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

Compassion springs from a deep bond of unity

Understanding our connections with others can provide motivation for care and concern.

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

Genesis 43:30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Dependent forgiveness

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.

Becoming more useful to the work of God

Cleansing ourselves from all that defiles sets us apart for additional opportunities to serve.

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

2 Timothy 2:21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Praying for vigilance to stay on the right path

When we come to the end of ourselves, we can only find the necessary strength to do what’s right in God and in others whom we trust and know to be faithful.

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

Psalm 141:3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:13-14 For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.

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


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

Trusting God rather than men

This type of faith can define who we are.

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

Psalm 118:8-9

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

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

Albert Barnes comments on this trust:

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

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

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

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


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

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.

Sharing the truth responsibly

While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

Core of the Bible podcast #25- Sharing the truth responsibly

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to be highly aware of our audience when we are attempting to share the good news of the Kingdom of God. Yeshua stated it this way:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

In essence, what he is saying is not to share something sacred or spiritually pure with those who are not receptive. While the message of the Bible can be good news to those who need to hear its message, not everyone is receptive to its principles.

In the Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary, the following explanation delves into that a little bit deeper.

“The “holy” and the “pearls” must define themselves for each individual in his own experience. They are the things which are sacred and precious for a man or woman, and which natural feeling teaches us to be careful not to waste or expose to desecration. For this purpose knowledge of the world, discrimination, is necessary. We must not treat all people alike, and show our valuables, religious experiences, best thoughts, tenderest sentiments, to the first comer. Shyness, reserve, goes along with sincerity, depth, refinement. In all shyness there is implicit judgment of the legitimate kind. A modest woman shrinks from a man whom her instinct discerns to be impure; a child from all hard-natured people. Who blames woman or child? It is but the instinct of self-preservation.”

This is not a new condition, and Yeshua was also no stranger to this principle:

Proverbs 9:7-8  He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man [gets] insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you…

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

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it ​– ​that its works are evil.

Yeshua also gives us insight as to why some people are more receptive than others.

John 3:19-20 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We need to exercise vigilance among those with whom we are sharing our insights and understanding. While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

The apostle John, in his gospel, relates how the depths of Yeshua’s teachings were not always well-received, even by some of his own followers; and yet he made no attempt to console them or win them back, he simply let them go.

John 6:57-69 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven—not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.” At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So while the disciples recognized the truth of Yeshua and his message, many others didn’t, and simply stopped following him.

In another place, when Yeshua was sending out the twelve disciples to the cities throughout Israel, he provided them the following direction.

Luke 9:2-5 He sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—neither staffs, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats apiece. Into whatever house you enter, stay there, and depart from there. As many as don’t receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

Yeshua cautioned his disciples to walk circumspectly with those who are unreceptive, primarily as a testimony against them, but also for their own safety and well-being. This is a cautionary reminder to us as well that our brief time here will be better spent on investing in those who have willing and open hearts.

—–

As we move to stories of the early believers, we see the apostles also recognized this aspect of the gospel, that it would be best received by those who are most willing to hear it.

Acts 13:44-46 The next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

Regarding the selective nature of whom the apostles were sharing the message with, Matthew Poole in his commentary adds the following:

“The gospel is to be preached to every creature, Mark 16:15. But when the Jews were hardened, and spake evil of that way before the multitude, Acts 19:9, the apostles left preaching to them. The precept doubtless is general, directing the ministers of Christ to administer the holy things, with which they are intrusted, only to such as have a right to them, and under prudent circumstances, so as the holy name of God may not be profaned, nor they run into needless danger.”

I find it interesting that he says believers are to minister holy things “only to those who have a right to them.” While I believe everyone has a right to understand the things of God, not everyone receives it equally well, and we need to be on guard to recognize that. The admonition for believers is to exercise care and discernment in sharing the wisdom of God with those who are not just resistant, but with those who are, or become, aggressive.

Going back to the passage that Matthew Poole referenced in Acts 19, we see this exemplified for us.

