The unavoidable integrity that shines in the darkness

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Yeshua encouraged the believers to boldly follow his directives in the face of any opposition. He wanted them to influence that generation in positive ways so that by their unavoidable example others might also be drawn to the truth.

However, this public displaying of good works was not to be the sole end, but also the means by which the message of the kingdom was to be disseminated. If the disciples took his message to heart, it would fill every aspect of their being and their interactions and there would be no way to hide the fact that they were new creations in God’s sight. Yeshua’s analogies of being like candles on a lampstand or a city on a hill accurately capture the intent of the kingdom message: it would be unavoidably visible in a world of darkness: a candle can’t help but shine; a city on a hill at night can’t help but be seen.

How unlike the religious leaders of his day who outwardly did good works only for the display of righteousness; this was not because their hearts were changed, but only so they would appear to be righteous in the eyes of others.

Matthew 23:2-3, 5 “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. “Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. … “They do everything to be seen by others…

Yeshua knew that the religious leaders would calculate every appearance of their public actions to be in line with the strict letter of Torah, but in their hearts and minds they were as corrupt as dead mens’ bones.

Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. “In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

By contrast, Yeshua called his believers to be people of integrity, those whose sole motivation would be to glorify God and to be obedient to him no matter what the physical cost would be. This type of good works that would be seen by others was to come from a completely different place of motivation than the religious leaders of the day. Yeshua was creating a new kingdom of idealized subjects: those who are under no compulsion other than a genuine desire to do what’s right at all times. They would be aligned so closely to their heavenly Father and their Lord that obedience in the face of any difficulty or persecution was not even a question, it was a foregone conclusion.

This is how the kingdom would be grown until it would fill the earth. There is no other way. A strong eternal kingdom cannot be fostered in an environment of doubt, hypocrisy, and disobedience; it needs to be based on an underlying central integrity that cannot change or diminish over time. These acts of internal integrity then become evident as being something different than the world has to offer, and it causes others to be drawn to its collective light.

Philippians 2:15 That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

The example of their unavoidable integrity has been set for all time. It is up to us to receive and carry that metaphorical torch which will then be handed to the next generation.

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.

Being quietly intentional and genuine in our compassionate giving

Core of the Bible podcast #15 – Being quietly intentional and genuine in our compassionate giving

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of Compassion, how central it is to the Bible message, along with some practical ways to demonstrate compassion, specifically compassionate giving, in ways that honor God according to his word.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 6:1-4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”

While the main context of Yeshua’s comment is in deriding acts of hypocrisy, within this pronouncement is a nugget of wisdom as it comes to helping others in need. While he denounces the proud and their showy acts of helping others, he is effectively saying that we should be privately and sincerely compassionate toward those in need. The need is real and when we give we should be quietly genuine in our acts of helping others. That is the type of compassionate giving that God honors.

In Hebrew the term for the poor describes those who are in want and have needs that cannot be met on their own. In the Greek of the NT, the term describes those who crouch and cower, as beggars are seen to do. As we will see, the Bible describes several specific groups of individuals within the Hebrew culture who were singled out as primarily falling among the poor of the land.

Helping others who are unable to help themselves should be a cornerstone of the practices of all believers. It is here commanded by Yeshua, but is also evident throughout other areas of the Bible and by other writers.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.

Psalm 82:3-4 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.

Proverbs 31:9, 20 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. … She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.

Zechariah 7:10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

2 Corinthians 9:9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

Galatians 2:10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.

Throughout the torah, or instruction of God, there are various blessings and curses related to how the poor are treated by individuals.

Blessings

Proverbs 19:17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD–and he will repay you!

Prov 22:9 Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Curses

Proverbs 21:13 Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.

Proverbs 22:6  A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.

Both blessings and curses

Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.

In typical Biblical fashion, a topic is presented with two sides: positive and negative. Clearly, acts of compassion are a positive principle in this world, and overlooking the needs of others is a negative principle to be avoided. If we have been blessed with abundance, then God is conveying our responsibility as his children to share those resources with those in need.

The plight of the poor is an ongoing one. Yeshua and the biblical writers agree that there will always be poverty that needs to be supported.

Matthew 26:11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.

Mark 14:7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.

John 12:8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Deuteronomy 15:11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.

We should not let the perpetual nature of poverty dissuade us from helping others. Let’s take a look at a story that helps us understand this a little more clearly.

