Continually in the Word

Becoming doctrinally sound is an ongoing task for every believer.

Matthew 7:7-8 – ““Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

In this famous portion of the sermon on the mount, Yeshua encourages believers to be vigilant in all things. Each of the action words relating to ask, seek, and knock, are all in the present imperative which implies an ongoing action. This means that believers are to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking in order to receive those things that one may be searching for.

This may sound like a relatively simple encouragement for believers to apply in their lives, but it becomes even more prominent when it comes to us understanding our beliefs and the truths related to us in the Bible.

The topic of theology is one that was recently brought to the forefront of my attention by listening to a sermon about this very thing. The pastor was decrying the fact that statistically most Christians today have not read the entire Bible through even once. Many Christians rarely read their Bibles, yet are very vocal about their biblical opinions, even if their theology is not very sound.

While most believers may not think about theology as being something necessary for them, it becomes apparent that the more one reads the Bible, the believer begins to build up a personal theology on how all of the various pieces of information in the Bible fit together. This is a necessary and vital function of our continual growth. This is one reason that faithful believers who are in the word on a regular basis may change their opinions over time as they study and learn more about the text and the culture.

The basic areas of theology that one encounters when reading the Bible include some of the following main ideas:

  • Theology: The study of the nature of God.
  • Christology: The study of the nature of Messiah.
  • Soteriology: The study of The doctrine of salvation.
  • Ecclesiology: The study of the doctrine of the church, or Ekklesia.
  • Eschatology: The study of last things.

As one reads the Bible on a regular basis, these various doctrinal concepts continue to present themselves and force the believer to make decisions about what they actually believe about these various areas. This is critical to believers having a well-rounded faith, as illustrated by the directive of the apostle Paul to Timothy and to the congregation at Colosse:

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.”

Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

By being vigilant in our continual and ongoing study of God‘s word, we provide God the opportunity to continue to mold and shape us according to the truths that are found there. We need to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking when it comes to understanding the finer points of our beliefs about eternal things. This allows us to be more open and willing to share with those around us who may have legitimate questions about the Bible.

This is who we are called to be, not just pastors and leaders, but all believers should grow in the grace and understanding provided by the spirit of God for our lives; this is to his glory and the growth of the kingdom.

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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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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Following the path, the Way of Life

The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest.

Core of the Bible podcast #41 – Following the path, the Way of Life

Today we will be exploring the topic of trust using one of the most widely familiar passages of the Bible.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in Yahweh with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you on pleasant paths.

The word for trust in this famous passage has shades of meaning which include confidence and boldness, running to a secure place for refuge, being free of care or worry, having a steadfast hope. All of these are different ways of representing the believer’s inner reliance on Yahweh.

It’s important to recognize that this is not an admonishment that we are to abandon all reason and understanding. We are simply not to have our own wisdom as the primary source of our planning and our actions. We must leave room for direction from God, maintaining a view to his kingdom and purpose in this life.

Pulpit commentary

“[The Hebrew word] signifies “to lean upon, rest upon,” just as man rests upon a spear for support. Its metaphorical use, to repose confidence in, is derived from the practice of kings who were accustomed to appear in public leaning on their friends and ministers…”

For example, Naaman, a foreign commander, after being healed of leprosy, requested forgiveness of Elisha the prophet.

2 Kings 5:18  – “However, in a particular matter may Yahweh pardon your servant: When my master, the king of Aram, goes into the temple of Rimmon to bow in worship while he is leaning on my arm, and I have to bow in the temple of Rimmon ​– ​when I bow in the temple of Rimmon, may Yahweh pardon your servant in this matter.”

Again, when Elisha pronounced a prophecy regarding the release of a siege famine from Samaria, the king’s aid was in disbelief.

2 Kings 7:1-2 CSB – Elisha replied, “Hear the word of Yahweh! This is what Yahweh says: ‘About this time tomorrow at Samaria’s gate, six quarts of fine flour will sell for a half ounce of silver and twelve quarts of barley will sell for a half ounce of silver.’ ”  Then the captain, the king’s right-hand man (upon whose hand the king leaned), responded to the man of God, “Look, even if Yahweh were to make windows in heaven, could this really happen? ” Elisha announced, “You will in fact see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it.”

So we see the practice since ancient times was to have the king supported by a close aid, one who provided physical, moral and tactical support and advice. While trusted counsel is not a bad thing, it is this type of worldly wisdom that is contrasted with trusting in, that is leaning on, Yahweh.

Pulpit commentary

“The admonition does not mean that we are not to use our own understanding, i.e. form plans with discretion, and employ legitimate means in the pursuit of our ends; but that, when we use it, we are to depend upon God and his directing and overruling providence.”

Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthian congregation, writes;

1 Corinthians 2:12, 14 – Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. … But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.

There is a worldly type of wisdom that is helpful in worldly things, but if that is true then there is also a spiritual type of wisdom that is helpful (in fact, necessary) in judging spiritual things.

In Proverbs 3:5-6, the language used here of trusting in God that he will “direct you on pleasant paths” can be likened to a traveler who is trekking through a wilderness in fog. He uses his natural wisdom and understanding to find the path that will take him where he needs to go. However, once he is on the path, he places his confidence in the path that it will carry him to his destination, even though because of the fog he cannot see the full length of where the path is heading. When he is following the path, he is carefree from having to choose his own potentially hazardous way through the wilderness.

Our wisdom instructs us to find the path; the path is that in which we place our trust, since it has been provided by God. We have confidence the path that God provided will lead us to the destination God has in store for us. God promises the path will be smooth and pleasant compared to the directionless wilderness ways of our own choosing.

Job 12:13, 23-25 – Wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are his.  … He makes nations great, then destroys them; he enlarges nations, then leads them away.  He deprives the world’s leaders of reason, and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland.  They grope around in darkness without light; he makes them stagger like a drunkard.

The trackless wasteland is a place where no one wants to be. There is no direction, no indication of the right way, just sameness and harsh wilderness in each direction.

In a description of the Biblical wilderness over at www.environmentandsociety.org/, they describe it in these terms:

“The wilderness is a locale for intense experiences—of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness.

