Keeping the commands of God over our traditions and impulses

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of vigilance. Keeping the covenant and commands of God requires multi-faceted vigilance, as cultural influx that negates or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it has been since ancient times.

The Bible is filled with admonitions to keep the covenant or to keep the commands of God. We read about it so often that we may sometimes gloss over the significance of what it means to keep the words of God.

Psalm 119:57, 60, 63 – Yahweh is my portion; I promise to keep your words. … I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. … I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.

God had conveyed many specific directives to the ancient Israelites through Moses, including this necessity to keep his commands.

Exodus 19:5 – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples…”

In this passage, God made it clear that those who obey him by keeping his covenant would be his people. The word we translate as keep or to keep in English comes from the Hebrew root word shamar which at its most rudimentary level means to observe and watch. In its primary sense, it means to heed, pay attention to, or observe (in practice) the covenant and the commands of God. This is the generally accepted meaning when it is used.

However, it also means to guard, preserve, or protect. This is a huge concept in Hebrew thought as it relates to the commands of God. Based on passages like Exodus 19:5 that we just reviewed, both the ancient and modern Israelites have understood themselves to be the receivers of God’s wisdom above all other nations in the world. As such, it was their responsibility to preserve his words through oral traditions and written records. Thankfully for all believers today, it was due to this dutiful caretaking of God’s words that we even have a Bible today.

But over the centuries some of the caretakers of the written records had taken this instruction to the extreme by making additional traditions and rules which were intended to guard the Torah even further, to prevent people from violating the original commands. The original intent of creating these extra rules may have been sincere enough, but soon the traditions and rules became equivalent, or even superior to, the original command of Yahweh and they ended up elevating the man-made traditions above the word of God itself. By the days of Yeshua, there were so many rules and regulations about the rules and regulations of God that it had become a hot mess of traditions mixed over the top of the original commands of God.

According to rabbinical lore, the motivation behind these Jewish traditions and rules was to “build a fence” around the Torah by designating specific actions as a way of protecting people from violating the actual commands of God. This is known as halakha, or the way to walk. These are the religious rules, sometimes called the Oral Law, that rabbinical thinkers and teachers have provided over the centuries. Since approximately 200 A.D, these oral teachings have been summarily encapsulated in the body of Jewish literature known as the Talmud.

To be fair, Jewish thought distinguishes between explicit commands and those derived from rabbinical teaching in the Talmud. For example, the command to observe the Sabbath is explicit right in the text of Exodus:

Exodus 20:8-10 – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:  You are to labor six days and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must not do any work ​– ​you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates.”

As we can see, the command to observe the Sabbath clearly involves not doing any work on that day. But in Jewish practice, there is also a “fence” command that the rabbis have created to where even holding a tool is against the Torah. It does not say that in the scriptural text, but the logic is that if you are forbidden from holding a tool, you are less likely to accidentally break the command of not working on the Sabbath.

In orthodox circles, both the text of Torah and the principles of halakha in the Talmud are considered legally binding in matters of practice. This Sabbath command is only one example of thousands of added commands to the Torah that orthodox Jews were and are expected to observe. So it can be seen that the original “guarding” of God’s word, the keeping of the commands, had eventually become corrupted into a convoluted system of man-made traditions and rules, even by the days of Yeshua. In fact, Yeshua famously chastised the religious leaders of his day for this very thing:

Mark 7:8-13 – “…you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.” He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother;’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is to say, given to God;”‘ then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.”

In this example, rather than taking care of parents as Torah commands, the rabbinical halakha allowed that same potential care of mother and father to be considered an offering to God; a loophole to release people from taking care of their parents yet still appearing as pious and observant. These various interpretations of the commands led to many differing opinions and loopholes in the Torah that were (and still are) argued over and debated in the synagogues and among the people. Yeshua is recorded as exposing these fence commands as being too strict and derailing the original intent of the Torah in the first place.

However, in his own teaching and doctrine, Yeshua is recorded as having established his own type of halakha in regards to the Torah. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua speaks about at least two of the Ten Commandments (the explicit commands of God) and expresses a specific halakha for each.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the Gehenna of fire.

Matthew 5:27-28 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Here we can see how Yeshua takes the base, textual commands of Yahweh and defines a specific halakha or “fence” command for each. To avoid breaking the commandment against murder, one must control their anger. To avoid adultery, one must control their attention and desires. But notice the difference between the halakha of the Jewish authorities and Yeshua: the Jews focused on specific actions to prevent breaking the commands; Yeshua focused on specific attitudes of the heart from which would flow the correct actions and the true keeping of the Torah commands. Rather than constantly having to remember a bunch of man-made rules to avoid breaking the Torah, Yeshua taught that a right heart will by default keep Yahweh’s commands perfectly.

This is the good news of the New Covenant theology of Yeshua and the Kingdom of God! It is the fulfillment of the aspirations of all of the old prophets who foretold that Israel would receive a new heart that would be obedient to the Torah.

Jeremiah 31:33 – For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Yahweh: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The New Covenant is based on the Spirit of God dwelling among his people and causing their hearts to be changed to follow his Torah because it will be internalized, “written on their hearts.” With their hearts made righteous, his people would then by default accomplish his will and be the light to the nations that they have always been destined to be. This is why Yeshua told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” to see the Kingdom of God; an act of creation as decisive and real as physical birth. Those who receive the teaching of Yeshua and the commands of God are re-created into new beings with new hearts that produce new actions, actions that honor God and keep his Word.