Acts 19:8-10 He [Paul] entered into the synagogue [in Ephesus], and spoke boldly for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Here in the Ephesian synagogue, some of the Jews had not only hardened themselves to the message of the gospel of the Kingdom, but they began trash-talking the believers of the true Way. Because of this, in his vigilance and care for the true believers and the integrity of the message, Paul simply separated himself and those who were sincere into a different meeting place. Ultimately, this was for their protection, but also for their edification. As such, this strategy appears to have been successful, as essentially all of Asia ended up hearing the message within a period of about two years.

As an aside, this may be a casual reference to the first recorded regular meeting place of the followers of Yeshua outside of an actual synagogue.

At any rate if we learn to spend our time and attention with those who are most willing to seek God‘s kingdom and to follow his precepts, we will be more successful in fulfilling God’s purpose.

Proverbs 9:8-9 …Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

Today we call this “discipling,” when in ancient times it was known simply as “giving knowledge.”

Yeshua alludes to this giving and receiving aspect of God’s wisdom when he explains to his disciples why he spoke in parables.

Matthew 13:10-17 The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand. In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says, ‘By hearing you will hear, and will in no way understand; Seeing you will see, and will in no way perceive:

for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them.

The message of God’s kingdom is one of selective hearing, to be sure, but it is also one of selective teaching. For those who are willfully resistant, the message of the kingdom was preached by Yeshua, but couched in parabolic symbolism. For those who were willing to receive the message, the information was shared freely, and further corroborated and illumined by the Spirit of God within them, as John explains.

1 John 2:27 And as for you, the anointing which you received of him abides in you, and you need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, abide in him.

If we are to follow the example of Messiah and the early believers, we should likewise be vigilant in recognizing our audience whenever we are sharing the good news of the kingdom. It not only makes sense, but it actually appears to be preferential in the Word of God to spend much more time sharing the truths of God’s Word with believers and those who are willing to listen than to cast our pearls before those who would only throw them back at us in disdain. As we do so, we can become much more efficient in sowing the seeds in the good soil, and less seeds on the rocky soil. In this way, we must take the time and wisdom to learn to not be reckless with the truth.


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 eternal kingdom of believers shines in the darkness

The influence of the Kingdom of God is exerted and demonstrated in the lives of those here who are now submitted to God and his eternal throne.

And they [the twenty-four elders] sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Revelation 5:9-10

Since the Garden of Eden, it has been God’s intent that there would always be a group of people on earth who represent him to the rest of the world.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.”

Genesis 1:26-28

The pinnacle of God’s plan was the enactment of his kingdom through Yeshua.

Matthew 4:17- From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptizer until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

The Ellicott commentary clarifies the unusual language of Matthew 11:12:

The words describe the eager rush of the crowds of Galilee and Judaea, first to the preaching of the Baptist, and then to that of Jesus. It was, as it were, a city attacked on all sides by those who were eager to take possession of it.

Since that time, God’s kingdom has been growing, untiringly spreading throughout the world, as it had been prophesied by Daniel and Yeshua himself.

I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14

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 becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Matthew 13:31-32

The culmination of this eternal kingdom is described in the apocalyptic language of the book of Revelation.

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name [will be] on their foreheads. And there will no longer be [any] night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:3-5

This corroborates with the vision presented to Daniel, hundreds of years before Messiah fulfilled the establishment of the kingdom.

The kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Daniel 7:27

The kingdom has been prophesied to be given to the people, and to be everlasting. In antiquity the role of priests was to be the intermediary between the people and God. In that sense, believers today fill this role analogously as they exhibit and demonstrate the patterns of God and share the torah/instruction of God with others.

For believers today, there are no actual priests or priestly sacrifices, because there is no longer a need for physical offerings and sacrifices; there is only one representative High Priest forever, Yeshua.

Though its foundations are well beyond this physical realm, the influence of the Kingdom of God is exerted and demonstrated in the lives of those here who are now submitted to God and his eternal throne. As his representatives, we reign on the earth when we seek first the kingdom and demonstrate righteous actions based on his word. When that happens, “there is no longer any night,” because “the Lord God illumines us.”

Believer, know yourself and your role in this place. When you are faithfully serving your Lord and Master, you are being a light in a dark place, and the kingdom of God can advance through your faithful example.


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.