The true blessing of mercy and compassion

There is a reciprocal and regenerative nature to being generous and compassionate.

Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

When Yeshua taught that the merciful shall be blessed, the term he used for mercy was exemplified in a parable he was to tell later on in the book of Matthew. It is known variously as the parable of the unforgiving or unmerciful servant. I won’t recount the entire passage here, but it is found in Matthew 18:21-35. In brief, it explains how, after receiving forgiveness of a large debt from his master, a servant then goes out and begins demanding repayment of others who owed him small amounts of money. When his master finds out, he brings him back and scolds him for being unmerciful.

Matthew 18:32-33 – “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. “Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ‘

This word for mercy is the same word Yeshua used in Matthew 5 regarding those who are blessed. It implies that one who is demonstrating mercy has a right to perform a measure of judgment on someone and yet refrains due to a granting or bestowing of favor.

In context, the whole parable was told in answer to Peter’s question of how many times must he forgive someone who repeatedly comes to him. In fact, Yeshua ends the parable with a lesson in forgiveness:

Matthew 18:35 – “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

From this we can see how closely this mercy and forgiveness are. When we forgive, it is because we are exercising mercy, that is, granting or bestowing favor on someone with whom we have a legitimate right to hold to account for something.

The broader lesson in Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 5 indicates that mercy begets mercy; there is a reciprocal and regenerative nature to being generous and compassionate. This is why the servant in the parable was ultimately held to account: he was not regenerating mercy after receiving mercy himself.

1 Peter 2:10 – Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The apostle Peter writes that as God’s people we have received mercy from God. The regenerative nature of mercy then demands that we show mercy to others, and when we do so, we will be blessed in reciprocation. This mercy can be demonstrated not only in forgiveness of others, but in acts of compassion toward those who cannot help themselves.

When we live in this way, we begin to generate ripples of mercy that flow outward from us into the lives of others, and we open ourselves to reciprocal acts of mercy from others and from God. This is the true blessing in being merciful and compassionate.


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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments.

Core of the Bible podcast #45 – Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Today we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how maintaining one’s integrity and righteousness through severe persecution is a characteristic that God honors. One who faithfully endures is considered blessed by God.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 5:10 -Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments. In our day, the concept of persecution has been unfortunately trivialized into essentially any notion of being ridiculed or spoken out against. However, in biblical terms, the concept of persecution conveys the act of having to flee from those who are intent on injuring or even killing those who have opposing viewpoints. That’s a much different emphasis than we see today.

To illustrate this, the apostle Paul recounts to Timothy some of the persecution he endured during his missionary journeys:

2 Timothy 3:10-11 – But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.

Here he mentions three towns in which he specifically suffered persecution and suffering: Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Interestingly, we have these accounts preserved for us in the book of Acts, so let’s review them to get a better idea of how Paul views the topic of persecution.

Acts 13:43-46, 50 – After the synagogue [in Antioch] had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and urging them to continue in the grace of God. The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. … But the Jews incited the prominent God-fearing women and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district.

Here it doesn’t say what the specific persecution was except to say that Paul’s detractors rallied enough support to have him physically expelled from their district. He was essentially run out of town.

Iconium

Acts 14:1-2, 5-6 – In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue, as usual, and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. … When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat and stone them, they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside.

In this instance, Paul and those with him found out ahead of time of a plan that the Jews had rallied in a violent rush with anyone who would side with them to mistreat them (which literally means to exercise violence) and to stone them. Once again, they found out just in time and were forced out of town at the incitement of mob violence against them.

Lystra

Acts 14:8-12 – In Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth. He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet! ” And he jumped up and began to walk around. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form! ” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

They then began to preach to the crowds, denying that they were gods and that they were only men.

Acts 14:18-20 – Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them. Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium [the two towns which had expelled them], and when they won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. After the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Here in Lystra, we see his persecutors finally caught up with him and stoned him until they thought he was dead. Some commentators think Paul actually did die here and the disciples prayed and he was brought back to life, but the text doesn’t explicitly say so. Either way, he was left for dead which shows the violence of the stoning, and yet he miraculously recovered enough to get back up and make it to the next town.

