in violence is broken.

Proverbs 4:19 – The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

Prov 11:3: The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

Prov 13:6: Righteousness guards the way of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

1 Cor. 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Ultimately, those who choose to follow their own ways demonstrate the lack of integrity that God desires of his people who will accomplish his purpose, and they are therefore outside of his kingdom. The way of the unrighteous is to reject the wisdom of God. In doing so, they seal their own fate, if they remain in that state.

In the first chapter of Proverbs, the Wisdom of God is personified as an individual warning people to abide in God’s ways:

Proverbs 1:30-33 They refused my [Wisdom’s] advice. They despised my every warning. They will eat the fruit of their lifestyle. They will be stuffed with their own schemes. Gullible people kill themselves because of their turning away. Fools destroy themselves because of their indifference.

By contrast, the righteous long for the wisdom of God. They seek his counsel at every opportunity.

1:33 But whoever listens to me will live without worry and will be free from the dread of disaster.

Prov 2:7-8: He lays up sound wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity; that he may guard the paths of justice, and preserve the way of his saints.

Those who seek God’s wisdom will walk in their integrity.

Titus 2:7-8 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.

By walking with integrity, we provide no opportunity for others to demean the message of the kingdom. In fact, we exhibit the very characteristics that God desires of his people, and that becomes a light to others in a world filled with the darkness of selfish ambition and careless avarice.

In summary, being a person of integrity can be simply stated as someone who strives to do the right thing, according to God’s standards, at every opportunity. They are so focused on righteous living that it can be characterized as a deep and enduring hunger and thirst that drives them. In so doing, God promises their hunger will be filled and their thirst will be satisfied.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Integrity is a lifelong pursuit, but one that God promises will be rewarded when we seek his wisdom and righteousness in everything we do.

We need to keep in mind that integrity is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, 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.

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.

Anxiety and Trust

Core of the Bible Podcast, Episode 6

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust. According to Yeshua, an intentional trust that is placed in God is a remedy to reducing our anxiety and our emotional responses to stress.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

We all understand that we carry way more anxiety than we should be, and to live simply trusting in the provision of God is certainly a welcome thought in our current day and age of information and emotional overload.

This verse has three basic sections to it, and in order to understand it better, we can highlight each section.

The first section is “do not worry about tomorrow.” How does the Bible define worry?

merimnaó: to be anxious, to care for

Anxiety divides our concerns and distracts us with negative potentiality. The irony is how situations and events that haven’t happened (or more specifically, may not even happen at all) can affect our present emotional state.

We can understand this logically, that it makes no sense to worry about non-existent things, but our emotional responses to these abstract thoughts about fictitious realities can run ahead of our logic, and they typically do.

Viewed from this perspective, this is also true about our personal struggle with anxiety: it divides us against ourselves, with the result being that we cannot stand.

When we do not worry about tomorrow, that is, when we do not allow our cognitive abilities to become distracted with non-existent potentialities, we can remain secure in our house.

The second part of the verse explains why we should not worry about tomorrow: “for tomorrow will care for itself.”

That can seem odd to us, saying that a day can take care of itself. But this type of personification of inanimate or non-sentient things runs all through the Bible.

‘Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy’ (Psalm 98:8).

‘When the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled’ (Psalm 77:16).

‘Then the moon will be abashed, and the sun ashamed’ (Isaiah 24:23).

This process of personification is a classic Hebraic method of communicating an abstract concept in a more relatable and understandable way.

We sometimes do this as a way of gaining perspective on the past or future. we might process this through writing to our “future self” or in reliving what our “past self” has accomplished. These are just ways for us to help grasp abstract concepts in practical ways.

This idea that tomorrow will take care of itself is an encouragement that, as the old song says, “whatever will be, will be.” When the day is complete, whatever will happen will be done, and “the day” will be considered as “having taken care of itself.”

We have to exercise care here in not adopting a fatalistic attitude; that we have no control over our actions each day. Yeshua simply uses this method as a way of helping us understand that even though tomorrow doesn’t exist yet, it will have its own complete share of challenges that will be worked through, good, bad, or indifferent.

The third part of the verse captures the last thought in this philosophy of trusting God:

Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

Martin Luther observes the principle from this passage when he writes:

“Why wilt thou be concerned beyond to-day, and take upon thyself the misfortunes of two days? Abide by that which to-day lays upon thee: to-morrow, the day will bring thee something else.”