The other definition of keeping as it relates to the covenant and commandments is to watch. Watching implies an alertness, being aware of surroundings, looking for any holes in the perimeter defenses to maintain the security of what is being guarded. This is the level of vigilance necessary to make sure that what God has provided is not being diminished by outside influence.

This is probably the most under utilized aspect within the concept of keeping the covenant and commands. Cultural influx of worldly ideals is and has been the biggest adversary to the people of God over the centuries. Living in an environment with a constant stream of values that negate or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it always has been. Unfortunately, with our Western worldview, the current efforts of God’s people to prop up defenses for God’s Word is many times based on arguments regarding literal interpretations of biblical events rather than standing firm on the text with literary defenses. In discussions today, we waste time trying to set historical dates and evidences for things like Noah’s flood or the age of the earth which only cause further debate and strife, both within and without the kingdom.

If we would instead recognize and defend the literary nature of the Bible and recognize the intent of the stories and what they are trying to teach rather than when they physically occurred, we would go much further in honoring God’s purpose in having an eternal record of those things. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I don’t believe those events occurred within history, it’s just that the biblical record is not a newspaper account that can be completely catalogued and charted in the realm of scientific study; it has never been intended to be such a record as that. And when believers attempt to become scientific about the Biblical accounts of various things that were never intended to be viewed in that fashion, they end up dishonoring the very One they are intending to honor, much like the Pharisaical leaders of Yeshua’s day.

We have to remember that the ancient Hebrew mindset was more symbolic and figurative than literal when it came to relating their events and history. Because of this, we must exercise care in our determination of historical events, common phrases that were used for familiar items and processes for them, and spiritual experiences that conveyed God’s truth in symbolic fashion. Just like the Pharisees of old, we can become so consumed with the minutiae of the letter of the Word that we miss the spiritual meaning of what it actually means.

There are also different emphases when it comes to being vigilant and watching as related in the teachings of Yeshua and his disciples. Some of the watching involves care in what type of teaching you expose yourself to:

Mark 8:15 – And [Yeshua] cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

This would indicate a measure of discernment that would be needed in the information being received both from religious and political authorities. Another type of watching comes from vigilance with our own actions, to ensure we are not carried away by worldly desires.

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

2 John 1:8 – Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Another type of watching involves the care of God’s leaders among his people, to be diligent in ensuring that those who have been given into their care are properly provided for so that the people can effectively serve God.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In our practice of watching carefully over God’s Word, ourselves, and each other, we must ensure that our vigilance in keeping his Word centers on honoring God, not on our personal theories about God or our personal traditions beyond what the text really says. The stories and message of the Bible are all meant to express the reality of God’s Kingdom, and his faithfulness with his people, reassuring us that God is the Creator of all and that he always does what he says. If this is the case, and we are to be his children, then we should also always do what we say so we can honor  and represent him faithfully in all things.

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been. As we remain faithful to the intent and the spirit of his word, not just the letter of the law or loyalty to our religious traditions, we can guarantee a fulfilling future for our descendants whom God will draw to himself and his Kingdom in ages to come.


If you enjoy these articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Vigilantly seeking the things that are above

We should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now.

Core of the Bible podcast #88 – Vigilantly seeking the things that are above

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance. When we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” we are not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but we should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now.

The apostle Paul stated it this way:

Colossians 3:1-3 – If then you were raised together with Messiah, seek the things that are above, where Messiah is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God.

It seems that Paul was basing this concept of seeking the things that are above on the principles that Yeshua had taught. Yeshua taught that we should always keep asking, knocking, and seeking in order to receive, to have doors opened, and to find what it is we’re searching for.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

According to Yeshua, this type of vigilance is rewarded with the objectives sought for. If we are consistently asking and seeking and knocking, then we will definitively obtain those things which we seek.

Paul carries this same theme of seeking and searching forward into a mindset that should continually guide us in our ongoing new life in Messiah. This seeking involves ongoing aspects of vigilance that are wrapped up in the definition of the original wording used in the text. The phrase he uses in the Colossians 3 passage means to seek in order to find a thing; to seek in order to find out by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into; to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after; to require, demand; to crave. These types of urgent and continual qualities of vigilance carry the same intent of Yeshua’s exhortation to keep seeking until the objective is found.

Whenever I explore this passage, I am reminded of a quote by G.K. Chesterton which reads, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” To seek first the kingdom is not just a weekend activity, or one which can be pursued by sharing “amens” on Facebook, or by reading and listening to everything that the current Christian subculture puts out (everything that is, except the Bible). No, asking, seeking, and knocking is a mindset; a consistent, methodical and undeviating value to be exercised at every opportunity where God’s will has yet to be expressed.

In like fashion, Paul uses the same wording to emphasize the believer’s desperate motivation to know God and his Messiah, to learn more about the things of God and to keep one’s focus there through the trials of life. This is what he prayed about for those early believers.

Ephesians 3:17-19 – I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Philippians 3:10-11, 13-15 – …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. …  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

Can we truly say with Paul that we are “straining forward to what lies ahead…pressing on toward the goal”? This type of imagery conveys effort, discipline, and sacrifice to attain God’s purposes in this life. How we answer that question will typically uncover our progression of growth and our impact among those of our generation for him. In a moment, we will review this idea of sacrifice during this life, and how Paul expressed the concept of a sacrificial life that is lived for the Messiah.

