Taking correction to heart

We must overcome a casual approach to godly living.

In the text of the New Testament, we find the apostle Paul had written to many different congregations of the early believers. In his writings to the congregation at Corinth, we have an example of a preliminary communication and a secondary, follow up letter, as well.

One of the things that becomes obvious is that the tone of the first letter expresses frustration over their apparent careless attitude and shallow understanding of message of the gospel of Messiah. Yet, the second letter delves into matters with more depth and a demonstration of their overall growth in their spiritual development.

This can be shown by how they were dealing with those who were conducting flagrant sin within the congregation. In his first letter, Paul had learned that one of their members was a man who was having a relationship with his step-mother.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2 – It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is intolerable even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been stricken with grief and have removed from your fellowship the man who did this?

This type of relationship was forbidden by Torah, and yet the congregation was not taking it seriously.

Leviticus 18:8 – ” ‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.

This was just one specific instance of their casual approach to maintaining their purity and abiding by the Torah, or instruction, of God. Yet, in the second letter, we find that the upbraiding they had received from Paul had actually caused them to regather their spiritual senses and become vigilant in their earnestness to be obedient and holy.

Proverbs 15:5 – Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; but whoever learns from correction is wise.

Paul, acting as their parent, had the difficult task of outlining correction for them. And yet this upbraiding had its desired effect; so much so, in fact, that he praises them for their taking his instruction to heart and following through in taking their faith more seriously. The Amplified Bible captures the sense of his parental pride:

2 Corinthians 7:11 – For [you can look back and] see what an earnestness and authentic concern this godly sorrow has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves [against charges that you tolerate sin], what indignation [at sin], what fear [of offending God], what longing [for righteousness and justice], what passion [to do what is right], what readiness to punish [those who sin and those who tolerate sin]! At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

From these insights, we can learn that sometimes we need to be confronted with our shortcomings so that we may understand what course corrections we may need to take. When we begin to take our favored status as believers in the one true God for granted, we can become lax in our conduct and our interactions with one another. We can become dismissive of the instruction of God and the high standards God has for his people. However, for those who are truly seeking God, being made aware of inadequacy will typically fuel a driving desire to become more diligent in our walk.

While the Bible teaches we are accountable to one another, the primary way that God reminds us of our present state is through his Spirit and his Word. By faithfully and prayerfully seeking to understand him more, he can provide the deepest level of guidance and correction through his Word. If we are wise, as the proverb says, it is up to us to demonstrate with all that we are and all that we do that we are learning from his correction. Our goal is to become more like him and to become earnestly vigilant in whatever he requires of us to become his representative 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 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 wisdom of God that guides believers

Staying close to God should cause us to exhibit his characteristics.

The Bible has many different genres of writings: historical (like the books of Kings, Chronicles, gospels, Acts), general instruction (epistles of Paul), wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus) and prophecy and apocalypse. Whether one includes the apocryphal books of Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus in the canon, the concept of a personification of Wisdom in a female character is represented in the wisdom literature, sometimes referred to as Lady Wisdom.

The inception of this character is revealed in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 8:22-23 – “Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his way, before his works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began.”

In the poetic style of the Hebrew, Wisdom is represented as imbued within the very foundation of the Creation itself, guiding and working alongside Yahweh as the reality of this physical universe was created. From this, many Christians have come to see this passage as literally speaking to a pre-incarnate Yeshua as co-Creator with Yahweh God. It is clear that in this passage wisdom is represented as an attribute of God himself, however, I would align this as a figurative representation more closely with his Spirit than a pre-incarnate Yeshua.

As such, the godly aspects of wisdom are said to be desirous for learning, long life, and righteousness. Because of this, believers should demonstrate the same characteristics that are learned by remaining close to the Wisdom of God.

Proverbs 8:6-9 – “Listen, for I speak of noble things, and what my lips say is right. For my mouth tells the truth, and wickedness is detestable to my lips. All the words from my mouth are righteous; none of them are deceptive or perverse. All of them are clear to the perceptive, and right to those who discover knowledge.”

If wisdom is an emanation of godly characteristics, then these qualities should be evident within the lives of believers, as well. Our speech should be based on noble things, speaking what is right at all times, always speaking the truth with righteousness without any deception. The things we say should constantly guide those who desire to know more about God and to help them discover more about him.

