The balance of practicing cautious compassion

We are encouraged by Jude to initially show mercy to those who may oppose the message of the kingdom.

Show mercy to those who have doubts. Save others by snatching them from the fire. Show mercy to others, even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives.

Jude 1:22-23

The admonitions of Jude revolve around contending for “the faith which once and for all God has given to his people.” The reason this had become necessary was due to the growth of the believers’ assemblies and the mixing in of others who were not true believers.

For some godless people have slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

Jude 1:4

According to Jude, the baseline for belonging within the believers’ assembly is accepting Yeshua as Lord and Master; i.e., recognizing his unique role as the leader of God’s kingdom on earth, and abiding by his teachings. He recognized that individuals who did not hold those basic tenets had begun to infiltrate their assemblies.

  • v. 8 “[they] have visions which make them sin against their own bodies; they despise God’s authority and insult the glorious beings above.”
  • v. 10 “these people attack with insults anything they do not understand; and those things that they know by instinct, like wild animals, are the very things that destroy them.”
  • v. 16 “These people are always grumbling and blaming others; they follow their own evil desires; they brag about themselves and flatter others in order to get their own way.”
  • v. 19 “These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit.”

How the assemblies of that day had come to admit such individuals, especially in such an apparent widespread manner, is the topic of another study on vigilance. However, the admonition of Jude is to remain cautiously compassionate, even with these types of individuals. He encourages the true believers to “show mercy” to such as these, and any who might be seduced by their selfish doctrines.

This is reminiscent of Paul’s admonition to Timothy

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth…

2 Timothy 2:24-25

The caution principle comes in as Yeshua instructs us there is a point where we should recognize that some individuals will unfortunately remain resistant to the truth and possibly become harmful to us as individuals and to the kingdom objectives.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:6

Paul also cautions Titus:

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Titus 3:10-11

However, our initial response to those who oppose the message of the kingdom is to remain cautiously compassionate, to reach out and offer to assist and answer concerns, because through these gentle initial overtures, many may have had their eyes opened to their own sinful ways and have been encouraged to repent and truly follow the Messiah.

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

Forgiveness always comes at a cost to someone

Forgiveness always positively changes a relationship, but it always comes at a cost.

The book of Leviticus is the heart of the “law of Moses,” the torah, or instruction that Moses provided to Israel. In it is outlined much of the ritual that defined the ancient Israelite worship of God. To our modern Western mind, some of the practices appear to make no practical sense, such as specific types of offerings that God expected his people to provide.

However, if one looks more closely at chapters 4-6, a pattern emerges that has significance even for us today. Amidst all of the rules and regulations, we can see that God desires to forgive his people when they have strayed from right paths.

Leviticus 4:26, 31 Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the LORD, and he will be forgiven. … Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the LORD, and they will be forgiven.

Leviticus 5:6, 10 This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the LORD. … Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the LORD, and you will be forgiven.

Leviticus 6:7 Through this process, the priest will purify you before the LORD, making you right with him, and you will be forgiven for any of these sins you have committed.”

All of these instructions point to one thing: God desired for the people to be reconciled with him, otherwise, why would he spend so much time describing how they were to go about making that happen?

An often-overlooked aspect of this process of forgiveness is the cost that the individual had to incur when bringing a sacrifice. Bulls, goats, rams, sheep, birds; all of these were costly offerings for sin that had to be brought to the priest in order for God’s forgiveness to be granted.

This highlights an important principle: when forgiveness is granted, it always costs somebody something; it is never free.

There was nothing inherent in the animal itself that somehow provided this forgiveness. This is even brought out in the New Testament writings.

For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:4

No, it was the value of the sacrifice that demonstrated the sincerity of the giver. The offerer had to demonstrate true intent (that is, repentance). Among other things (like the identity substitution), the giving of a perfectly good animal that could provide much personal benefit to the offerer was a way of showing they were sincere in asking for forgiveness.

