613 ways to be holy

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

The details of the biblical commandments have been a source of study for millennia. Reading through the five books of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) covers a wide range of information, from God’s creation of all things, to early history of the Israelite people, to their wilderness journeys and preparation to enter the promised land.

Most significantly, an event is related to us where God revealed himself to the entire nation at once at Mount Sinai. It was here that the people heard the voice of God for themselves, and it is here that Moses received the details of God’s law. This law was to set them apart from all other nations on the earth because of its wisdom and practices.

  • Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – “Look, I have taught you statutes and ordinances as Yahweh my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to possess. “Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as Yahweh our God is to us whenever we call to him? “And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today?

This law was to be the distinguishing aspect of God’s people. There are laws that regulate all aspects of the life of an ancient Israelite. From food and sanitation, to marital and sexual relations, to priestly activities, to worship and sacrificial activities, to civil disputes and criminal punishments, and to war. A quick internet search on 613 commandments will provide the entire list, typically broken out into various categories as listed above.

What is interesting to note is that not all of the commandments apply to everyone, and some are only specific to certain activities at certain times of the year. Some apply only to women, and some apply only to priests.Some are focused only on the biblical holidays, others focus on conflicts that may only arise from time to time. Some are positive commands requiring action, others are prohibitions restricting behaviors. The more one looks at the overall collection of commands and prohibitions, it becomes apparent that not all of them applied to everyone equally at all times. However, there are general similarities and overarching principles that can be derived from reviewing all of them with regularity.

Most modern believers might say that, while that is all well and good, there is little need to focus our time and energy on this outdated law because it has been done away with and no longer applies. They might say that Messiah fulfilled all of the law so we don’t have to. But is that really true? Did Messiah fulfill all of the law so we don’t have to pay any attention to it?

  • Psalm 119:142 – Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law [torah] is true.
  • Psalm 119:89 – Yahweh, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.
  • Psalm 119:160 – The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever.
  • Isaiah 40:8- The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.

Even Yeshua mentioned the nature of God’s eternal instruction.

  • Matthew 5:17-19 – “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

What we need to realize in our day is that Messiah did not abolish the law, but he did fulfill the law. Specifically, as the symbolic Lamb of God, he fulfilled everything related to the temple, sacrifices, and priestly worship, and they are no longer needed in earthly practice. This was evidenced by the destruction of the temple. However, as the beginning of the new creation, he elevated the law to its rightful place as a regulator of eternal spiritual principles. As his people, he expects us to also fulfill the law in his name.

  • Galatians 6:2 – Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Messiah.
  • James 2:8 – Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
  • 1 John 2:3-6 – This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. The one who says, “I have come to know him,” and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.

Even though we may not be temple priests and not all of us are women, not all of us are civil rulers and not all of us have families of our own, we are still governed by the principles of God’s eternal torah or law. We all, as part of God’s new creation and spiritual kingdom, are expected to abide by its principles as they apply in the various aspects of our lives.

When asked about the law, Yeshua stated it this way:

  • Matthew 22:35-40 – And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In Yeshua’s teaching, all of the torah or law of God can be summed up in these two commands: love God and love your neighbor. These two commands are explained in more detail in the Ten Commandments; the first five apply to God and his authority and the second five apply to our relations with others. The Ten Commandments are the basis and foundation upon which all of the other commands in the law of Moses are based.

So, if everything in the 613 commands of the law makes God’s people holy and distinct, and everything in the law is explained in the Ten Commandments, and everything the Ten Commandments is, according to Yeshua, summarized in the Two Great Commandments, then how hard is it for us to be holy as God expects and for us to follow his eternal law today?


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Refusing the allure of coveting

The command to not covet may be the root command guiding all of our interactions with anything, or anyone, outside of ourselves.

The command to not covet may be the root command guiding all of our interactions with anything, or anyone, outside of ourselves.

  • Exodus 20:17 – Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

This command comes as the very last instruction of the Ten Commandments. And yet, wise men and rabbis over the millennia have commented that it may be the most significant commandment of the ten, as it relates to everything we do in life.

Let’s examine this a little closer. If we view the Ten Commandments in two  sections, we can put the first five under one heading: “Commands that apply to God and his authority.” The second five can come under the the heading, “Integrity in interacting with others.”

We can see how abiding by the tenth commandment will reduce or eliminate our violation of commands 6-9. If we don’t covet, we are less likely to murder someone to get what they have. We will not seek adulterous relationships with other wives or husbands because we are not coveting or desiring them. We will not steal because we are not coveting things we don’t have. We are less likely to bear false witness against someone else or lie for selfish motives because we are not coveting.