——-

You may have heard a story that illustrates in vivid fashion this principle of helping the many others who are always in need. I’ve seen various versions of the story, but in general, it goes something like this:

A young boy was walking along the beach when he noticed a large amount of sand dollars had washed up on the beach during the high tide. Seeing their only hope of survival as being transferred out into the retreating water, he went about picking up the sand dollars one by one and was dropping them back into the ocean.

A man walking on the beach noticed the furious efforts of the child, and the overwhelming number of sand dollars still left stranded. Seeing a sand dollar in his small hand, the man called out to the boy, “Son, there are too many sand dollars that are still on the beach. What possible difference can you make?”

“Well, it will make a big difference for this one,” the boy replied, as he returned the sand dollar to the water.

I think this story has been variously told as involving sea stars, or some other sea creature, but the message is the same: we may not be able to help everyone, but we can meaningfully help some, or even one.

It can seem overwhelming when we look at the vast number of poor in the world, and our natural reaction is to think, “how can we solve poverty?” We look at the issue as if it’s a math problem that just needs the application of the correct formula, and then all will be resolved. But the roots of poverty are deep and varied, and depend on many conditions that are unique to specific cultures and ideologies.

We typically tend to think of poverty as being “out there” in third world countries (which is not untrue). However, even here in the US we have large swaths of our population who live below what is considered the “poverty line.” As of the most recent studies in 2021, there are currently over 38 million Americans considered impoverished, between 9-10% of the entire country.

The reasons for poverty, whether in America or anywhere else, vary by region and type of need, but do have some basic drivers. Poverty can be caused by lack of jobs, poor local infrastructures, poor education, social injustice, violent communities or warfare; the list goes on. If we solve one problem, sometimes another rises to take its place. If we overcome one injustice, another one becomes evident.

All of this is by no means to say the situation is hopeless. However, it illustrates the depth and complexity of the state of the poor, and its ongoing tendency to be evident within cultures around the world. This evergreen nature of poverty ensures that it will be a continuing challenge to varying degrees in every generation.

If there were no point to helping others, then it would not be such an oft-stated requirement within God’s word. Clearly God wants us, no, commands us, to help others. But he does not lay out a specific strategy of how to do so, only that we do so.

We can get some hints, though, by looking at the past record. Within God’s natural kingdom of ancient Israel, God laid out a structure for the corporate welfare of those less fortunate, to include:

  • leaving the gleaning of the harvest for the poor
  • providing offerings for the poor every third year
  • providing private loans for those in need

If these were methods of assisting the poor in God’s natural kingdom, I believe they can provide a balanced basis for his spiritual kingdom as well.

Let’s look at the first one: gleaning the harvest.

Deuteronomy 24:21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left. What remains will be for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow.

The process of gleaning allowed the poor and needy to enter into the landowners’ fields after the harvesters had reaped the initial ripe produce. There would be some late-ripening fruit that could be gleaned for the benefit of the poor. This might work well in an agrarian society, but what is a similar process we could use today?

Since a gleaning is essentially a process of using up “leftovers,” perhaps setting aside any leftover change from a store purchase can mimic this process. Some financial institutions provide this as a savings plan for their members: when a purchase is made, the purchase amount is “rounded up” to the nearest dollar, and that “leftover” amount is deposited into a savings account. So if we were to use this money to give to those in need would be one way of exhibiting the principle of gleaning in our non-agrarian society.

The second method was providing offerings for the poor every third year.

Deuteronomy 26:12 “When you have finished paying all the tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you are to give it to the Levites, resident aliens, fatherless children and widows, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

The tithe was the firstfruits of the produce of the land. It was provided to the priests on a regular basis for their support in their work in the Temple, since the priests had no inheritance in the land. But every third year, it would be divided between the Levites and the poor of the land.

This may be updated to a process such as setting aside a third of any regular charitable giving you may be currently providing your ministry or religious organization as to be used more specifically for the poor and needy.

The third method was through loaning money or resources to those who needed a leg up.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your city gates in the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. “Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.

Loans were used as a way of helping those who had fallen on hard times, but otherwise could work. However, they would be expected to repay the assistance when they were back on their feet. Yeshua instructs us in Luke 6 that we should “lend, expecting nothing in return.” However, having an intentional loan fund to help out family friends and others might be one way of fulfilling this aspect of torah.