“Linguists will make the point that the Hebrews did not have an exact equivalent of the contemporary English word ‘wilderness.’ Nevertheless, the Hebrews evidently knew the experience of confronting the wild.”

The Bible is filled with imagery and examples of those who have wandered away from God; they have gone off the path he has provided. Being off the path is straying from God, and is an indication of not trusting in him with your whole heart. Here are some examples:

Psalm 119:176 – I wander like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commands.

Proverbs 10:17 – The one who follows instruction is on the path to life, but the one who rejects correction goes astray.

Proverbs 12:26 – A righteous person is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.

Proverbs 14:22 – Don’t those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.

Proverbs 21:16 – The person who strays from the way of prudence will come to rest in the assembly of the departed spirits.

Isaiah 53:6 – We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way…

Jeremiah 50:6 – My people were lost sheep; their shepherds led them astray, guiding them the wrong way in the mountains. They wandered from mountain to hill; they forgot their resting place.

When one has gone astray, they have left “the path to life,” (Prov 10:17), or “the way of prudence,” (Prov 21:16). Jeremiah says those who wander have forgotten “their resting place,” (Jer 50:6).

As believers, unfortunately it’s not uncommon for us to go astray, to forget who we are, where we are going, or where to find true rest within the will of God. We get caught up in our circumstances and distracted from our purpose. For non-believers, the picture is an even wider perspective where God is a distant or non-existent resource for guidance through life. All of us need to know and understand God’s ability to guide us where he would like us to go which can only happen when we keep our eyes on him and trust his direction with all of our heart.

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That this trust in God directs people in the way of life is a theme all through the Bible. This has been recognized by Jews throughout the centuries and is expressed in many different ways.

One of the most popular examples of this is brought forward from the mid-1700’s in Jewish literature. At that time, a respected rabbi by the name of Moshe Chaim Luzatto wrote a book entitled the Derech Hashem; the Way of God. In it, he details a spiritual perspective of life, God, and human responsibility from a deeply Jewish, mystical perspective. This book has become a Jewish classic, much like Pilgrim’s Progress might be to the Christian faith.

However, he was not the first to coin the term, the Way of God, or the Way as being the path of life. We can go to the teachings of Yeshua and find this same type of “path of life” imagery present.

Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

We have reviewed these verses in detail in a previous episode, but in summary Yeshua is conveying that this narrow way to life is a cramped and difficult passageway, surrounded by obstacles; it takes determination, effort, and persistence to find one’s way through.

Ellicott in his commentary writes:

“The meaning of the parable here lies on the surface. The way and the gate are alike the way of obedience and holiness, and the gate is to be reached not without pain and effort; but only through it can we enter into the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. A deeper significance is, however, suggested even by our Lord’s own teaching. He Himself is the “way” (John 14:6), or with a slight variation of the imagery, He is the “door,” or gate, by which His sheep enter into the fold (John 10:7). Only we must remember that His being thus the “way” and the “gate” does not mean that we can find, in union with Him, a substitute for holiness, but indicates simply how we are to attain to it.”

To break this down a little further, let’s look more closely at these other references that Yeshua makes to the Way.

John 14:4-6 – “You know the way to where I am going.”  “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way? ”  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Interestingly, Yeshua didn’t point Thomas and the disciples to an expected place like the Temple or Jerusalem as a further place of learning, but claimed that he himself is the Way. He specifically said that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” This would be a hugely conceited statement were it not true. The exclusiveness of Yeshua’s teaching is here revealed with no apology from the Master himself. Whatever this Way is, it is represented solely by his life, his practice, and his teaching, all of which make up who he is. This is why Yeshua is so central to Christian thought and practice, because he has placed himself there on purpose. The life of Messiah is one that is to be followed and imitated; this is how one stays in the Way of God.

In Yeshua’s other reference to exclusiveness, he relates that he is the gate or the door to the sheep pen.

John 10:6-9 – Jesus gave them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.  Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

In rapid-fire succession, the context of this passage reveals that Yeshua was likening his life and ministry to practices surrounding the tending and herding sheep. On the one hand, he relates that he is the gate, or the single entry point into the sheep pen, but on the other hand that he is also the good shepherd, the one who cares so deeply for his sheep that he is willing to lay his life down for them to protect them, if necessary. Through these examples, Yeshua is conveying the supremacy of his own teaching over the “thieves and robbers,” (i.e., false teachers) who had come before him, as well as his unique position as being the only one qualified to effectively protect the sheep with his own life.

That Yeshua is conveying the true Way of God was a concept that was picked up by his disciples and considered a summary of distinguishing their belief in Messiah from the broader context of popular first-century Judaism. The Way or the Way of God was an ancient title for the true spiritual understanding of the kingdom, mentioned several times in the book of Acts.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Acts 19:8-10, 22-23 – … But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he [Paul] withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. … After sending to Macedonia two of those who assisted him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself [Paul] stayed in Asia for a while.  About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.

We find that this term, the Way of God, or the Way, was simply becoming shorthand for the teaching about Messiah and the kingdom of God. Paul even uses this terminology in his defense before Felix when he was accused of the Jewish leaders of leading a rebellion.

Acts 24:14, 22 – But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets… Since Felix was well informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.”

The Way was considered a sect within Judaism at that time, the way of worshiping the God of the Bible in truth according to all of Torah. Paul saw no conflict in this understanding, and struggled to convey this over-arching unity of purpose to his fellow countrymen, along with his detractors.

Acts 24:24-25 – Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Messiah Yeshua. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”

So we can see from this brief review that the Way of God consisted of faith in Messiah Yeshua, the law and the prophets, righteousness and self-control as disciplines, and the warning of impending judgment on those who would not believe.  These are all aspects of the Yeshua’s life and teaching; hence he is the Way.

Coming full circle to our verse in Proverbs 3:5-6 today, we can see that leaning solely on our own understanding can lead us astray. When we place our trust in Yahweh, we are thereby placing our faith in the law and the prophets, the practices of righteousness and self control, and the teachings of Yeshua as his Messiah. The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest. Though the narrow way may be restricted and difficult, in the end it is considered a pleasant path to the alternative of striving through the “trackless waste” of the wilderness without God. However, when we choose to acknowledge him “in all our ways,” we demonstrate we are trusting in him with all of our heart, and he will lead us instead in that pleasant Way, the Way of the Messiah, the Way of God.