The bringing of the animals to the priest was not for blood debts to be repaid, and God certainly didn’t need the animals for himself. But through this process, he was teaching the Israelites that there is a value to be exchanged for a renewed relationship with God.

Forgiveness always positively changes a relationship, but it always comes at a cost. This is why it is even still a custom today to bring a gift to someone when apologizing for some sort of relationship transgression. The thoughtfulness or value of the gift demonstrates the sincerity of the giver.

We are commanded by Yeshua to forgive others and to love our enemies when they don’t deserve it or when they are not demonstrating sacrificial repentance. Even if we are approached multiple times a day by the same individual, we are to forgive them. When these types of passages are discussed today, what is rarely mentioned is the cost that this forgiveness exacts from us. If the individual asking for forgiveness is not providing some sort of sacrificial benefit on their behalf, then the one who is absorbing or carrying the cost of the forgiveness is you.

This is why the act of forgiveness is so unique among God’s people today. Forgiveness that is freely offered is not cheap, it still comes at a great expense. It is a sacrificial lifestyle with real cost to the believer in every relationship. But the sacrificial obedience that God demands of us provides for positive relationships in all areas of life and honors him by demonstrating we have learned the true value of forgiveness.

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.

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

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

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

Proverbs 16:20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 3:5-6

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

The presence of God among his people sets them apart

We are set apart and holy, not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

How will anyone know that you look favorably on me–on me and on your people–if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

Exodus 33:16

This is a passage in Exodus where God reveals his glory to Moses. Almost all of the commentary on this passage focuses on God’s revelation of himself to Moses, and how Moses was permitted to see at least a portion of God’s presence.

However, what is sometimes overlooked is why this was necessary for God to do at all. He didn’t have to reveal himself to Moses. But if we look more closely at what had preceded this event, we see Moses questioning God about exactly how this takeover of the land of Canaan was supposed to work.

It appears that Moses was of the opinion that the people could not accomplish this on their own, that God would somehow need to provide some sort of miraculous help. Moses asked God whom he would send to accompany this collection of former slaves into the land that he had promised them. He wanted to better understand how God would accomplish his purpose with them, reminding God that this rag-tag group consisted of the people God had originally called to himself.

If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”

Exodus 33:13

God responded that he himself would accompany them.

The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest–everything will be fine for you.”
Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.

Exodus 33:14-15

Moses reveals that if the miraculous help they had received when they left Egypt does not continue, then they are better off remaining in the desert. If God was not to accompany them, then what would distinguish them from any other nation?

Moses correctly states that it was God’s presence among them that set them apart. They were to be a unique people due to their unique relationship with the Creator.

In the same way, it is God’s presence among his people today that sets us apart from all other nations. While his kingdom is universal in scope, the unique relationship of believers with our Creator should cause us to act and think in ways that are distinct from our respective cultures. It is his presence that causes us to be the salt preservative in the decaying world, the light amidst the darkness of ignorance.

Ultimately we are set apart and holy, not because of what we do or who we are in ourselves, but because of who he is and what he chooses to do through 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.

The continual, watchful prayer for all of God’s people

Paul admonishes believers to pray vigilantly and unceasingly for all of God’s people.

Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your petitions for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:18

This passage comes on the heels of a very famous passage from Paul regarding the putting on of the armor of God, and yet this integral instruction on perseverance in prayer for all of God’s people is often omitted.

Paul’s original audience for this instruction was experiencing persecution: real, life-endangering persecution on a regular basis, and this type of exhortation would not have fallen on deaf ears. While most of us can only imagine the severity of their situation, in a crisis it becomes quite natural, almost a reflex, to defer to prayer on a regular basis. But this type of crisis-prayer is typically centered around the individual, and praying for personal safety. However, Paul is here admonishing the Ephesian believers to pray vigilantly and unceasingly for all of God’s people, not just for their own personal needs and desires.

