The resourcefulness and confidence of integrity

Working diligently within the will of God allows us to shine brightly in a world of darkness.

Proverbs 31:10, 29-31 Who can find a wife of noble character? She is far more precious than jewels. … Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all! ” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised. Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

One would be hard pressed to find fault with the woman represented in Proverbs 31. This paramount of virtue and industry has been a standard revered for ages, since these words were originally penned. If such a woman were to exist, she would be worthy of high praise, indeed.

She is typically known as the woman of noble character, but if we dig a little into the language, we find another aspect of character at work: strength. The word that is typically translated as noble or virtuous is a Hebrew word meaning strength, resources, or ability. Going further into the root language, we arrive at the word for twisting or whirling about, as perhaps in a dance. Taken together, these meanings convey that this woman is not just noble, but a resilient and resourceful individual who is poetically active and engaged at all times. Everything she does is worthy of praise and honor. She takes care of her husband and her family; she reaches out to those in need; she is constantly doing something that brings honor to her family name and to God. Her activities are known and recognized by others, and God is honored by her determination and character.

Using a slightly different word picture, Yeshua encourages his believers to be of a similar mindset.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

When we see how these themes intertwine, we can arrive at the conclusion that Proverbs 31 isn’t speaking about a specific woman at all, but is a personification of the collective people of God who are to be continually active in the works and will of God. As the bride, we honor our husband when we are diligent and faithful in our duties, dancing joyfully about within his perfect will for us. As we do, our light shines out in meaningful ways to others; it cannot be hidden.

I have learned that the woman’s confidence and resourcefulness allows her to laugh at tomorrow (v. 25). There is nothing outside of ourselves that can dampen our integrity or our efforts when we are busily engaged within the perfect will of God and his purpose for the kingdom.


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.

Compassion never abandons others

Where there is compassion, there is always hope.

However, in your abundant compassion, you did not destroy them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and compassionate God.

Nehemiah 9:31

The book of Nehemiah recounts how Israel was restored to their land after the captivity of Babylon, and how they rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and reestablished worship in the temple.

As part of the rededication process, the people were read the books of the law, and the process culminated in a prayer by the Levites to renew the covenant. During this prayer, the history of Israel and their lapses of faithfulness are also recounted, as a means of eliciting the repentance of the people.

You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky and brought them to the land you told their ancestors to go in and possess.  So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them.  They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in your great goodness.  But they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They flung your law behind their backs and killed your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to you. They committed terrible blasphemies.  So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies.  But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in your sight. So you abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven and rescued them many times in your compassion.  You warned them to turn back to your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey.  You were patient with them for many years, and your Spirit warned them through your prophets, but they would not listen. Therefore, you handed them over to the surrounding peoples.

Nehemiah 9:23-30

But then, the merciful intervention of God is mentioned, and his deep compassion for his people.

However, in your abundant compassion, you did not destroy them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and compassionate God.

Nehemiah 9:31

Even though the Israelites demonstrated unfaithfulness time and time again, God never abandoned them. Some other translations may use the word forsake instead of abandon, but, to me, the word abandon captures the stark reality of what a forsaken individual or people stands in peril of. To be abandoned is to be unable to change the current situation without outside help. To be abandoned is to be left behind while care and concern are administered to others. To be abandoned is to have no hope. God demonstrated for all time that those with compassion do not abandon others in hopeless situations.

As God’s children, we are called to be a compassionate people, just as our Father is compassionate. Compassionate people provide help and hope and love to those who otherwise cannot receive it unless we are the ones who do so. If we are faithful in this calling, then we open up opportunities to likewise receive ongoing compassion from God and others, as well. 

Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall receive compassion.

Matthew 5:7

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

Trusting in God or wealth

We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option, and Wealth then becomes our Lord.

Core of the Bible podcast #27 – Trusting in God or wealth

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust, and how that in which we have placed our ultimate trust, God or Wealth, will always be evident in our lives.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24

You cannot be bound equally both to God and to your confidence in wealth. One will always take precedence over the other, and the results of following either will be evident in your life.