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.

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The ever-expanding reality of the eternal kingdom of God

The eternal kingdom of God, while starting from a small, single point will ultimately spread to consume the whole world.

Core of the Bible podcast #37 – The ever-expanding reality of the eternal kingdom of God

Today we will be exploring the topic of the kingdom, and how the eternal kingdom of God, while starting from a small, single point will ultimately spread to consume the whole world.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Another parable set he before them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is less than all seeds; but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Another parable spoke he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened. Matthew 13:31-33

These two parables of Yeshua are illustrating the same picture: the kingdom is something that begins small and becomes larger and larger until it is all inclusive. This is one of the grand principles of all Creation: everything begins small and then grows to its mature state. Animals, plants, people; all things exemplify this principle.

Concepts and ideals are no different. We even use this terminology when speaking about some new trend or idea which began as a “germ” or a “spark” and then became massively widespread or “went viral.”

Yeshua is teaching us that the Kingdom of God operates in the same way, not because it isn’t special or unique, but because it is to follow the natural trajectory of every thing introduced into this Creation.

Most Christians today might say they believe the kingdom of God began with Messiah, and it began its spread throughout the world at that time.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

While that was definitely a springboard to the nations, the Bible actually traces the trajectory of the kingdom much farther back in history, all the way back to Adam and Eve “ruling” over Creation. Let’s trace this kingdom narrative to see how God has operated throughout the millennia to teach us about his eternal realm of righteousness.


Genesis 1:28 – God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

This was the earliest realization of mankind ruling as God’s image over the Creation that God had provided. However, once that era had passed, God continued to move the kingdom ideal forward through the stories of Noah and Abraham. The majority was bypassed, and only a faithful remnant was chosen.

Genesis 6:17-18 – “Understand that I am bringing a flood ​– ​floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives.

Genesis 9:1-2 – God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. “The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority.

After Noah’s descendants had begun to re-populate the land and men began to spread throughout the earth, God once again chose another “branch” through which his kingdom would be realized, the man Abram. Again, the majority was bypassed, and a faithful remnant was chosen.

Genesis 12:1-3 – The LORD said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 17:5-6  – “Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. “I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you.

From Abraham came Isaac and then Jacob and his twelve sons. The majority of Abraham’s descendants had been bypassed, and a faithful remnant was chosen.

This family group became attached to Egypt through one of the twelve sons, Joseph, who became Pharaoh’s prince-regent. Once in Egypt, this family group continued to grow to become an independent nation within a nation.

From the slavery of Egypt, the kingdom narrative then gravitates toward Moses and this chosen group of people that God claims as his own: Israel.

Exodus 3:9-10 – “So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them, “therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Upon their dramatic departure, the majority of individuals in Egypt is bypassed, and the faithful remnant is chosen. They are led out into the desert of Sinai, where they arrive at the mountain of God.

Exodus 19:3-6 – Moses went up the mountain to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain: “This is what you must say to the house of Jacob and explain to the Israelites: “‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, “and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

As mentioned in previous teachings, this is actually the first mention in Scripture of an actual kingdom, a kingdom of priests and a holy, or set apart, nation.

Now that God has grown his own people to this magnitude, he begins to mold and shape them into his representative people through the giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments, and the covenant of Sinai. Through the remainder of the Bible narrative, the natural kingdom era of Israel is the focus of God’s  interaction with mankind, the chosen people among the many nations of the world.

This natural kingdom had peaked with David and Solomon. After the demise of Solomon, the kingdom became divided and they were led through the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Ultimately, this natural kingdom of God drew its way through the various subjugations of Persia,  Greece, and Egypt, up to the Roman occupation. Under these various captivities and regional rulerships, the larger group of Israel had become complacent, corrupt, and scattered throughout the known world. It was time for God to bypass the majority once again and focus on a new branch, a new faithful remnant, for his continuing mission of the kingdom.

From within the faithful remnant of Israel at that time came forth Messiah Yeshua. He introduced the radical element of the culmination of God’s kingdom work with his chosen people: it was to be a leap to the next level, i.e., a spiritual and universal kingdom, that would take place after the judgment of God’s earthly people. This was prophesied to take place within the generation of those to whom Messiah brought his message, through what would become the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel as an independent nation in 70 AD. Finally, God’s kingdom could now be free to include all people and nations, and it continues to spread exponentially throughout the entire world.

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

It is here that the seed which was planted among the nations had begun to sprout and grow. The seeds of the Word of God had spread to the Israelites among the nations through the missionary travels of the apostles and were beginning to bear fruit. With the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the people of God had broken outside the confines of national Israel, and the branches of God’s new spiritual kingdom were spreading across the face of the earth, drawing nourishment from the rich stump of the Israelite scriptures and the Torah of God.

Romans 11:17 – Now if some of the branches [Israelites] were broken off, and you [of the nations], though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree [Israel]…

As we can see through all of these examples from Adam and Eve up until the Messiah and his disciples, one of the overarching themes of the Bible is how God is tirelessly patient and persistent, beginning with individuals or small groups, and molding and shaping them to become the next phase of the kingdom, the next branch on the tree, the next batch of dough that continues to rise. This is how we can be confident the kingdom will continue to grow until “all is leavened.”


Today, those of us who believe in Messiah and in the eternal, ever-expanding kingdom of God should be viewing ourselves as a branch or branches within the multi-tiered expansion of God’s never-ending kingdom. The Bible teaches us that this kingdom will never end; it will never have to be re-started as God has done in the past with each of his faithful remnants. It will continue to grow “until all is leavened,” just as Yeshua prophesied.

Psalm 145:9-13 – The LORD is good to everyone; his compassion rests on all he has made.  All you have made will thank you, LORD; the faithful will bless you.  They will speak of the glory of your kingdom and will declare your might,  informing all people of your mighty acts and of the glorious splendor of your kingdom.  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your rule is for all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and gracious in all his actions.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of those kings [the fourth kingdom of Daniel’s prophecy, the Roman empire], the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

Daniel 7:27 – “The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey him.’