Living a sacrificial life for God is going to be something that is different for every believer because we are all at different places in our walk with him. To Paul, placing one’s faith in the Messiah was, in no uncertain terms, a matter of life and death: death to self and traditions of men, and new life as a new self that seeks after the things of God.

Romans 8:13 – 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.

Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death whatever is worldly in you: your sexual sin, perversion, passion, lust, and greed (which is the same thing as worshiping wealth).

This putting to death of our worldly passions and desires was considered to be an ongoing practice, one to where the believer becomes the dichotomous “living sacrifice;” that which is constantly being offered up to God, yet continually alive, as well.

Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

This renewal of mind comes as we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new spiritual life into the physical life we are living now. In this way, we end up “putting to death” our selfish desires and we rise to the new life of our new self, created to be like him.

When Yeshua came into this world, it was as a human baby miraculously conceived in the womb of his mother. The spiritual element of his life was present from his birth, and this was brought to fruition at his resurrection from death. In this imagery is contained the following principle: the temporary mortal aspect, the flesh, has to die before the new creation, the spiritual reality, can be fulfilled. This is why Paul instructed the early believers to recognize that they were no longer to be focused on the fleshly aspect of anything, including Messiah.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Messiah according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul used the example and symbolism of Messiah’s resurrection beyond the flesh and applied it to the present life of those who believed in Messiah. He was encouraging them to operate from this mindset, because it was a reality in their lives that just had not come to pass yet; it was to be realized in the fulness of time at their passing from this life into the eternal kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4 – For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Life, in this sense, is eternal life: a status not only of unending existence beyond this temporary one, but a certain quality of life that is being generated within us day by day. When we are truly and whole-heartedly pursuing the things of God each day, we are becoming more and more of what God wants us to be as his representatives on this earth, and in anticipation of the life that is truly life beyond this mortal existence.

Colossians 3:9-10 – Do not speak falsehoods to one another, for you have stripped off the old self with its doings, and have clothed yourselves with the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge so as to become like Him who created it.

2 Corinthians 4:16 – …even though our outward man is wasting away, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day.

I like how the Weymouth NT here phrased Colossians 3:10 as “the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge…” The word that the apostle Paul uses here appears to be unique to him and only appears in these two verses: Colossians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 4:16. It conveys the idea of renewal or renovation; something that is an ongoing process in the life of the believer. Saying that believers need to be remolded into full knowledge captures a vivid image: we need to have our substance crafted into something new in order to become useful to God. And the verse also tells us that the goal is “to become like Him who created it.” This is image-of-God language that is foundational to the theology of the kingdom. When we seek first the kingdom; when we pursue it by striving after it and craving it, reasoning through it and enquiring into it on a daily basis, it changes and transforms us. We become reshaped, remolded, and renewed in essence of being, causing us to become like our Father.

The apostle Peter phrased it in these types of terms:

1 Peter 4:1-2 – Therefore, since Messiah suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding ​– ​because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin ​– ​ in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.

Each of us only has a certain remaining time here to accomplish what God desires, and we don’t know when that eventuality will occur. If we are being led of God’s Spirit to grow in him, being molded into his image more and more each day, we should work diligently to be sure that God is receiving the benefit of his investment in us by our faithful and obedient representation of him. This is how we incorporate our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now, and how his will is accomplished in each generation.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Standing for the truth of God’s word above the philosophies of men

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

  • Colossians 2:8 – Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.

This admonition from the apostle Paul strikes at the heart of the major conflict that the first century believers faced: the resistance of the orthodox Jews of their day who did not accept their Messiah. The Messiah-believing Jews were coming out from among the ranks of orthodox Judaism into what was considered a new sect. However, what was happening biblically was the remnant of true Israelites was being separated from the rest of unbelieving Judaism, even among those who had been dispersed, as had been prophesied.

  • Isaiah 10:20-22 – On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no longer depend on the one who struck them, but they will faithfully depend on the Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. Israel, even if your people were as numerous as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction has been decreed; justice overflows.
  • Isaiah 11:10-12 – On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people who survive ​– ​from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west. He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; he will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

This process required immense vigilance, determination, and faith in God. They were being persecuted (that is, hunted with intent to harm) by their very own brothers. They were being challenged in their faith on principles they had grown up believing, being taught in the synagogues throughout the areas where they lived. They were coming to see that many of the traditions and ideas that had been created by the religious elite were being cast away because they were not God’s design for his spiritual people.

Yeshua had railed against the religious leaders for their adherence to their traditions and philosophies above the both the clear and symbolic teachings of Scripture.

  • Matthew 15:3-6 – He [Yeshua] answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

Besides their hypocrisy and pride, Yeshua was calling them out on their observance to their own philosophical traditions that they held to above Scripture. They had created traditions around the teachings of Scripture, traditions that were contrary to the spirit and purpose of the law.

The apostle Paul in like fashion condemned the man-made restrictions and rules that had been added to the clear teaching and meaning of Scripture:

  • Colossians 2:23 – These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The true message of the kingdom was not more restrictions and rules by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of those things in Messiah and the advent of the spiritual kingdom adhering to the spirit of the law. The oral laws and traditions that had been added to the law of Moses were being shed as people began to understand Messiah’s teaching in light of the spiritual kingdom.