As believers in the one true God, we should always represent him honestly and knowledgeably. As an example of this, the apostle Paul’s admonition to Timothy was to ensure he was grounded in the truth, working hard to teach others what was right about God.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”

We also should work diligently and prayerfully to ensure we possess the wisdom that comes from God, speaking righteously and honestly about him at all times, so that we may faithfully guide others to also find the truth in him.


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.

Mimicking God by helping others

God’s children act like him.

In the New Testament writings, the Greek word that is typically translated as mercy is based on the root concept of compassion. One of the clearest definitions of this concept is captured in the Outline of Biblical Usage as, “mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.” This term is used in describing God’s actions towards mankind and also for people interacting with other people.

That compassion and mercy are so closely linked provides some insight into its nature. In biblical usage, compassion is both an emotion or feeling one has towards others and an action in the outward help or assistance one provides.

Yeshua constantly illustrated this concept for his followers; here are just a few examples:

Matthew 15:32 – Yeshua called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”

Notice, Yeshua had a feeling of compassion towards the crowd because of their commitment to his teaching and their desire to learn, so his feeling of compassion resulted in an action: the miraculous feeding of them all.

Here is another instance in Luke’s gospel:

Luke 7:12-15 – Just as he neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was also with her. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said, “Don’t weep.” Then he came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And he said, “Young man, I tell you, get up! ” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Yeshua gave him to his mother.

His feeling of compassion for the mother’s plight caused him to provide a miraculous resuscitation of the son who had died.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well, that is great for those individuals, but I don’t have the ability to create miracles to help other people.” But, isn’t that the point? Yeshua was doing the works of the Father; the Father was working through him to reach out to others. In the same way, whenever we extend compassion to others, from their perspective, it’s as if a miracle has occurred. Someone took pity on them and did something for them that they could not do for themselves when it was not required.

In saying this, I in no way want to cheapen legitimate miracles that Yeshua performed; however, I also can’t overstate how significant it is when we provide real help to those in need. You can probably understand this from your own experience whenever you may have received genuine help from someone else when you needed it most. It was likely an extremely significant occurrence for you.

Helping others who cannot help themselves IS God’s method of operation, and Yeshua demonstrated God’s mercy in action time after time in the gospels. So when we choose to follow Yeshua, it is expected that we also would extend God’s mercy to others, helping those who cannot help themselves, just as he did. In this way, we demonstrate we are truly God’s children when we act like him and have real concern and provide real care to those who need it most.


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 tangible benefits of sincere faith

Both the spiritual and the natural realms harmonize in God.

The third chapter of the Proverbs of Solomon is known most popularly for its declaration of trust in Yahweh which will lead believers in truth.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

As I reviewed the entirety of this passage recently, I noticed that the first ten verses of this chapter are a collection of five different Hebrew parallelisms. In each one, an action is encouraged and then a benefit is described by following that action.

Proverbs 3:1-2
Action: My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands;
Benefit: for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.

Proverbs 3:3-4
Action: Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Benefit: Then you will find favor and high regard with God and people.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Action: Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,
Benefit: and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:7-8
Action: Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear Yahweh and turn away from evil.
Benefit: This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.

Proverbs 3:9-10
Action: Honor Yahweh with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest;
Benefit: then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.

The Hebrew mindset all throughout the Bible is that trusting in Yahweh and patterning one’s life to honor him has a direct impact on the quality of life that one lives during our time here on earth. The Hebrew faith is not just one of pie-in-the-sky hope for eternity beyond this life, but for a lifestyle faith that has tangible benefits and rewards during this lifetime.

Our Western culture and mindset has separated the spiritual from the natural and stripped the Bible of its relevance for real world application in the process. If the Bible is only a book to guide us to some sort of spiritual bliss beyond this life, then it is only as beneficial as any other of the thousands of sacred traditions that promise similar utopian myths. By that logic, none of them can be demonstrated as valid, since the life is lived by the unseen faith of the individual with no real evidence of truth until after the individual dies and experiences whatever their utopian myths promise them.

To the contrary, the Bible is practical and impacts the lives of believers, and those around them, in this life. The Bible encourages positive behaviors that honor God and serve others in his name. This brings benefit to oneself and to those in need around them.

