God is holiness

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 6:9 

This very famous verse of Scripture has been undergoing changes in recent English versions and translations. Some parallel editions try various renderings to try to convey the depth of this simple statement by Yeshua, such as:

  • Let your name be kept holy
  • Let your name be treated with reverence.
  • Let your name be honored as holy
  • help us to honor your name
  • may your holy name be honored

But far and away, the most common English rendering is “hallowed by your (or Thy) name.”

Hallowed is a word that has generally fallen out of use in English, unless we are speaking of hallowed ground (as a uniquely special place) or Halloween (a derivative of All Hallow’s Eve, meaning a day to honor Roman Catholic saints, or those individuals who were considered holy).

The American Heritage Dictionary defines hallowed as, “sanctified; consecrated; highly venerated; sacrosanct,” like the hallowed halls of a great university. To hallow is “to make or set apart as holy.”

The Collins Dictionary says: “Hallowed is used to describe something that is respected and admired, usually because it is old, important, or has a good reputation.”

The Bible Dictionary has this definition: “Hallow. to render sacred, to consecrate ( Exodus 28:38; 29:1). This word is from the Saxon, and properly means ‘to make holy.’ The name of God is ‘hallowed,’ i.e., is reverenced as holy ( Matthew 6:9).”

However, it may be worth keeping or reviving that word hallowed in English as uniquely special to this quality and nature of God.

The word hallowed means, to render or pronounce holy. God’s name is essentially holy; and the meaning of this petition is, “Let thy name be celebrated, and venerated, and esteemed as holy everywhere, and receive of all men proper honours.” It is thus the expression of a wish or desire, on the part of the worshipper, that the name of God, or God himself, should be held everywhere in proper veneration.

Albert Barnes

“Hallowed” is not a word frequently used in the contemporary English language, and so it’s meaning is not immediately apparent. Hallowed means to consecrate, to be made set apart as holy. So when we pray “hallowed be thy name” we are asking that His name may be recognised as sacred. This flows out of the first line of the prayer “Our Father, who is in heaven”, who is distinct from us and lives in eternity. However, there is another element to this. The Good News Translation puts it this way “May your holy name be honored” (Matthew 6:9). For God’s name to be kept as revered on Earth, this will necessitate a response on our part. We can not fully pray this line unless our lives desire to reflect this wonderful holiness. Honouring God as holy will lead us into a closer walk with our Creator and the development of holiness in ourselves.

https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/commentary/hallowed_be_thy_name.html

“According to Hebrew notions, a name is inseparable from the person to whom it belongs, i.e. it is something of his essence. Therefore, in the case of the God, it is specially sacred.”

Alexander Souter

This Hebrew understanding, that the name of God is wrapped up in his character and his essence, conveys a deep sense of wonder and connectedness. This isn’t so much about what name we should label him with as much as it is about who he is. While we as believers strive to be holy, God IS holy; that’s not just what he is, but who he is. In like fashion, if we are to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:15), then it should also not just be what we become, but who we become.

If, as Yeshua suggests, this is the God whom we pray to every day, a Father who is in heaven, the Creator of the universe who is in his very essence and nature set apart from his Creation, then we should step lightly and respectfully in his courts. We should be ever mindful that this is the God who will be recognized by all and honored as he deserves when we faithfully abide by his precepts and his kingdom is indeed come over all 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. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Becoming firmly established in the instruction of God

that we may no more be babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of the teaching, in the sleight of men, in craftiness, being deceived and led astray,

Ephesians 4:14

The apostle Paul is here conveying the vigilance required to stay on the right path of doctrine. No one who thinks deeply about their faith enjoys being tossed about by every wind of teaching. In Paul’s day, there were many voices that vied for the attention of those who were being drawn to Messiah; how much more in our day and age of instant information and self-publishing!

In his hopeful view of all believers ultimately reaching maturity in the Messiah (v. 13), he mentions the provision of God to help believers achieve this.

Ephesians 4:11-12 and He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some proclaimers of good news, and some shepherds and teachers, unto the perfecting of the saints, for a work of ministration, for a building up of the body of the Messiah,

These resources had been provided for the benefit of all of those in the body of Messiah. It was needful that those early believers had the ability to resist error; besides the physical dangers they collectively faced, the decisions they made and the records they kept would be the basis and constitution of the eternal kingdom.