For example, physical circumcision had become a “badge of honor” among the Jews regardless of any spiritual or ethical practices. Paul preached that this was no longer necessary, but spiritual circumcision through a removal of the flesh through baptism was.

  • Colossians 2:11 – In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah…

Temple worship and practices were no longer needed, because the body of believers themselves had become the dwelling place of God, as taught by both Paul and Peter.

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah.

These were the types of teachings that continued to separate the remnant of Israel from the orthodox Judaism of the day.

We also have a responsibility to confront the false teachings, traditions, and philosophies that have grown up around the true faith of Messiah in the centuries since these brave and faithful forefathers stood their ground in the first century. Through our institutions, organizations, and denominations, we have created a new “oral law,” a set of trappings that continue to divide and separate God’s people. We have created holy days not listed in Scripture, constructed networks of churches around the dynamics of charismatic leaders and humanistic teachings, and built a theology of orthodoxy on the philosophies of men rather than the truth of Scripture.

We have strayed from the spiritual nature of the kingdom into the realm of trying to build a physical kingdom representation in our own image. We must return to the roots of biblical faith and the spiritual kingdom that Messiah established two millennia ago. We, like our spiritual forefathers, must remain vigilant in the face of those who, as the apostle Paul admonished, would seek to take us “captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.”

  • Colossians 3:23-24 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Messiah.

If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Consistently seeking the kingdom of God

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

Psalm 1:1-3 – How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Yahweh’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

I love the brevity and directness of these few verses. In them, we learn that happiness for the believer is derived from the avoidance of certain practices and the diligent pursuit of something else. They also convey the results that can be expected when this advice is followed.

As believers we are to avoid:

  • walking in the advice of the wicked
  • standing in the pathway with sinners
  • sitting in the company of mockers

For each one of us, this may take different forms, whether it is our interactions with our work and social groups, or the company we keep online with friends and acquaintances. These typical behaviors, while popular choices in the current culture, are not fruitful at all for the believer.

Instead, we are to diligently pursue Yahweh’s instruction or torah, and meditate on it day and night. This should be the consistent focus of our daily lifestyle. If we do so, we can expect the following results:

  • We will be like a tree planted beside flowing streams (constantly nourished)
  • bearing its fruit in its season (being productive within the kingdom of God)
  • and whose leaf does not wither (remaining vibrant)
  • Whatever we do will prosper (based on the right knowledge of following God’s word)

According to the text, there is no downside for the believer to be thoroughly engaged with God’s word on a daily basis. All of these results are benefits not only for ourselves, but also for that of others who may be seeking to understand more about the God of the Bible. To bear fruit is to provide practical guidance and assistance to others who can be helped by our positive influence in their lives.

While there are many examples throughout the Bible, in Psalm 119 is most completely conveyed the attitude of someone who is desirous of God’s instruction, seeking whole-heartedly to follow his ways.

  • Psalm 119:14-16 – I rejoice in the way revealed by your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
  • Psalm 119:43-48 – Never take the word of truth from my mouth, for I hope in your judgments. I will always obey your instruction, forever and ever. I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts. I will speak of your decrees before kings and not be ashamed. I delight in your commands, which I love. I will lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and will meditate on your statutes.
  • Psalm 119:97 – How I love your instruction [torah]! It is my meditation all day long.

Yeshua spoke about it this way:

Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Meditating on God’s word involves reflection and musing over its meanings and implications providing insights into righteous ways. It involves study, but also a deep and intimate devotion, resulting in prayer and communion with God. It is not just about setting aside fifteen or thirty minutes or an hour a day, but about having a constant baseline of relying on the principles of God’s word throughout the day. In between and underneath our necessary functions as members of our society, we should always default to a godly perspective that can help guide our decisions and actions. The promise is that if we intentionally keep this mental focus, we will prosperous and fruitful for God, which ultimately honors him. And isn’t that the type of believer we should be?


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Steadfast desire for God

Every believer in the God of the Bible has a challenge to remain earnestly seeking God.

Every believer in the God of the Bible has a challenge to remain earnestly seeking God.

In the Proverbs, the Wisdom of God is personified as a woman at the gates of the city, shouting to those who pass by and encouraging those who would seek the favor of God to come to her.

Proverbs 8:34-35 – Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from Yahweh…

The waiting and watching has a continual emphasis; it’s as if the wisdom that comes from God is not something that can just be picked up in a Tik-Tok video or a smartly worded meme. It requires diligence and effort with an ongoing commitment to the truth, regardless of how long it takes.

King David famously expressed his deep desire and continual longing for God.

Psalm 63:1 – O God, thou art my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where no water is.

Hidden within the simple phrase, “I seek you” is the Hebrew root word shachar which means to painstakingly rise up early in the morning, earnestly seeking the fulfillment of a task. David likens this desire for God as a critical thirst which cannot be quenched, ever needing to be satisfied.

The prophet Isaiah similarly exemplified this shachar type of seeking as he strove to keep a connection with God through the watches of the night and into the dawn, implying an impassioned search while others slept.

Isaiah 26:9 – I long for you in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks you early, for when your judgments are in the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

Isaiah adds that as he was to faithfully abide by God’s commands, they would become evident to others, and through his love and faithfulness the world would learn righteousness.

By contrast, the Psalmist illustrated how those among the unfaithful Israelites in the wilderness had not remained firm in their faith, and how they had forgotten the One who had delivered them from bondage.