Two types of prayer are mentioned here: prayer which is a type of worship, and petitions for specific needs that are urgent and immediate. All of these are to be offered “in the Spirit,” that is, in accordance with the operation and fruit of the spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…Galatians 5:16, 25 I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh. … If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

To walk in the Spirit is to have the path of one’s life patterned on the principles of the Spirit that Paul mentioned in this very passage.

Paul was encouraging the believers to pray in this fashion for all of “the saints,” that is, all of those who were set apart within the remnant of Israel, for their specific needs and protection during a time of extreme social and civil duress.

The urgent necessity of this praying for the saints is highlighted by a term that is used for wakefulness and alertness; they should never stop lifting up their brothers and sisters with all the principles of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.

I believe this type of dynamic, urgent, and constant prayer lifting up their brothers and sisters in the Spirit is what allowed that generation to be a positive example for all time, through which God ushered in the new life of the eternal kingdom to all nations.

The example is there for us to receive this instruction for our own generation.

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

How to improve our spiritual reflexes

Positive heart habits produce a life of integrity that honors God.

I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20

In Matthew 5, Yeshua encourages believers to exceed the righteousness of the religious leaders by being sincere and genuine. The hypocrisy of the leadership was evident in all of their public actions, and Yeshua was constantly confronting them on their hypocrisy.

But Yeshua always focused on his followers doing the right thing from the heart, not just following a set of rules. He said that what was in the heart would overflow into actions that reveal the true intent of the heart.

Good people do the good that is in them. But evil people do the evil that is in them. The things people say come from inside them.

Luke 6:45

This is a challenging principle, but one that also helps us gauge where we are in our spiritual journey. How?

By reviewing our reflexive interactions with others, we can see how “changed” our heart is. When we say the wrong things and then realize it later, we know that our immediate heart response, like a reflex, responds with what it’s full of. If it’s full of bitterness or frustration, it will lash out in anger. If it’s full of peacemaking and reconciliation, it will seek to reach out in love and sacrificial effort for the sake of another. By self-reviewing our conversations with others, we can get an idea of how positive or negative our spiritual reflexes may be.

This is why, when we become angry or frustrated, it is recommended we wait until we have a chance to “cool down” before providing a response to a particular situation. Then we allow the negative emotion to pass where we can think more clearly of an appropriate response. Likewise, if we have a caring or willing heart impulse to help someone who comes across our path, we shouldn’t stifle that feeling and allow the moment to pass without acting on it.

This is a challenging dynamic process that requires maturity to navigate. If we constantly fill our hearts with the bitterness and strife we may encounter in our families, work places and social media interactions, then we are sure to outwardly act on those heart responses. But, if we keep our hearts filled with the positive aspects of our spiritual heritage of finding ways we care for others, healing the hurts around us, and going above and beyond for those who are antagonistic towards us, we will be more likely to  respond reflexively, in the moment, in a way that honors God.

Some of the practical ways we can do this is through memorizing helpful Bible verses, having hymns or spiritual songs that are meaningful to us in our daily routine, and by choosing to privately and sincerely pray throughout the day for our own responses and to overcome the actions of others. These habits produce a life of integrity, a life that honors God, because it is a life of refusing to succumb to the culture around us, and to maintain a righteous attitude in the face of adversity.

When we can train our reflexes to operate in this way, we are then able to magnify God to those around us just as he intends us to.

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 Torah of the Kingdom of God

Torah, because it has been issued from an eternal God who exists beyond this earthly creation, is likewise eternal. It is not tied to this earthly realm. It lasts forever and will never pass away.

Core of the Bible Podcast #16 – The eternal Torah of the Kingdom of God

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of the Kingdom, and how the instructions about how to live in God’s kingdom, or God’s torah, is eternal.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others [to do] the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches [them,] he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19

In order for us to have a clearer understanding of this teaching, it would be best to break this down into at least a couple of parts. Now I just want to give you all a heads up that we will be covering a lot of ground today, so you may want to have a Bible or Bible app handy for reference from time to time and pause the podcast if you need to reference something that I’m talking about here.