And yet, popular within the halls of congregations today, is a mentality that insists things are so bad in society that God is preparing to take his people, his kingdom people, from the earth. The biblical response to that type of misguided thinking is that if the darkness is so great, then this is the very time the kingdom people need to shine. We shouldn’t be preparing to leave, but we should be establishing deep roots of righteousness that will survive our brief time here on this earth as we continue to build upon the foundations of the apostles and the prophets. Our lives may be transient, but God’s kingdom clearly is not. If we can take the baton of this eternal relay further down the track, then we will have fulfilled our role within this generation.

The prophet Jeremiah fought a similar battle among God’s people when they were taken captive to Babylon. God had revealed to Jeremiah that Israel would be captive there for at least 70 years.

Jeremiah 25:2, 8, 11 – The prophet Jeremiah spoke concerning all the people of Judah and all the residents of Jerusalem as follows: … “Therefore, this is what the LORD of Armies says: ‘Because you have not obeyed my words, … “This whole land will become a desolate ruin, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.

Yet, even after they were taken captive, the people sought word from false prophets like Hananiah that they would be returning to their homeland soon. Hananiah had proclaimed:

Jeremiah 28:2-4 – “This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. “Within two years I will restore to this place all the articles of the LORD’s temple that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took from here and transported to Babylon. “And I will restore to this place Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon’ ​– ​this is the LORD’s declaration ​– ​’for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ “

In response to this false prophecy, Jeremiah replied that “As for the prophet who prophesies peace ​– ​only when the word of the prophet comes true will the prophet be recognized as one the LORD has truly sent,” Jeremiah 28:9. In verses 15-17, he continued to correct Hananiah, “The prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD did not send you, but you have led these people to trust in a lie. “Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I am about to send you off the face of the earth. You will die this year because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.’ ” And the prophet Hananiah died that year in the seventh month.”

Instead of preparing the people to leave the place of their captivity return to Israel, Jeremiah encouraged them to put roots down in that foreign place, a  place where they were considered aliens and strangers.

Jeremiah 29:4-10 – “This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the LORD on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive. For this is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you, and don’t listen to the dreams you elicit from them, ‘for they are prophesying falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them.’ This is the LORD’s declaration.  For this is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm my promise concerning you to restore you to this place.'”

Just as Jeremiah had to redirect God’s people to the reality of their situation, it appears that God’s people today are in a similar condition. They have been listening to false teachers for so long that they have not been able to distinguish the truth of the eternal kingdom of God from the lie of immanent removal from the earth. Instead of preparing to leave, we should be putting down our roots and living respectfully among these foreign lands of our brief sojourn on this earth. We should be building and growing and establishing God’s kingdom, not packing to leave. God has decreed that his kingdom will fill the earth. When that happens, he will be “all in all.” This is the end-goal of the entire Bible message, the message of the kingdom that has been played out over and over through those whom God has chosen as his own.


The eternal spiritual kingdom of God has been behind every natural iteration that God has produced as examples for us. This was even recognized by Nebuchadnezzar after being released from a seven-year bout of madness as a judgment from God upon his pride.

Daniel 4:1-3, 34 –  King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. … At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation…”

From the mouth of a foreign ruler comes the praise of the eternal God of Israel and his everlasting kingdom!

Since this is the reality of all things that has not yet fully come to pass in our natural world, we must recognize our role in following the traditions of the faithful before us, and reaching out to each contemporary generation until the fullness of this promise comes to pass. Our mission is to continue to grow the kingdom among us, his dwelling place through his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22 – So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

The principle of the Great Commission, the “making disciples of all nations,” does not have an expiration date. God desires that all people come to know him, to come to an understanding of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Instead of decrying the injustice around us, the injustice that has existed in every generation, we should be praying for those who are so misguided and causing detriment to our societies through their godless perspectives. Our role as believers is not to win elections but to magnify God and win hearts for him. When hearts are changed by God’s Spirit, his kingdom organically expands, and the rest will follow. Since a world of people in awe of God’s majesty is the foregone conclusion of all history, why are we standing in the way of the fulfillment of these sure prophecies?

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; truth has gone from my mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to me, every tongue will swear allegiance. It will be said about me, ‘Righteousness and strength are found only in the LORD.’ ” All who are enraged against him will come to him and be put to shame.” Isaiah 45:22-24

For God’s eternal kingdom to prosper and continue to fill the earth, we must allow God to be recognized as the ruler of all kingdoms, and for people to turn to him. This can only happen as he is magnified among us through our righteous actions and our diligent prayers for those hearts to become subject to his eternal rule and reign. May we be bold and resourceful in fulfilling this obligation, that we may be faithful in our generation to continue the ever-expanding kingdom of God.


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

Obediently and joyfully assisting those in need

God loves a cheerful giver.

An ancient Jewish proverb states:

The merciful lend to their neighbors; by holding out a helping hand they keep the commandments.

Sirach 29:1

Regarding the commandments of God, one of the most comprehensive passages that was to influence the attitude of God’s people toward the poor among them is summed up in Moses’ declaration to the nation as they are about to cross over into the promised land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the LORD against you, and it will be a sin in you. You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

In these commands, Moses encourages them to give generously to the poor, and to not let their hearts be grieved when doing so. Many times, we can follow a command, but we instead do it grudgingly and with the wrong attitude. God desires us to not only be obedient, but cheerfully so.

The intent of Moses’ instruction is echoed by the apostle Paul centuries later:

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

Though the Jewish proverb is lengthy and covers many aspects of the benefits of lending to those in need, in one place it makes the following salient point:

Help the poor for the commandment’s sake, and in their need do not send them away empty-handed. Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.

Sirach 29:9-10

In a time when there were no banks or ways of securing money, it was not uncommon to simply bury it. The proverb advises, “don’t let your silver rust under a stone and be lost.” Rather than storing it for future use where it may not last, or may get stolen, let it get some use by those in need of it. It is much more preferable to “lose” your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend than to lose it to someone who may find it under your stone and steal what you were storing for yourself.