Now many believers may bristle at the idea of tithes, and allowances, and loans, saying all of this is OT information that only applied to Israel under the Old Covenant. All we should do is give freely and give cheerfully, because according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 9, God loves a cheerful giver.

That’s all well and good and I would never dissuade someone from doing just. However, if we area to take all of God’s word into account, it can be demonstrated that within the economy of God’s kingdom, being intentional with our finances is a requirement of being a good, contributing member of the community. If we only gave when we wanted to, our giving would be spontaneous and erratic. However, if, like ancient Israel, we were basing our assistance to the poor on intentional principles from God’s torah, then we will be more engaged and productive in the process. And we can still be cheerful about it, and mean it from the heart! Putting forethought into the process should not make us any less happy about providing for others because we have been abundantly blessed! In fact, in doing so, we may be that much more aware of just how blessed we are!

——–

Who should our efforts be focused on? I mentioned earlier that there were some specific groups that were singled out within the culture of ancient Israel that might provide us some insight.

For example, we know there was a special emphasis on widows and orphans because their primary source of income (the husband or father) was no longer around.

Job 31:16, 18 “Have I refused to help the poor, or crushed the hopes of widows? … No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father, and all my life I have cared for widows.

Psalm 68:5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.

James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Foreigners were also among the poor in ancient Israel, as they would typically have less opportunity among the established rights within each tribe. God encourages helping the foreigner just about as much as helping widows and orphans.

Deuteronomy 24:20 When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.

Deuteronomy 26:12 “Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.

Deuteronomy 27:19 ‘Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’

Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent!

Psalm 146:9 The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

Levites were also among the poor. As being set apart for the service of God’s temple and the ministry, they were not provided an allotted inheritance, and had to rely on the sacrificial offerings and kindness of their tribal counterparts.

Numbers 3:9 Assign the Levites to Aaron and his sons. They have been given from among all the people of Israel to serve as their assistants.

Numbers 8:11 Raising his hands, Aaron must then present the Levites to the LORD as a special offering from the people of Israel, thus dedicating them to the LORD’s service.

Deuteronomy 12:19 And be very careful never to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.

Deuteronomy 14:27, 29 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. … Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all your work.

Deuteronomy 18:1 “Remember that the Levitical priests–that is, the whole of the tribe of Levi–will receive no allotment of land among the other tribes in Israel. Instead, the priests and Levites will eat from the special gifts given to the LORD, for that is their share.

Deuteronomy 26:12 “Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.

All of these admonitions was for the kingdom participants to be as equitable as possible in all of their dealings with others. These principles were miles ahead of any such societal guidelines in the surrounding cultures, and as such, Israel gained successive power and influence in the region culminating in the expansive reign of Solomon.

So if we are to consider a place to start, it might be with those who have no income or limited income and are struggling because of the loss of the primary breadwinner, or unfamiliarity with the culture, or those who have dedicated themselves to ministering to others.

For all others who have fallen on hard times, assistance can also be provided until they can get back on their feet. These allowances were designed to assist, not solely provide for, those less fortunate. It was expected that everyone work for their meal, and begging was looked down upon as something to be ashamed of (for those who could otherwise work). But assistance was available for an occasional boost when needed.

And, one final thought: while there are areas and people groups everywhere in various need of assistance, there is wisdom in beginning with helping your neighbor, those closest to you.

Proverbs 27:10 Never abandon a friend–either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.

If everyone is helping those nearest themselves, than huge international efforts would not be as necessary. Not that it’s wrong to contribute to these groups, but many efficiencies can be gained by us merely taking control of our own compassionate giving by being faithful with those around us.

Compassion is not a business transaction where we may assist another with the hope of some sort of gain for ourselves or our organization. Real compassion is demonstrated when there is no chance of benefit to oneself. A true act of kindness rests within the act itself, solely for the benefit of another.

God in his wisdom, knowing the potential for inequity within the various classes of the society of the kingdom, designated a set of allowances for those who were sure to be overlooked due to the personal interests of those productive members of the various tribes.

Much like today, philanthropic efforts were considered noble but were also typically reduced to a low level of priority for the affluent. That is why God set commands relative to specific groups of people whom he knew would always need help. Because being intentional about compassionate giving makes all the difference.