Recounting these experiences with Timothy, he writes:

2 Timothy 3:12 – What persecutions I endured ​– ​and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

FB Meyer in his commentary on this passage writes:

“Christian piety cannot continue without persecution, because the world is hostile to the kingdom of God… “

And then he cites some of these passages as examples:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

Matthew 10:21-23 – “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. “You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.

So we see persecution was predicted by Messiah, and was to be expected by believers who were holding to the integrity of their righteousness and the gospel of the kingdom.

Albert Barnes

Paul takes occasion from the reference to his own persecutions, to say that his case was not unique. It was the common lot of all who endeavored to serve their Redeemer faithfully; and Timothy himself, therefore, must not hope to escape from it. The apostle had a particular reference, doubtless, to his own times; but he has put his remark into the most general form, as applicable to all periods. It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians – who live as the Saviour did – and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.

This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage on account of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution. Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Saviour did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship. These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution. It follows from this:

(1) that they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.

(2) they who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted. Yet,

(3) if we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Matthew 5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.

(4) let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.

Matthew 10:38-39 – “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.


In denouncing the corruption of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua foretold the horrendous actions they would perform on the “prophets, wise men, and scribes” that would be sent to continue to warn them of their wickedness:

Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation. – Matthew 23:34-36

He also warned his followers that they would experience these things in standing for the truth of his words:

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. – Luke 21:12

History bears out that this is exactly what happened, and believers were hunted and rooted out of synagogues for believing in Messiah. They were scourged, stoned, imprisoned, and killed for maintaining the integrity of their faith. These actions, according to the teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, means they were blessed by God for maintaining their integrity and righteousness in the face of the most intense persecution, and they were then inheritors of the kingdom of God.

Some of you may be familiar with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a work that was produced in the middle ages detailing the gruesome torture that many professing Protestants suffered at the hands of the Catholic Inquisitors in England and Scotland at that time. As shocking as some of the descriptions of the methods of torture are, it is even more sobering to consider how these practitioners could possibly be so exceedingly cruel to other humans.

This is a far cry from those today who claim persecution because of receiving negative comments on social media, or having others simply disagree with their views and call them names. While maintaining our integrity is still just as valuable in those situations, to claim those mere inconveniences as persecution is dishonoring our spiritual forebears who quite literally put their lives and the lives of their family members, their very daily existence, at risk because of their views of Messiah.

In that first century, we see that early believers suffered many risks to life and dangers, some of which are detailed for us within the pages of Scripture itself. Here are a few examples.

Peter and John put in prison

Acts 4:1-3 – While they [Peter and John] were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, because they were annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua the resurrection of the dead. So they seized them and took them into custody until the next day since it was already evening.

Acts 5:17-21, 25-26, 28-29, 40-41 – Then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with him, who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life.” Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

… Someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. … “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. … After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Yeshua and released them. Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.

Stephen

After denouncing the Jewish council of their hard-heartedness toward the truth of God, the account states that the disciple Stephen was literally stoned to death.

Acts 7:55-60 – Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God. He said, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! ” They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he called out: “Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit! ” He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Then in the following chapter, we read:

Acts 8:1-3 – Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the congregation in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him. Saul, however, was ravaging the congregation. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.

Acts 12:1-3 – About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the congregation, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

So far we have prison, flogging, and stoning to death, disciples being chased out of their homes, and execution. The record goes on to list other mob actions, imprisonments and trials. In fact, there is almost no chapter in the book of Acts where some type of persecution is NOT taking place. This is a sobering thought and to my way of thinking, one that is not emphasized enough in contemporary Bible teaching.

Paul and his companions lived out this very mantra he related to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 – …all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

It may seem overwhelming and slightly depressing to recognize that persecution should be considered routine for the believer. However, it needs to be noted that many positive events resulted due to the persecutions they endured. The disciples were noted as joining in prayer, being filled with the Spirit, creating unity and having a positive witness. There was spreading of the gospel, people coming to Messiah, and larger witnesses to the ruling authorities of the power of God. When they were persecuted, the disciples continued to preach and to witness to others.