Trouble and problems in this life are  a given. We all experience varying degrees of these and yet they are a very tangible reality. This is acknowledged all through the Bible. 

Consider the stories of men like Noah, having to face the adversity of widespread destruction, or Joseph, being ridiculed by his brothers and unjustly sent to prison in a foreign country. Consider the severe trial of Job losing his family and all the possessions he had. In some ways, the Bible is really all about the types of troubles we experience, which is why these types of stories are so enduring and relatable. It’s because we all share some of these same types of struggles. Each day definitely has trouble of its own.

The good news is that the Bible also provides the insight to overcoming the troubles of each day. Noah trusted God and was safely conveyed through the flood, Joseph trusted God and rose to prominence in Egypt. Job never wavered in his trust in God and had his family and fortunes returned, and even increased.

The Psalms are filled with encouragement of God’s help in our times of trouble:

Psalm 86:6-7 ESV – Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.

Psalm 9:9-10 ESV – The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 27:5 ESV – For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

Psalm 46:1 ESV –  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Believers in Messiah wrote of the same confidence in God:

Ph’p 4:6 Be anxious about nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

1 Pet 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

All of these are admonitions to not be anxious about what hasn’t happened yet; let the future carry its own anxieties. If we continue to be anxious about every aspect of our life, can we, as believers, truly be considered to be trusting God? If we are trusting him, aren’t we trusting him for everything?

Yet we continue to have anxiety over so much in this life that has no value, and is really unnecessary in our lives. 

In the overall passage of Matthew 6:25-34, if the essential things like food, drink, and clothing are not worth worrying about, what are we currently so focused on that can surpass these basic necessities? Notice, there is no promise of shelter, fancy cars or successful businesses. Life is more than all these things, and they can distract us from what is really important.

According to Yeshua, if we are seeking first the kingdom above the cares of the basic necessities of food, drink, and clothing, we are exhibiting trust in God that he will provide these basic things while we are focused on the more essential realities. In his Providence and timing God can certainly provide those homes and cars and businesses, and it’s not wrong to prepare those things in your life. But we have to remember God is not obligated to make us successful in the world’s eyes, and we need to keep our primary focus on his purposes and kingdom.

Instead, let’s replace our anxieties of an unknown future with gratefulness for what we do have. God has not provided us the ability to foresee the future, but if you are reading this right now, he has given us today. We need to be living for him and his kingdom in the here and now, and not be worrying about some fictional future that may or may not come to pass. God meets all of our needs now, and we can dwell in his presence each day, resting assured that he is the great Provider. 

This is trusting God.

Holiness and Purity of Heart

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 5: Holiness and Purity of Heart

Holiness, in its essence, is “apartness” or “separateness.” Purity of heart is definitely something that is different than the rest of the world, and is a primary aspect of this state of being set apart. When we are kept from disobedience, or sin, then we are in a state of apartness or being separate. Purity of heart then is a root, a foundation, of  holiness.

In the sense being discussed here, the heart is the wellspring of who you are physically and ethically.

Proverbs 4:23-27 – Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

When the heart is right, then our speech, our focus, and our walk will be in line and keep us from disobedience. How many times can you recall saying the wrong thing, or taking your eyes off of God, or walking where you shouldn’t be walking?  My own personal list would be extensive.

According to this proverb, we need to keep our heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. What is in our heart is what we express.

Luke 6:45 – The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 

What is in the abundance of your heart? You know it by the things you say. If your heart is pure, then your speech will be pure.

Additionally, the Bible tells us that the heart doesn’t just need to be pure, it needs to be continually purified. This is similar to the cleansing effect of fire on precious metals, refining them until they have no contrary elements left.

Psalm 66:10 – For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

Proverbs 25:4 – Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel;

Isaiah 48:10 – Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

Daniel 12:10 – Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.

Refinement is the state of being free from a mixture of false and true until only what is sincere and genuine remains. This is a process, not an instant occurrence. As you can tell from these passages, some of this refining takes place through affliction, some is self-induced by those who are wise. The implication is that if it is not done voluntarily, God can make it happen by outside means.