While these different ways of expressing compassion to the poor are personal decisions for every believer, I am merely attempting to point out biblical principles  of compassionate giving from the torah, or the instruction of God. If we are to honor him in all things, including our finances, why not do it based on principles and patterns he has authorized as being valid methods in the past?

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 as we seek to exhibit the private and genuine compassion requested of Yeshua, we can seek out those around us who have the greatest needs and start there. Yeshua relates that there is a lasting spiritual power in the sincere acts of compassion that are done for the benefits of others with no outward recognition. These are the actions that God “sees,” that are accounted as vital human interactions with real, eternal worth.

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

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

You shall not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:27-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Principles of biblical charity that can make us more responsible givers

If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8

The concept of giving to those in need is all through the biblical writings. This has come down to us through the ages as giving “alms.” This ideas stems primarily from a passage in Acts 3 where the Greek phrase was interpreted as giving alms or giving charity to a beggar at the temple.

One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.a And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.

Acts 3:1-3

But the term in its wider use really means any act of compassionate giving of all types.

Acts 9:36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.


Acts 10:1-2 There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.


Acts 24:17-18 “After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people. “While I was doing this, some Jews from Asia found me ritually purified in the temple, without a crowd and without any uproar.

However when it comes to giving to those in need as mentioned in our passage in Deuteronomy above, the idea of helping the poor is depicted as lending to them, not outright giving. Why make this distinction?

Well it has more to do with the receiver than the giver. If you encounter someone who is need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay you back whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance. Many times, people will struggle to accept outright handouts because of their pride. They don’t want to be made to feel they are unable to do meet their needs on their own. This is actually an emotionally good and healthy response for anyone who is otherwise able to provide for themselves but may have just fallen on hard times. It happens.

Those who would beg for handouts were those who had no other means of income: the lame or blind who could not work, widows and orphans (who had lost their husband/father as the provider). In the Hebraic culture, these were considered legitimate reasons for true charity, and helping and giving donations to these individuals is highly commended.

However, for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet. In our passage above, Moses is urging that the Israelites would open their hearts to those who were poor, and lend freely. This was because many times people would take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends.

Now, having that background, the words of Yeshua have even more meaning when he relates how believers should be viewing acts of giving and loaning to others:

“But love [even] your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Luke 6:35

Even if our intent is to genuinely help others by providing them a loan of some sort, Yeshua says if you are doing so, don’t expect anything in return. This accomplishes two purposes: it maintains the dignity of the receiver, and it removes any chance of hard feelings for not being repaid in the future. If you are “loaning” to someone in need, you should treat that loan as a donation and any repayment as a bonus.

All types of giving is highly recommended in the Bible, as we know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving freely is a required dynamic within the economy of the kingdom of God.

Having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving can make us more responsible givers. In outwardly loaning to those who have need, we can allow them dignity. Inwardly considering these helper loans as outright donations, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future.

God is honored when we honor and respect him in all things, including how we manage our finances and our relationships with others. By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are his children by operating by the same principles he provides to us.

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

Forgiveness and reconciliation can only stem from a renewed heart

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45

I knew a man who was recently honored at his work for being an outstanding performer, always receiving gracious comments from customers with whom he interacted on a regular basis. He even received national recognition and many accolades for his achievements. However, when a particular crisis arose and he was challenged by his boss with a sharp disagreement over his mishandling of a particular situation, what began as a discussion of strategy degraded into a string of profanity and lashing out, blaming a customer for his own inability to bring a situation to its proper conclusion. This indignation, it would seem, was always simmering and bubbling under the surface of the polished outward appearance of his performance. When a situation challenged his work, what was truly in his heart boiled over and out of his mouth, revealing the true nature of his character.

Yeshua calls this the “fruit of the tree.” The wider context of our verse today demonstrates this idea.

For there is no good tree that brings forth rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that brings forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:43-45

If, as Yeshua teaches, “each tree is known by its own fruit,” then we can ascertain very quickly what is in a person’s heart by what they say and how they say it.

The same can be said of us. The words we speak illustrate or reveal what is actually in our hearts.

If we are to be speaking and demonstrating forgiveness and reconciliation with others, then that forgiveness and reconciliation will truly need to be in our heart. This can only be accomplished when we step out of the way of our old natures and allow God to work through our renewed nature in those situations.

Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

If, as Paul writes, we are new creations, then we need to operate within the new Creation of God’s kingdom, and live and abide by its principles, not the principles of this old Creation. Both Yeshua and Paul convey that the principle of reconciliation and forgiveness is a core principle of God’s kingdom. If our hearts have been renewed, then that forgiveness and reconciliation can truly reside in our new hearts.

Our ability to speak this forgiveness and reconciliation to those around us appears to be a choice that we have every day, but only when we recognize and remember who we really are. It is in this fashion that God is honored among the nations when his children are operating with the righteousness of his kingdom regardless of the outward situations and conditions they encounter. When the abundance of the heart is good treasure, then that good treasure can’t help but be shared with those who need it most.

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.

How to demonstrate the ultimate trust in God

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety can find its way into the smallest cracks in our emotional armor. As much as we seek to keep a strong and positive mental attitude, we can sometimes be overwhelmed by a flood of possible outcomes to a given situation, or our circumstances in general.

It is natural to consider the possibilities of things that might happen; this is a response to ensuring we are safeguarding our positions and being circumspect regarding our known responsibilities. We all have plans that need to be made and kept in line as we progress through life.

However to dwell unnecessarily on thoughts of unknown things that might happen to the point of stress can be debilitating. Anxiety can creep in where unknown influences come into play. When the fear and thoughts of things beyond our control begin to take over, the advice of Paul to the Philippians can be a way through the incoming fears.

His advice is to pray about everything. When we express our needs and our thanks to God, we are recognizing him as the one who is ultimately in control of all things. Where we sometimes err is in thinking that if we pray about a situation, God will control the outcome to be beneficial to us in all aspects. However, in this recognition of his ultimate authority in all things, we should ensure that our desires always fall under the category of trusting in his judgment for the outcome that is best.

Yeshua expressed this as, “Not my will, but yours be done.” This is the prayer that demonstrates ultimate trust in God releasing us from our self-induced prison of anxiety. When we really take those words to heart and mean them, we do receive a sense of peace, a peace that absorbs our anxiety and stress because we are being honest about our limitations to change or influence a specific outcome. We are deferring to him as the ultimate authority in all aspects of life. We are allowing God to be God.

However, in praying this way, we must remain open to seeking and recognizing what his will really is in any given situation. This comes through consistently being in his word, receptive to his torah, or instruction. This is how, according to Paul, we “live in Christ Jesus.” With our prayers containing the sense of Yeshua’s relegation of obligation to God, we can maintain our trust in God while minding our own responsibilities. This is where our peace and rest from anxiety lies.

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.

The steep price of obtaining purity of heart

Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

As Timothy was a young leader within the Yeshua movement of Judaism, Paul was encouraging him to focus on being a positive example to the believers. His commitment to the Messiah would need to be evident in every aspect of his being so that people would sense his sincerity, thereby spurring confidence in his teaching, and honor towards his Lord.

This admonition comes amidst a discussion on faithful workers versus those who had been spreading falsehood among believers. Paul was encouraging Timothy to stick to these basics of kingdom living to ensure he would remain separated from falsehood. He uses a metaphor of the varieties of uses of household utensils to illustrate his point.

Now in a large house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of clay. Some are for honor, and some for dishonor. If anyone therefore purges himself from these, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, and suitable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

To pursue righteousness, Paul argues, one needs only to focus on faith, love and peace within the community of Messiah. This will breed pureness of heart among the believers and all will be encouraged.

While this may come across as being too simplistic, it certainly was not an easy task for the early believers. Maintaining faith in an environment of doctrinal oppression and intense persecution was a lifestyle of daily challenge. Demonstrating real love not only for the brethren but also those who were opposed to the gospel of the kingdom was a monumental task. And pursuing peace with everyone who was essentially against the teachings of Yeshua required the deepest levels of reliance on the spirit of God working in them to establish God’s kingdom in that generation.

Yeshua demanded his followers have purity of heart, but this purity of heart would come at a steep price. Paul himself suffered intense persecution, and he knew it was a reality for believers who were separating from falsehood, but that they should remain steadfast in their faith.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

2 Timothy 3:12-14

Being set apart for God’s use, a gold or silver utensil to be used for honorable purposes, required a refining process that would test them at every turn until they came forth in their purified quality, ready and useful to God for his special purpose in each and every opportunity. This is the end result and the goal of holiness; being set apart for God’s use.