But in the eyes of God, the persecution was to be expected, and it’s still ok today when it happens. It had happened to the faithful who had preceded the disciples, as outlined in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:35-39 – Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised…

If it was only together with the believers in Messiah that these saints received their inheritance, then how much more can we be motivated to withstand the resistance we face today? Light and darkness cannot coexist in the same space, so it’s not unreasonable to conclude that those who don’t want to be exposed will tend to resist. Remember the words of Yeshua that I shared earlier:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

While there are areas of the world where legitimate persecution for the kingdom still exists, we can be truly thankful to God that in free societies our voices can be heard, and our lives are not daily in jeopardy for believing in, and sharing the light of, his Messiah.

This should motivate us all the more to demonstrate integrity by maintaining the truth of our faith in all of our words and actions, and in our relationships and interactions with those around us. Doing so can result in many of the positive aspects of those persecutions, the unity, witness to others and expansion of the kingdom coming to pass in each and every 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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The formula for eradicating evil in the world

Loving others is both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

Core of the Bible podcast #42 – The formula for eradicating evil in the world

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness lies at the root of all reconciliation and overcoming dissension between individuals. We will see that through forgiveness and love, all evil can be overcome.

Yeshua stated it this way:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. … You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:38, 43-44

This teaching of Yeshua is one of the most widely known yet least practiced of all of his precepts. This is because it is non-intuitive and frankly, difficult. It involves two aspects, both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

We know that the Bible teaches us our inward motivations spur our outward actions.

Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

Since Yeshua teaches us that inward understanding and wisdom drives outward actions and behavior, let’s begin our review of this passage by looking at his admonition to what our inward motivation should be in loving others.

Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

For us to practice loving our enemies through our outward actions, we must first actually love them. Even writing or saying a statement like this runs counter to every basic instinct and inclination we have been exposed to in our culture. We have been brought up to be wary of others to avoid the risk of being taken advantage of. We gauge every interaction with an eye toward what angle is being played, or what harm we could possibly receive by misjudging someone else’s intent.

To this, Yeshua simply says to love them. Easy to say, not so easy to do. How do you love someone whom you know has harmed you in some way and is not deserving of your love? Forgive them, so your love can be real. What about someone who is trying to take advantage of you? Here’s one way: give them the advantage.

Is there a chance your forgiveness will be disregarded? Yes, but maintain that forgiveness anyway. Is there a chance you will be taken advantage of? Yes. But continue to give advantage anyway. These possibilities (and quite frankly, likely outcomes) do not change Yeshua’s direction to love others through forgiving them and giving them advantage.

Peter also struggled with this concept in a discussion with Yeshua about forgiveness of others:

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.

Yeshua then goes on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant who would not forgive a small debt from someone else after he had just been forgiven of a huge personal debt from his own master. Yeshua said he would be punished for not passing on the forgiveness he received to others, and concludes with, “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart,” (Matthew 18:35).

Love and forgiveness need to come from the heart. They are two qualities tied at the hip. If we are unable to forgive, we are unable to love. If we are unable to love, we are unable to forgive. If we are unable to forgive and love, then we are also unable to pray for them. Yet Yeshua instructs us to not only love our enemies but to pray for them.

He demonstrated this himself even as the Roman soldiers were in the process of nailing him to a cross and executing him as a criminal among other criminals of the State.

Luke 23:33-34 – When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots.

Unfortunately, in our human quest for justice and fairness, we stumble over what we personally think is fair and right based on our limited perspective. Yeshua could only extend forgiveness to his enemies and pray for them because he never lost his perspective. What they did out of deliberate anger, he knew was done out of ignorance. They meant to wound him; he knew it was to heal them. They meant to humiliate him; he knew it was so they could be lifted up into God’s presence. They meant to kill him; he knew it was to save them.

