The kingdom of God’s provision

A continual heavenly focus will guide our actions to doing what’s right, and our needs will be met.

Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

A continual heavenly focus will guide our actions to doing what’s right, and our needs will be met.

This teaching of Yeshua was intended as an encouragement to keep one’s focus on the kingdom of God first and foremost above all worldly concerns, and the worldly concerns would take care of themselves. Which worldly cares? Specifically the items he mentioned previously.

Matthew 6:31 – “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?'”

Having enough food to eat has been a constant struggle throughout history, and in Yeshua’s day was no exception. People had to depend on their own efforts or the efforts of their farming neighbors, the weather, and the political stability of their region to ensure they would have food to eat.

To have enough to drink or to have appropriate clothing for whatever season was at hand were equally ongoing concerns, especially for the lowest classes of people. There were no local clothing stores, and even drinking water was dependent on the condition of local communal wells.

These were real and legitimate concerns that could become all consuming. Knowing where the next meal was coming from, if one would have enough water or clothing to wear were a source of constant anxiety for the majority of the people. This created a work ethic that demanded constant attention to finding and attaining these needs.

In our modern industrialized societies we are so blessed with the common availability of these things that we take them for granted, as if they are some sort of inherent right. Yet, we still abuse this privilege by being consumed with seeking the best food, the highest quality drinks and the most trendy clothing and latest fashions. If you are not convinced of this, just scroll through your social media feed.

As an antidote to this worldly focus, Yeshua states that if one prioritizes God’s kingdom above these things, these things will be provided anyway without all of the stress and striving after them. That is the context of his teaching.

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

There will always be some concern that can draw our attention away from the things of God to where that concern becomes all-consuming. But Yeshua’s “kingdom first” ideal is the overriding principle that should guide our thoughts. By replacing our anxiety over worldly needs (or exaggerations of those needs) with a dedicated and committed focus on God’s kingdom and the righteous actions that result from that focus, we can be free from this endless striving. Those things begin to pale in comparison within the more expansive and eternal perspective of the kingdom of God.

Of course we all need to eat and drink and have appropriate clothing, but when those things consume our waking thoughts above doing what’s right according to God’s standards, then our lives are out of balance. This is another way of stating that it is more important to God for us to act in right ways than the basic living of life itself. If this is not how we view our faith, then our lives are out of balance. This heavenly focus must guide all of our decisions, not just the religious ideals we hold. The promise of Yeshua is that enacting the principles of the kingdom in our daily lives will ensure that our physical needs (not necessarily our desires, but our needs) are met, as well.

Likewise, he set the example for us to follow. If Yeshua believed in this principle enough to put the kingdom of God first in all of his life and teaching, then as his followers, we also should do so.


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

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The integrity of all who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Those who are righteous can’t help but show it in their actions.

Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Yeshua taught that those who diligently seek after righteousness, doing what is right in the sight of God, will have their desire fulfilled. Longing for righteousness appears to be a characteristic that defines the integrity of believers and helps them grow.

Righteousness, that is, the constant capacity to act in right ways, is the ultimate goal for all people. Doing the right thing is the very definition of integrity.

Peter also taught that these right actions are the expectation that God has for all nations. He came to this realization through an angelic revelation regarding the state of the non-Jewish nations. Cornelius, a commander in the Roman army, was stationed in Judea. Cornelius had sent to Peter to have Peter come to his house based on an angelic visitation in prayer.

Acts 10:22 – [The messengers of Cornelius] said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you [Peter] to his house and to hear a message from you.”

In response to a vision presented in Acts 10:9-16, Peter complied and went to the home of Cornelius.

Acts 10:29-31 – [Peter asked him] “So may I ask why you sent for me? ” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in dazzling clothing stood before me “and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms have been remembered in God’s sight.

The fact that Cornelius was praying at three in the afternoon illustrates his devotion to the Hebrew God, since that was typically the time of the afternoon prayer and the sacrifice of the second lamb of the day at the temple. That he was praying to the Hebrew God meant he was a God-fearer: a non-Jewish believer who was not a formal convert to the Jewish religion but believed in their God. The alms he had provided to the Jews in Judea were financial loans and gifts designed to help those in need. According to Peter, these gifts were demonstrations of the righteousness of Cornelius.

Acts 10:34-35 – Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

What is the example Peter is basing this on? What standard is Peter using as the basis for those who fear God and do what is right are acceptable to him? Well, it is the example of the holy Spirit being poured out on the non-Jewish believers in that household.