The issue that Yeshua focuses on is not necessarily the results of following either (which are evident throughout the biblical writings), but the complete inability of humans to multi-task serving God in among other responsibilities in this life. He says emphatically, “you CANNOT serve God AND wealth.” In literal terms, the text reads there is NO ABILITY to do both.

Looking at the example Yeshua gives us, it’s as if we were to picture ourselves as slaves, and we have two masters. These masters, while both responsible for us, can command us with conflicting information that would require actions that would go against the other.

For example, let’s say “Lord 1” commands us to fetch water from a nearby spring for his thirst, and immediately “Lord 2” commands us to get his slippers for his cold feet. Which command do we do first? We can’t do both tasks at the same time, and yet they are equally important. Do we get the water first, or the slippers? Both Lords are equally commanding and we are obligated to obey them both.

It becomes readily apparent that if we are to choose one Lord over the other as the primary Lord of us, then the secondary Lord’s commands are moved to the secondary position. In this case, if we chose Lord 1 and his water fetching as being primary, we would then do that task first, and Lord 2’s task of getting his slippers would have to wait.

Also of note is that Yeshua does not provide a third option, as if there was an option to have no Lords at all and just do whatever we want at any given time. He posits that those are the two options, either God or wealth, and we will in fact serve one primary Lord from those options.

This raises the point of just how powerful Wealth as Lord is; he (if we are to personify him for our discussion) actually rivals God in scope and influence, at least from our limited perspective in this world. This is also why he is so dangerous.

Let’s continue this little thought experiment of personifying Wealth as Lord. From our perspective, this Lord can control where we live based on our financial situation. He can control what and how much we eat based on our buying power. He can control the type of car we drive, or if we even have one. If we do have a car, he controls how long our commute is based on where we have to perform our work. He can control our daily lives based on other types of employment requirements we have: how long we have to spend each day at our jobs and how much time off we are allowed to do what we need to do for ourselves and our families, if we have one. Perhaps we have no spouse and children because the Wealth has not granted us the financial stability to do so. He controls our ability to receive appropriate health care, and may even be directly responsible for the length of our lives depending on how hard we have to work and what kind of dangers we face doing our jobs. The list goes on: where we can afford to vacation, what kind of clothes we wear, the social circles we are a part of, and so on.

Wealth as Lord is a very powerful master, indeed. When viewed from our limited perspective, it becomes immediately apparent why people choose to serve the Wealth as Lord, since Wealth appears to provide for the best outcomes of all of these things. Perhaps at times we have also served this Lord, as well. Even if we don’t always do what he wants us to do right away, many times we still answer his call.

But here is something to consider: perhaps if we can look beyond Wealth as Lord and see that there is only one Lord of Wealth, then we find that we only truly have one Master.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 – Be careful not to say, “My own ability and skill have gotten me this wealth.” You must remember the LORD your God, for he is the one who gives ability to get wealth; if you do this he will confirm his covenant that he made by oath to your ancestors, even as he has to this day.

1 Chronicles 29:12 – You [Yahweh] are the source of wealth and honor; you rule over all. You possess strength and might to magnify and give strength to all.

Proverbs 8:18, 21 – Riches and honor are with me [Wisdom], long-lasting wealth and righteousness. … that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, and that I may fill their treasuries.

If we are faithful with the Wisdom which God provides, we will have the ability to look to the only One who provides what we need, and that is God.

Yeshua confirms which Lord needs to always be first:

Matthew 6:32-33 for all these [things] do the nations seek for, for your heavenly Father does know that you all have need of all these; but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added to you.

We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option, and Wealth then becomes our Lord. We should always seek FIRST the kingdom and its priorities, and then place the concerns with wealth and provision as secondary, because the promise is then that these things “shall be added to you.”

—–

According to the New Testament writings, covetousness is equated with idolatry (Colossians 3:5). When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that God cannot be worshipped among any other gods, as one of many.