Yeshua never lost the perspective that people are made in God’s image and that all are deserving of the benefit of the doubt when a situation may look otherwise. He could love them and pray for them because he knew who they really were, even if they didn’t.

If we could allow God to change our perspective to see that all others are made in God’s image and are merely souls who have possibly not yet met the God of the universe, we might have a different approach in our dealings with them. This type of perspective can provide us the inward motivation of love and forgiveness necessary to accomplish the outward actions which will likely seem just as contradictory when we do them.


Okay, so now that we have looked at our inward motivation of love and forgiveness, let’s go back to the beginning of this teaching of Yeshua to see how it should be worked out in our lives through our actions.

Matthew 5:38-42 – You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In the life of the first-century Judeans, it was not unusual to be forced by the Roman military to carry supplies for them. In this example, Yeshua presents the measure of goodness he expected them to respond with needed to go above and beyond the unreasonable demand.

But something that has occurred to me in reviewing this passage recently is that this nature of giving is based on a multiplier. What Yeshua is implying through these examples is that our outward response should somehow be more than what an equal and reflexive response might be. We should be not only be non-resistant toward personal infractions, we should be doubly-giving in nature toward others.

For example, if someone is suing us for our shirt, we should double our goodness toward them by not only letting them have the shirt but the coat as well. If we were forced one mile of carrying supplies, then we should continue to do so by doubling the one mile into two.

This is a very practical, albeit difficult, principle that we can apply in situations that confront us every day. It involves us learning and training ourselves to respond in ways that honors God by doubling our goodness and generosity, not to merely respond in a reflexive way. By expending twice the effort in a positive manner than they demanded of us from a negative motivation, we would in essence be overcoming their evil intent with a double measure of good.

It’s simple math: a negative number plus a positive number of equal value only amounts to zero. It takes a positive number of higher value to end with a positive result.

Additionally, as we looked at previously, if we are inwardly motivated for their good by loving them and praying for them and their needs, we are removed from our reflexive, emotional response of like for like. We are now placing ourselves in a frame of mind, that godly perspective I mentioned earlier, which becomes concerned for their welfare. When we are in this mindset we can truly learn of their needs and then act doubly with genuine intention.

To show how this was an expected trait of the early believers and not just some lofty, speculative ideal, the apostle Paul instructs the Roman congregation with a similar admonition.

Romans 12:17-21 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.

Paul quotes this Torah teaching instructing on vengeance by highlighting that only God can effectively mete out justice because only he knows the end from the beginning; only he knows every possibility that could apply in a situation. Therefore he is the only perfect judge to mete out any type of vengeance. We are incapable of true vengeance because we have limited knowledge and understanding. We have emotions that get in the way of the wisdom and understanding we do have, therefore the best course of action for us is simply to love, and let God do the rest.

Paul continues quoting Torah to conclude his line of thinking:

But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.  Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Our clear directive here is to overcome evil by doing good to others. Paul’s encouragement is that not only will we not be conquered, but we will ultimately successfully overcome evil by doing good.

Yeshua encourages us to double our godly response toward evil intent through love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is that necessary bridge to positive, loving responses. When we intentionally overlook a personal injustice by forgiving them, we are freed to be obedient to God’s command to double our loving actions. If we do not exercise forgiveness, we may attempt to be obedient, but our actions can become only hollow shadows with no real substance.

The motivation Yeshua provides us for practicing this kind of forgiveness and love is because when we do so, we are mimicking him, and we are mimicking our heavenly Father. If Yeshua loved and prayed for his enemies, so should we. If God blesses the wicked with life and rain and abundance, not because they are deserving, but because he wishes for their repentance, then we should also produce actions that bless those who may be adversarial to us.

Paul used this type of thinking in his outreach to the Greeks who did not know God, and he calls God’s blessing of them through rain and abundance his “testimony of goodness.” When interacting with crowds in Iconium and Athens, he speaks about the nature of the true God, and he relates how God blesses them.