How like those early believers we should strive to be! By demonstrating righteousness through faith, love, and peace, we will be honoring their memory along with their sacrifice and example through intense persecution. But we will also be honoring the God who calls us to the same life of useful work in our generation. As his people become set apart for his use, he is glorified in every age and his kingdom continues to fill the earth.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.

Keeping the covenant and commands of God requires multi-faceted vigilance

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples…

Exodus 19:5

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.

The word we translate as keep or to keep in English comes from the Hebrew root shamar which at its most rudimentary level means to observe, guard, 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 above, the ancient Israelites 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, it was due to this dutiful caretaking of God’s words that we even have a Bible today.

In Yeshua’s day, however, some of them had taken this measure to the extreme by making additional traditions and rules which were intended to prevent people from violating the original commands. The original intent was sincere enough, but soon the traditions and rules became equivalent, or even superior to, the original command and they elevated the man-made traditions above the word of God itself.

Yeshua chastised them for this very thing:

…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.”

Mark 7:8-13

So the original guarding of God’s word became corrupted into a convoluted system of man-made traditions and rules, which, sadly, is still practiced by Jews and many Christian denominations even to this day.

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 that negates or destroys the foundations of God’s word is rampant today and is feebly defended by those trying to prop up defenses based on literal rather than literary defenses. 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 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 occurred, we would go much further in honoring God’s purpose in having an eternal record of those things. It’s not that those events didn’t occur within history, it’s just that the biblical record is not a newspaper account that can be 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 dishonor the very one they are intending to honor, much like the Pharisaical leaders of Yeshua’s day.

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, we can guarantee a fulfilling future for our descendants whom God will draw to himself in ages to come.

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.

Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Practical Kindness

Core of the Bible podcast #14 – Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Practical Kindness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of Forgiveness, some practical ways to demonstrate forgiveness, and the humility and kindness required when we concede to overlook the faults and aggression of others.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive people, neither will your Father forgive your wrongdoing.

The overarching theme where this verse is tucked into the Sermon on the Mount is all about avoiding hypocrisy. Don’t expect something of someone else (including God) if you are not willing to subject yourself to the same principles. If you expect to have God forgive you when you have wronged him, then you should be forgiving of those around you who have wronged you.

But what does this type of forgiveness of other people look like? How can it be enacted in practical ways? Yeshua provides a couple of examples that include a brother who has an offense against you, and an adversary who is taking you to court.

Matthew 5:23-26 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”

From this insight, Yeshua is teaching us that a primary aspect of forgiveness looks a lot like reconciliation. By this standard, reconciliation with all others must take place prior to worshiping God or seeking his forgiveness. Seeing how these two concepts are tied together so closely, we can therefore say forgiveness is the root and foundation of all reconciliation. This is a requirement if we are to be asking God for forgiveness.

Additionally, there are two distinctive aspects of reconciliation that Yeshua brings to our attention here: reconciliation with a brother and reconciliation with an opponent. Let’s take a closer look at both of these distinctions in more detail.

When we are talking about reconciliation with our brothers, most of us are likely familiar with another famous passage that Yeshua teaches about forgiveness which involves some math: seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a brother who wrongs me? Seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.

Okay, now on a technical note, the phrase seventy times seven could also mean seventy-seven times. But I think it can be shown that whether seventy-seven or four hundred and ninety times, Yeshua is speaking in a figure of speech known as hyperbole. He is clearly exaggerating for the sake of emphasis, but it’s an exaggerated emphasis worth making.

The point is that no matter how many times someone offends us or does something wrong by us, we, as believers, as followers of Messiah, are obligated to forgive them. This is not an option for those claiming to be in the kingdom of God. This is a hard teaching which is why it is not practiced as much as it could or should be.

By contrast, if someone is not a believer, they are not likely to pay any attention to this concept, and simply respond in kind when someone offends them. They will lash out, hold a grudge, seek retaliation, or basically do anything that does not require them to concede their position or their pride. Yet, as believers, forgiveness of those who have offended us is a non-negotiable directive of Yeshua that must be adhered to.