The extreme flipside of this ideal is when believers take all of the Bible benefits, plucking them from their contexts and seeking for them as being deserved or “owed” to them because they are claiming those for themselves. This “name it and claim it” mentality is the epitome of selfishness: giving to God only to get something in return, or providing some sort of lip-service to God to seek physical healing or benefit for oneself. It’s as if we suffer from a type of biblical schizophrenia and can’t maintain a consistent theology; either everything is spiritual or every earthly benefit can be selfishly claimed for ourselves.

But in reality, the Bible isn’t there to exploit for our own benefit, either spiritually or physically. It exists to point us to the Creator of all and to help us understand we exist in this world to represent him and his principles to others. We are encouraged to lay down our own lives and aspirations to serve him from the heart, and when we do so, our lives line up harmoniously with his universal spiritual principles which resonate within this physical realm. In the process, the natural benefits mentioned throughout the Bible are realized, not instantly or every time, but as a wave-form that becomes more settled and consistent over time as we pattern our lives after his will.

The walk of faith is one of consistent effort and growth as we continue to understand more of who God is and how he desires us to live our lives and interact with others. When we are faithfully following his spiritual principles of wisdom and service to others, our physical lives begin to radiate in tandem with the beneficial outcomes he provides. This is how the believing life is lived and demonstrated as real.


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 most intimidating woman in the Bible

How do we measure up?

In reading the last chapter of the Proverbs of Solomon, we encounter a description of the wife of noble character. This outline provides an intimidating look at a woman who is faithful to her husband (v. 11-12), helps provide for her family (v. 27) and reaches out to others in need (v.20).

While this woman has intimidated many wives throughout history and continues to do so today, I think we can glean a bit more wisdom in this description if we look at her as being representative of how a faithful wife interacts with her family and those around her, and not a description of a real person. More importantly, I think we gain clarity when we see that this passage describes the wife that God has called to himself: those in the Kingdom of God.

Isaiah 54:5 – “Indeed, your husband is your Maker — his name is Yahweh of Armies — and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of the whole earth.

Jeremiah 3:14 – ” ‘Return, you faithless children ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration ​– ​for I am your husband, and I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

Hosea 2:16, 19-20 – In that day — this is Yahweh’s declaration — you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer call me, “My Lord.” … I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be my wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.

Revelation 21:2 – I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

The vigilance of the wife of God is evident in this passage in Proverbs 31, as we see all of the noble and positive characteristics of this woman. She works with willing hands, rising while it is still dark to provide food for her family, working late into the evening making clothing for her household. She invests in vineyard production, and demonstrates strength in all things.

Proverbs 31:29 – “Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all! “

This surpassing of all other women demonstrates how this “super-woman” is a representative ideal and not an historical individual. Her vigilance in all things is captured in a few lines:

Proverbs 31:25-27 – Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. Her mouth speaks wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.

If this is the case, can we say that this picture describes us, those whom God has chosen to represent him in this generation? Do we act with strength and honor, or do we give up when things get difficult? Do we speak wisdom and loving instruction or are we constantly talking others down? Are we watching over our household (i.e., kingdom) activities with diligence, or are we idly letting it go its own way?

The woman of Proverbs 31 is not just an intimidating character for wives, but when rightly understood as the representative ideal for God’s people, she stands to challenge us all to be our best at all times for him.


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.

Choose your bias carefully

Your worldview determines your purpose in life.

Psalm 24:1-2 – The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to Yahweh; for he laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.

At the culmination of the book of Job, after he has maintained his innocence and sought to stand blameless in the presence of Yahweh, Job is silenced while Yahweh justifies his position as the Creator of all.

Job 38:4-7 – Where were you when I established the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

God then goes on for the bulk of four chapters explaining the various aspects of his Creation that illustrate how powerful, just, and righteous he, as the Creator of all that exists, is.

This revelation of God’s own perspective should provide us pause for our own consideration of God’s kingdom on the earth. We typically focus on the spiritual aspect of the Kingdom of God, but how often do we consider that the very earthly world we live in is his by right of creation?

We live in a culture that, in general, believes the universe and the earth are the result of spontaneous and self-directed processes. If that is the case, then in essence, the idea of a God becomes irrelevant, and this is evidenced in the corrupted world system we see today. However, if we believe the Bible to be the legitimate revelation of the Creator of the universe, then he has provided us a window into his majestic design and establishment of all that exists. Everything we can see and touch has sprung from the very mind of God.