As for the first five commandments, if we are not coveting just any type of spiritual experience, we can truly seek God only, and no other. We will not be led astray by the seductive nature of idolatry. We will not take his name in vain only to leverage our relationship with God for our own personal gain. We will not violate the Sabbath for personal gain, and we will abide by the God-given authority of our parents instead of believing we know what’s best for our own personal benefit.

Coveting does indeed seem to be at the root of all that is contrary to God and his purposes. In fact, prior to being mentioned in the Bible narrative at Sinai, the only other time the Hebrew root word is used is in relation to the trees of Eden.

  • Genesis 2:9 – Yahweh God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Genesis 3:6 – The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

This pleasing appearance and desire for obtaining forbidden wisdom is the root of coveting, and Eve fell prey to its seductive allure. From this action has flowed everything contrary to God’s purpose in this world.

By contrast, the person of integrity stands against covetousness and everything that grows out of wicked desires for that which we do not have. The apostle John calls this covetous desire the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride.

  • 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world ​– ​the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions ​– ​is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

If we are to do the will of God, it is to let these covetous desires go, and to seek to simply serve him in humility and in truth. It is to do the opposite of coveting: to give and bestow good will on all those around us. It is to consider the needs of others above our own, thereby eliminating our selfish desires.

Therefore, if you must covet something, crave and desire to only do what’s right in God’s eyes.

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

If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Honoring of parents respects God’s kingdom authority on earth

A believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best guidance and direction leading to well-being for the children who are obedient to their instruction.

Core of the Bible podcast #79 – Honoring of parents respects God’s kingdom authority on earth

Today we will be looking at the topic of the fifth commandment about honoring one’s father and mother, and how a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best kingdom guidance and direction leading to well-being for the children who are obedient to their instruction.

Exodus 20:12 – Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

As God conveyed his Torah, or instruction to Moses, he made it clear that within the kingdom of God, there would be many roles requiring to be fulfilled. While most people today look to define and embrace roles like prophets, priests, teachers, helpers, there are no roles as basic and impactful as the roles within each family: husband and wife, mother and father.

In today’s culture this has become a controversial stance, but I firmly believe that the significance of man and woman in the kingdom is a basic building block upon which everything else is built. The male and female component is inherent within the DNA of the kingdom, right back to its origins in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 1:27-28 – So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

The very first royal edict of the kingdom had to do with man and woman reigning and having dominion over God’s Creation. So, in Hebrew culture, the father and the mother are therefore figures representing divine authority over the family. They are the representatives of God’s authority because they have been made in his image, and to be respected as possessing and implementing the wisdom of God. In fact, the genealogies that take up roughly 5% of the Bible are based on a deference to authority in the sense of familial descent which is only possible through the recording of historical male-female heritage. This honoring of one’s parents or ancestry also spilled over into the ancient Hebraic view of the afterlife. Upon death, one was considered to be “gathered unto the fathers.”

Genesis 49:29 – Then [Jacob] commanded [his sons] and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite…

Judges 2:8, 10 – And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Yahweh, died at the age of 110 years. … And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers…

2 Kings 22:20 – Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace…

Within the conduct of individuals during this life, however, we can see how this understanding of paternal and maternal influence along with marital fidelity carried over into metaphors of God’s care for his people, as well.

Exodus 4:21-22 – And Yahweh told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh says: Israel is my firstborn son.

Isaiah 43:3, 6 – For I am Yahweh, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. … I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth.

Isaiah 46:3 – “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born.

Jeremiah 3:20 – But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. I, Yahweh, have spoken.”

Individual references cannot convey the depth with which the entire narrative of the Bible is imbued with this type of familial imagery; it is interwoven throughout every page. That parents were to be respected is brought out in the biblical stories conveyed throughout the Tanakh or Old Testament, but is most prominently evident in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 1:8-9 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are a garland of grace on your head and a pendant around your neck.

Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.

Proverbs 15:20 – Sensible children bring joy to their father; foolish children despise their mother.

However, children who are disobedient to this most basic sense of authority are also shown the end that results from choosing their own way.

Proverbs 19:26 – Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace.

Proverbs 20:20 – If you insult your father or mother, your light will be snuffed out in total darkness.

Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

Proverbs 30:17 – The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be plucked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.

In these passages this sense of structural authority within the family unit provides a powerful basis for wisdom and right actions. It is here that the roots of the kingdom are set deep into the soil so that each generation can continue to rise to the greatest heights in a demonstration of God’s power and glory over his Creation.