So, with that caveat out of the way, let’s jump in to our topic today. First, what is the Law and Prophets and commandments that Yeshua talks about here, and secondly, when are these “all accomplished”?

What is Torah?

So let’s start with the first part concerning the Law and the Prophets and commandments. Without going into a whole review of texts and manuscripts, in essence, what is known today as the “Old Testament” in our Christian bibles was known in Yeshua’s day as the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Law or Torah included the five books of Moses, the Prophets included the major and minor prophetical works, and the Writings included the wisdom and historical portions.

This group of writings collectively became known as the Tenakh based on the acronym for the Hebrew consonants: T, N, and K. T stands for Torah, N stands for Nevi’im (the prophets) and K stands for Ketuvim (the Writings). Together the T-N-K is pronounced Tenakh for simplification. In Christian circles today this group of writings is called the Old Testament, but the more accurate term is the Tenakh.

In the Hebraic understanding, to mention one or two portions of the above was generally to speak of the whole thing. To speak of Torah can be used of the first five books of Moses, or of the Tenakh as a whole.  When you get right down to it, torah is simply the Hebrew word for instruction. Therefore, we should not be put off by the idea that God’s torah, his instruction, is eternal. 

Anytime God commands or gives direction to something or someone, torah exists. Torah is not just the ten commandments and the giving of the law at Sinai. Torah is through every fiber of the Bible, from the first page of Genesis all the way through the Revelation.

For example, God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and rule over the earth; this is torah.

Genesis 1:27-28 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 God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Noah had the direct commands of God; this is torah.

Genesis 7:1-3 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you [alone] I have seen [to be] righteous before Me in this time. “You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

Isaac was told that Abraham had and kept the commands and statutes of God; this is torah.

Genesis 26:4-5 “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws [torah].”

In fact, all of Creation itself is based on the torah of God. In the Creation narrative of Genesis 1, every time God spoke and something happened, it means that what he commanded was fulfilled within the Creation itself. Creation itself came into being through the commands and instruction (torah) of God.

Genesis 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. … 

Genesis 1:9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. … 

Genesis 1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, [and] fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. … 

It is no wonder, then, that the whole Bible is based on torah, or instruction, from God.

We have an understanding of torah first and foremost from the books of Moses, whose narrative describes the Creation of the world through Israel preparing to enter the land of Canaan. Those principles established in that root story are repeated and expanded through the Prophets and the Writings of the Tenakh (OT), along with the writings of the Messianic Believers (NT). 

The regulating principle of God’s torah: How does God keep things in check?

The torah of God has a simple self-regulating principle: anything not conforming with torah originally related by God to Moses is not considered valid. The torah of God given to Moses is the standard of all subsequent scripture.

Deuteronomy 4:2 “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.

Ecclesiastes 3:14 I also know that whatever God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken away from it. God has made it this way, so that men will fear him.

Therefore, if some new doctrine or teaching comes along that does not fit the principles, patterns, and standards of torah as previously revealed, then it cannot be considered a legitimate spiritual teaching from God, and should not be added.

This same principle carries over into the writings of the NT. Since Yeshua did not add or take away from God’s torah, we must be careful to ensure we also do not do the same with his teachings.

2 John 1:9 Anyone who does not remain in Christ’s teaching but goes beyond it does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son.

The guiding principles of torah as revealed to Moses also ensure we don’t take anything away from God’s torah. Taking away something that has been previously revealed is equally as destructive as adding something that does not belong. Yeshua was careful to demonstrate he was not advocating taking anything away from God’s torah.

Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law [torah] or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law [torah] until all is accomplished. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others [to do] the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches [them,] he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

According to Yeshua, the kingdom of God is directly connected to his instruction, and his instruction is directly connected to his kingdom. Yeshua ties the keeping of torah (or God’s instruction) to greatness in the kingdom of God, and the anullment of torah (or God’s instruction) to being least in the kingdom. 

