The true power of forgiveness

If you, O Lord, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you? But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored.

Psalm 130:3-4

Forgiveness is powerful.

God’s forgiveness has the ability to turn unrighteous indignation into praise and honor. It can break down the hard shell of resistant non-compliance into willing service. It can unshackle chains of fear and lack of self-worth when recognized by a penitent heart.

While the Psalmist brings this question before Yahweh, how similar its truth rings when applied to our own lives. If we do nothing but keep track of everyone’s sins against us, who can possibly stand before us? We will see nothing but hatred and disgust for those who have offended us in some way or not lived up to our own standards for them. In this mindset, we become critical, demanding and non-caring of the needs of others. We are blinded by our own unforgiveness of others.

However, when we are willing to forgive, we are viewed differently by others. Instead of fear or hatred there is honor as recognition of this forgiveness becomes known. Those who are willing to receive forgiveness understand they don’t deserve it, and that the one who is forgiving is granting them a relational privilege. This can build a sense of respect and honor. Where once there was hatred and fear there is now trust and security.

For those who do not receive forgiveness, they may scoff and turn away, only to spurn the privilege that has been offered to them. However, regardless of emotional reactions of others beyond our control, when we forgive we also release ourselves from the judgment and typically unfair criticism that can result from keeping track of the sins of others against us. They are free to choose their own path, and we are free to live in the harmony and reconciliation we have created in our own world.

Forgiveness is powerful.

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

Godly faith that roots up mountains

Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:23-24

These verses have been used in many ways over the years, most notably by the “name it and claim it” mindset prevalent in some of the various strains of Christianity. Within those groups, it is common to understand the meaning of this passage as being used as a measure of someone’s faith to serve their own greed. If one simply believes enough, they can have anything they desire.

However, in a 19th-century commentary on this passage from John Lightfoot, we find an interesting reference from the Talmudic literature of the Jews that may help to explain this unusual term:

The Jews used to set out those teachers among them, that were more eminent for the profoundness of their learning, or the splendor of their virtues, by such expressions as this: הוים  ﬠוקר הוא He is a rooter up of (or a remover) of mountains. “Rabbah Joseph is Sinai and Rabbah is a rooter up of mountains.” The gloss [or the interpretation is]: “They called Rabbah Joseph Sinai, because he was very skillful in clearing difficulties; and Rabbah Bar Nachmani, A rooter up of mountains, because he had a piercing judgment.”[1]

John Lightfoot. Commentary on the New Testament From The Talmud and Hebraica. Hendrickson Publishing. 1989. p. 283.

A modern commentary expands on this idea.

The Jews used to call their greatest teachers by the expression ‘removers of mountains.’ They would say for example that there was not in their days such a ‘rooter up of mountains’ as this teacher. He was so skilled that he could root up mountains. The expression was used to highlight the fact that the teacher had a profound insight into weighty or mountainous problems. Nobody could deal with those difficult problems. But this man could handle them. He was able to move these mountains as though they were small things.
We all had this kind of experience. One day, you wrestle with a particular issue, and it feels like you are facing a big mountain because you don’t know how to handle it. You just can’t move it out of your way. Every time you think about it, you find that you can’t cope with it. And then, you meet a very wise person. He understands your problem. He is able to help you. As he guides you, the problem you thought was so difficult suddenly becomes manageable. The obstacle, the mountain, has been removed.
Rabbi Rabbah bar Nachmani was a person like that. He was called ‘a rooter up of mountains’ in the Talmud ‘because he was exceedingly acute in subtle disputations.’ He had piercing judgment. The problems that people found insurmountable, this great rabbi could see right through it.
So this expression was applied to people who had deep spiritual insight.

Yves I-Bing Cheng, M.D., M.A., You will say to this mountain – Mt 17(14-21) (

While the term may apply to those who have great spiritual insight and discernment, we need to keep the meaning of this metaphor within its proper context. Yeshua bases this whole notion of having great spiritual insight on a key principle: “Have faith in God,” (Mark 11:22).

As we review the language in that statement a little more closely, we see that it also carries several shades of meaning, as represented in various English translations:

  • Have faith from God
  • Have the faith of God
  • May the faith of God be in you

The qualifier is not stated in the Greek; typically when God is identified, the phrase is ho theos (the God). But when the qualifier ho is not there, as it is in this passage, it can also mean something along the lines of “godly faith” (the faith of God or from God) which some of these other versions bring out.

Having godly faith, even as small as a mustard seed, can provide a path through even the most difficult of problems. A godly faith is one that trusts that God ultimately has all things under his control, and that there will be a way through whatever challenge may be facing us.

Yeshua completes the thought by saying, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” (Mark 11:24). This isn’t a magic charm of faith to say that if we believe strongly enough, we can have whatever we want. Instead, armed with the metaphor of being “rooters of mountains,” believers always have the opportunity to trust God in finding a way through whatever barriers they may face. By committing all of our difficulties to God in prayer, we need to trust he has already provided the answers we need; we just need to open our spiritual understanding as “rooters of mountains” to see them.

The godly faith is one that trusts God for all things: our food, our drink, our clothing, as well as insights for a way through any challenges we may face. If this is the case, then what more can a person possibly need in this life that God has not already provided for us as believers?

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

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.

“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

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

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

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

All music in todays episode: Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeod



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

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

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