For many years when I considered this passage, I had the idea that I would only have to forgive someone if they came to me and asked for forgiveness. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have to consider actively forgiving them. However, as I’ve grown, I’ve learned that we must take all of Yeshua’s teaching into account if we are to be his followers. In his teaching, there is no room for that kind of petty distinction. Our verse for study today rules out that option when it says:

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Notice it says when YOU remember that your brother has something against you, you would be obligated to drop what you were doing, even if you were in the process of offering a sacrifice at the temple. That conveys two things: firstly, an obligation for reconciliation, and secondly, a sense of urgency in resolving conflict with all others at all times.

Additionally, there’s a third aspect that I touched on a few moments ago: there is no point in conducting acts of worship if we have unresolved conflict with others. From God’s perspective, this a kind of hypocritical schizophrenia that is not welcome in his kingdom. Time and time again throughout his teachings, Yeshua and his followers emphasize how deeply religious hypocrisy is hated by God. Look at some of these examples.

Matthew 23:28 – “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Luke 12:1 – He began saying to His disciples first [of all,] “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

1 Peter 2:1 – So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.

James 3:17 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Maybe you hadn’t realized it, but unresolved conflict in your life while claiming you are a child of God is hypocrisy, and God is not honored by that type of dichotomy.

Now that I’ve stabbed you with that truth, allow me to twist the knife further by saying that this type of forgiveness is not only a requirement for our brothers and those close to us, but is also a requirement for those who may be adversarial to us, as well. So if you think it’s hard to forgive a brother, how much more do you think we need to rely on God’s strength to forgive an enemy?


While we might be able to comprehend how forgiveness of those closest to us is essential, we tend to bristle at the suggestion that those who can be considered our enemies or our adversaries are also to be recipients of the same level of forgiveness from us.

At the root of this reconciliation and forgiveness is a characteristic that perhaps we had not considered: respect. When we forgive and give people the benefit of any doubt, we are essentially respecting their perspective and their known or unknown motives, and we are responding with kindness rather than vindictiveness. From a practical standpoint, I freely admit this is one of the most difficult of all biblical principles to put into practice.

If we actually do this with others, won’t this open us up to be taken advantage of? Very possibly, yes. Some people will see that we are not offering any resistance and will walk all over us. However, if we truly enact active kindness and not just mute submission, what is more likely to happen is something that we are taught from the torah, or instruction of God, when we are kind to our enemies:

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.

The apostle Paul echoes this same sentiment when he writes:

Romans 12:17-21 – Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

By being good to those who are opposing us, we are going against those natural instincts to retaliate. It is an unexpected response, and can cause them to recognize that they were acting foolishly. The metaphor of the burning coals being heaped on their head is a challenging one, but one that is meant to illustrate how recognized truth can be painful because it involves a recognition of one’s own wrongdoing. It typically takes something unusual to happen in order to shake us out of our destructive habits. When someone is nice to another person who has been only angry and mean with them is certainly one way to make that person sit up and take notice.

I’m sure almost everyone could share a story about someone who was sincerely nice to someone who was mean to them, and the person was won over to friendship, or at least, to stop the oppressive behavior. There is no guarantee that will happen, but it does happen. And regardless of the outcome, it is our biblical obligation to do so.

Yeshua makes another point about the necessity of reconciling with our adversaries:

Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

Reconciliation even in legal matters is a best practice that we are admonished by Yeshua to demonstrate. We can recognize that when things have become legal battles, that communication, trust, and forgiveness have broken down. Yeshua instructs us to get ahead of this type of entanglement by agreeing with, or making friends with our opponents. The word here can be vague in English; it implies a “giving of oneself wholly.” To my way of thinking, if you are giving yourself wholly to your opponent, then you are essentially conceding the dispute, and you are choosing rather to bear the injustice.

This is a difficult position to maintain, but it is a precedent that Paul has set among believers who disagree:

1 Corinthians 6:6-7 – But instead, one believer sues another–right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?

What?! Let yourselves be cheated? Paul obviously is out of touch with our current societal standards of personal rights. Or is it rather that our current societal standards are out of touch with the perfection of God’s ideal?

While Paul is admonishing this practice among believers, Yeshua seems to be implying that we should activate this same practice indiscriminately with everyone, even an adversary who would take you to court. We have to remember that in Yeshua’s day, any type of legal court was essentially held at the whim of the judge. You could have an airtight case and still end up having the ruling go against you. Then what would be the result? You would be innocent, you would have stated your case, but you would still be in prison.