Psalm 78:8, 36-37, 40-42 – … a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. … But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not true to his covenant. … How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested him again and again, and provoked the Holy One of Israel. They did not keep in mind his power, or the day when he redeemed them from the foe…

Seeking after God is a continual process, and one that must be cultivated regularly and routinely in order to bear fruitful results. Truly seeking after God is a deep-rooted passion that is all-consuming. It cannot be quenched with a one-minute Bible lesson or a quick prayer for safety as one heads out the door. Any worthwhile relationship takes time to build and to nurture, and this must stem from hearts that yearn to be connected to each other.

  • Deuteronomy 7:9 – Know therefore that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…
  • Romans 5:5-6, 8 – …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. … But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Messiah died for us.

God has demonstrated his steadfast covenantal love and simply asks that believers return their love to him with equal and consistent passion.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The unmistakable contrast of God’s faithfulness with those who seek him diligently

Those who are uncompromisingly vigilant will be blessed.

Those who are uncompromisingly vigilant will be blessed.

When we read familiar passages of Scripture, we can many times gloss over the depth of their instruction because we have seen them repeatedly and believe we know them fully. Yet, when looked at from a different perspective, whether in a different translation or another version, they can appear fresh and unique with some additional insights we may have missed.

In recently reading through the third chapter of Proverbs, I was struck by how many commands there are that relate to the vigilance required of one who is seeking to follow the instruction of Yahweh. When pulled out of the flow of the narrative and the back-and-forth rhythm of command/blessing, the commands by themselves become stark challenges that demonstrate the level of commitment required of those who would consider themselves disciples or followers of Yahweh.

  • 3:1 – My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands;
  • 3:3 – Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
  • 3:5-6 – Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him
  • 3:7 – Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear Yahweh and turn away from evil.
  • 3:9 – Honor Yahweh with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest;
  • 3:11 – Do not despise Yahweh’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe his discipline;
  • 3:25 – Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes,
  • 3:27 – When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs.
  • 3:29-31 – Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor, for he trusts you and lives near you. Don’t accuse anyone without cause, when he has done you no harm. Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways;

As an aside, these last three verses are actually reiterations of some of the Ten Commandments:

  • Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor/Do not murder
  • Don’t accuse anyone without cause/Do not bear false witness
  • Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways/Do not covet

As we continue through this chapter grouping similar thoughts, when the blessings of the passage are all lined up together, a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness and provision comes to light.

  • 3:2 – for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.
  • 3:4 – Then you will find favor and high regard with God and people.
  • 3:6 – …he will make your paths straight.
  • 3:8 – This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.
  • 3:10 – then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.
  • 3:12 – for Yahweh disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.
  • 3:26 – for Yahweh will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.

Of course, with Solomon as the writer of the Proverbs, it is not surprise that he focuses on the value of attaining wisdom above all other disciplines we can fruitfully pursue. With the mention of wisdom and discretion, a long list of benefits naturally flows from his experience in receiving the wisdom from God that he had prayed for.

3:13 – Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding,
3:14-18 – for she is more profitable than silver, and her revenue is better than gold. She is more precious than jewels; nothing you desire can equal her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left, riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths, peaceful. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold on to her are happy.

3:21 – Maintain sound wisdom and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them.
3:22-24 – They will be life for you and adornment for your neck. Then you will go safely on your way; your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant.

In the closing verses of this passage, the end results of righteousness are contrasted with those of wickedness. Again, separated out and grouped together, the contrasts between the consequences of wickedness and the blessings of righteousness become even sharper.

  • 3:32 – for the devious are detestable to Yahweh,
  • 3:33 – Yahweh’s curse is on the household of the wicked
  • 3:34 – He mocks those who mock
  • 3:35 – he holds up fools to dishonor.
  • 3:32 – but he is a friend to the upright
  • 3:33 – but he blesses the home of the righteous;
  • 3:34 – but gives grace to the humble.
  • 3:35 – The wise will inherit honor

To my way of thinking, the benefits in carrying out these commands of Yahweh far outweigh the negative aspects of the alternatives. Unfortunately, we see many of those negative consequences in the lives of those around us every day; this in and of itself is a testament to the reality, power, and truth of God’s word. We should be committed to the vigilant keeping of God’s commands if for no other reason than for our lives to be a testament to his faithfulness and blessing. This is the most powerful way we can shine the light of God’s grace and mercy into a world of darkness, and to continue to grow the kingdom of God as people are attracted to that light.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The necessary dedication behind discipline

Our walk of faith is one of tireless self-evaluation and training in righteousness.

Our walk of faith is one of tireless self-evaluation and training in righteousness.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, not aimlessly. I fight like that, not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.”

This admonition of Paul to the Corinthian believers should be a motto placed on the wall of every congregation to this day. Paul would accept absolutely no compromise when it came to matters of obedience or disobedience to Yahweh. He was so intent on keeping his focus on the righteousness of God and he says he would beat his body into submission if his desires outweighed what was right.

The phrase he uses here means to strike under the eye, as if giving someone a black eye. This conjures up imagery of prizefighting, where fighters train their body is so hard so that they may endure the battle in the arena.

If that’s the level of discipline needed to be successful in worldly games with and earthly reward such as a crown or head-wreath of victory, how much more is at stake in our spiritual lives that we should exercise the same vigilance and determination in keeping ourselves pure?