These two unavoidable biases, spontaneous or intentional existence, are at the root of all rational thought in regard to our own consciousness and awareness as a species of living creatures on this planet. If one chooses spontaneous self directed processes, that will form the foundation of a particular worldview in regard to human behavior. If one chooses the purposeful creation bias, then that will provide a distinct and wildly divergent worldview in regard to human behavior.

To accept that God created the universe and this world is to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over his Creation. Doing so is a recognition that we as human participants in his Creation are merely guests whom he has granted the privilege of dwelling here. This entire world and cosmos is his kingdom, his realm of operation, and our function as created beings in his image is to faithfully represent him while we are here. His kingdom “coming” to this earth references the spiritual nature of his kingdom that results from our conformity to the moral principles he has placed within this universe; principles which are just as real and real and consequential as the “laws of nature.”

To acknowledge God’s authority as the Creator of all is to assent to his rightful ownership and dominion of all things as he has revealed to us in his Word. To reject the revelation of himself is to reject the acknowledgement of the presence of his kingdom, and to bear the natural and spiritual consequences of that position. This is why the kingdoms of men are in the current condition they are in. This is nothing new, even being represented within the pages of Scripture:

Ecclesiastes 4:1 – Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun. Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them.
Psalm 2:1-3 – Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against Yahweh and his Anointed One: “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.”

A kingdom, by its very nature and purpose, is ruled by its king. Those not accepting the authority of the rightful king will suffer the consequences of doing so. However, we can have hope that many will come to understand the truth, but they must hear the truth of the revelation of God to gain his perspective:

Romans 10:14-15 – How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

As believers, our “beautiful feet” bringing the news of the Creator to this world opens the doors of hearts who are willing to let go of the spontaneous universe worldview and to live, not with the personal objectives of the wicked, but instead with purpose and meaning for the One who created them.

This is how God has chosen to oversee and grow his moral and spiritual kingdom within the framework of his larger dominion of all Creation. It is up to us to learn and live by the principles he has laid out for us in his Word and thereby become active participants in his eternal and ever-growing dominion.


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.

Our integrity has real consequence

What we do is who we are.

Job 35:5-8 – Look at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds high above you. If you sin, how does it affect God? If you multiply your transgressions, what does it do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects a person like yourself, and your righteousness, a son of man.

One of the biggest cultural differences between Hebraic and Western thought has to do with worldview motivation. What I mean by this is that in Western thought, what one believes is what’s most important. In Hebraic thought, what one does is what’s most important. In fact, the biblical view is that what you believe is demonstrated by what you do. This is amply attested to by James in his famous passage:

James 2:17-18 – “In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works.”

In the story of Job, Elihu illustrates this for Job by pointing to the clouds, imagery which is employed throughout the Bible as representing the over-arching presence of God.

Deuteronomy 33:26 – “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your aid, the clouds in his majesty.”
Psalm 18:11 – “He made darkness his hiding place, dark storm clouds his canopy around him.”
Psalm 104:2-3 – “He wraps himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, laying the beams of his palace on the waters above, making the clouds his chariot, walking on the wings of the wind…”

Elihu establishes the idea that if Job thinks his righteous somehow affects God directly, or that wickedness of a person creates havoc in the realm where God exists, we misunderstand our sphere of influence. No, he argues, the clouds have no noticeable change due to our actions, good or bad. In like fashion, he states, God is unaffected by our specific actions. However, our actions, good or bad, righteous or wicked, do have an impact on others, and that is why we should be motivated to do what’s right.

This sounds a bit foreign to our Western sensibilities, since we are typically focused on believing what is right and rejecting what is wrong at all costs. This is certainly a significant aspect of our role: ensuring our doctrine is sound. However, what most times is lost in the culture shift between Hebraic and Western thought is the emphasis on our physical actions. These are many times downplayed at the expense of “right” beliefs.

The Bible tells a little bit different story, though. For example, Zacchaeus demonstrated the sincerity of his faith by what he did.

Luke 19:8-9 – “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Yeshua told him, because he too is a son of Abraham.”

Tabitha was recognized for the acts of kindness she performed in her life. The text doesn’t say what she believed, but what she did.

Acts 9:36 – “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity.”

Yeshua was righteous because he went about doing good, not just teaching what was good.

Acts 10:38 – “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.”