Paul, Peter and John together stressed the importance of identifying correct doctrine:

2 Corinthians 11:3 and I fear, lest, as the serpent did beguile Eve in his subtilty, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that [is] in the Messiah;

Ephesians 6:11 put on the whole armour of God, for your being able to stand against the wiles of the devil,

2 Peter 3:17 You, then, beloved, knowing before, take heed, lest, together with the error of the impious being led away, you may fall from your own steadfastness,

1 John 4:6 we [apostles] are of God; he who is knowing God does hear us; he who is not of God, doth not hear us; from this we know the spirit of the truth, and the spirit of the error.

The apostles, prophets, proclaimers of the good news, and shepherds and teachers did prove faithful in their generation. We have their words today for us to base our doctrine on. By remaining vigilant in the word or instruction of God that has been handed to us, we can avoid the unnecessary doctrinal winds that toss us from place to place. When we do so, we can put down deep roots in the truth of their examples and lives, and continue to grow toward maturity in the Messiah in each generation.

Ephesians 4:13 until we may all come to the unity of the faith and of the recognition of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to a measure of stature of the fullness of the Messiah


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.

Doing the wisdom of God

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111:10

This verse has some interesting value when viewed from the Hebrew perspective, and also when compared to passages with similar phrasing.

To begin with, in the original Hebrew, the word order is arranged differently (which is typically the case when translating). However, in this instance it provides some interesting insights.

“The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Yahweh.” Stated in this word order, it seems to emphasize the beginning of wisdom phrase over the fear of Yahweh phrase. Wisdom hasn’t even begun until one respects the authority of Yahweh.

This has far-reaching implications, that what we might call wisdom is miniscule if it has no foundation upon God. There are many extremely smart people who have lived or are alive now who have had no recognition of the one true God of the universe. The Bible is emphatic in highlighting that true wisdom cannot even begin until there is a respect for the authority of God. If God is not part of one’s worldview, then there is no true wisdom.

Additionally, the second phrase of the verse, when compared with similar verses, reveals that doing the wisdom of God continues to mold and shape those who believe in him. These other verses, parallel passages also in the Psalms, are illustrating how those who fashion idols, or those who “do idolatry,” become like the idols themselves.

Psalm 115:4-8 Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they don’t speak; They have eyes, but they don’t see; They have ears, but they don’t hear; They have noses, but they don’t smell; They have hands, but they don’t feel; They have feet, but they don’t walk; Neither do they speak through their throat. Those who make them will be like them; Yes, everyone who trusts in them.

Psalm 135:15-18 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they can’t speak; They have eyes, but they can’t see; They have ears, but they can’t hear; Neither is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them; Yes, everyone who trusts in them.

If those who make and trust in the idols will be like them, then that same phrase in Psalm 111 implies that those who “do” the wisdom of God will become like him. To have a respect for the authority of Yahweh provides wisdom, and when it is practiced, believers are molded and shaped to become more like him in all things.


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

A parable of the eternal and natural kingdoms

He presented them with another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.

Matthew 13:24-25

The parables that Yeshua spoke about the kingdom are varied, differing in length, complexity, and purpose. While some are deeply spiritual in nature and apply primarily to the eternal kingdom, some of them are simply veiled references to the (then) present kingdom of Israel.

Matthew 13:26-30 When the plants sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared. So the slaves of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ He said, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the slaves replied, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, but then gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

The earthly kingdom (national Israel) originally had good seed (the Torah) sown throughout all levels of its society. However, it had become corrupt through the influence of an enemy (idolatry of the Dispersion). The slaves of the owner (angels of God) were instructed to gather the harvest (the righteous remnant); however the weeds (the non-righteous) were to be burned (destroyed in the fires of Jerusalem) first, leaving the righteous to be gathered into the owner’s barn (heaven/the eternal kingdom).

This type of interpretation hinges on the centrality of the urgency with which Yeshua presented the message of the kingdom.

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Mark 1:15 He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!”
Luke 13:3 No, I tell you! But unless you repent, you will all perish as well!