Yeshua put it this way to his disciples:

Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna. If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.”

The issue was not the physical chopping off of hands or gouging out of eyes, but having the same level of diligence in making sure our bodies are disciplined according to God’s word. This is the seriousness with which Yeshua commands his followers to be consistent in their walk of righteousness.

Paul carries this idea forward with the concept of putting our flesh to death. There is nothing more final than the concept of death. If the flesh is dead, it can’t continue to rise up in rebellion to the commands of God.

  • Colossians 3:5-6: “Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, depraved passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.”
  • Romans 8:13: “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.”

It’s true, we must die to ourselves in order to live for Messiah. If we are not willing to make that level of commitment in our walk, then perhaps we need to rethink our understanding of just what it is Yeshua taught.

Matthew 10:38-39: “He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me. He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. “


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Vigilance in worship

It takes effort, consistency, and sacrifice to worship God in a way that he desires.

It takes effort, consistency, and sacrifice to worship God in a way that he desires.

Worship today has come to mean many different things to different people. For most, worship is what happens every Sunday at the local church building from 10:30 am to noon. The style of worship varies; some prefer traditional hymns in a quiet, classical style from the European Middle Ages; for others, it is a celebratory party-like atmosphere with flashy performances and contemporary, upbeat tunes. In yet other congregations, it is complete silence, waiting for God’s Spirit to move upon someone to speak and provide insights from God’s holy perspective.

In the Bible, we see that worship encompassed many of these different expressions. The priesthood of Israel had specific and intentional responsibilities within the service of the Temple that had grown and morphed over time. While their primary sacrificial duties were laid down by Moses, as the temple was established in the days of David and Solomon, we find that other duties relative to music and singing became established within the realm of the priestly worship.

1 Chronicles 23:1-5 – When David was old and full of days, he installed his son Solomon as king over Israel. Then he gathered all the leaders of Israel, the priests, and the Levites. The Levites thirty years old or more were counted; the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand by headcount. “Of these,” David said, “twenty-four thousand are to be in charge of the work on Yahweh’s temple, six thousand are to be officers and judges, four thousand are to be gatekeepers, and four thousand are to praise Yahweh with the instruments that I have made for worship.”

These traditions carried on throughout the years and became part of the Israelite priestly and liturgical environment. However, with the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D., the earthly priesthood and the liturgy of the temple worship were abolished. There were no more proscribed rites or ceremonies for the people of God in relation to liturgical worship.

Now, don’t think that I am saying it is somehow wrong or misguided to continue to create songs or sing together to honor and praise God; that is not the point. In fact, believers in Messiah have been encouraged by Paul to do so.

Ephesians 5:18-20 – …be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to Yahweh, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Yeshua Messiah…

Rather, I am describing something that goes beyond any type of liturgical and sometimes mechanical praise toward to God. Even though the second temple was still standing in Paul’s day, God had provided him insights into the future of his Kingdom and the coming age. Paul knew that God was working a spiritual work among his people that would far surpass any physical representation or temple service that God could provide.

When it came to describing the type of worship that was acceptable to God, Paul naturally grabbed hold of a principle taught by Yeshua about what true worship in the service of God looks like:

Romans 12:1 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.

The believers who were presenting themselves, body and spirit, to God were the ones who were honoring the true spirit of worship that God desires. Yeshua had taught this same principle.

John 4:23-24 – “But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Living a life of sacrifice means diligently and consistently laying down our own desires at the feet of God and seeking to accomplish his purpose in our life. This is the path of believers in abiding in him, walking according to his commandments above the demands of the culture around them. To love Yahweh your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, to truly do this, is to walk a sacrificial path of true worship that honors God and brings glory to his name. The new covenant is a martyr’s covenant; we must die to ourselves in order to live for him.

Matthew 16:24-25 – Then Yeshua said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.

This is the heart of true worship: becoming a living sacrifice where every thought is captive to Messiah and every action is an action based on the love of God for all of his Creation. This is where true worship lies, not in the halls of music and self-performance, but in the quiet and determined attitude of self-sacrifice.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

No longer common or unclean

What did Peter really learn from his vision in Acts 10?

Core of the Bible podcast #81 – No longer common or unclean

What did Peter really learn from his vision in Acts 10?

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance, and how, when we receive instruction from God, we must be faithful in keeping it at all costs and without hesitation. Along the way, we will investigate the meaning of what was considered a common thing, and what was considered unclean. These designations were critical to the Hebraic understanding of how they were expected to interact with others in the world.

Acts 10:10-14 – [Peter] became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

This story of Peter’s vision is typically used as a way of teaching that God was declaring all foods “clean” or acceptable to eat. However, looking more closely at the context and outcome, we can learn more about its true meaning, along with some aspects of vigilance in our walk with God.

During Peter’s vision, when he heard a voice commanding him to kill and eat any of the animals in the vision, Peter immediately responded with: “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

The response from the voice was: “What God has cleansed, do not call common.” After three repeated occurrences, the sheet and the animals were taken back up into heaven.

Now, what’s interesting to note here is that in the original text, two different Greek words are used to describe the status of the animals. Peter says that he never had eaten anything common (koinou) nor had he eaten anything ritually unclean (akatharton). Now there is wisdom in understanding the difference between that which is common and that which is unclean, so let’s take a look at how these topics were covered throughout the Tanakh, or Old Testament.