This idea of adding or taking away from torah is to be corroborated with the principle of testing. Moses warned and wrote about a method for testing false prophets, or those who would teach something contrary to the torah of God:

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 ‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Yeshua also warned about testing false prophets in a similar way. Just as Moses instructed that the results of a prophet’s prediction will prove him right or wrong, Yeshua explained the same principle using the fruits that are produced by those who have false teachings as an indicator of their falsehood.

Matthew 7:15-17, 20 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn [bushes] nor figs from thistles, are they? “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. … “So then, you will know them by their fruits.

In this way, Yeshua demonstrated that his teaching on the testing of prophets was established upon the same principles of God’s torah as revealed to Moses. 

The early believers in Messiah were also commanded to carry on this same practice of testing false teachers.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits [of the teachers] to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything [carefully;] hold fast to that which is good;

Since they didn’t have a “New Testament” to go by, they were instructed to examine everything in light of the only torah that was already established, the Tenakh, which includes the torah originally related by God to Moses, to ensure they would not be led astray. In the process of following the Tenakh by believing in its fulfillment in Messiah, some of them then created the letters and epistles that have become what we call the New Testament writings of today.

Fulfillment of Torah

Let’s look at the other aspect of Yeshua’s instruction: “not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law [or torah] until all is accomplished.”

True torah cannot be added to or diminished, but according to Yeshua, it can be fulfilled or brought to fruition. Yeshua fulfilled the ultimate purpose of the sacrificial aspects of the Torah, but that does not mean there is no longer a need to follow the principles of the Torah. He is our example of how to be obedient to the Father. He clearly states that he did not come to destroy torah, but to fulfill it. If he fulfilled it, so should we.

1 John 2:3-6 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

As we fulfill God’s torah by following its direction, then it accomplishes the intent that God had for it in the first place. This in itself is a principle of torah that the prophet Isaiah spoke of.

Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding [in the matter] for which I sent it.

According to the apostle John, the very definition of sin is exemplified as not abiding by torah. 

1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness [literally: torah-lessness].

Therefore, the opposite must also be true: obedience to torah leads to non-sinfulness, that is, to righteous and holy actions. The apostle Paul corroborates this.

Romans 7:12 So then, the Law [torah] is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

We must remember that torah obedience on its own does not totally accomplish freedom from sin because our hearts are still not right in God’s eyes, and ultimately we still desire our own ways. 

Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

Zechariah 7:8-12 Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah saying, “Thus has the LORD of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’ “But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. “They made their hearts [like] flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.

Torah can tell us the right things to do, but it can’t make us do the right things with the right attitude and for the right reason. 

Yeshua accused the Jewish leaders of this very thing. They tried to follow the letter of the Torah in scrutinizing detail, even adding their own man-made traditions in an effort to ensure the Torah commands themselves would not be violated. However, they missed the intended goal of torah because their hearts were not right before God.

Matthew 15:7-11 “You hypocrites [the Jewish leaders], rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'” 

Matthew 23:23, 27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness [torah-lessness].

The Jewish leaders were guilty of what the apostle Paul calls following “the letter of the law,” but not the spirit of it. This resulted in hypocrisy which led them even further from torah. But Paul taught that following the spirit of the law, and not just the letter of it, is what brings life. 

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as [coming] from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate [as] servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Jewish leaders were trying so hard to follow all of the rules that they missed the intent or spirit of the rules in the first place. This can be likened to a pedestrian at a busy intersection who wants to cross the street. However, they are focusing so hard on staying within the lines of a crosswalk that they forget to check for traffic.

The letter of Torah alone can be deadly if misapplied. Even though it tells us the right things to do, it cannot bring life on its own.

Galatians 3:21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

The righteousness that Paul is speaking of here is the type that says we have right-standing in God’s eyes. Paul is saying it takes more than just following a set of rules to be exhibiting true faith in God. Faith that honors God is simply believing what God said is true, and then being obedient to it; not the other way around.