Yeshua makes it clear that every choice in life will fall under one heading or the other, God or worldly wealth, and whichever choice is made is a determination of which deity is being trusted.

Some of the writings which were contemporary with those of the biblical texts convey the dangers of focusing too much on the building of wealth and security of this world’s goods. While considered apocryphal by some, the writer of Ecclesiasticus penned the following practical wisdom almost three millennia ago:

Sirach 31:1-11 Wakefulness over wealth wastes away one’s flesh,

    and anxiety about it drives away sleep.

Wakeful anxiety prevents slumber,

    and a severe illness carries off sleep.

The rich person toils to amass a fortune,

    and when he rests he fills himself with his dainties.

The poor person toils to make a meager living,

    and if ever he rests he becomes needy.

One who loves gold will not be justified;

    one who pursues money will be led astray by it.

Many have come to ruin because of gold,

    and their destruction has met them face to face.

It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it,

    and every fool will be taken captive by it.

Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless,

    and who does not go after gold.

Who is he, that we may praise him?

    For he has done wonders among his people.

Who has been tested by it and been found perfect?

    Let it be for him a ground for boasting.

Who has had the power to transgress and did not transgress,

    and to do evil and did not do it?

His prosperity will be established,

    and the assembly will proclaim his acts of charity.

This whole narrative proclaims the honor of the one who, even though he may be rich, does not seek after it with all of his being.  Acts of charity would be evident with him as he seeks to not transgress the commands of God, and therefore his prosperity would be established.

Yeshua also proclaims this same principle in a story that is related of an encounter he had in his day with a rich young ruler.

Matthew 19:16-22 – Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.”

In the case of this sincere seeker, Yeshua gets right to the heart of the issue and puts this young man in the cross-hairs of the decisive issue: in order to attain to eternal life or salvation, will this man trust in his riches, or simply place his trust in God?

We may view the man’s response with empathy, because, while the question isn’t necessarily directed at us, we should also understand we are faced with the same principle. Where do we stand when it comes to our wealth? Are we willing to place the needs of others over our own security?

In concluding his discussion with the rich young seeker, the disciples expressed their astonishment at this principle that he seemed to be espousing. Wasn’t it the rich who were shown to be blessed by God, and thereby the ones who were essentially guaranteed an entrance into eternal life?

Matthew 19:23-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”

With God, what appears impossible to us becomes possible. It is not our trust that provides, but God who provides. Our trust in him merely becomes the means of demonstrating that it has been directed into the correct place when it is resting in the providence of God’s mercy and bountiful provision, whether for salvation or provision in this life. When that occurs, we then allow God the freedom to be God in our lives, and for him to provide and direct as he sees fit for his purpose and kingdom.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 – “Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God…

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.

This statement by Paul to Timothy is a reference to the very principle Yeshua made to the rich young seeker. God is the one who provides us all things. Since that is the case, do we really think that we can somehow provide for ourselves in any meaningful way beyond what he has given us?

This is the root principle that Yeshua was revealing. If we are choosing to trust wealth over God, then we are looking to the provision rather than the Provider. That is the foundation of all idolatry: trusting in a created thing rather than the Creator.

Instead, let’s learn to move away from our own perceived security and into the only true security that exists: that which comes from God. Once we learn to trust God, to really and genuinely trust him for every provision, it’s as if a whole world of possibilities opens up, and allows us the freedom to actually seek first his kingdom.

—–

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.

Godly faith that roots up mountains

By committing all of our difficulties to God in prayer, we need to trust he has already provided the answers we need.

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) (meetingwithchrist.com)

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 coreofthebible@gmail.com.

God is holiness

We may struggle within the confines our language to describe God, but this in no way limits who he really is.