Leviticus 10:10-11 – “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean, and teach the Israelites all the statutes that Yahweh has given to them through Moses.”

Here we find the importance in distinguishing between four Hebrew words describing four different conditions: qodesh (holy), chol (common), tame (unclean), and tahor (clean or pure).

So is this designation of holy/common, clean/unclean just a repetition of the same two qualities or is it describing four different categories? Let’s look at some other example verses to see if we can gain clarity.

Before there were ever any official commandments at Sinai, we see that there was a recognition of clean (tahor) and unclean (tame) animals:

Genesis 7:1-2 – “Then Yahweh said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate…'”

So the first mention of tahor/clean is in regard to animals, distinguishing those that are clean from those that are not tahor.

We next move to the wilderness after Israel came out of Egypt and learn the distinctions that were set down within the written Torah conveyed to them in the desert.

Leviticus 11:46-47 – This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.

So, clean/tahor and unclean/tame animals are here defined in God’s Torah.

Now as we look to define that which is holy versus that which is common, we can look at some passages from the writings of the Prophets, starting with Ezekiel. In Ezekiel’s vision of the temple and its surroundings, he conveys how some areas of the temple complex were distinguished from others.

Ezekiel 42:20 – He measured the temple complex on all four sides. It had a wall all around it … to separate the holy [qodesh] from the common [chol].

Here there is no mention of clean and unclean, just how a wall separated the holy and common areas. The one area of the temple complex was holy, restricted only to priests and God’s people, and the other area was common, available to anyone else. A similar example of this is brought out in the land allotments that Ezekiel conveyed from his vision.

Ezekiel 48:13-15 – And alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites shall have an allotment …They shall not sell or exchange any of it. They shall not alienate this choice portion of the land, for it is holy to Yahweh. “The remainder … shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open country. In the midst of it shall be the city…

Here, part of the land is holy or qodesh for specific use by the priests, and the other part for use by the rest of the city is common or chol.

So from these passages, we can learn that the distinction between holy and common appears to be one of purpose: that which is holy is set apart for a specific use by priests or God’s people only and that which is common is for everyday use by anyone. By contrast, that which is clean or unclean appears to be inherent in the thing itself, for example, those animals which were approved for eating versus those which were not approved for eating, likely due to the risk of contracting illness or disease.

Now here is a really interesting contrast brought out in the book of Haggai when he was asking the priests to give a ruling in a matter of holiness versus uncleanness, a contrast spanning both groups:

Haggai 2:12-14 – “If a man is carrying consecrated [holy/qodesh] meat in the fold of his garment, and it touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does [that food] become holy? ” The priests answered, “No.”  Then Haggai asked, “If someone unclean [tame] by contact with a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled? ” The priests answered, “It becomes defiled.”  Then Haggai replied, “So is this people, and so is this nation before me — this is Yahweh’s declaration. And so is every work of their hands; even what they offer there is defiled.”

Haggai is here using this example to show the priests how they were not accomplishing their God-given purpose of being a light of holiness to the world; instead, they had become so corrupt they had become unclean and were defiling everything they touched.

So here we have a cross comparison of these two categories: holy-common and clean-unclean. When we sift through all of this information, we can begin to see how this description helps us understand the categories a little better. From Haggai’s example, it is determined that something that is holy can’t make something holy just by contacting it; like Ezekiel, he is confirming the holiness is in the purpose of the thing, not its physical qualities. By contrast, something that is unclean CAN defile something else; once the unclean thing touches something, it also becomes unclean.

So how does all this apply to Peter’s vision and our discussion at hand? Well, we need to remember through this discussion that common means “for common use, that which is not set apart as holy.” And in Peter’s vision, God claims to have cleansed that which is considered common (i.e., the non-Jews who seek after him).

In a moment, we will explore this cleansing process as it was understood by the traditional Jews of the day, and why it is so significant to this discussion.


In Yeshua’s and Peter’s day, something that may have been considered “common” was a term that had come into use within the lexicon of the Pharisees and their fastidious over-compensation in matters that were not clearly marked out in Torah.

For example, in Mark 7, some of these practices are described:

Mark 7:1-3 – The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around [Yeshua]. They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with common — that is, unwashed — hands [right here we have the distinction clarified for us within the narrative: common=unwashed]. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders [Note: this is not a Torah instruction, but a tradition of the elders].

So, with the koinos meaning of common defined as “unwashed” for us here in Mark, we can then see how this applies in the vision that Peter had in Acts 10.

Acts 10:15 – Again, a second time, the voice said to him, “What God has cleansed, do not call common.”

This shows that God had cleansed that which, through their tradition, was considered common or unwashed. In that time, non-Jews were looked upon as common, like dirty hands that needed to be washed. The traditional Jewish thinking was that they were to be avoided because through contact with their unwashed condition they thought they would become contaminated, as well. However, we know from the passage in Haggai that holiness has to do with purpose and has nothing whatsoever to do with physical contact. Besides, Peter’s vision said that God had cleansed those “dirty hands” when they came to him in faith, and they were therefore no longer to be considered separate from the believing congregation.

This is the exact meaning that Peter pulled from the vision when he met with Cornelius and his group.

Acts 10:28 – Peter said to them, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner [again, this is based on tradition, not Torah], but God has shown me that I must not call any PERSON common or unclean.”

Peter had taken away from the vision, not that all FOODS were now clean, but that all MEN who earnestly were striving after God were to be considered on an even par with the Jewish believers.