Acts 10:44-45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on those of other nations.”

Cornelius was a man who a) feared God, and b) did what was right; that is, continually provided righteous sacrificial gifts of giving from the heart. Cornelius hungered and thirsted for righteousness, but he was not circumcised; he was not a Jewish convert. But Peter had learned that if someone fears God and does what is right, they are righteous in God’s sight, and God demonstrated this by an outward display of them being filled with his holy Spirit. By Yeshua’s definition, those individuals who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be filled, their thirst satisfied by God.

This corroborates with the apostle John who likewise stated with plain language the heart condition of true believers over those who only professed to be so.

1 John 3:6-10 – “Everyone who remains in him does not keep on sinning; everyone who sins has not seen him or known him. Children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not practice sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister.”

The message of the Bible is to live with integrity by fearing God and doing the right thing according to his Word. This is how we know we are truly God’s children, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, because that is who we are. And Yeshua promises that if our hunger and thirst are real, we shall be satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Revere God and protect and keep his commandments: for this is everything expected of mankind.


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

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The immense but achievable responsibility of believers

Being faithful requires constant, intentional commitment.

Philippians 2:12-13 – Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.

Many times this passage is reviewed by looking only at verse 12 regarding the working out of one’s own salvation, and stopping short of verse 13. But verse 13 is the engine behind the ignition key of verse 12, because Paul is conveying that the work that was being done was actually God working in them according to his good purpose.

This passage touches on the duality of the believer’s existence: seeking to be a conduit for the outworking of God in both principle and action. The way to accomplish this effectively, according to Paul, is to do this “with fear and trembling.” I have a sense that many believers today have either lost this sense or never been instructed in it in the first place. This fear and trembling is a principle which conveys that we need to be thoughtful and circumspect in our lives, considering the gravity and eternal impact of our actions upon ourselves, our families, and others.

To be a believer in the Messiah carries with it a strong purpose which demands constancy and vigilance in intentional living. It means making choices for righteousness in situations that may not be the consideration of others who are not believers. Sometimes it means sacrificing elements of comfort or ease for the sake of others. Many times our time, energy, and resources will be spent for the sake of someone else.

All through this epistle, Paul is conveying the principles of this way of life to the Philippian believers.

For example, he touches on the principle of understanding what is right:

Philippians 1:9-11 – And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Messiah, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua Messiah to the glory and praise of God.

He also shares the responsibility they have in suffering for doing what’s right:

Philippians 1:29-30 – For it has been granted to you on Messiah’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.

These were real experiences based on real decisions that they had to make every day that played into their experiences as believers in Messiah.

Now while all of this may sound very heavy and burdensome, we can also be encouraged from their example, as Paul was convinced of God’s ability to bring all righteousness to pass. He encouraged them that once the work that was begun in them was underway, it would ultimately come to fulfillment.

Philippians 1:6 – I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Messiah Yeshua.

If Paul is to be believed, the “working out” of their salvation was indeed accomplished. They had proven faithful in what he had taught them regarding the faith once received for all the saints, as Jude calls it (Jude 1:3).

If we learn nothing else from the early believers in Messiah, the life of faith was one of constant struggle and commitment with real consequences. This required a whole level of commitment that I believe is rarely seen among modern believers today. It is up to us to demonstrate the same vigilance in outworking the principles of righteousness in this generation. And even if we don’t yet have a full understanding of all that God expects of us, we have this continuing encouragement from Paul as a guiding principle:

Philippians 3:16 – In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.


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

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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.

The integrity of walking in obedience to God’s commands

Righteousness today is still based on obedience to God’s torah, his instruction.

They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

Luke 1:6

Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the baptizer, are described as being a couple with incredible integrity. From the narrative in the gospel of Luke, it appears this is why they were chosen to be the recipients of such a great honor as being the parents of one of the most influential prophets. In fact, Yeshua would go on to describe John as being “the greatest of those born among women,” (Matt. 11:11, Lk. 7:28).

This righteousness, or integrity, was based on their keeping of the commandments. This is what being righteous means: doing what’s right. What’s right in God’s eyes is what he has revealed to us as his torah, his instruction. Those who are faithful in living in accordance with his instruction are considered righteous. This hyper-obedient type of integrity is what Yeshua taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. … In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. … So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:6, 16, 19-20

This righteousness, or obedience to the commands, is considered a standard of the those who would be participants in the kingdom of God. The apostle John also makes this abundantly clear.