Another example of ongoing refinement is that it is like a vine that is pruned of dead, unproductive branches so that the plant has the energy and room to bear more fruit.

John 15:1-2 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

1 John 3:6 – No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

3 John 1:11 – Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Living in this way with a pure heart is what sets you apart from the rest of humanity; this is what holiness is.

Vigilance and Stumbling Blocks

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 4

Today we’re gonna be looking at the topic of vigilance and focusing on a key passage in Matthew 5:29.

What is vigilance? A simple definition is: the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.

This is a challenging passage, because the imagery is so intense. But I believe that intensity is exactly what Yeshua intended, because it is so critical to our spiritual lives.

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.

Matthew 5:29-30

All stumbling-blocks to righteousness must be removed from your life with extreme diligence. This is an act of personal vigilance in remaining undistracted from the things of God and his kingdom.

One of the things I’ve come to notice about the Sermon on the Mount is that most of what Yeshua explains is aimed at the individual about their own conduct. Yeshua also adds commentary on how to react to those around us who may be acting out of insincere motives, whether it was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, or the wolves in sheep clothing who were the false prophets.

But the majority of the thrust of this teaching is on individual conduct. It is also helpful for us to understand what the term stumbling block represents.

The Greek noun and verb that used here for stumbling block or something that causes one to stumble are: skandalon which refers to the thing itself – a stumbling block and skandalizo the action of putting a stumbling block in one’s path. When you hear those words what modern word does it sound like? Yes, the modern English words “scandal” and “scandalize” can be traced back to these words. Now while it is translated in a myriad of ways in the Bible, skandalizo is not usually translated as scandal in the Bible because of its modern meaning which denotes an offense that outrages the public conscience. But stumbling blocks take many forms and an affront to the public conscience is most definitely one of them. So too, are the beliefs, ideas, and mindsets that we ourselves may hold.

Ruth Anne Garcia

This idea of scandal or scandalizing can be helpful in recognizing the effects that these attributes can pose on others.

Most significantly, what is represented by this concept is the fact that when we don’t act in the correct ways, we are scandalizing God. We scandalize God when we don’t remove our personal vices, and also when we cause someone else to stumble.

So I find it interesting when I do a search on the topic of stumbling blocks, one of the first things that came up was the topic of removing stumbling blocks in our own life so we can receive more from God.

4 Ways to Remove Stumbling Blocks to Receiving From God. Become a ‘Receiving Receiver’ and lay hold of God’s Promises for your life

The premise of this article is that most believers are not receiving everything they can get from God because there are stumbling blocks in the way. That is such an incorrect way to use this concept of stumbling blocks; it is never used that way in the Bible.

One of the key aspects of practicing vigilance in our lives is making sure that we have a correct biblically based doctrine in all these different areas of our lives, so that we can act with integrity and within the purpose and will of God for his glory in his kingdom.

This is why we have to be so cautious when we are seeking information in regards to our spiritual standing before God. This includes this podcast and the http://www.CoreoftheBible.org website and anything else where you would be drawing direction and inspiration for your spiritual journey.

If what is being taught does not fit in with the overall theme of the entire Bible, then it is not something that should be pursued.

This whole idea of doing some thing to get something else from God is turning a legitimate doctrine in the Bible on its head for personal gain. The concept of doing things to get God to do stuff for you is totally contrary to every principle in the Bible. We must do everything we can to expel this type of teaching from among our ranks as believers.

There are two types of stumbling blocks mentioned in the Bible: those with which we scandalize ourselves, and those with which we scandalize others. And both of these are a scandal against God.

This is the real meaning of the third commandment from Sinai which says you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. To take his name in vain means to attach ourselves to his culture and seek his character while not exhibiting it in our own lives. If we do this then we have taken his name in vain, or for no reason.

This is true scandal.

So while we have looked briefly at those things which we need to personally remove from our lives, we must also be aware of not laying stumbling blocks or scandalizing others.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. … “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. [“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.]

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-11

So, as important as it is for us to be aware that we are not causing others to stumble, before we can focus our attention outward to those around us, it is essential that we focus on our own internal struggles. We need to remove those things that would scandalize us before God, or bring dishonor to his name.

“Woe to the world because of [its] stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Matthew 18:7

There is an ancient proverb surrounding the biblical culture that says:

“He that washes himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what avails his washing? So is it with a man that fasts for his sins, and goes again, and does the same: who will hear his prayer?”