Torah as tutor

God continues to teach people about his ways and lead people to Messiah through the symbols and object lessons of all of his torah. But just like graduating from one grade to another does not make all of what you learned vanish, it simply indicates that you have now earned a basic understanding of the rudiments of that grade level, and can now apply and follow those things that you have learned as you continue to grow. 

Galatians 3:23-26 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

This passage is famous for causing confusion, as most Christians take away from it that if believers are no longer under the tutor of the Torah, it is done away with. Since we have already seen that we cannot take away from God’s torah without violating it, we should understand that Paul must be trying to teach something else here.

You can look at it this way: once you graduate from school, the lessons you have learned don’t disappear as if they no longer apply. You are now able to take what you have learned and use it in practical ways all the time, even though you are not in school anymore. Therefore, you no longer require the teacher, because what the teacher taught you is now ingrained in you, and you now do textbook things naturally without always needing to reference the textbooks. The textbooks are still valuable, and you will still abide by the principles in the textbooks, you just don’t need to reference them because you are already understanding and practicing what they teach.

Remember what the apostle John wrote to the early Messianic believers:

1 John 2:4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;

1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

His commandments are his torah. If we are not abiding by the principles of torah, then that is evidence that we haven’t had our hearts truly changed. This is why believers should still exhibit that we are following the principles of God’s torah, even though we technically no longer need it as a tutor. It is being fulfilled in us as we live it out in sincerity and truth. 

It is true that torah can give us indications of the right actions to do that lead to life. But it is when we act with the spirit and intent of torah that we know life has actually come into being and changed us.

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Torah in the heart

The culmination of everything prophetically promised about the future of God’s people was that there would be a point where the people of God would no longer be a rebellious people, but that they would obey his torah from the heart.

Jeremiah 31:33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law [torah] within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

If God always intended to put his torah in the heart of his people, why would it be done away with?

This is what Paul was trying to show in relation to God’s torah; it hadn’t passed away, it simply served as an ongoing foundation for the believers heart-service to God based on their new life of faith in Messiah. Believers had been set free from the restrictive confines of the letter of the torah because they were now able to follow the intent of the rules (the spirit of it) from the heart at all times. This has only been possible through new life in Messiah.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

As long as there are people who don’t know the God of the Bible, these written standards of God’s torah will continue to lead people to the truth of his Messiah. His torah is ultimately a tutor for all among the nations, so that people will continue to learn and practice his ways. As they come to believe in and follow his Messiah, the torah of God will reside in their heart and bear fruit among all men. This is how God’s kingdom is, and will continue to be, established on the earth.

Psalm 119:142, 144, 152 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law [torah] is truth. … Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live. … Of old I have known from Your testimonies That You have founded them forever.

Micah 4:2 Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD And to the house of the God of Jacob, That He may teach us about His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law [torah], Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Looked at in this light, we can see that Yeshua’s admonition to maintain God’s torah or his instruction, takes on a different shade of meaning. Rather than pass away, it becomes something that needs to be constantly fulfilled. In essence, Yeshua is saying: Do not relax even the smallest standards of Torah for yourself and others; do it and teach it. This is how the kingdom operates: it is based on God’s torah, his Word, being fulfilled in the hearts of individuals populating the kingdom.

If the kingdom began in the days of Yeshua and is a kingdom that would never end, then it makes sense that the instruction of God is also eternal and will not pass away unless it is fulfilled within every individual he intends.

Many are of the opinion that Torah has passed away with the death of Messiah. To the contrary, his death was exactly what Torah predicted would happen. Like a seed planted in the ground, the Torah principles taught by Yeshua are continuing to grow into a mighty tree of life as they are practiced by those who follow him.  Yes, it is true that Yeshua fulfilled many of the sacrificial aspects of torah, but that does not mean we no longer experience the effects of those sacrificial aspects in our spiritual journey today, otherwise no would would be forgiven today. Our forgiveness is based upon the very torah that many Christians are saying was done away with. These two things cannot be true at the same time. 