In a moment, we will see how this principle of parental authority is also built on by Yeshua and the apostles within the writings of the New Testament.


The God-given authority of the father and mother was an ongoing kingdom principle for the early Messiah believers, also. Before we look at the apostolic writings, though, we can see this principle exemplified most clearly by Messiah himself.

Luke 2:41-51 – Every year Yeshua’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Yeshua was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Yeshua stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant. Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.

This wonderful passage gives us a rare glimpse into the childhood of Yeshua, and how he viewed his own role in relation to his parents. The typical evaluation of this passage explains how at such an early age, Yeshua understood the uniqueness of his role and how he recognized Yahweh God as his father. Yet, the nugget in the story for our purposes today is that final verse that says, “he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” To me, this speaks volumes on Yeshua’s recognition of the established order of parental authority. Even though he was spiritually maturing at an accelerated pace, he chose to remain obedient to his parents in conformity with the overall plan of God’s kingdom. He honored his mother and his father.

He also taught this as an adult as he reiterated the validity of the Ten Commandments. When answering questions from an inquirer about eternal life, Yeshua responded with the necessity of recognizing the authority of the torah, or instruction of God.

Matthew 19:16-19 – Someone came to Yeshua with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “Why ask me about what is good?” Yeshua replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question–if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked. And Yeshua replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Yeshua firmly taught the Ten Commandments as a basis for the kingdom, sometimes used as a synonymous phrase for the principle of eternal life.

Moving to the writings of Yeshua’s apostles, we can see how they continued to emphasize the role of parental authority within the early believing congregations.

Colossians 3:20 – Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases Yahweh.

One of the characteristics required of leaders within the congregation was to be exemplifying this authoritative structure within one’s own family.

1 Timothy 3:1, 4-5 – This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” … He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s congregation?

In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy in a basic and underlying premise of the kingdom: authority rests within the parental structure. If that structure is not present in the family, Paul argues, then how can it be present within the congregation? Besides a recitation of the Ten Commandments, to my way of thinking this is one of the most precise indications of the necessity for parental authority for the success of the kingdom in the entire New Testament.

Additionally, just like in the writings of the prophets in the Tanakh, the metaphors for God’s parental authority are present within the apostolic writings, as well.

Hebrews 12:7-8 – As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.

1 Peter 1:14 – So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.

1 John 2:29 – Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.

And finally, Paul writes to the Ephesian congregation about the promise of faithful obedience to parental authority.

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents because you belong to Yahweh, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”

Paul writes here that this commandment to honor father and mother is the first command that is not only the right thing to do, but it carries within it a promise for well-being and long life. The idea is that a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best guidance and direction that would lead to those things for the children who are obedient to their instruction.

In conclusion, we can see how the respect and honor of father and mother is therefore part of the eternal torah, or instruction, of God for all time. As the mother and father “rule” righteously over the kingdom of their family, they are fulfilling a role that is embedded within the Creation itself, a role that hearkens back through ancestral lines all the way to the original parents in the Garden. The Garden imagery of Paradise (the idealized kingdom) is therefore brought to life for each generation through every faithful father and mother. As believing parents recognize this awesome responsibility of the authority they carry, the Kingdom of God can continue to grow in righteousness, honoring the original parents whom God set over all Creation in the beginning.


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.

In this kingdom we bear the name and character of God

This is what the third commandment is all about.

Core of the Bible podcast #65 – In this kingdom we bear the name and character of God

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom of God, and how by being in the kingdom, we carry God’s name. Because of this, our words and actions should match his.

Exodus 20:7 – “You do not take up the name of your God Yahweh for a vain thing, for Yahweh does not acquit him who takes up His name for a vain thing.”

As one of the Ten Commandments or Ten “Words” which I believe are the charter instructions for the kingdom of God, I wanted to take some time to explore the nature of what this commandment is really all about.

This verse has classically been used throughout generations for the purpose of not abusing or misusing the revealed name of God, in the sense of using his name as a curse word, or speaking it casually in conversation outside of an appropriate worship setting, or reading it within the text of the Bible.

But as we explore this verse today I think we’ll see that these caricatures miss the intent of what God is attempting to teach us here and throughout the whole Bible. The real sense of the passage is less about misusing God’s name carelessly, and more about our character in claiming to be believers or followers of him.

To begin with, let’s look at how the verse is expressed in some of its original Hebrew key words to gain some depth of what exactly is being discussed.