Yeshua taught the same principle in his parable about greed and accumulation of wealth.

Luke 12:15-21 – He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. “He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? “I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. “Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared ​– ​whose will they be? ‘ “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Helping those in need is not only a commandment of compassion to be obeyed, but a privilege and honor in the stewardship of the resources and blessings that God has provided us. Our faithfulness in being happily and freely “rich toward God” rather than rich toward ourselves brings honor to his name, and witnesses that we are truly his disciples abiding by his commandments.


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

Trusting in the refuge of God

Living in this world, we are presented with many dangers that can assault us.

Psalm 62:8 – Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge.

Being listed as a psalm of David, this psalm is directed at the faithful within the people of God, at that time, the nation of Israel. Even though it was directed at the faithful of that era, several aspects of what David is encouraging believers to do can bear fruit if we apply these truths today, as well.

Trust in him at all times. The Hebrew word here for trust expresses many aspects of faith and trust: boldness, confidence, security, carefree of anxiety, hope. When we place our trust in God, we can have a sense of boldness and confidence in our thoughts and actions, because we recognize he has always been faithful with his people. Knowing God can provide security since we understand he holds the future. This confidence and security then foster a sense of hope that is anxiety-free and allows us to remain focused on his kingdom and his purpose for today.

Pour out your hearts. The heart is the seat of our deepest emotions and longings. To pour out our heart to anyone, including God, is in itself an exhibition of the deepest trust, as we may rarely let anyone inside the “walls” of our own making.

Albert Barnes writes:

The idea is, that the heart becomes tender and soft, so that its feelings and desires flow out as water, and all its emotions, all its wishes, its sorrows, its troubles, are poured out before God. All that is in our hearts may be made known to God. There is not a desire which he cannot gratify; not a trouble in which he cannot relieve us; not a danger in which he cannot defend us. And, in like manner there is not a spiritual want in which he will not feel a deep interest, nor a danger to our souls from which he will not be ready to deliver us. Much more freely than to any earthly parent – to a father, or even to a mother – may we make mention of all our troubles, little or great, before God.

God is our refuge. A refuge is a place where one flees for protection. The refuge provides security and safety from danger. According to David, this is who God is. Living in this world, we are presented with many dangers that can assault us. These things can either drive us away from God (as we seek to rely only on ourselves and our own designs) or they can drive us toward God. Those who are driven toward God are protected from many of the typical cares and anxieties that plague those around us.

Some view God as a “crutch,” saying that only the weak look to something outside of themselves to “help them through.” To this, the person of faith would say, “a person who is weak and lame and is need of help certainly needs a crutch, it is there to assist them.” In the grand scheme of all that exists, humans are weak, lame, and in need of help, as we cannot control all of our circumstances or know the future. Yet those of faith know Someone who does know the future and can control all circumstances. If that is considered a crutch, then so be it; I will use it gladly and thank God that he has provided it for me.

David encouraged trust in God and pouring out our hearts to him at all times. God has designed us as humans to trust in him. He has placed a yearning within us to pour our hearts out to him regarding all of our needs, hopes, and desires. If we choose not to, we are actually working at cross-purposes with his intent for our lives, and many unnecessary consequences can unfold. However, when we do trust in him and communicate the deepest recesses of our heart to him, we can be safe within the refuge he provides.


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

How the Golden Rule teaches simple respect and compassionate giving

As we review the Golden Rule in its original context, we can learn how simple respect for others helps us demonstrate compassion.

Core of the Bible podcast #36 – How the Golden Rule teaches simple respect and compassionate giving

Today we will be exploring the topic of compassion, and how compassionate actions stem from a root of simple respect for others based on the respect and compassion we have received from God.

Yeshua stated it this way: “Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Of course, we know this as the Golden Rule. Certainly, anything that you wish others would do for you, do in the same manner for them, for this summarizes God’s teachings regarding others.

Applying what we know about ourselves to others

The simplicity and practical wisdom of this maxim is unsurpassed. We are, after all, self-focused by nature, relating to all other things outside of ourselves as to how we are affected or influenced by them. We know what we like, and we know what is offensive to us. We know when we believe our rights have been violated. We believe we know how we should be treated by others.

Since we are so familiar with ourselves and what we believe we deserve, Yeshua uses this innate familiarity with our own perceived deservedness and turns it on its head by suggesting that is the same way we should treat others. Our actions towards others should be based on our own internal sense of justice, fairness, and equity. This is the essence of compassion. Yeshua’s admonition focuses on the positive aspect of doing good for others based on what we know is acceptable, fair, and just in our eyes.

The fact that this teaching also summarizes the torah or instruction of God is of no small importance. Yeshua here defines the role and universality of the Bible message by summarizing its intent: the instruction and example of God should cause us to be equitable and compassionate in all of our relationships.

In the Greek Septuagint version of the scriptures is contained an interesting corollary to this admonition of Yeshua. It is essentially the opposite of his positive focus which reads like this: “What you hate, do not do to others,” (Tobit 4:15). Just like Yeshua’s teaching focuses on the positive, in the same way this idea of not doing to others what you yourself hate focuses on prevention of poor behavior that you recognize is unacceptable to you. If you don’t like being talked over in conversations, don’t do that to others. If you don’t like it when someone cuts you off in traffic, then don’t do that to others. If you don’t like when people talk about you behind your back, then don’t do that to others. What you hate, don’t do to others.

What we can glean from both of these complementary aspects of this teaching (do good to others, and don’t do what you yourself hate) is this: the things we like to experience and the things we feel negatively about can operate as a basic guide of God’s desires for our interactions with other people.

While there are many commands within the Word, or Torah, of God, if there were a command for every single possible error we could commit, the Bible would be a much bigger collection of books than it currently is. The simple fact is, God has built-in a sense of equity and fairness within the human condition. Even if we were to do nothing more than abide by the sense of what we believe inherently is right and wrong  behavior (based on how we would like to be perceived and treated by others), then we will be miles down the road of doing what is right in God’s eyes.