Sir 34:25-26:

This speaks to the fact that we may claim to believe that we are cleansed or that we are righteous in gods sight somehow, only to go and do the very things again that brings scandal to ourselves and to his name.

If you desire to be righteous and holy in God’s sight, then you must be relentlessly severe in removing those things from your life that stand between you and him. There are no other options. It is a matter of life or death, not just a self-improvement program.

Yeshua describes the circumstances or consequences that can result from a life that is not disciplined where these attributes are not dealt with in a committed way.

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.”

Matthew 18:8-9

So, as important as it is for us to be aware that we are not causing others to stumble, before we can focus our attention outward to those around us, it is essential that we focus on our own internal struggles. We need to remove those things that would scandalize us before God, or bring dishonor to his name.

“Woe to the world because of [its] stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

So is Yeshua actually asking us to cut parts of our body off? Reference any commentary and you will see that Yeshua’s use of hyperbole here in this passage is for emphasis, not as a directive.

What is here called the eternal fire or the fiery hell is really the fires of Gehenna. Gehenna was a real place; the valley of Hinnom which ran or runs in a ravine right along side the city of Jerusalem. Gehenna was a place where all of the trash in the refuse and the dead bodies would be placed because there was a fire there that was constantly burning.This was a great metaphor used time and time again in the biblical writings denoting the fiery judgment that was about to come on Jerusalem because of there in ability to live righteous lives according to God‘s word.

““Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.”

Mt 3:10

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.””

Mt 3:12

“Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. “

Mt 7:19

“If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “

Jn 15:6

“I will show wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath;blood, and fire, and billows of smoke.”

Acts 2:19

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries.”

Heb 10:26-27

There could be no greater contrast that Yeshua could bring forth to illustrate the necessity and the urgency with which we must deal with in these scandalous stumbling blocks in our personal lives.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Rom 8:5-13:

You MUST die to yourself and your own selfish ways if you are to live for him. This is abundantly clear throughout the teachings of Yeshua and the New Testament that we need to not only  take to heart, but to put into practice every single day in the manner of vigilance required to remain a faithful disciple.

This is the true challenge of living in walking in the kingdom of God. We have been challenged to be shining examples of purity and holiness to the world around us every day; every day. This is how God‘s kingdom continues to grow with every faithful generation.

The Kingdom

Episode 2 – The Kingdom

From the beginning of all things, God designed mankind in his own image for the purpose of providing representative rulership for him on the earth. According to Yeshua, this was so that God’s will would be accomplished within his physical Creation, to mirror what is always accomplished in the ideal of God’s reign in his spiritual realm.

Matthew 6:9-10 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

What is the kingdom of God?

God’s reign is revealed to us as the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, which are synonymous terms. The root of the word kingdom as used in the Bible literally means the realm in which a king sovereignly rules. In its simplest definition, the kingdom of God is present anywhere God reigns supreme. 

God, as the Creator of all, has the inherent right to instruct people as to what is good and right, and he has done so through his Word (or torah/instruction), what we now call the Bible. Because he has created all things and given life to all, he deserves our honor, respect, and allegiance.
The kingdom is present anywhere and anytime that people acknowledge God and his instruction as sovereign; when he is honored, respected, worshiped, and obeyed in spirit and in truth.

The Rule of God expressed in Creation

To teach all of mankind the principles of God’s reign, the kingdom of God on earth was first foreshadowed by Adam and Eve in the Garden, then the nation of Israel at Sinai, and ultimately the reigns of David and Solomon. 

Adamic – Natural kingdom (rulership)

Genesis 1:26-28- Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 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.”
Psalm 8:4-8 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

Man has been designed by God from the beginning to be an overseer of all that God has created. For us to do that effectively, we must be faithful to the Creator and the principles he has provided for us to operate by: his torah/instruction.

Mosaic – National kingdom

Exodus 19:3-6 Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and [how] I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” 

At the foot of Mt. Sinai, God was preparing another example: the people of God would collectively be set apart from all others, and God would be their king. By naming them as priests, he was illustrating the responsibilities of man beyond just the created natural order into the moral/spiritual realm as well. God was beginning to bridge the two realms of his kingdom/rulership into one.