1 John 2:3-4 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.
1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments do not weigh us down…

There is no difference between the righteousness of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the righteousness of believers today; righteousness is still based on obedience to God’s torah, his instruction. While their obedience was a hopeful, forward-looking faith toward the coming of God’s Messianic kingdom, our obedience is based on a faith that looks back to the establishment of that kingdom. Yeshua was going to fulfill the prophetic expectation of their day; we are now looking back at the completed picture of how that has been fulfilled.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the ruling leader and completer of the faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Our common faith with Zechariah and Elizabeth is based on walking in the same integrity and righteousness of obedience that allows all of us to be participants in the kingdom. They are the witnesses that have gone before, we are the witnesses that come behind, continuing the glory of the everlasting kingdom that has been completed and established by 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.

Overcoming relative morality by hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness is basically another way of saying that we should have a constant longing to do what’s right in God’s eyes in any situation. This requires us to be thoroughly familiar with God’s word and to be thoughtfully prepared within our cultural context.

Core of the Bible podcast#17 – Overcoming relative morality by hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how the desire for righteousness should drive our every action, just like hunger or thirst.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I’ve stated it as “Crave that which God approves; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied.”

A craving is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated. Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible.

While genuine poverty and hunger are present in our current American culture, the majority of the population doesn’t know what it means to really be hungry or thirsty. Most of us have access to clean water and basic food services and can afford to at least remain fed and hydrated.

However, in Yeshua’s day, this was not always the case. When we look at modern paintings of people following Yeshua as he traveled around from town to town, or taught by the Lake of Galilee; they are well-dressed and clean and the kids are playing nearby, like they are simply on a church family picnic. This image obscures the reality that living in Israel in the first century was a hard-scrape existence. It was an agrarian society that was dependent on local crops and the beneficence of an oppressive foreign military presence. Many people never knew where their next meal was coming from. This is evidenced by the large crowds that followed Messiah when he graciously and miraculously provided them bread and fish. And yet he recognized that the majority of them were only there for the food, not for his teaching.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.

Real hunger will drive you to do things you might not normally do, perhaps even unlawful things like stealing:

Proverbs 6:30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

Additionally, bread/food can be used to entice people to sin:

Proverbs 28:21 – To show partiality [is] not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.

Food is a compelling motivator for those who have none.

It’s that motivating factor that Yeshua seizes upon to drive home the urgency with which he encourages his listeners to seek righteousness. They should hunger and thirst for it.

So what is the righteous action in any given situation? In order to do what’s right, one must have some sort of “ideal of rightness” to reference.

THE MORALITY OPTIONS OF THE WORLD

In the case of the world at large, people tend to choose whatever seems good to them, or to ideals they have been brought up to believe, or what is culturally relevant or currently popular. While these are certainly significant considerations, one can readily see that these standards will not be the same in every instance and can obviously lead to differing ideas of what is right and wrong.

While ethical morality is a complex subject, it can be broken down into three major groupings or perspectives:

Relative morality: The idea that morality is relative to the culture in which it is expressed, and is not universal to all cultures everywhere.

Absolute morality: The idea that there are universal principles of morality that apply across all cultures.

Moral pluralism: The idea that there can be conflicting moral values that are both worthy of tolerance and respect.

Understanding these basic categories does not give us rigid boundaries, it is most likely that within these three major views, an individual may fall somewhere within the spectrum of all of them, and their spectrum location may vary depending on the topic at hand.

For example, someone may be an absolute moralist on the topic of murder, saying that outright killing someone else is wrong no matter what culture you’re in. But how does one’s absolute opinion translate on topics of accidental killing, or assisted suicide, or war? Then an individual needs to confront the issues of morality within the context of those situations. So whatever standard they are using for the basis of their absolute morality has to be evaluated in the light of these additional considerations. Hence, people’s opinions are all over the map when it comes to issues of ethical morality; there are innumerable ways of concluding what’s right in any given situation.

However, for the believer, the field of ethical options is narrowed down considerably because we are constrained to abide by how God defines righteousness, and what God’s word may say on any given topic. If we are truly hungering and thirsting to be righteous in his eyes, then we should know how he defines righteousness. After all, it is originally his concept anyway, and he can choose to define it any way that he desires.