Then, for believers seeking to learn more about God and his expectations for us, our expectations should continually be adjusted and refined to match his, and this feedback loop of doing what’s right in his eyes is enacted. As our actions then become more in tune with his will, we exhibit more compassion with others when we learn and observe just how compassionate God really is with us. It is meant to become a cycle of positive reinforcement, thereby expanding the reach of God’s kingdom and ultimately glorifying him.

Respecting the context of the Golden Rule

The logic of this wisdom of the Golden Rule, “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you,” has been mocked by some who would take a literal rendering to the extreme. “What about individuals who enjoy being harmed by others? Should they go and harm others, because that’s how they would want to be treated?” The folly of this is self-evident: beginning with the premise of a non-universal aberration (those who enjoy harm) leads to a faulty non-universal conclusion.

As is typically the case, this type of flawed reasoning stems from isolating this verse from its surrounding context, which gives a broader understanding of how it is intended to be applied in the first place.

In this passage (Matthew 7:7-12), Yeshua is admonishing his hearers about the benefits of being persistent “askers” when it comes to opportunity and meeting of needs.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

This is a simple progression of logic: Ask-receive, seek-find, knock-receive access. Yeshua is setting up his hearers to understand that just as this is the natural order of things in God’s kingdom, God is willing to provide whatever is needed if only we are persistent in asking. This is exhibited through what can be readily seen in their lives already.

Matthew 7:9-11 – “Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

Yeshua’s argument continues, “Since you can see that even unrighteous people know how this system works, then don’t you think God will do the same for us when we we ask? And if God is willing to assist us when we ask, then shouldn’t we do the same with others?”

Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you [i.e., when you ask], do also the same for them [when they ask], for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Yeshua is saying that this request-response method is a summary of basically the entire Bible when it comes to compassionate actions. Somebody has a need and makes a request (asking, seeking, knocking) and the need is met (they receive, find, and gain access). This is the very definition of compassion. God does it with us, and we should do it with each other.

Yeshua says, “therefore” because his statement of the Golden Rule summarizes his previous line of reasoning. It’s as if he is saying, “Therefore, because of the examples I just gave you, you should practice the same level of compassion with others.”

That’s why the Golden Rule isn’t meant to be some stand-alone, hypothetical, philosophical statement that can be hijacked for alternative philosophy. It is meant to summarize a simple respect for others when they are in need, which is God’s method for helping all who are in need and asking for assistance. Living by the Golden Rule demonstrates a compassion for others based on the compassion that God himself demonstrates for us.

Our compassion is owed to those in need

To delve a little further into our connection with others and exhibiting compassion in their time of need, we can explore some other passages that deal with a biblical understanding of the Golden Rule and its application.

Proverbs 3:27-28 – When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs.  Don’t say to your neighbor, “Go away! Come back later. I’ll give it tomorrow” ​– ​when it is there with you.

The example here is that a person in need is asking for assistance, and the respondent instead pushes them away and delays providing the need. This may be due to inconvenience at the time, or just a desire to brush them off.

This is very similar to the admonition of the apostle James when he writes:

James 2:15-16 – If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?

James is basically saying that if we are not meeting someone’s need when they ask, whether today or tomorrow, what’s the point of our faith?

The Hebrew terms in the Proverbs passage here are interesting, because it implies that the good that is being withheld actually belongs already to the other person, it is due them. The good intention or action you have to offer someone in need is something that in actuality belongs to them already. The passage says they are the “lord” or “owner” of that good which you can bestow. You, therefore, by refraining to do the good, are keeping them from something that is rightfully theirs. When it is in your power to do good to others, you essentially owe it to them. In God’s eyes, they rightfully deserve the good that you can do for them.

Albert Barnes: The precept expresses the great Scriptural thought that the so-called possession of wealth is but a stewardship; that the true owners of what we call our own are those to whom, with it, we may do good. Not to relieve them is a breach of trust.

Pulpit Commentary: We are to do good to those who are in need or deserving of it, whenever we have the means and opportunity…The owners of good are those to whom good is due or belongs either by law or by morality, whether by desert or need…what we possess and is seemingly our own is in reality to be regarded as belonging to others. We are only stewards of our wealth…The meaning of the phrase is, “While it is practicable, and you have the opportunity and means of doing good, do it.” Do not defer, but do good promptly.

This ties in with what Paul writes in Galatians 6:9-10 – Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

If this is the real state of our obligation in this life, that everything we have is potentially owed to others in need, this should provide a monumental shift in how we interact with those around us.

What capacities and resources do we have that can truly help others?

Do we have talents or skills that can help others? Perhaps we can help to repair things around the home that they are unable to do. We may be able to simply mow the lawn, or run to the grocery store for an elderly neighbor who is unable to do either.

Do we have the financial ability to assist someone else? Whether assisting someone with a utility bill that they can’t pay, or helping them with money towards the purchase of a necessary appliance, if we have the ability to help, we should! According to Proverbs 3:27, we already owe it to them! The Bible teaches us when we do so, we are not really giving just to them, we are ultimately giving to God.

Proverbs 19:17 – Kindness to the poor is a loan to Yahweh, and he will give a reward to the lender.

The word for poor here doesn’t necessarily mean a beggar. The word literally means those who are “dangling, weak or thin.” Certainly, while these words can describe beggars, they imply those who cannot help themselves due to their own weakness or perhaps financial leanness and are hanging by a thread. The word for loan means to join (as with Yahweh) in lending to those in such need, and their need becomes our own. Our participation in true acts of compassion means that we are co-laboring with God in his Creation to see his good kingdom come about. Many times our generosity and provision to others is in reality God’s way of providing for them, and we are merely the instruments of his provision.

Conversely, it is not in our power to give what we don’t have.

Acts 3:6 – But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk! “

Peter said, “What I do have, I give you.” He didn’t have silver or gold, what the beggar was asking for, but he had something better: he could help him walk! This should be our guide for being compassionate with others. They may be asking for a specific need, but we may only be able to assist in another, perhaps greater, way that helps them even more! This just continues to highlight how we need to learn to get our focus off of ourselves, and learn to perceive the real needs of those around us when they ask us for help.