However, he also foresaw that Israel would want a physical king, and they would ultimately fall away from his sole rulership. Even this was by his design, though, since he always intended for a representative individual to be at the head of his people.

1 Samuel 8:6-7, 22 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. … The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.”

Davidic – the Ideal Kingdom

1 Chronicles 17:23-24, 27 “Now, O LORD, let the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant [David] and concerning his house be established forever, and do as You have spoken. “Let Your name be established and magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is the God of Israel, [even] a God to Israel; and the house of David Your servant is established before You.’ … “And now it has pleased You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You; for You, O LORD, have blessed, and it is blessed forever.”

The physical kingdom of Israel reached its pinnacle with the reign of David and his son, Solomon. David was so faithful to God that he became a type and foreshadowing of a more expansive, universal kingdom that would once again allow God to reign through a leader that he himself would appoint.

All of these representations, from Adam to Moses to David, collectively set principles in place that would instruct mankind about this eternal kingdom of God which was to be fulfilled on the earth in the days of his anointed one, Yeshua. 

Prophecy – A Messianic Kingdom

From David on, prophets of Israel began to point towards a new type of kingdom that would surpass any one national representation to a universal reign over the earth. 

Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of [His] government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Daniel 2:44 “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and [that] kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.

Daniel 7:13-14, 27 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and [men of every] language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed. … ‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of [all] the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom [will be] an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’

This universal reign expressed by the prophets was to be fulfilled within God’s timing, with a man of God’s own choosing, one appointed by God. He would faithfully carry out God’s directives and be rewarded with lordship over the kingdom, bridging the divide between this temporal, physical reality and the eternal spiritual reality.

Messianic – The spiritual kingdom

The coming of the kingdom with Yeshua was the fulfillment of the pattern and prophecies that had been established for hundreds of years.
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Mark 4:11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables…

Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets [were proclaimed] until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.

Acts 1:3 To these He [Yeshua] also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over [a period of] forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
Yeshua taught that the kingdom was not a political or religious rulership, but a dynamic that was already present in his day and being manifested for everyone to see. This demonstrates the spiritual and moral aspects of the kingdom.

Luke 17:20-21 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He [Yeshua] answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here [it is!]’ or, ‘There [it is!]’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

John 3:3, 5 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

The kingdom, not the church

Today, many believers equate the “church” with the kingdom. However, it must be remembered that Yeshua was sent to bring the good news (gospel) of the kingdom, not the good news of the church. He did not come to start a new religion, but to fulfill the promises of God to his people. 
Yeshua was sent by God to manifest the kingdom (reign) of God in this physical Creation, starting with the foundational teachings that had been long established since Adam and Eve. However, his teachings were not based solely on a list of things to do and not to do, but on an attitude of genuinely respecting God’s authority in every area of life. 

Yeshua taught that right-living is attained through honoring God and his torah (instruction). That’s it. No organizations, no infrastructures, no strategies for growth; just doing what’s right at all times. 

Matthew 6:31-34 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This is kingdom living. It is not limited to a certain building or geographical area or time of day or day of the week. It is fluid, organic, and self-replicating through selfless actions of believers seeking the manifestation of the kingdom and the direction of the spirit of God through his Word.

Because this is not a natural concept for most people, God demonstrated kingdom principles through his ekklesia (what we call the church),so people could see what this set apart type of life in this world could look like. But the goal was not to set a pattern of duplicating copies of the temporary ekklesia, but to model the positive actions and attributes of the ekklesia. Just like Israel in the wilderness, the ekklesia represented in the Bible provides object lessons and examples for right-living; it was the kingdom of God expressed among the nations of the earth.

Through the efforts and network of the ekklesia, the disciples also carried this message of the kingdom to the scattered Israelites among the nations, where many different people, Jews and non-Jews alike, were encouraged by the gospel of the kingdom and became believers:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.

Acts 28:23, 31 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. … preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

Paul also spoke of the spiritual nature of the kingdom, as it was not something to be governed with traditions of men.

Romans 14:17-18 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [worldly rules and regulations], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this [way] serves Messiah is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Other than the Messiah (and his post-resurrection first-century body of believers), there has not been, is not now, and will not be any one physical representation of the kingdom on earth. The kingdom is propagated solely by the spirit of God, through his word, working his will in the hearts and minds of people as they submit to its authority in their lives. It does not (and cannot) reside in any one physical building, location, or institution.