BIBLE DEFINITION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

In the Bible, the word righteousness comes from several layers of the the original Greek wording which means to show rightness (as something that is self-evident); it is action that is innocent or holy that is, set apart. In the Hebrew the word is associated with justice (of kings or judges), fairness, and ethical purity.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne…

God’s throne, from where he rules his kingdom, is based on righteousness (ethical “rightness”) and justice (correct judgment). As believers, we believe God’s judgment is trustworthy and reliable, and we should be hungering and thirsting to understand righteousness from his perspective. Let’s look at some practical ways that we can learn to apply principles of righteousness from God’s word in our lives.

SPECIFIC, GENERAL, AND IMPLIED DIRECTIVES

If the Bible is to be our ideal of righteousness, then we should understand how to view and interpret this information so we can apply it correctly. Unfortunately, methods of interpretation vary greatly; hence the disagreements of even Bible believers over a standard approach to a rigid definition of morality.

However, there are some general principles we can learn that can help even out some of these variations. The instruction, insights, or commands that God provides within his word can be grouped into three major categories: they may be specific, general, or implied depending on the topic or situation.

For example, a specific command relates to stealing: You shall not steal.

It’s pretty obvious that God specifically intends for us not to take for ourselves anything that does not belong to us. While there may be some die-hards who quibble over definitions, it is reasonable to infer that God does not want us to steal from others.

A general insight might be represented by a command on how Israel was to treat immigrants and foreigners in the land:

Exodus 22:21 “You shall not wrong a foreigner, neither shall you oppress him, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

There are no specific examples what types of wrongs should be avoided here, but just the general idea that foreigners should be treated fairly, and not be oppressed. Based on their unfair treatment while they were in Egypt, they should remember how that felt and not repeat it with those who would be foreigners in their newly established land.

Another general command might also be highlighted by the admonition to love our neighbor. While there are many specific examples throughout the Bible (like the parable of the good Samaritan), one general gauge of what loving our neighbor looks like would be the Golden Rule. Our love for others should be dependent on how we would want to be treated if we were in their place. The specifics would vary from situation to situation, but the general principle would still be valid.

An implied insight might be gained from reading a specific command to ancient Israel regarding real estate conflict.

Deuteronomy 19:14 Never move your neighbor’s original boundary marker on any property in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Apparently there was a huge potential for falsifying property boundaries before official surveying and plat recordings of real estate. While that is a specific command for a specific time, we can draw an implied principle from this command which would mean that we should deal fairly with our neighbors and not try to cheat anyone out of what is rightfully theirs.

Another implied insight might be gained from reading the book of Jonah. In the story, Jonah tries to run away from what God had instructed him to do, and yet God brings him back in a dramatic way to finish what he originally intended. From this, we can receive an implied lesson that we should not avoid what God would have us do in a given situation, or he may bring it back around in an unexpected way and we will still be expected to see it through to completion.

So these are just a few examples of how specific, general, and implied commands can be encountered and applied in our lives today.

Taking this information forward, we can then begin to formulate righteous actions to modern situations by applying these various directives in their intended ways.

To formulate a worldview that is consistent takes time and thought about many difficult topics and current events and dynamic relationships. This is where the hungering and thirsting comes in. If we are to be genuine, we must know what we believe and why, and this longing must consume us.

1 Peter 3:14-17 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them [those who would cause you evil], nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Peter mentions that we should be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us about the hope that we have, and the reasons we take the actions and stances we do. To be prepared is to take the time to look at the specific, general, and implied directives within God’s word and make consistent choices based on this understanding.

Peter here also emphasizes “good behavior,” or manner of life and conduct, as being a defining factor of righteousness. What we believe about these things will be evident in our actions, and these actions will then speak to our righteousness.

This is important because others who may not agree with your reasoning should not be able to fault you for being inconsistent. Hypocrisy is a universal deterrent to trust and open dialogue. Consistency, on the other hand, garners trust because it is recognized as being thoughtful and intentional, and your righteous actions will many times simply speak for themselves. Even the most hardened cynic would agree that having a consistent worldview is the most honest thing that any person can do.

To that end, the best I can do is determine my views on my interpretation of Biblical values, and live as consistently as possible within that framework. And you should, too. Believers who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the types of followers Yeshua is seeking out for his Father, because these are the types of worshipers the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Those who worship in spirit and truth do so because they are truly hungry and thirsty to do what’s right in God’s eyes, not just seeking to find a religious experience or to fit in with a specific crowd. Yeshua promises that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who seek it at every turn in their lives, will be satisfied. They will have those longings fulfilled. Just as a long, cool drink on a hot day quenches our thirst, or a hearty meal after a hard day of work satisfies a deep hunger, the blessing of those who are seeking these ideals of righteousness is that they will receive what they long for. And because they are seeking righteousness, righteousness will be dealt to them.