To “take up” God’s name means to lift or carry; it conveys the idea of raising or bearing a load or burden; it can also mean to accept. To “take” his name is to take up, or carry his name as identifying who we are, or rather, whose we are.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the word for name. The word for “name” in Hebrew is shem. The idea of avoiding pronouncing the sacred name of God (which I refer to as Yahweh) comes from a long tradition among the Jews, who wanted to substitute another word, “adonai,” whenever Yahweh appeared in the text to avoid speaking the sacred name casually or without respect. This word translates into the English as “lord” and is usually printed in all capitals in the Old Testament to identify that verse as containing the sacred name of God.

I suppose the idea behind this practice has been to honor God’s name; however, it has not always been this way, even among God’s people. Hundreds of years before Messiah, it was still a common practice to greet one another with the blessings of Yahweh; it was not until after the return from their captivity that they adopted the practice of not pronouncing the name of God. To this day, God is typically referenced among Jews as HaShem, a title which literally means, the Name.

There is nothing really wrong in continuing this practice out of respect for God, but it is important to recognize there is nothing within the Bible itself that requires this avoidance of pronouncing the name of God, Yahweh. In fact, it could be argued from the Bible that God actually encourages and expects us to use his name, which is why he told it to Moses in the first place:

Exodus 3:15 – “God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever,

and this my title for all generations.'”

The reason this has significance is because the word shem or name also conveys some meanings about what it represents. It is associated with the fame or glory of an individual, indicative of their character. From a Hebraic perspective, to utter someone’s name is to call out their character.

This is one of the main reasons I prefer to use the name Yeshua instead of Jesus when speaking of the Messiah, because the word Yeshua in Hebrew conveys the idea of salvation, that which the Messiah came to provide.

Now as a representative name applies to Yahweh, Amos exemplifies this type of use of the word when he says:

Amos 5:8 – “The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into dawn and darkens day into night, who summons the water of the sea and pours it out over the surface of the earth — Yahweh is his name.”

This verse shows how God’s ability or nature as the Creator is contained within his “name” or his character. To recognize and honor his name is to recognize him as the Creator and sustainer of all.

It is also representative of a memorial of that character or essence.

Isaiah 66:22 – “For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will remain before me” — this is Yahweh’s declaration — “so your offspring and your name will remain.”

The idea that Isaiah conveys here is that the Israelites’ name, that which embodies who they are, would remain with their future generations.

So from this brief look at a few of the words and phrases more closely, we can see that to take the name of God is to lift, carry, or honor his name (as in raising it up). That which is being lifted, carried and honored is his character, his reputation. Therefore, those who belong to the kingdom of God should be honoring the name, or character, of God with their thoughts, speech, and conduct.

As one of the Ten Commandments within the charter of the kingdom of God, this then implies that honoring the name through living out its values is appropriate and expected kingdom behavior.


So far we have seen that the admonition here is not about the abuse of God’s name, but it’s about when we are identifying as belonging to him, we do not dishonor or defame his name or character by our careless conduct. When someone comes to the knowledge of God and wants to be his follower, then they take his name, identifying with his character. By this participation in the kingdom of God, as his children, we carry his name and his character in this world.

To “take God’s name in vain” is not expressly to use his name flippantly (although that certainly is included). The fact that the commandment urges us to not take the name “in vain” could be paraphrased as “You shall not take my name lightly or for no purpose.”

Our desire to follow his ways should not be rooted in our own selfish ambition or schemes. We should not join the kingdom impetuously, without any real thought for the responsibility we bear. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many “altar calls” for people to become believers based on transient emotions, getting swept away in the moment by some moving stories or demonstrative worship experience.

These type of theatrics were not how Yeshua practiced ministry; he never “worked” the crowds to cause people to come to him. In fact, if anything, his teaching was so polarizing and hotly debated that sometimes people left by droves.

John 6:60-61, 66 “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Yeshua, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’ … Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”

Coming to faith in the God of the Bible is not a matter of spiritual feelings or some worshipful experience based on emotion; it should be a willing desire based on a knowledge and understanding of what being a disciple, a member of God’s kingdom, means.

Luke 14:27-30 – “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”

Sadly, I have seen many sincere people begin to build a tower that they could not finish, and I believe it was because their foundation was not based on a knowledge of the Holy One, but on feelings and emotions that faded when the reality of the daily participation in the kingdom was realized. Essayist and poet G.K. Chesterton has been famously quoted as saying: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”

The carrying of one’s cross implies that in some respects the life of a disciple is one of carrying a sacrificial burden, one that involves the reduction of self in all things. Carrying the name of God is such a burden, as it is a diminishment of ourselves and a lifting up of his honor and character. Within the kingdom of God, we should be sincere in our desires to live for him and to bring honor and glory to his name. When we carry his name, our actions and our words should match his.