Those who are affected by our actions are the very ones whom God desires we be positive examples to. If we truly desire to have an impact in this world for God, and if we are seeking righteousness and integrity, then our lives should be examples to those around us who can benefit from our righteous actions. God doesn’t receive a direct benefit from our righteousness, but others do.

The one benefit God receives is that when we act in righteous ways, his Name is honored among the nations, and the Kingdom has more opportunity to continue to grow.


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 set apart fellowship of believers

It’s not where we meet but how we walk.

1 John 1:3 – “what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Yeshua the Anointed One.”

The apostle John makes it clear that the purpose of his epistle was to encourage faith in Yeshua and like-mindedness among those who would read and hear its message. He uses the word translated as fellowship four times in just this first chapter, so it must be important. Three times it is used in the context of having unity or like-mindedness with other believers, and once for unity of purpose with God.

We typically view fellowship as the common assembly of individuals in a congregation; the local fellowship of believers gathered together. But seeing how John uses the term here in these instances brings out this other aspect of meaning: unity of purpose and understanding.

The Greek word koinonia which is translated as fellowship can mean a shared contribution or participation (such as giving to the poor), or it can mean the specific share or portion that one has among a shared ideal (such as the sufferings or Messiah or the holy Spirit), or it can mean a shared unity around a common idea or purpose. This is the intent that John uses here in the opening verses of this epistle: the shared unity of purpose that believers have relating to a common understanding of God as the Father and Yeshua as the Anointed One of God.

This shared unity is what John is seeking to enjoin with those who were to hear the message of his epistle. Those who have a common understanding of God as a Father, of Yeshua as the Anointed Son of God, and who walk in the teachings of Yeshua have a common purpose; i.e., fellowship with one another. This does not mean that these believers have to all be in one location, just one mindset.

1 John 1:7 – If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This singular mindset is what creates the unity that allows believers to “walk in the light,” that is, to walk obediently according to the commands of God as communicated through the Anointed Yeshua. This is where our true fellowship lies, not just in a building once or twice a week. As we walk with God our purpose transcends any local assembly and we become participants in the set apart group known as the Kingdom of God in this world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive 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 pattern of God’s compassion for us to follow

Through sacrifice, God teaches mercy and compassion.

Matthew 9:11-13 – When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? ” Now when he heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

To those who would wonder why Yeshua was reaching out to those who were not considered worthy by the religious elite, Yeshua directs them to “go and learn what this means.” He then points them to a passage in the book of the prophet Hosea, which, when we read it in its context, helps us to understand what this emphasis is, and should be.

Hosea 6:4-6 – “O Ephraim, what shall I do with you? O Judah, what shall I do with you? For your wavering loyalty and kindness are transient like the morning cloud and like the dew that goes away early. Therefore, I have hewn them in pieces by the words of the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; My judgments pronounced upon them by the prophets are like the light that shines forth, obvious to all. For I desire and delight in steadfast mercy, rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”

Hosea then goes on to describe the heinous sins of Israel that they have committed and the justification of God’s coming wrath upon them. They claimed that they were righteous because they were doing all of the religious rites (sacrifices and offerings) and yet God was still angry with them.

This points to the religious hypocrisy of that generation which Yeshua then deftly applies to the leaders of his generation. They claimed to be righteous and yet were as compassionless as the generation of judgment pronounced by Hosea.

Matthew 23:13, 15 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!

Yeshua had no words to spare when it came to condemning the self-righteous hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day. Rather than endless sacrifices, God truly desired that they would learn of his mercy through the sacrifices, that they would come to understand he was allowing them grace and mercy through substitutionary offerings. Instead, they only took away from that process a legal code of rules that God requires to be appeased, and in the process of doing so they neglected the very ones whom God desired they would mimic his mercy to: the outcasts of his people.

The God of the universe is a God of mercy, and he desires we simply exhibit compassion to all others, especially those who may seem unworthy by any other religious standard. Instead of sacrifice, mercy; instead of burnt offerings, knowledge of him.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Through the knowledge of God’s mercy available to all through the life and ministry of Yeshua, God has provided the compassionate pattern for us to follow with all others to whom we can minister in our generation. If there are sacrifices involved, it may be the sacrifice of our social status in order to reach out with compassion to those who need it most, because the knowledge of God brings life.

Micah 6:6-8 – What should I bring before Yahweh when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is Yahweh requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive 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.