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 hungering and thirsting after righteousness is basically another way of saying that we should have a constant longing to do what’s right in God’s eyes in any situation. This requires us to be thoroughly familiar with God’s word and to be thoughtfully prepared within our cultural context. This preparation will then allow us to take actions that honor God and demonstrate a consistent worldview in our understanding of the Bible.

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.

Doing what is right in God’s eyes

When we understand what God’s perspective is, then we can know what’s right and what’s wrong.

Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God.

Deuteronomy 12:28

Doing what is right in the sight of God is the biblical definition of integrity. It means following his instruction or acting according to his precepts.

Some examples of those who have done what is right in God’s eyes can help us to understand what this practical righteousness or integrity looks like.

2 Chronicles 14:2-5 Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the pagan shrines. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded the people of Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his law and his commands. Asa also removed the pagan shrines, as well as the incense altars from every one of Judah’s towns. So Asa’s kingdom enjoyed a period of peace.

2 Kings 22:1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.
2 Kings 23:24 Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the LORD’s Temple.

Notice in these examples that Asa and Josiah were considered doing what was right in God’s sight because they were doing something according to God’s word. As kings, they had the ability to make laws and take actions that would guide and protect the people of Israel. They had chosen to take action, to do what was right in God’s eyes (according to his word), in regards to the corruption and idolatry that they saw had creeped in among God’s people. They were men of practical vision who recognized that the idolatrous influences of the surrounding cultures were polluting God’s people and they acted in accordance with God’s word; they did what was right in God’s eyes.

By contrast, those who instead follow their own ways do what they think is right, not paying any attention to the commands of God.

Proverbs 16:25 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
Proverbs 21:2 People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart.

Similarly, we can see peoples’ stature and the impressive way they present themselves, but we don’t always know what’s in their heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Some people’s actions are praised, but they may actually be hypocritical because they are doing things only to be seen as righteous by others. Yeshua had to combat this type of unrighteousness among the leaders of his day.

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

There are things that are right in the sight of God, and there are things that are an abomination in the sight of God. The key factor is understanding what God’s perspective is, then we can know what’s right and what’s wrong.

Even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand our motivation, we can still do what’s right in God’s eyes. Meditating on his word and understanding it in its entirety provides us the correct context for our outward actions. Like Asa and Josiah before us, this type of obedient integrity purifies God’s people and accomplishes God’s purpose in each 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.

Noah’s life of integrity and righteousness is an example for us to follow

To walk with God is to live in a way that pleases him.

This is the account of Noah and his descendants. Noah was righteous and was a man of integrity among the people of his time. He walked [habitually] with God.

Genesis 6:9

Noah is remembered most famously for building an ark and surviving a great flood. But most people don’t realize he is the first person in the Bible to be named as righteous.

The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddik. A tsaddik is a person who is considered just and righteous in conduct and character, Other contexts of the word include describing someone who is upright, honest, virtuous, pious. It is a word commonly used of good kings or judges who faithfully dispense justice and fairness.

In most Christian circles today, righteousness is typically viewed as something that is only conferred on an individual from God, as a bestowal of a righteous state that they did not possess previously. This perspective comes largely from the apostle Paul writing about the legal aspect of imputed righteousness, as in the case of Abraham who was accounted or considered righteous for his faith in God.

But this heavy theological concept of imputed righteousness masks the meaning of the word, as it implies someone can be considered righteous while not really being righteous; it is simply a way God chooses to view those who place their faith in him.

In reality, I think what Paul was attempting to convey, as it is used of Abraham in the book of Romans, is the idea that faith is equally considered a righteous act, along with all other lawful, virtuous, honest, and upright actions. Faith in God and his Messiah is considered a righteous action. That would have been a revolutionary concept to his audience. To be a tsaddik, they knew, was to faithfully and obediently follow the torah (or instruction) of God that has been revealed. To do this effectively, Paul says, requires faith, a righteous action like any other.

For Noah, this would mean that out of all others in his generation or age, he was the individual who most closely matched the ideal that God had provided up to that point because of his faith. While those in his day may not have had any written Scripture, there were undoubtedly oral teachings that had been passed from generation to generation since the days of Adam previously. And in God’s eyes, Noah was a tsaddik, a righteous individual, one who faithfully and continually walked with God.