Yeshua demonstrated this so completely that it was impossible to distinguish between him and his Father.

John 5:19 – “So Yeshua said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.'”

John 7:16 – “So Yeshua answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.'”

John 12:49 – “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment–what to say and what to speak.”

John 14:8-9 – “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?'”

When we consider following the Messiah, we are accepting that he was sent from the Father, and carried the name of God so completely that he was essentially indistinguishable from the Father. If we are to become more and more like Messiah, then this same characteristic should be evident in our lives. When people see or hear us, they should be seeing what the Father would want to do or say in that situation.

Does this sound like a heavy responsibility? Of course, which is why we should not take his name lightly or for no purpose, which is the whole point of the third commandment. As we have seen already, we are admonished by Yeshua to count the cost of kingdom living (Luke 14:25-33), but in so doing, to accept it willingly and gladly.

The kingdom is a place of great joy and fulfillment, but it is also a participation in a lifestyle of discipline and self-control. As one of the gifts of God’s Spirit, we should demonstrate self-control so that we do not defame the name that we bear. As we reflect his glory and honor in our words in our actions, we can be sure that we are providing every opportunity for others to be drawn to him, and for the kingdom to become a little bit larger in our 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 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.

Humble service in a kingdom without icon

God simply desires our sincere honoring of him every day by the outworking of our practical faith among the rest of his Creation.

Core of the Bible podcast #58 – Humble service in a kingdom without icon

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom, and how the Kingdom of God should not have any type of iconography or attempt to represent God through any physical location or facility. All of these detract from the simple essence of who he is in Spirit and truth. Idolatry is the most represented affront to the majesty of God and his Kingdom throughout the entire Bible.

Right after God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt and told them he wanted them to be representatives of his kingdom as priests, he then gave them the Ten Commandments. One of the primary commandments was against idolatry.

Exodus 20:4-5 – “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them…”

Yeshua confirmed that God abhors idolatry, and further revealed how God desires spiritual worship based on the truth, not some physical representation of him.

John 4:23-24 – “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

If I were to paraphrase these two passages, it might sound something like this:

Have nothing to do with tangible representations of any god, including the one true God. Worship the Father (Yahweh) alone, and in spirit and in truth only.

For whatever reason, humans love icons and iconography. We seek to identify everything with a symbolic representation of some sort, whether it is a brand logo, an app, or a digital navigation menu. In honesty, I must admit there is a certain logic to this mode of communication: it acts as a type of shorthand for a larger idea or concept that can be communicated quickly and simply.

In a similar way, throughout history civilizations have represented their concepts of their gods with a plethora of iconic representation, from statues to intricate carvings of various symbols to grandiose temples. The idolatry of the Bible, however, is generally concerned with the statues and carvings of the various gods that continually led Israel away from the one true God, Yahweh. Baal and Ashtoreth were two of the most notable “local” gods in the land of Canaan which threatened to lure Israel away from Yahweh.

Judges 3:7 – “The Israelites did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight; they forgot Yahweh their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs.”

Judges 10:6 – “Then the Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. They worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Aram, Sidon, and Moab, and the gods of the Ammonites and the Philistines. They abandoned Yahweh and did not worship him.”

The cultural power of these gods was so strong within the land of Canaan that the Israelites suffered with them throughout their history, in spite of dramatic showdowns with the likes of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:17-19 – “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, the one ruining Israel? ” He replied, “I have not ruined Israel, but you and your father’s family have, because you have abandoned Yahweh’s commands and followed the Baals. “Now summon all Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

After watching the false prophets attempt to provoke their gods to manifest themselves at their offering altars, God reveals himself at the simple invocation of Elijah to make himself known.

1 Kings 18:37-40 – “Answer me, Yahweh! Answer me so that this people will know that you, Yahweh, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “Yahweh, he is God! Yahweh, he is God! ” Then Elijah ordered them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let even one of them escape.” So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.”

The reason that God had even brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan in the first place was so that they would eradicate these false representations and the wicked practices, such as child sacrifice, that went along with them.

Deuteronomy 9:4-5 – “When Yahweh your God drives them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘Yahweh brought me in to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ Instead, Yahweh will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness. “You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, Yahweh your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness…”

This is how strongly God is opposed to false gods and the idolatrous worship that goes along with them.