We shouldn’t be concerned with our lack of ability to give substantially due to the necessity of providing for our own needs. God does not expect us to bankrupt ourselves for the sake of others, otherwise, other people would then need to provide for us. The goal, then, is that our assistance of others comes from the good that we can do, what opportunities we do have, not the ones we don’t.

The future of compassion

Paul writes: 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 – It is not that there should be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality. At the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may in turn meet your need, in order that there may be equality. As it is written: The person who had much did not have too much, and the person who had little did not have too little.

In this type of scenario, all believers work together, not to a base of uniformity, but from a base of unity. We all have a commitment to the kingdom first, and therefore our personal resources become secondary to the needs of those in the kingdom, those to whom our good is “due.”

The equality of needs would all be met in God’s type of economy. Consider the unity and equality of the early believers:

Acts 4:32-35 – Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.

Wow, this is a bold example for us. Consider the possibilities if congregations today practiced this type and level of commitment to compassionate provision of others. Those who had multiple homes or additional land or resources would sell them. Those who had income above their needs would cheerfully provide it to the congregation leadership. All of those surplus funds would then be distributed to those in need within the fellowship of believers.

In a capitalist economy with a reliance on self-ownership of property and goods, this can seem like a crazy, left-wing, socialist type of proposition. And yet, as you can see by this very passage in Acts, this is the biblical design for the people in God’s kingdom. One of the primary reasons it seems so strange to us is because we have been raised in a culture that is in many ways fundamentally and diametrically opposed to this type of communal participation and care.

But I’m not talking here about the type of national government system that we should be promoting, not at all. The early believers lived in the Roman economy with all of its faults and shortcomings, and yet “there were no needy among them.” What I am presenting is the biblical model of congregational governance. For this type of system to work, you would really have to trust God and trust your leaders. This is why it can only work with true believers who are committed to following God’s Word by living beyond reproach, and according to his Word.

But I can guarantee you that congregations who truly and faithfully practiced this would explode in growth. As people’s needs would be met, they would become more available to help the needs of others, and so on. Poverty rates would drop and standards of living would rise. Just like those early days in the believers’ congregations, outsiders would take notice and respect their commitment to help one another.

Acts 5:13-14 – No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them. Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers ​– ​multitudes of both men and women.

The kingdom of God could be advanced with amazing rapidity, all through the faithfulness of men and women willing to trust God and one another with true acts of compassion.

Summary

Ultimately, since it is God’s design for his kingdom to increase and fill the earth, we can look with eager anticipation toward its fulfillment while continuing to lay its foundations in our current generation. While we may struggle today with our own needs and the needs of others in our current society, we can still demonstrate biblical compassion by abiding by the principles of common respect contained within the Golden Rule. If you like people being nice to you, be nice to them first. If you enjoy being congratulated by others, then look outside your own perspective and do the same to others. If you desire that others provide help to you in your time of need, then find opportunities to do so for others when you are able to do so. If you want people to respect your views, then respect theirs. While you may disagree with their conclusions, they still have the same right to hold their views as you do with your own.

Simple respect solves all interpersonal relationships. Compassionate giving solves the needs of the community. While we may not be able to immediately solve all of the social ills of our current society, this type of simple respect and compassionate giving is how God implores all of us to love one another. When we do so, others will take notice of how our lives are based on different standards, higher standards. And that may be all that’s needed to open a door to sharing the message of the kingdom with them when they ask. And once they ask, and we faithfully respond, then they just need to be willing to receive.


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

The contrast of holiness in a world of darkness

Our priorities are not the same priorities of the world around us.

Proverbs 29:27 – An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

This proverb highlights the condition and the role of the righteous on the earth: to be set apart as holy and distinct. If there is a distinction being made, then the differing factions will have diverse viewpoints. Yeshua himself illustrated this point as he described how his teaching was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Matthew 10:34-37 – Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Holiness by its very nature causes divergence of thoughts, opinions, and allegiances. One of the most notable features demonstrating the holiness of the teachings of Yeshua is that he was a polarizing figure; he was presenting ideas and concepts where people had to choose sides between options.

Matthew 12:30 – Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with me scatters.

This was not a new or novel concept; God’s servants and messengers have always presented polarizing options in the way of holiness. Moses and Joshua did so with the nation of Israel as they were preparing to enter the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 30:16-19 – “For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. “But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow in worship to other gods and serve them, “I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not prolong your days in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…

Joshua 24:14-15 – “Therefore, fear the LORD and worship him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship the LORD. “But if it doesn’t please you to worship the LORD, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship ​– ​the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.”

Holiness is in some ways, in the most profound ways, a very real burden for those who are acting in the way of the righteous, the derech ha-tzaddikim. This is the Way that holds to God’s standards above the standards of the culture and world in which we live. By abiding by his standards, we also become polarizing individuals within our family, friend, and work acquaintance circles.

However, as believers in Yeshua and followers of God’s commands, this is who we are. This is who we are meant to be. Our priorities are not the same priorities of the world around us. The burden of distinction we carry is one which has us die to ourselves, our own ambitions and desires, and to place before us the things of God instead. To others, this may appear to be a detestable path of death, when in reality this burden, our cross, is ultimately the path of life.

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.


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

Shining in the perfection of integrity

The individual who is perfect acts with integrity in all things.

Matthew 5:48 – Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Integrity is a word in English which is associated with doing what’s right instinctively and from the heart. It implies that, when faced with moral dilemma, an individual will choose the correct path in God’s eyes.

What is wonderful about the original languages of the Bible is how rich they are in meaning. Like facets of a gem glint and sparkle in the sunlight as it is rotated before the discerning eye, the ancient words and language have folds and layers of various shades of meaning.

In Hebrew, a word that is many times translated into English as integrity is the word tom (pronounced tome). At its root, it carries the meaning of completion, or a full measure. Something that is tom cannot be added to because it is an act in its simplest and purest form. Taken in this sense, integrity is then the most pure and simple action that can be accomplished in any given situation. It cannot be improved upon.

Another layer to this Hebrew term is that it describes the inherent nature of the ancient high priest’s ephod, a type of ceremonial breastplate, that was used to divine God’s direction for his people.