To walk with God in this sense is to live in a way that pleases him, to abide by his counsels and admonitions, to be familiar with God and his ways and to direct one’s own personal affairs in agreement with God’s. This is biblical righteousness.

This is a life of integrity, as Yeshua described this concept in his Sermon on the Mount. To demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands. To be a person of your word, simply saying yes or no, and doing what you say. To crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, To avoid hypocrisy, and to magnify God by letting your good deeds “shine.” To conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and, if necessary, to endure harmful attacks of those who may not agree with your right actions. All of these things could essentially be said of Noah, which is why he was considered a tsaddik.

We would do well to follow in his footsteps among our generation, doing what’s right in the face of adversity and corruption around us. God may not task each of us with building a literal ark, but we should be just as mindful of our responsibility to positively influence those around us through our integrity and faithful obedience to God’s revealed word.

There can be no compromise with the sinful practices of the surrounding culture

The vigilance for righteousness that God expects of us is real and unwavering.

One of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman to his brothers. He did this right in front of Moses and the whole community of Israel while they were crying at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of the priest Aaron, saw this. So he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand, and went into the tent after the Israelite man.

Numbers 25:6-8

The type of vigilance required for maintaining righteousness is extreme and rarely practiced. Yeshua spoke of it in hyperbolic terminology, that even if your eye or hand causes you to sin, you should be prepared to gouge it out or chop it off.

In the example of Phinehas, a priest in Aaron’s line at the time of the wandering in the desert, he demonstrated this commitment to righteousness in an extreme way that he is famously remembered for to this day.

The men of Israel had become complacent in their commitment to Yahweh. They began to succumb to the idolatry of the local Midianite population as they were being seduced by the women of Moab.

While Israel was staying at Shittim, the men began to have sex with Moabite women who invited the people to the sacrifices offered to their gods. The people ate the meat from the sacrifices and worshiped these gods. Since the Israelites joined in worshiping the god Baal of Peor, the LORD became angry with Israel.

Numbers 25:1-3

Due to this rampant idolatry, God sent a plague among the general population that was killing thousands of people. He revealed to Moses and the leaders what must be done to put things right.

The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people, and execute them in broad daylight in the LORD’s presence. This will turn the LORD’s anger away from Israel.” So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you must kill the men who have joined in worshiping the god Baal of Peor.”

Numbers 25:4-5

There were no compromises, no discussions, no negotiations; those who had sinned in idolatry had to be removed from the population of Israel. The offenders had become so brazen in their sinfulness that they proceeded in their practices, even as Moses and the assembly leaders were seeking God’s direction and favor.

Upon seeing this, Phinehas instantly jumped into action in obedience to God’s command. He didn’t hesitate or wait for a committee to decide on the right timing; he simply got up, grabbed a spear, and followed the offenders into their tent.

So he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand, and went into the tent after the Israelite man. He drove the spear through the man and into the woman’s body. Because of this, the plague that the Israelites were experiencing stopped.

Numbers 25:7-8

Phinehas is remembered because he unhesitatingly did a difficult thing that God required, and in so doing, saved the rest of the assembly. In his vigilance for righteousness, he saw the iniquity and took immediate action.

This story is a metaphor for us today. The example is extreme because God wants to make sure we understand how serious it is for us to remain in blatant disobedience to his purposes.

In like fashion to the men of Israel, we can be easily seduced by the surrounding idolatry of our day and age. The culture and technology we are immersed in provide ample opportunities for us to be led away, seduced as by Midianite women, from our commitment to the one true God.

It is only when those disobedient thoughts and actions are decisively put to death that we can be restored to wholeness with God. Yeshua used the example of gouging out eyes and chopping off hands (Matt. 5:29-30). Paul writes about it this way:

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

Romans 8:12-13

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Colossians 3:5

The same vigilance and determination of Phinehas for the righteousness of his people needs to be evidenced in us today for our own standing in God’s presence. The only way we can be truly set apart for God’s purposes is by brutally putting to death, gouging out, chopping off, and stabbing a spear through the heart of those things in our lives that offend God.

This is the determination needed to remain on God’s path. This is the vigilance it takes to be a child of God. Be a Phinehas, not waiting, but taking immediate and decisive action on the habits and practices in your life that are offensive to God.