Acts 14:17 – Yet He has not left Himself without testimony to His goodness: He gives you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 17:26-27 – From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

God’s goal is that through his goodness to all in natural abundance should lead people to seek his spiritual goodness.

In the same way, our intentional actions based on forgiveness and love, then, become our personal “testimony of goodness.” As a result, God is honored, people can be reconciled to him, and all evil intentions can be overcome with love.

In summary then, the typical human response in relationships is to respond in kind to how we are treated by others (eye for eye and tooth for tooth). A nobler aspiration would be to treat all people with an equal measure of kindness. However, Yeshua calls us to the highest level of interaction: not just to be kind to all, but to expend twice the effort and concern over those who are least deserving of it. This is true love, and the formula for eradicating evil in the world.

If we are to represent God as his children, we should be doing what he does by blessing the undeserving as well as the deserving. If we claim to be followers of Yeshua, we should do what he does by loving and praying for our enemies. By doubling our loving response to all negative interactions, we boldly exhibit Yeshua’s teaching to a world who needs to know him, where they can then be brought back into a relationship with the loving God of the universe. This is how forgiveness and love can overcome all wickedness, and the only sure way that God’s kingdom will be manifested 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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

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

Trust in God, not these other things

Trusting in God is where true joy and blessing resides.

The Bible has an abundance of passages that are familiar to many, extolling the benefits and joy of trusting in God.

Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 25:2 O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me.
Psalm 31:14 But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.”
Psalm 33:21 For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.

Yet the Bible also abundantly cautions us about where we should not place our trust.

Job 15:31 “Let him [the wicked man] not trust in emptiness [vanity], deceiving himself; For emptiness will be his reward.
Psalm 44:6 For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me.
Psalm 62:10 Do not trust in oppression And do not vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
Psalm 146:3 Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
Jeremiah 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words…
Proverbs 28:26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Each one of these verses is easily a sermon or lesson in itself. Yet collectively they illustrate the futility of many of the things we find ourselves continuing to place our trust in day after day.

Our trust or faith is that which we have confidence in or rely on. If our confidence resides anywhere besides God and his provision, then we place ourselves, our lives, our countries, in jeopardy.

God desires us to place our confidence in him, not because he is narcissistic, but because as our Creator, he knows what’s best for us. As a loving parent or a protective eagle, he watches over the faithful to protect and guard our way. Ultimately, he wants what’s best for us.

Psalm 91:1-4 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

Psalm 40:3-4 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

Trusting in God is where true joy and blessing resides, because God does not change, and our faith and trust in him has lasting consequences that far outweigh any current circumstance we may be enduring.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Psalm 52:8 But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.


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.

Keeping our hearts open to the needs of others

Stockpiling Gods blessings causes stagnation and lifelessness.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

1 John 3:17 

The apostle John uses some interesting phrasing in this verse. He describes ignoring the needs of a brother as a closing of the heart. He then asks rhetorically, if someone’s heart is closed, how can the love of God be in them?

The love that God has shown to us as believers is not a closed-loop system. It’s not as if we receive everything we need or want from God and then call it good and ignore everyone else.

I once heard an illustration of the water features of Israel as being representative of this principle. The Jordan river flows with fresh water from the mountains into the Sea of Galilee. There, the water teems with fish and all sorts of living creatures. Historically fisherman have worked their boats and nets and the Sea has provided its bounty for the surrounding communities.

The Sea of Galilee has fresh water because the besides being fed by the Jordan, it also empties on its southern edge to continue the Jordan river on its way. The water continually flows through the Sea as the river heads on its course.

However, as it enters the Dead Sea, the water has no outlet. The incoming fresh water merely stockpiles in the lowest regions of the area, where evaporation produces a lifeless stew of salt and brine that does not support any fish population.

This illustration shows that without an outlet, the water becomes stagnant and lifeless. In a similar way, if we merely receive the blessings and abundance God has provided us and do not share that bounty with others, our lives can become lifeless and unproductive, as well.

John drives home his admonition with the following statement:

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:18 

We should not just say we have compassion for others, we should demonstrate it with real actions based on the truth of God’s Word.