Sometimes, during periods of reform and return to the worship of the one true God, the Israelite tribes were successful in removing the idols and false worship of the nations around them.

1 Samuel 7:4 – “So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtoreths and only worshiped Yahweh.”

1 Samuel 12:10 – “Then they cried out to Yahweh and said, ‘We have sinned, for we abandoned Yahweh and worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths. Now rescue us from the power of our enemies, and we will serve you.’

However, there are indications that even when the Israelites were doing what they were supposed to do in removing the false gods and idols, in typical fashion, they were still missing the true meaning of having Yahweh as their God, since they continually desired him to simply save them from the power of the their enemies, but not from the power of their own sinfulness.

Ultimately, the Kingdom of God was not to be just about an idyllic kingdom to be protected from its enemies, but to be a kingdom made up of individuals who were to practice “righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit,” (Romans 14:17).

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Additionally, the idolatry of Israel was not always focused on other gods, but on the one true God, just through some form of statue or representation of their own making.

Consider the golden calf incident. Most people think that the golden calf was a foreign god that the Israelites were worshiping, however, they made the golden calf in honor of Yahweh God and instituted a festival to him! The Israelites created it as a representation of the God who had brought them out of Egypt (Ex. 32:4), and also as a representation of the God who would go before them and conquer. They bowed down to it and danced around it.

Exodus 32:4-5 – “He [Aaron] took the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, “Israel, this is your god, who brought you up from the land of Egypt! ” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of it and made an announcement: “There will be a festival to Yahweh tomorrow.”

This shamed the magnificence of the one true God and Moses rightly and immediately destroyed it.

Consider the bronze snake that Moses had made in obedience to Yahweh’s command for healing of the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21).

Numbers 21:6-9 – Then Yahweh sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died. The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede with the LORD so that he will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.”

When Hezekiah became king, he ended up having to destroy it because it had become an object of worship in and of itself (2 Kings 18:4)

Consider the ephod or breastplate that Gideon made to represent the victories of the Israelites over the Midianites (Judges 8:22-27).

Judges 8:22, 24-27 – Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian.” … Then he said to them, “Let me make a request of you: Everyone give me an earring from his plunder.” Now the enemy had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites. They said, “We agree to give them.” So they spread out a cloak, and everyone threw an earring from his plunder on it. The weight of the gold earrings he requested was forty-three pounds of gold, in addition to the crescent ornaments and ear pendants, the purple garments on the kings of Midian, and the chains on the necks of their camels. Gideon made an ephod from all this and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. Then all Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his household.”

While Gideon’s intent was to honor God, it became an object of worship itself and created corruption among the Israelites.

All of this is a form of syncretism, a blending of what is true about God with the falsehood of idolatry and foreign culture. This is the most dangerous type of idolatry because those who are engaged in it believe they are truly worshiping the one true God through it, yet they are demeaning everything he stands for.

To this day, iconic representation can be found throughout the world, some even becoming popular tourist destinations due to their magnificence.

As I have been reviewing current popular religious destinations, I have been a little shocked to find that many of the most well-attended religious sites are actually based on Christian lore, such as Fatima in Portugal where there were alleged visions of Mary, Lourdes in France, or any of the Roman Catholic sites within Rome. These locations are filled with idolatry of all sorts: images, statues, and various representations of Mary and other religious saints and figures.

There are also magnificent and extravagant temples throughout India and Asian countries with representations of various gods and goddesses and many well-meaning religious traditions.

However, in the Bible God warns us that although this may be typical and commonplace among our various cultures and religions, we are not to identify him in this sort of way. He is to be worshiped in spirit and truth only, not by some sort of symbolic representation. The wisdom in this instruction is that he knows that the thing that is created to represent him can then replace him in the minds of the worshipers.

Idols of other gods are an offense to him, because there are no other gods that have created all things, and ascribing power to something other than him is an insult to his sovereignty over his Creation.

Idols meant to represent him or aspects of his power are also offensive to him, because no one thing can represent his majesty and glory in all of Creation. Ultimately, as we have seen, he knows that the representative thing becomes the object of worship. Any created thing is not a thing to be worshiped, even if we believe it is representing the one true God. No one thing in all of Creation can represent him, and is therefore offensive to him.

What if I was to create an icon of my wife, and in order to honor her, I burnt incense to that statue every day, or got down on my knees and professed my love for her to the image? I don’t need an iconic representation of my wife to honor her; I just need to demonstrate my love to her every day in how I live my life by respecting her and caring for her.