Acts 10:34-35 – Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the PERSON who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Peter had taken the real meaning of the vision to mean that God was breaking down the barriers between men of different nations, and that the door of faith in Messiah would be opened to all who were willing to come. This was even confirmed to be the correct interpretation as the foreign men were visibly affected by receiving the Spirit of God (10:44-45).

It is impressive to see how Peter had maintained his ritual purity throughout his life. He claims to have strictly followed the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 without fail. In his day and age, there were many opportunities to eat the wrong foods, due to the foods that were sold in the common marketplaces. Peter demonstrates that he was always vigilant to ensure he never violated the commands of God by eating foods outside of the restrictions of Torah. This, in itself, should be an indication that the vision was not about clean and unclean foods, but about something else, something God was beginning to do among all nations.

Additionally, Peter intimated that he had not only kept the dietary commands of the Torah, but of the religious tradition, as well. This would imply he also did not associate with non-Jews, since they were considered koinos or common by Jewish tradition. We know this is the case because the apostle Paul had to confront Peter when he had held to this traditional Jewish thinking among the believers in Antioch.

Galatians 2:11-13 – “But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

While there are no time markers in the text, it would make sense that this argument between Paul and Peter occurred prior to Peter’s vision, and that after that vision, he was well-grounded in the in the understanding of the purpose of the Kingdom, and how God would not show favoritism to anyone but was accepting all who would come to him through faith in Messiah. But regardless of the timing of this event, as the growing Messianic movement spread, it was inevitable that non-Jews would be mixing with Jewish believers and there would need to be a recognition of equality among all people.

The apostle Paul confirms this also in several of his epistles, how God was growing the Kingdom with many different nationalities and statuses within the strata of society:

Romans 10:11-13 – “For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved.”

Galatians 3:28 – “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.”

Colossians 3:11 – “In Messiah there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Messiah is all and in all.”

Ultimately, vigilance in our walk before God comes in many forms, whether our own personal commitment to holiness, or our obedience to the things that God may reveal to us along the way. Peter exemplifies for us a measure of personal vigilance that we can learn from and follow in our own lives. He held tightly to the understanding of Judaism and maintained those traditions faithfully, believing that he was honoring God in doing so. Yet, when God revealed something radical within his current worldview, he was still willing to follow this new understanding wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

When we receive instruction from God, whether through his word or through personal insight, we also must be faithful in keeping it at all costs and without hesitation.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The sacrificial requirement of being a disciple

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

  • Matthew 10:38-39 – “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.”
  • Luke 14:33 – “In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

In my view, modern discipleship, at least from my American perspective, looks very different from what Yeshua taught his followers. Believers attempt to mix in discipleship to Yeshua amidst the trappings of our Western culture. In other parts of the world where biblical principles are being pursued in earnest, American Christians are looked upon as trying to have their cake, and eat it, too. Believers in America, myself included, struggle with the balance of spirituality and wealth. Generally speaking, we love to seek after the principles of the Bible, and yet we still desire to have the latest technology and pursue the highest levels of status among our peers. To the majority of the world outside of this bubble of access to resources, this appears to be duplicitous and insincere.

This is not without good reason, as Yeshua didn’t teach about any type of balance between spirituality and wealth. In fact, he taught very clearly that it is impossible to have it both ways:

  • Mark 10:23 – Yeshua looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! “
  • Luke 16:13 – “No servant can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Yeshua taught that wealth, while not inherently evil, has the intoxicating effect of drawing one away from God and consuming their passions. American believers tend to excuse themselves from this analogy by comparing themselves to one another and saying about themselves: “I’m not rich; look at how much this other person has. That’s who this verse applies to.” What we fail to realize is that even some of what we might consider to be meager income and living standards are still miles above most of the rest of the world. We have so much that we take for granted that we can’t even distinguish for ourselves how well-off we are.

Yet, into this rich culture of bounty and excess, the words of Yeshua ring sharp and clear: “every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” This seems so foreign, so alien to the type of spirituality we have become intoxicated with that we tend to skip over passages like this, carelessly assigning its meaning to someone other than ourselves.

However, we do ourselves a disservice when we overlook the spiritual instruction of Yeshua that was intended specifically for us, for anyone who claims to believe in the God of the Bible and yet is focused more on themselves than him. Our attachment to earthly possessions and status should be so thin that, should that silver cord break, we would be no less inclined to honor God. In fact, our faith should become all the stronger with a deeper reliance on him.

As I mentioned, God does not view wealth as inherently evil. For example, even Solomon understood that all worldly blessing comes from God.

  • Ecclesiastes 3:13 – “It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts.”
  • Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 – “Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.”

If we recognize our place of privilege for what it is, that in itself can take us to a place where we are less attached to those things that can distract us from serving God faithfully. When we can truly say in our hearts that if everything we have was exchanged for only the bare necessities of living and we could still maintain, or increase, our faith in God, then we are moving our faith in the right direction. When we go even further and begin to purposefully and intentionally look for ways to provide for others out of our resources at the expense of our own comfort, then we are beginning to embrace the intent of Yeshua’s teaching.

Being vigilant and watchful with the responsibility for all that we possess is absolutely necessary to true discipleship. When we are willing to sacrificially meet the needs of others at our own expense is one practical definition of biblical love, and the root of what Yeshua desires from the hearts of all of his disciples, regardless of status.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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