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.

Following the example of Yeshua by speaking well of those who would cause us harm

As disciples of Yeshua we are commanded to respond with blessing, that is, speaking well of all others at all times.

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what you have been called to do, that you should inherit blessing.

1 Peter 3:9 

If everyone in the world followed this one teaching, we would essentially have an end to all strife. However, we have this admonition because there are always people who are evil and insulting to others.

Evil is such a bitter and condemning word. But the underlying Greek definition for this word is not any kinder: “inner malice flowing out of a morally-rotten character.” We can never surmise why someone acts in the evil way they do, whether it is due to their upbringing, their situations in life, or the decisions they have made along the way. Perhaps it’s a combination of some or all of those things.

Peter doesn’t make a distinction in specific types of evil, an there is no way for us to know someone’s motivation. We are taught only to not respond in the same way with the same type of evil.

As for the insults one might receive, one of the English definitions for the Greek word used here for insult reads, “using mean-spirited, insulting words to demoralize or humiliate.”  Sounds like any comment feed or live chat online. More than that, in real life we also encounter individuals like this in all aspects of our lives. Some are strangers in stores, some are friends who have been offended, and some are family members.

The point is: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you think they were born evil and insulting or if they were somehow negatively influenced by their surroundings and environments, or if they are strangers, acquaintances or family members. As disciples of Yeshua we are commanded to respond with blessing, that is, speaking well of all others at all times. This will likely involve large measures of forgiveness as a method of overlooking the offense or injury.

Peter teaches us to follow the example of our Lord, the Messiah.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. … He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

1 Peter 2:21, 23 

While this may be a revolutionary concept to our ears today, it was not new within the instruction of God. This has always been a principle of God’s torah, or his instruction, quoted by Peter here in his teaching. If we heed its injunction, then we are eligible for its promise: deliverance out of the injustice, a deliverance which comes from Yahweh.

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. … Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psalm 34:13-14, 19 

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.

Goodness and blessing follow those who trust in God and his word

Goodness and happiness are not rights as some would contend, but a privilege. They are a privilege afforded to those who trust in God, who abide by his word.

He who wisely heeds the word will find good; whoever trusts in Yahweh, happy is he.

Proverbs 16:20

One of the things that I find fascinating about the Proverbs is their construction. Sometimes the proverb will highlight a contrast; other times it will provide two supporting statements, both saying the same thing but stated differently for emphasis. In this case, this proverb falls into the latter category.

The admonition of this proverb involves paying attention to or heeding the word of God. The emphasis is stated in the second half of the proverb so that the halves can be equated. One who heeds the word is equated with trusting in Yahweh. The attainment or finding of good is equated with being blessed or happy. Therefore, trusting in Yahweh by heeding his word will result in good, blessing and happiness.

Most people seek to have this hope of goodness and happiness as much as possible in their lives. However, goodness and happiness are not rights as some would contend, but a privilege. According to this verse, these are a privilege afforded to those who trust in God, who abide by his word. This is not a guarantee in every single situation, but a theme or pattern that will prevail in the lives of those who trust in him.

If this equation is true, then highlighting the opposite carries a logical conclusion, as well. Those who do not heed God’s word will not find good; whoever does not trust in God will not be happy. This also does not mean that they will never experience any good or any happiness, but these will not be the predominant characteristics of their lives.

Coming openly to God’s word we are confronted with his power and majesty, a mighty Creator who guides the nations. Established as the ultimate authority over his Creation, and demonstrating this in vivid detail with his people time after time, we are drawn into a vivid understanding that he is worthy of our trust, respect, and honor. We see how his purposes are designed for the good of his people, not their harm. His word therefore fosters our trust.

But we are also struck with the reality of those who disobey his instruction, and they do so at their own peril. Many times their disregard for the wisdom of God brings their misfortune back on their own heads.

The more we remain in his word and seek to understand his will, the more our lives are characterized by the goodness and blessing that he seeks to provide us when we place our trust in him.

Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

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.