Yeshua said that it would be easier for the world to pass away than for Torah to pass away.

Luke 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for a single stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

What this implies is that Yeshua is saying that Torah, because it has been issued from an eternal God who exists beyond this earthly creation, is likewise eternal. It is not tied to this earthly realm. It lasts forever and will never pass away.

I freely admit torah has not been fully accomplished, as we still have murder, adultery, and any other number of commandments from God’s instruction which remain unfulfilled in the lives of people today.  However, since God has provided instruction for mankind in his word, we, as believers, should do all we can to be faithful in keeping it (i.e., obeying it) and sharing it with others who will listen. Only as it is fulfilled in our lives will it bear good fruit for the continued growth of God’s kingdom.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that the torah of God is the instruction of God. Anything God has commanded is torah, and we need to ensure that we do not add new aspects or take away existing aspects that are as of yet unfulfilled in us and in others around us.  Since his torah is eternal, we can know that it will never change and that what God has promised about his kingdom will come to pass.

Have questions about todays topic, or comments or insights you would like to share? Perhaps you have found this podcast helpful or encouraging. If so, I would love to hear from you and include listener comments in future episodes, so feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Thanks for your interest in listening today. As always, I hope to be invited back into your headphones in another episode to come. Take care!

Isaiah’s outline of the steps to forgiveness

We have the ability, through faith in Messiah, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we realize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes.

Let wicked people abandon their ways. Let evil people abandon their thoughts. Let them return to the LORD, and he will show compassion to them. Let them return to our God, because he will freely forgive them.

Isaiah 55:7

People have a need to be forgiven. Whether it’s from wrongs they have committed with other individuals or whether it’s for seemingly irreconcilable errors committed in life, humans will typically reach a point within their lives where forgiveness becomes a real need. It may not be something obvious to others or sometimes even themselves, but the need exists and persists until a crisis point is reached. Once that happens, something must be done to meet this need.

In the passage today, Isaiah outlines three things necessary to accomplish this with God when we feel our life has drifted from its moorings.

First, we must abandon our wicked ways that are contrary to his efforts. The cycles and patterns of destructive behavior have to be changed with a commitment to move beyond them.

This can be accomplished through the second aspect of abandoning our evil thoughts. This is not an injunction to mindless obedience, but a directive to change our habits of thinking that are keeping us trapped in the loop of non-productive or harmful behaviors. Nothing changes until our thought patterns are revised.

The third aspect is what Isaiah describes as returning to God. While this admonition was originally spoken to those in Israel who were familiar with God but had rejected him, the same encouragement exists for us who are seeking for a measure of spiritual peace that comes from the Creator of all things. Isaiah confirms this in the context of this passage when he writes:

Open your ears, and come to me! Listen so that you may live! I will make an everlasting promise to you- the blessings I promised to David. I made him a witness to people, a leader and a commander for people. You will summon a nation that you don’t know, and a nation that doesn’t know you will run to you because of the LORD your God, because of the Holy One of Israel. He has honored you.

Isaiah 55:3-5

Isaiah alludes to the fact that foreign nations would be drawn to the God of Israel because of the example of God’s faithfulness with David, and with his people. What was future to Isaiah is the present age we are living in. Because of the faithfulness of David’s “son,” Yeshua the Messiah, we have the ability, through faith in him, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we realize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes.

…he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God.

John 1:12-13

Seek the LORD while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.

Isaiah 55:6

He is near even today and able to accept and forgive all who come to him with sincere motives and a willingness to abandon their past ways and past thinking. That need for forgiveness can be met today.

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 vigilant guarding of our hearts keeps our way sure

The vigilance to stay on the right path begins in the commitment to keep our hearts pure.

O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways.