Yeshua’s admonition for reconciliation, or “settling out of court” is a safeguard and a protection for the early believers. If they practiced this, it would potentially protect them from an unjust verdict. There was no guarantee that a trial would be fair, and if they were to pursue their rights, they were putting themselves in jeopardy of imprisonment. It would go better for them if they settled or reconciled out of court. They would avoid a potential further injustice, and be demonstrating a measure of love and forgiveness toward an adversary that could potentially change their heart, as well.

Matthew 5:44-47 – But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

As Yeshua also teaches here, by exhibiting kindness to our adversaries, we are providing them something they need, just like our Father provides sunlight and nourishing rain to all, because he knows these are basic needs, and especially so in an agrarian society. When we act the same way, we are responding as our Father would want us to respond. We are then allowing any legitimate vengeance or retaliation to come from him and him alone, since only he knows the hearts and true motives of all. Most of the time, we may also discover that no vengeance or retaliation is necessary, simply because we didn’t possess all of the facts at the time. This includes adversaries and anyone we may know to be holding something against us.

God values reconciliation over proving our personal “rightness” in any situation. Forgiveness requires humility, humility with our brothers and sisters and humility with our adversaries. Our strength in this area can easily be perceived as foolishness and weakness by the rest of the world, but if that’s the case, we are in good Company:

1 Corinthians 1:25, 27-28 – This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. … Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

The relationships we have are mirrors of our heart actions towards others. People will typically be to us what we are to them, and vice versa. So when we take Yeshua’s command to heart and break the cycle of mirroring behaviors, we have an opportunity to create new relationships, and these relationships can bear fruit for God.

Remember, God desires that we approach him without hypocrisy. God is always looking for our hearts to be pure and consistent in all ways with everyone; this includes those close to us and those who would maintain an adversarial position towards us. When we demonstrate humility and forgiveness with all others, we are taking a positive stance in a negative situation in which God has an opportunity to work and be glorified. Because then we are truly behaving like his children, and reaching out to the unreceptive, just like he does.


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 to truly overlook the faults of others, we need a measure of humility and understanding because we don’t know everyone’s motives. One of the clearest ways we can respect others is to forgive them when they have wronged us. Let’s keep our focus on reconciliation with all others in which God is glorified, because then we are mirroring his actions to an unreceptive world.

Be sure to visit coreofthebible.org to join the conversation through comments, to see daily blog posts on these topics, and to find free downloadable resources regarding the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form.

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

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

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.

Doing what is right in God’s eyes

Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God.

Deuteronomy 12:28

Doing what is right in the sight of God is the biblical definition of integrity. It means following his instruction or acting according to his precepts.

Some examples of those who have done what is right in God’s eyes can help us to understand what this practical righteousness or integrity looks like.

2 Chronicles 14:2-5 Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the pagan shrines. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded the people of Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his law and his commands. Asa also removed the pagan shrines, as well as the incense altars from every one of Judah’s towns. So Asa’s kingdom enjoyed a period of peace.

2 Kings 22:1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.
2 Kings 23:24 Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the LORD’s Temple.

Notice in these examples that Asa and Josiah were considered doing what was right in God’s sight because they were doing something according to God’s word. As kings, they had the ability to make laws and take actions that would guide and protect the people of Israel. They had chosen to take action, to do what was right in God’s eyes (according to his word), in regards to the corruption and idolatry that they saw had creeped in among God’s people. They were men of practical vision who recognized that the idolatrous influences of the surrounding cultures were polluting God’s people and they acted in accordance with God’s word; they did what was right in God’s eyes.

By contrast, those who instead follow their own ways do what they think is right, not paying any attention to the commands of God.

Proverbs 16:25 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
Proverbs 21:2 People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart.

Similarly, we can see peoples’ stature and the impressive way they present themselves, but we don’t always know what’s in their heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Some people’s actions are praised, but they may actually be hypocritical because they are doing things only to be seen as righteous by others. Yeshua had to combat this type of unrighteousness among the leaders of his day.

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

There are things that are right in the sight of God, and there are things that are an abomination in the sight of God. The key factor is understanding what God’s perspective is, then we can know what’s right and what’s wrong.

Even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand our motivation, we can still do what’s right in God’s eyes. Meditating on his word and understanding it in its entirety provides us the correct context for our outward actions. Like Asa and Josiah before us, this type of obedient integrity purifies God’s people and accomplishes God’s purpose in each generation.

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.