Many of these parables are not just nice stories about a spiritual kingdom; they are urgent warnings of a terrible judgment that was about to fall on that (mostly) disobedient generation within the natural kingdom of Israel.

Matthew 12:41-42 The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them – and now, something greater than Jonah is here!
The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon – and now, something greater than Solomon is here!
Matthew 17:17 Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you?”
Matthew 23:36 I tell you the truth, this generation will be held responsible for all these things!
Matthew 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Mark 8:38 For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

When viewed within the wider context of all of Yeshua’s teachings, we can get a better handle on understanding that he was fiercely intentional about his prophetic pronouncements regarding the coming judgment upon that generation. While believers today can (and should be) grateful for the eternal spiritual kingdom that was being created, the natural kingdom was about to come to its prophesied end.

Holiness above the twin sins of adultery and idolatry

Core of the Bible podcast #26 – Holiness above the twin sins of adultery and idolatry

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of holiness, and how our commitment to God, first and foremost, needs to be absolute. But this relational commitment needs also to be reflected within our spousal relationships; the two types of relationships are equivocated in the Bible.

Looking first at our spousal relationships,  Yeshua stated it this way:

“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. … “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:27-28, 31-32

Believers are commanded to never forsake our commitment to our spouses. Yeshua emphasizes that we should not even think about others lustfully in our hearts.

The topic of marriage and divorce can be very complicated. As you may know, one of my primary goals with the Core of the Bible information that I present each week is to try to keep things stated as simply as possible, and to reduce complexity where possible.

While the Bible speaks very clearly about marriage and divorce, it is also very sparse with the information it provides.

Surprisingly, marriage as an institution is never explicitly commanded in the Bible. However the concept of spousal unity is present on the opening pages of the Bible.

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.”

Now the word wife in this passage is actually the Hebrew isshah, which is the Hebrew designation for “woman.” This passage could therefore be more literally rendered as “the man will join with his woman and they will be one flesh.” This is the idea of one man and one woman being united together as a sacred relationship before God, in obedience to the laws of our creator. Beyond this meager description, we find no other definitions specified within the Bible regarding marriage.

We do know that historically and culturally marriage was a communal celebration that could last up to a week.

Genesis 29:22,27: “Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. … Fulfill the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you will serve with me yet seven other years.””

This passage also indicates the ancient Near Eastern people practiced polygamy, but that is not necessarily God’s ideal, as is evidenced by the confusion and strife that such situations caused.

Yeshua clarified marriage and divorce for his audience when he explained about it in the following terms:

Matthew 19:3-9: “Pharisees came to him, testing him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” He answered, “Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall join to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’ So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.” They asked him, “Why then did Moses command us to give her a bill of divorce, and divorce her?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been so. I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries her when she is divorced commits adultery.””

This should also be understood in the context of the day, in which the men were garnering divorces for the slightest of infractions that a wife may have caused, such as not preparing a full meal, or working later in the field then she was expected to. The concession provided by Moses, just like the other commandments of God, had become corrupted and abused by the elite of the day.

According to Yeshua, the ideal of marriage is one man and one woman. Divorce is not a requirement, but a concession, and should be reserved only when unfaithfulness has occurred between the spouses.

The severity of this teaching which also revealed how rampant divorce had become, is illustrated by the response of the disciples:

Matthew 19:10: “His disciples said to him, “If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.””

Even they had recognized that if marriage was this big of a commitment, that it should not be entered into lightly.

Now for anyone listening to this who may be divorced and possibly remarried, I’m certain there were any number of unique circumstances that have led to your current situation. And as your understanding of God‘s word grows and changes over time, you may feel differently about past decisions that were made that led to where you are now.

However, it’s important to remember that God is always willing to forgive and to provide strength and wisdom to assist those who are earnestly seeking him, right here and right now. We should all always be faithful to God‘s word as we understand it at any given time and whatever situation we are in, and allow God’s Spirit to mold us and shape us in ways that are appropriate to his purpose.

The most intimate of human relationships conveyed in what has become the institution of marriage is likened to our relationship with our Creator. Just as we should have no other intimate relationships except with our spouse, we should also have no other gods before God. These commands against idolatry and adultery are tied together; one is in our horizontal relationships with our spouses, and the other is in our vertical relationship with God.