Exodus 28:30 – “Place the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece for decisions, so that they will also be over Aaron’s heart whenever he comes before the LORD. Aaron will continually carry the means of decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.

In some translations, these strange Hebrew words are translated as “lights and perfections.” While not fully understood by scholars, it is thought that whatever the Urim and Thummim actually were, they may have lit up in certain fashions to indicate God’s direction when questions were posed of him. What is interesting to me is the word Thummim is the plural of tom, which is our word for integrity. The idea of integrity and doing what’s right is bound up in the imagery of this ancient form of seeking God’s guidance.

In the passage from Matthew above, Yeshua indicates that we should be “perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.” The word for perfect here is the Greek word teleios, which means “having reached its end, complete, perfect.” I find that this admonition of Yeshua is simply carrying over this idea of integrity and doing what’s right according to God’s will into the eternal kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul corroborates this when he writes to the believers in Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:11-13 – And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

While this modern version provides a clear meaning of the passage, the KJV highlights an aspect of this maturity that can be obscured through some translations.

Ephesians 4:13 – Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

The “perfect man” is the telios man, the individual who is complete, who has reached the end or the goal of all God is wanting to accomplish within all individuals. The individual who is perfect acts with integrity in all things. Like the ancient breastplate of the high priest, the perfect individual shines with the “lights and perfections” of God’s will, and others can see and know the truth of God through observing their actions.

When we reach this level of maturity, then will be fulfilled within us the desire of God within his people.

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.


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

The foundation of peace

Forgiveness may be simple, but is rarely easy.

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

To be a peacemaker is to be one who overcomes conflict. An online dictionary defines someone who pacifies as a person who “quells the anger, agitation, or excitement of” others, or a specific situation.

In personal relationships, this can most simply be accomplished through forgiveness. The biblical concept of forgiveness conveys ideas of dismissal or sending away of a burden; a release or letting go of insult or injury; a covering over of an offense or transgression. According to Yeshua, these are the characteristics of the true children of God.

While this may be the simplest way to create peace, it is not always easy. Forgiveness involves rejection of natural feelings of anger at having been offended, or overcoming hurt and real emotional pain. These symptoms of anger and hurt are natural, while indications of forgiveness can seem forced and unnatural. This is why it is difficult and rarely practiced in genuine ways. True forgiveness involves dying to self: the right for the self to be angry, the right for the self to inflict pain back for pain received.

But Yeshua calls us to this higher path of dying to self. Self-sacrifice was the object lesson of his life, culminating in the most widely known object lesson of all; crucifixion of self for the sake of others. Even in the enactment of this ultimate object lesson, he was forgiving those who were physically nailing him to the cross.

Luke 23:33-34 – And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Forgiveness can be offered when one realizes that those causing the offense may not be totally aware of their actions; they are likely acting out reflexively or under the compulsion of their own misguided nature. To rise above these situations is to reject the compulsion to respond in kind, and to choose instead the way of peace and forgiveness.

I was struck recently in learning that the root of the word Jerusalem means “foundation of peace.” That meaning has far-reaching applications throughout biblical interpretation, but none so meaningful as being the eternal habitation of God with his people.

Revelation 21:2-3, 7 – And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. … He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

According to writer of Hebrews, believers have inherited this city already. As such, this “foundation of peace” should be our base of operations, our current and active environment.

Hebrews 12:14, 22-24 – Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness ​– ​without it no one will see the Lord. … you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…

If this is where we live, having died to ourselves, then this is how we should act. We should pursue peace with everyone. This is what sets God’s people apart; this is who we are.


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

The King over all the earth

The inevitability of God’s reign should provide us great confidence in sharing the truth of his word and his Messiah.

Psalm 47:1-2, 7-9: Oh clap your hands, all you nations. Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For Yahweh Most High is awesome. He is a great King over all the earth…For God is the King of all the earth. Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations. God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples are gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God. He is greatly exalted!

This psalm is one that captures the essence of the grand scope of the Bible: God will reign supreme over his Creation. All peoples of his Creation will abide by the principles of his kingdom. This is a message filled with hope and a longing that is fulfilled.

At the foot of Mount Sinai, God conveyed this concept of his kingdom being prevalent on the earth.

Exodus 19:5-6 – Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”

Ever since God’s revelation of himself at Sinai, God’s people have longed for that promised kingdom to come to pass. It was the basis of national Israel and the hope for every king since the time of King David. Generation after generation of Israelites and Christians have looked for this to come to pass.

In the prophetic language of Isaiah, the consummation of the world’s acceptance of God’s rule over the whole earth is envisioned:

Isaiah 2:2-4 – In the last days, the mountain of Yahweh’s house will be the highest of all–the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For Yahweh’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. Yahweh will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.

Isaiah 60:3 – Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness.

Albert Barnes writes:

The image [in Psalm 47] is that of the assemblage of great numbers of foreign princes and nobles as furnishing either a voluntary or involuntary acknowledgment of the fact that the God of Abraham was the true God, and that the people of Israel were his people…one who can thus subdue nations, and lead along captive princes and warriors, “must” be a Being greatly exalted; a Being that has dominion over the nations of the earth. This completes the imagery in the psalm, and gives occasion for the shouts and the joys of triumph. God had shown that he was a great King over the earth. Princes and armies were subdued to his will. They were led along as captives, and were gathered together to the people of God, as if to acknowledge their own inferiority; and in this solemn manner the nations thus subdued owned Yahweh to be the true God. In a higher sense this will be true when all the earth shall be subdued by the power of truth, and when kings, and princes, and people everywhere shall come and acknowledge God, reigning through the Messiah, to be the King of all nations.

The Pulpit Commentary concludes:

He is greatly exalted. The perfect submission to God of all his rational creatures is his highest exaltation and glory. When “all people bow down before him,” and “all nations do him service,” when rebellion and resistance to his will are at an end, then will he be established in his rightful position, and his exaltation will be complete.

Our understanding of this inevitability should provide motivation for us to continue to reach out to our generation with the truth of God and his Messiah. Each heart that is won will draw us closer to the fulfillment of this bright future of peace for all people everywhere.


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