In the same way, God doesn’t want to be worshiped through some shallow representation of a portion of his being; he wants to be recognized for the beneficent Creator that he is in all of his qualities and honored from the heart. Similar to the simplicity and sincerity that I would show my wife, God expects these plain and humble actions in my worship of him.

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Additionally, from a practical standpoint, I am extremely saddened by the idolatry present throughout the world for another significant reason: the sheer waste of resources that could be used to help people in real need.

If we were to total all of the money and resources that are sacrificed in the worship of these false idols and their traditions, I am convinced that hunger and poverty throughout the world could be eradicated many times over. I am convinced that resources spent on religious idolatrous enterprises in every culture, including Christianity, are consuming what is available for the ever-growing population of humanity.

Think of the largest religious festivals and the resources they consume: Hajj (Islam); Chinese New Year; Diwali (Hindu); Ramadan (Islam); Setsubun (Shinto); Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu); Navarati (Hindu). These all, while time-honored examples within each of these cultures, are from the biblical perspective considered idolatrous festivities to the gods of those religions.

Lest anyone think that we in American Christian culture are any less guilty of idolatry, simply consider the resources allotted to Easter, Halloween and most significantly, Christmas. According to statista.com, the financial value spent at Christmas is 843 BILLION dollars, and that is in the US alone! Easter has been in the 18 billion-dollar range, and Halloween has gone from 3 billion to 10 billion over the last 15 years. That totals 871 billion dollars spent annually on these idolatrous festivals in the US alone.

Now, a quick search of world-wide poverty initiatives brought me to borenproject.org, where they quote a Columbia University professor’s estimate of ending world poverty:

“In his book End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, provides one answer to the question “how much does it cost to end poverty?” He argues that poverty could be eliminated by the year 2025 thanks to “well-placed development aids”. Investment in local farms to boost capital and productivity, education for both children and adults, enhancing access to health services and leveraging renewable energy resources are the best ways to end poverty.

“So, how much does it cost to end poverty? Sachs, as one of the world’s leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty, stated that the cost to end poverty is $175 billion per year for 20 years.”

Looking at only one year’s spend on religious idolatry, and in only the United States, this equals less than one-fourth of the combined financial impact of Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Now, if we were to estimate the costs of these other global religious festivities and their idolatrous practices, it is clear that the ability to raise up the quality of living and eradicate poverty around the entire world currently exists, if only we could have our eyes opened to the offerings still being made to idolatrous practices around the world.

This is why it is so important for people everywhere to understand the true nature of the Kingdom of God, and to recognize the simple and humble service he expects of his people, not extravagant displays like the pagans!

I believe it is clear we should also re-think some of our own practices in our believing congregations in light of this focus on idolatry. Beyond the seasonal holidays, there are plenty of idolatrous offerings occurring right here in American congregations, as well. How many times have people been admonished to “give sacrificially” to a building fund or to reach some financial goal for the congregation’s sound system or some other facility related function? We spend literally billions on parking lots, building improvements and maintenance, media systems and staffing to manage all of these facilities which remain mostly unused for most of any given week. These are real funds that could be better spent helping those in need while the congregation finds humbler means of gathering once or twice a week.

If this kind of commentary sounds jaded, then so be it. When I served as an intern pastor and also an elder over a number of years in small, local congregations, the amount of ministry time and resources wasted on building campaigns and maintenance was staggering to me. These tax-exempt corporations we have set up as ministry centers suffer from the same myopic budgeting that many secular businesses do. In essence, the facilities themselves have become idols for these congregations, idols that need constant attention and exorbitant resources. Instead, our facilities can be humble places of week-long ministry rather than just fancy audience arenas for a single isolated time each week.

I have heard time and time again that the description of an idol is simply “anything that comes between you and God.” However, from a biblical perspective, that is not really accurate at all. According to the Bible, an idol is an image or practice of some sort to which the powers of God or a god are ascribed, and therefore honor and sacrifice should be paid to it. It may be a figure, an institution or an ancient tradition. Idolatry of this sort in today’s day and age looks like this:

Candles, financial gifts, or food that is offered to statues of gods or supposed saints.

Costs to travel to religious sites for idolatrous religious festivals.

Thinking that by giving to the church building program or giving sacrificially to rescue the church budget is giving to God.

The financial debt and ruin incurred at Saturnalia in an effort to “decorate for the holidays” and to ensure no family’s “Christmas” gifts were overlooked.