In the Bible, adultery, while wrong in and of itself, is a metaphor for idolatry. Time and again, Israel’s unfaithfulness with the gods of the surrounding nations is compared to adultery with God. Just as the act of adultery is an affront to the spousal relationship, an act of spiritual adultery in pursuing idolatry is an affront to the holiness of God, and destroys that relationship.

As if to emphasize this point, both of these admonitions are contained within the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery,” and “you shall have no other gods before me.”

Yeshua carries these base commandments even further into the realm of their origin, in our thoughts. The wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions, and wrong actions are sin. Just like our straying eyes can cause marital unfaithfulness, when our eyes stray from the things of God to the things of this world, we can lose our perspective and make harmful choices.

Let’s gain some of that perspective by reviewing what Yeshua said, along with some historical commentary for insights.

Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, the focus is shown to be even stronger than in the English.

“To lust after her.—The intent is more strongly marked in the Greek than in the English. It is not the passing glance, not even the momentary impulse of desire, but the continued gaze by which the impulse is deliberately cherished till it becomes a passion.”

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible adds:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery…Our Saviour in these verses explains the seventh commandment. It is probable that the Pharisees had explained this commandment, as they had the sixth, as extending only to the external act; and that they regarded evil thoughts and a wanton imagination as of little consequence, or as not forbidden by the law. Our Saviour assures them that the commandment did not regard the external act merely, but the secrets of the heart, and the movements of the eye. He declares that they who indulge a wanton desire, that they who look on a woman to increase their lust, have already, in the sight of God, violated the commandment, and committed adultery in the heart. Such was the guilt of David, whose deep and awful crime fully shows the danger of indulging in evil desires, and in the rovings of a wanton eye.”

Additionally, Matthew Poole writes the following:

We must so interpret the commandments of God, as not to extend them only to forbid or command those acts which are plainly mentioned in them, but the inward pleasing of our hearts with such things as are forbidden, the desires of our hearts after them, or whatsoever is a probable means to give us that sinful pleasure of our thoughts, or further inflame such unlawful desires in our souls.

If we carry those same principles over to the parallel concept of idolatry, we can see how damaging and destructive our lustful imaginations toward things other than God can corrupt and destroy us.

Idolatry is more than just worshiping a statue or believing that an inanimate object has power beyond itself.

The prophet Samuel conveyed how stubbornness is a form of idolatry.

1  Samuel 15:23: “For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry….”

The apostle Paul considers greed and covetousness to be a form of idolatry.

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.”

Notice how Paul lumps in this idolatrous longing amidst characteristics of depraved passion and evil desire. These are the types of thinking that draw us away from the things of God and from staying true to the path of holiness to which we have been called.

We are urged to maintain our holiness, being set apart for the purpose of God, by keeping ourselves from being swept away by the lure of the created things that would distract us from our true purpose. Keeping our thoughts pure keeps us from these parallel sins, whether through adultery or idolatry.

The solution for both paths of sinfulness is to keep our eyes on God at all costs. Paul writes the following in one of my personally most-quoted passages of the Bible:

Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

To avoid adulterous inclinations is to be transformed by focusing on the needs and desires of our spouse based on God’s word. To avoid the dangers of idolatry is to be transformed by maintaining focus on our relationship with our Creator. Both of these remedies involve a whole-hearted commitment to another, and not to our own selfish desires. Therein lies a powerful principle of ongoing holiness.

—–

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.

All music in todays episode: Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3460-brittle-rille

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Compassion springs from a deep bond of unity

And Joseph made haste; for his heart yearned over his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.

Genesis 43:30

When Joseph had become ruler of Egypt, he had not seen his brothers for approximately twenty years. Although they were sons of different mothers, his affinity over Benjamin was immensely magnified due to the fact that he and Benjamin had the same mother. He felt a deep kinship with Benjamin due to this bond.

The word used here to describe this deep connection is the Hebrew word racham, which has its root in the concept of the womb. The close kindred feeling that Joseph and Benjamin felt for each other was because they were from the same womb of one mother.

Throughout the Bible, this word is used as a way of conveying a deep, shared connection with another, and is many times translated as compassion.

When Solomon is faced with deciding a case between two women who are both claiming the same baby as being theirs, the real mother expresses racham over her child.