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

Matthew 6:9 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Barnes

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

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

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

Alexander Souter

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

If, as Yeshua suggests, this is the God whom we pray to every day, a Father who is in heaven, the Creator of the universe who is in his very essence and nature set apart from his Creation, then we should step lightly and respectfully in his courts. We should be ever mindful that this is the God who will be recognized by all and honored as he deserves when we faithfully abide by his precepts and his kingdom is indeed come over all the earth.


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

Becoming firmly established in the instruction of God

We have the best examples to follow and learn from.

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

Ephesians 4:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A parable of the eternal and natural kingdoms

Some of the parables are simply veiled references to the (then) present kingdom of Israel.

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

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.

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.

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

All music in todays episode: Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeod

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

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

Dependent forgiveness

We are always accountable to
God for how we treat others.

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

Matthew 18:35

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

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

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

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


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

The integrity of avoiding oaths

Removing some obscurity around the cultural expressions reveal the true intent of this admonition.

“But, before all things, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven, or by the earth, or by any other oath; but let your ‘Yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘No’ ‘no,’ lest, under judgment, you fall.”

James 5:12

While this admonition has been taken by some religious groups today to avoid taking any oath, even in a court of law, I believe the original intent of this teaching is rooted in the instruction of Messiah.

“”Again you have heard that it was said to them of old time, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,’ but I tell you, don’t swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shall you swear by your head, for you can’t make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ Whatever is more than these is of the evil one.”

Matthew 5:33-37

The goal of this instruction is to ensure that believers are not swearing falsely in order to substantiate an untruthful situation. This is essentially a variation of the ninth commandment which is a command to not bear false witness against your neighbor.

To make matters worse, in Yeshua’s day, people would sometimes invoke the authority of heaven, or the holy city of Jerusalem in order to further validate an untruth. People today still carry on a similar expression when they “swear to God” in order to validate their truthfulness.

There is also this interesting maxim not to “swear by one’s head.” Perhaps having a little cultural understanding from a rabbinical perspective would serve to shed some light on this otherwise obscure term in our day and age.

John Gill in his Exposition of the Bible provides the following commentary:

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head,…. This also was a common form of swearing among the Jews: take a few instances. 
“If anyone is bound to his friend by an oath, and says to him, vow unto me , “by the life of thy head”; R. Meir says (u), he may retract it; but the wise men say, he cannot.” 
Again (w), a certain Rabbi said to Elijah, 
“I heard “Bath Kol” (or the voice from heaven) mourning like a dove, and saying, woe to my children; for, because of their sins, I have destroyed my house, and have burnt my temple, and have carried them captive among the nations: and he (Elijah) said unto him , “by thy life, and by the life of thy head”, not this time only it says so, but it says so three times every day.” 
Once more (x), says R. Simeon ben Antipatras, to R. Joshua, 
“I have heard from the mouth of the wise men, that he that vows in the law, and transgresses, is to be beaten with forty stripes: he replies, blessed art thou of God, that thou hast so done, , “by thy life, and by the life of thy head”, he that is used to do so is to be beaten.” 
This form of swearing is condemned, for this reason, because thou canst not make one hair white or black: which shows, that a man’s head, nor, indeed, one hair of his head, is in his own power, and therefore he ought not to swear by it; as he ought not to swear by heaven, or earth, or Jerusalem, because these were in the possession of God. Some copies read, “canst not make one white hair black”. 
(u) Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 3. sect 2.((w) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 3. 1. (x) Derech. Eretz, c. 6. fol. 18. 2.

Essentially, swearing by one’s head was swearing by one’s life, something that only God has control over.

These various examples provided by Messiah, whether heaven, or Jerusalem, or our own head, relate to the fact that a swearing or an oath always relies on someone greater than oneself as the authority. Yeshua cautioned his followers to simply be people of integrity, who only express what’s right in any given situation. Otherwise, they could be found guilty of defaming the One who is true.

“I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.””

Matthew 12:36-37

Believers are accountable for our words, and we should take that admonition to heart in all of our daily interactions with others, whether providing testimony or not. Believers need to be people of integrity, and simply let the truthfulness of our words speak for us.


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