Proverbs 23:26

The proverbs of Solomon contain a wealth of instruction regarding the necessity of the righteous person to stay within the boundaries of God’s wisdom. The writer appears to be conveying all of this information and instruction to his child. As a parent wants to instill their children with all of the right information they can, he continually reminds him to maintain what is right in the face of surrounding adversity.

Proverbs 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel.
Proverbs 6:20 My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
Proverbs 7:1 Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.

In the fourth chapter, in typical Hebraic fashion, he lays out a string of admonitions that support and strengthen one another:

My son, pay attention to my words. Open your ears to what I say. Do not lose sight of these things. Keep them deep within your heart because they are life to those who find them and they heal the whole body. Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it. Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead and your sight be focused in front of you. Carefully walk a straight path, and all your ways will be secure. Do not lean to the right or to the left. Walk away from evil.

Proverbs 4:20-27

The root of remaining vigilant and keeping one’s way pure is centered on the heart: “…keep [my words] deep within your heart…Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.”

A pure heart means a pure walk. In like fashion, when we keep God’s word deep within our hearts, our walk becomes more sure. Dishonesty and deceptive speech disappear. Distractions from the way of truth become less frequent. Our way becomes more firm as we stay on the path laid out for us. We find the strength to walk away from evil.

Yeshua instructed his followers that what one says, and thereby does, comes from what is within the heart:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Luke 6:45

The vigilance to stay on the right path begins in the commitment to keep our hearts pure. By remaining faithful to the deep truths God has placed there, then, just like the child of Proverbs, we can find deep reserves of strength to always do what’s right, and bring forth “good treasure” for his purposes.

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 unavoidable integrity that shines in the darkness

A strong eternal kingdom cannot be fostered in an environment of doubt, hypocrisy, and disobedience; it needs to be based on an underlying central integrity that cannot change or diminish over time.

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

Matthew 5:14-16

Yeshua encouraged the believers to boldly follow his directives in the face of any opposition. He wanted them to influence that generation in positive ways so that by their unavoidable example others might also be drawn to the truth.

However, this public displaying of good works was not to be the sole end, but also the means by which the message of the kingdom was to be disseminated. If the disciples took his message to heart, it would fill every aspect of their being and their interactions and there would be no way to hide the fact that they were new creations in God’s sight. Yeshua’s analogies of being like candles on a lampstand or a city on a hill accurately capture the intent of the kingdom message: it would be unavoidably visible in a world of darkness: a candle can’t help but shine; a city on a hill at night can’t help but be seen.

How unlike the religious leaders of his day who outwardly did good works only for the display of righteousness; this was not because their hearts were changed, but only so they would appear to be righteous in the eyes of others.

Matthew 23:2-3, 5 “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. “Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. … “They do everything to be seen by others…

Yeshua knew that the religious leaders would calculate every appearance of their public actions to be in line with the strict letter of Torah, but in their hearts and minds they were as corrupt as dead mens’ bones.

Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. “In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

By contrast, Yeshua called his believers to be people of integrity, those whose sole motivation would be to glorify God and to be obedient to him no matter what the physical cost would be. This type of good works that would be seen by others was to come from a completely different place of motivation than the religious leaders of the day. Yeshua was creating a new kingdom of idealized subjects: those who are under no compulsion other than a genuine desire to do what’s right at all times. They would be aligned so closely to their heavenly Father and their Lord that obedience in the face of any difficulty or persecution was not even a question, it was a foregone conclusion.

This is how the kingdom would be grown until it would fill the earth. There is no other way. A strong eternal kingdom cannot be fostered in an environment of doubt, hypocrisy, and disobedience; it needs to be based on an underlying central integrity that cannot change or diminish over time. These acts of internal integrity then become evident as being something different than the world has to offer, and it causes others to be drawn to its collective light.

Philippians 2:15 That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

The example of their unavoidable integrity has been set for all time. It is up to us to receive and carry that metaphorical torch which will then be handed to the next generation.

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