1 Kings 3:26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.”

The deep connection of the womb caused the real mother to try to preserve her son’s life, even if she had to give him up to another.

In like fashion, and quite often, this word is used of God’s care and concern for men.

2 Kings 13:23 but the LORD was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and turned toward them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not willing to destroy them. Even now he has not banished them from his presence.
Psalm 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
Psalm 116:5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.
Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy.

Isaiah goes so far as to attribute this characteristic to God so strongly, he names him the Compassionate One.

Isaiah 49:10 They will not hunger or thirst, the scorching heat or sun will not strike them; for their Compassionate One will guide them, and lead them to springs.

As we have seen, one of the deepest relational connections is one of racham. The blessing for all believers is that the God of the Bible is compassionate toward them. In like fashion, God inspires us to have racham towards others, as exemplified among his own ancient people:

Zechariah 7:8-10 The word of the LORD came to Zechariah: “The LORD of hosts says this: ‘Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.’

It is only when we recognize our bond with others as being of the same hand of a loving Creator that we can truly express racham towards them. The “womb of God,” figuratively speaking, is that shared connection. At a very basic level, all existence is the result of one Creator. Psalm 116:5 reminds us that, “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.” This should encourage us to be truly mindful of our larger familial relationships with others, and to mimic our Father’s characteristic of compassion as we seek to represent him faithfully in this world.


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.

Dependent forgiveness

“So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.””

Matthew 18:35

In this parable of the unforgiving servant, we find a challenging passage that strains our modern understanding of our relationship with our heavenly Father. Yeshua describes how the forgiveness we receive from the Father is contingent on the forgiveness we provide to others.

In the parable, after being forgiven of his debts to his master, the servant is brought back before the master because he was not showing the same kindness to someone who was indebted to him. While many somehow extrapolate this passage into eternal torment for nonbelievers, the overall message of this teaching is instead explaining how, due to his unjust treatment of others, the one who was previously forgiven became accountable for those things for which he had previously been forgiven.

If we take this parable at its face value, stripping away the thousands of years of doctrinal excess that have been built upon ideas of justification by faith and eternal salvation, we arrive at a place in which Yeshua is teaching his followers that they are always accountable for how they treat others. To be forgiven by God is not a carte blanch status to claim some sort of favored status and then treat others any way of their own choosing.

In the same way, we must remember that we are always accountable to God for how we treat others in every aspect of our daily lives. Believers are not exempt from consequence. This should be a sobering reminder: God wants us to be good people who represent him accurately and fairly. And by conscious forgiveness with others, that is, sincere forgiveness from the heart (v. 35), only then do we show what his forgiveness looks like to the world. In so doing, we thereby maintain the privilege of forgiveness with the Father.


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.

Becoming more useful to the work of God

So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:21

In his ongoing work of training up Timothy for his role as a leader among the early believers, Paul uses an analogy of different types of vessels that would have been present in the great households of the time. The larger context of the verse above is as follows:

2 Timothy 2:19-21 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord must turn away from iniquity.” A large house contains not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. Some indeed are for honorable use, but others are for common use. So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.

This saying also implies the great house, standing for the kingdom of God, would have a variety of “vessels” within it, all of varying degrees of usefulness to the work that God has planned for it.

Paul encourages Timothy to turn away from iniquity, and in so doing, to become a vessel of honor which is set apart for every noble work that God would have him do. This idea is one of ongoing sanctification, or setting apart, of those who are striving to honor God with everything in their lives.

This was not a new concept, but one that has been encouraged all throughout the sacred writings.

Job 36:7, 10 [God] withdraws not his eyes from the righteous: … He opens also their ear to instruction, And commands that they return from iniquity.

Job 28:28 And He [God] said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'”

Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

These admonitions were especially relevant in the time of the early believers, as false teachers with corrupt doctrine were widespread, and cultural defilement within the general population was rampant. The congregations were in need of dedicated and worthy individuals who could withstand the onslaught of the societal tides that threatened to flood the tender shoots of the growing tree of the kingdom of God.

We are no less susceptible nor less exposed to wickedness in this current era, and we would do well to also heed these admonitions voiced by our early spiritual forebears.

2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, beloved, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

If we are faithfully doing so at every opportunity, we also can then become “useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.”