The kingdom which cannot be shaken

In Hebrews 12, the writer spends a good deal of time contrasting the New Jerusalem, symbolic of the kingdom, with the fleshly kingdom of Israel which was founded at Sinai. Using imagery taken from Moses and the prophet Haggai, he outlines this contrast.

Hebrews 12:25-26: “Watch out that you do not refuse the one who is speaking! For if those did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth [that is, Israel and Moses], much less will we escape, if we reject the one who warns from heaven, whose voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven.””

Haggai 2:6-7,9: “For thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and dry land. I will shake all the nations so that the treasure of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says Yahweh of hosts. … ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says Yahweh of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace’ declares Yahweh of hosts.’””

Hebrews 12:27-28: “Now the phrase “yet once more ” indicates the removal of what is shaken, namely, things that have been created, in order that the things that are not shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be thankful, through which let us serve God acceptably, with awe and reverence.”

The fleshly kingdom of Israel was of this creation and therefore susceptible to shaking and removal. However, the kingdom of God is unshakable because it is not of this world.

John 18:36: “Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here.””

Application for today

To rule on the earth is to be “image-bearers” of God and act in ways that honor him and his Creation, as he originally intended. Ruling/reigning on this earth does not necessarily mean to rise to political sovereignty or power, but it does mean to “exercise dominion” by intentionally applying God’s righteous standards in all we do and say. In this way, God’s kingdom standards are expressed and fill the earth at all levels of society. 

The kingdom therefore exists as an independent reality within itself, but it is expressed here in this Creation when and where God’s will is accomplished by those who love and serve him. The life that is set apart is a life of right-action, not just words, creeds, or traditions, and is based on the whole of God’s torah/instruction.

While everything in the spiritual realm (the heavenly host) is submitted to him, not everyone in this physical realm recognizes him as the Creator, and therefore his kingdom authority (in practice among humans) is limited by those who either do not know him or who choose not to obey him. 

However, as individuals submit to his rightful authority in their lives, he then rules over them; hence, his kingdom becomes expressed in this physical realm through the hearts and actions of those who are faithful to him. 
This is the goal (and prophetic declaration) of the entire biblical narrative: for people to honor God as the Creator of all, and righteously represent his standards while propagating humanity in all lands. This is, and will be, the completion and fulfillment of all that was stated from the Garden of Eden through the prophesied New Jerusalem of Revelation. 

As God’s standards become more and more prominent with successive generations, then God’s kingdom is increased until it fills the earth. As humans continue to align with God’s sovereign rule over all things, then all things become harmonized with his will, and as Yeshua taught us to pray, his kingdom comes “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeodLink: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3460-brittle-rilleLicense: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Introduction to the Core of the Bible podcast

As the introductory episode, I wanted to provide a little background on myself, my motivation for the podcast, and a brief overview of the Core of the Bible principles.

My name is Steve, and as a husband and father of four, I have been searching for a way to summarize and condense the main teachings of the Bible into a simple yet comprehensive unit for ease of teaching and for ease in recalling for everyday practice.

I am creating this podcast to provide further insights into the  seven principles which I am calling the Core of the Bible. These principles are, I believe, the main categories contained within the summarized teaching of Yeshua (Jesus) which has come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom, Integrity, Vigilance, Holiness, Trust, Forgiveness, and Compassion.

You’ll notice on this podcast that I also prefer to use the name Yeshua instead of Jesus. Jesus is the English version of the Greek name Iesous, which in itself is a version of the Hebrew name Yeshua. However, if we were to take the name Yeshua and bring it straight over into English, it would not be Jesus, but it would be Joshua. In Hebrew, a name is not only a personal identifier, but also carries the meaning behind the name. In this case, the name Yeshua means “salvation,” or “deliverance.” That name was given to him to demonstrate his purpose, and we should always keep the purpose that God has in mind. I am not dogmatic that everyone call him Yeshua; if you want to call him Jesus, that’s just fine. But this is some of my reasoning behind doing so.

Be sure to check out other episodes by clicking on the podcast category link.

Intro and Outro Music:
Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeodLink: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3460-brittle-rilleLicense: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license