These are examples of what modern idolatry looks like. Idols are real things created by people to somehow substitute or represent the one true God and their service to him, not just emotions or feelings that come between us and God. Emotional distractions are all legitimate ways we can be swayed away from God as well, don’t get me wrong. However, true idolatry is the participation in a physical event or honoring of traditional, physical icons in lieu of worshiping the one true God in spirit and in truth.

Yahweh, the God of the Bible, sets himself apart from all other gods by demanding we stop trying to represent him or his kingdom symbolically, whether through some type of iconography, grand facility, or through wasted resources on idolatrous traditions and practices. We can’t represent him fairly in those instances and, even if it is attempted, whatever we make becomes an object of corruption.

There are quite literally thousands of faith traditions throughout the world, even in regards to the God of the Bible. Whatever our personal faith tradition, we must find ways to combat the idolatry that is present through iconography, statues, and symbolic representation.

God simply desires our sincere honoring of him every day by the outworking of our practical faith among the rest of his Creation. This is what living in and for his kingdom should be.


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 Ten holy Commandments

Defining the life and practice of every believer in the one true God.

We may be familiar with the Ten Commandments that were revealed by God on Mount Sinai, but perhaps it has gone unnoticed that these commandments are the very fabric of holiness that sets believers apart from the rest of the world. Let’s briefly consider each one within the context of our modern world.

To love Yahweh our God, and have no other gods besides him.
Most people today do not recognize God as being over all, and yet this truth is fundamental. To worship him alone, and to do so in spirit and truth is the essence of biblical faith.

To have no physical representation of any god, including the one true God.
Idolatry remains prevalent in this world to this day. Beyond the plethora of other gods being represented elsewhere, even within the halls of Christian denominations, iconography and representative symbolism abounds. Yet God desires we avoid this preoccupation with representing the un-representable. Our focus instead is to represent him through our faithful words and actions.

To not take his Name in vain.
Many people confess to knowing and believing in Yahweh God, and yet their lives tell a different story. Consistency in our lifestyle matching up with our belief system is essential. If we honor him only with our lips and not with our actions, then our faith is in vain.

To keep the Sabbath holy.
This culture today knows little of special days for rest from worldly activities and focus on spiritual realities. The seventh day was set apart as holy from the beginning of Creation, and recognition of this heritage provides strength and purpose for the other six days.

To honor mother and father.
This principle goes beyond just the recognition of earthly parents to the concept of authority in general. We live today in a world of parents who are not godly, children who don’t respect them, and where general authority is despised. Believers must re-connect this chain of honor in these various arenas of experience.

Do not murder.
Our news outlets are filled with this reality, as are our popular fictional television series which focus on crimes and investigation. While most people may not physically kill another individual, Yeshua heightens this commandment to not even be unrighteously angry with someone, which is where this rebellion begins. Anger is dividing this country and it’s up to believers to be the peacemakers in these storms of contention.

Do not commit adultery.
In the beginning, God created one man and one woman for each other. This is God’s ideal. Faithfulness to that ideal in today’s world may be considered a fairy tale for some, but is necessary all the same. In fact, monogamous faithfulness can provide much needed stability within the family unit. As goes the family, so goes the community; as goes the community, so goes the city, and the country, and the world.

Do not steal.
Not taking anything that doesn’t belong to you involves anything from physical objects to online copyright infringement. Believers are challenged to honor this commandment in all areas of life, and to be examples of righteous actions within their circles of influence.

Do not bear false witness.
Beyond perjuring oneself in a court of law, this commandment applies whenever something falsely may be said about someone else. Believers set themselves apart by being truth-tellers in all aspects of their lives.

Do not covet.
Some believe this commandment sums up all of the others, for if we do not covet what others may have, we will honor God and our parents and we won’t seek to harm others in any other way. According to Yeshua, this is the summary of all of the commandments in the Bible: to love God and love others.

Matthew 22:37-40 – He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. “This is the greatest and most important command. “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Believers are grateful for what they have, not jealous of what they don’t have. Gratefulness is one of the most sincere ways of honoring God, as it involves honoring him with everything we have.

This brief summary of the Ten Commandments should provide us with a fresh perspective of holiness. God has designed these commandments as the means and methods of being uniquely qualified to represent him in this world. The fact that we can still see how impactful they are is testament to the fact of their universality.

To be holy is to be set apart. When we faithfully practice these commandments, empowered by his holy Spirit, then we, too, become holy and set apart which is God’s desire for all people.


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