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.

Praying for vigilance to stay on the right path

Set a watch, Yahweh, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3

One of the most typical ways for us to disobey God is with what we say. Many times we speak before fully evaluating a situation, or we pass judgment without understanding other perspectives. Worse still, we may actually share and then act on information that we know is not helpful or may not even be true. All of these frailties come to pass because of ignorance, pride, and vanity.

The apostle James believed wrongful speech was a wild and untameable source of false teaching and factionism in the early congregations.

James 3:6-12 And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehinnom. For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing, and thing in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send out from the same opening fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, yield olives, or a vine figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh water.

His conclusion is that a person who can control right speech will be in control of the rest of their life, as well.

James 3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn’t stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

In like fashion, the Psalmist here is praying for vigilance over the words of his mouth. He is asking God for strength in ensuring nothing destructive should come of his speech, or his actions.

Psalm 141:2-4 Let my prayer be set before you like incense; The lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice. Set a watch, LORD, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips. Don’t incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness with men who work iniquity. Don’t let me eat of their delicacies.

He knows that what comes out of his mouth will be the revealing of what is in his heart, and that what is in his heart can lead to actions on a path to wickedness. Instead, he prefers to be brutally corrected, if necessary, by those who are righteous to keep him on the correct path. He is praying for resources outside of himself to ensure he does not sin.

Psalm 141:5 Let the righteous strike me, it is kindness; Let him reprove me, it is like oil on the head; Don’t let my head refuse it…

This poetic plea from the distant past is characteristic of those even today who struggle with the reality of their own weaknesses. The righteous are those who understand their own shortcomings, and yet still seek to stay on the path of life.

When we come to the end of ourselves, we can only find the necessary strength to do what’s right in God and in others whom we trust and know to be faithful. Unyielding vigilance over our speech and actions is a practical outworking of true humility, recognizing our propensity toward wrongdoing yet valiantly persevering in the right way at all cost.

For believers, our strength to accomplish what is right can be found in God. He can provide the resources through his Spirit and through the good counsel of those faithful whom he has placed around us.

Romans 8:13-14 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. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do.


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

Trusting God rather than men

It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to put confidence in man. It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to put confidence in princes.

Psalm 118:8-9

Believers are sorely tested when it comes to this type of trust in Yahweh. This type of faith can define who we are. In our lives, we can be confronted with situations in which it can become necessary to make the hard decision to abide by the dictates and overtures of men, or to maintain our trust in God.

To complicate things further, the lines are not always as clear-cut and transparent as we would like them to be, which is why ongoing trust in God is necessary.

Albert Barnes comments on this trust:

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man – This is stated apparently as the result of his own experience. He had found people weak and faithless; he had not so found God. Compare Psalm 40:4; Psalm 62:8-9.
Psalm 40:4 – Blessed is the man that makes Yahweh his trust, and respects not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Psalm 62:8-9 Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Lowborn men are but a vapor, the exalted but a lie. Weighed on the scale, they go up; together they are but a vapor.
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man – Literally, “Good is it to trust in Yahweh more than to confide in man.” This is the Hebrew form of comparison, and is equivalent to what is stated in our version, “It is better,” etc. It is better,
(1) because man is weak – but God is Almighty;
(2) because man is selfish – but God is benevolent;
(3) because man is often faithless and deceitful – God never;
(4) because there are emergencies, as death, in which man cannot aid us, however faithful, kind, and friendly he may be – but there are no circumstances in this life, and none in death, where God cannot assist us; and
(5) because the ability of man to help us pertains at best only to this present life – the power of God will be commensurate with eternity.

Trust in God is preferred over trust in men because of man’s weaknesses and inability to always foresee the right way to go. In fact, many times the opposite is true.

Additionally, our trust in men can be broken when they are unfaithful and do not keep to their own standards and commitments. In these cases, we have to find another source of trust that is larger than our circumstances to be able to rise above the fray.

To trust in God is to have a resource beyond what the rest of the world can see or know, which is why it is so valuable. With the wisdom that God provides, believers can share this confidence with those who have no hope, or those who can’t see beyond the present situation. The encouragement we receive from trusting God can extend out to those around us who may also have lost faith in men.


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.