A legacy of compassion and love

Helping those in need is the great privilege among the people of God.

They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.

Galatians 2:10

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul gives a brief review of his activities after becoming a believer in the Messiah. He says after his conversion he immediately went to Arabia, and then returned back to Damascus (1:17). (As an aside, some have postulated a theory that he traveled to Arabia to visit Mt. Sinai, because his own personal revelation had changed his whole world).

He then relates three more years had passed before he spent two weeks in Jerusalem with Peter, and also met with James during his visit there (1:18-19). He traveled around Syria and Cilicia at that time and was unknown to the Messianic assemblies in Judea (1:21-22).

He returned to Jerusalem fourteen years later after receiving a revelation that he should minister among the nations, and not among his own people in Judea. He wanted confirmation from the then-leaders of the Messianic believers in Jerusalem (Peter, James, and John) that this was an appropriate ministry approach (2:1-2, 9), which they acknowledged with “the right hand of fellowship,” (2:9). Upon receiving this confirmation, he relates that “they asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.”

I find it fascinating that out of all of the doctrinal issues which could potentially have been raised with the confirmation of an international ministry, that remembering the poor is the primary effort that should be a focus of this endeavor.

However, this is not without precedent in the history of the kingdom of God. As Israel was preparing to enter the land of Canaan, Moses provided specific instruction about the care and protection of those who would be needy among them.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your city gates in the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.”

This command comes immediately on the heels of an accompanying conditional promise that I personally have overlooked until recently re-reading this passage.

Deuteronomy 15:4-5 “There shall be no poor among you, however, because the LORD is certain to bless you in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance ​– ​ if only you obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow every one of these commands I am giving you today.”

While there is an acknowledgement that there will always be those in need in the land, there is a conditional promise that if they are careful to follow the commands of Yahweh in providing for their needy, there is no need for anyone to have lack within the earthly kingdom of God which was being established in the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 15:11 “…that is why I am commanding you, ‘Open your hand willingly to your poor and needy brother in your land.'”

To my way of thinking, this principle has enormous implications for us today. God has promised his people that within the kingdom there is no need for anyone to be in want of necessities, IF we follow his command to always help those in need. Throughout his Word, or Torah, Yahweh provides for his people time and time again, and here he is mentioning that we have an opportunity, rather, an obligation, to partner with him in that provision by helping those among the kingdom who are in need.

“There shall be no poor among you…” What a great opportunity and privilege to find ways to help those among his people who are without necessity, just as the apostles in Jerusalem commissioned Paul to do among the nations. When we are obedient to God’s Word in this area, we are participating in a legacy of compassion that is thousands of years old. But we must remember, the motivation should always be one not of compulsion, but of love.

1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and if I have not love, it gains me nothing.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.

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

Keeping our hearts open to the needs of others

Stockpiling Gods blessings causes stagnation and lifelessness.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

1 John 3:17 

The apostle John uses some interesting phrasing in this verse. He describes ignoring the needs of a brother as a closing of the heart. He then asks rhetorically, if someone’s heart is closed, how can the love of God be in them?

The love that God has shown to us as believers is not a closed-loop system. It’s not as if we receive everything we need or want from God and then call it good and ignore everyone else.

I once heard an illustration of the water features of Israel as being representative of this principle. The Jordan river flows with fresh water from the mountains into the Sea of Galilee. There, the water teems with fish and all sorts of living creatures. Historically fisherman have worked their boats and nets and the Sea has provided its bounty for the surrounding communities.

The Sea of Galilee has fresh water because the besides being fed by the Jordan, it also empties on its southern edge to continue the Jordan river on its way. The water continually flows through the Sea as the river heads on its course.

However, as it enters the Dead Sea, the water has no outlet. The incoming fresh water merely stockpiles in the lowest regions of the area, where evaporation produces a lifeless stew of salt and brine that does not support any fish population.

This illustration shows that without an outlet, the water becomes stagnant and lifeless. In a similar way, if we merely receive the blessings and abundance God has provided us and do not share that bounty with others, our lives can become lifeless and unproductive, as well.

John drives home his admonition with the following statement:

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:18 

We should not just say we have compassion for others, we should demonstrate it with real actions based on the truth of God’s Word.

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

A demonstration of trust that delivered a city

Exhibiting a strong trust in God can extend beyond your personal needs to the needs of others who are relying on you.

Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’ “Don’t listen to Hezekiah!…

2 Kings 18:28-31

Assyria was on a military campaign against the surrounding nations, and Israel had come into its sights. The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, had declared war on Jerusalem and prior to setting up a siege, the commander was declaring its intent to the city.

However, Hezekiah, not being deterred by the king’s arrogance, laid out the demands of the Assyrian king before God in the temple, and prayed for deliverance.

After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the LORD’s Temple and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God. “It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all–only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

2 Kings 19:14-19

He trusted in God to deliver his people. Through this act of humility and trust, God responded through the prophet Isaiah that he would indeed protect Jerusalem and the honor of his Name.

The very next day, almost the entire Assyrian army was dead:

That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

2 Kings 19:35-36

It’s one thing to trust God for one’s own private needs or the needs of one’s own family, but consider how much faith Hezekiah was displaying by trusting God for an entire city, and even the nation of Israel!

Think of some of the alternatives: he could have mustered troops to come out in battle against Assyria, trusting in the might of his own army. Or he could have sent word to Egypt trusting in a foreign country as an ally to come and defend the city, but he didn’t do either of these things. He simply laid out the situation before God and prayed humbly and sincerely for deliverance. Through his simple act of faithfulness, the aggression of a military “superpower” was averted.

In like fashion, Yeshua encouraged his hearers to not be anxious for the future by trusting in God. How much more can your trust in God be emboldened to consider that God, through a sincere and humble trust in him, is able to deliver an entire nation from the aggression of another?

Trusting in the Provision of the King

Having our perspective changed from temporary to eternal will change how we respond to the hurdles of life’s challenges. We will find over time that the anxiety and distress over temporary things will begin to fade as we focus more on the eternal things.

Core of the Bible podcast #13 – Trusting in the Provision of the King

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust in God, and how God’s provision is promised within the activities of the kingdom.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25

In the core of the Bible paraphrase, I have stated it this way:

“Unnecessary anxiety over the essentials of life can consume us and cause us to lose our eternal perspective.”

Life is about so much more than the temporary things of this existence in this world. And yet we are constantly distracted with the basics of living that we forget about the true life that only comes from God. For believers, this is an ongoing struggle: to remain focused on God while overcoming the flash and noise of this world.

But a way to overcome this is to change our perspective. If we are able to get our focus off of ourselves and our problems, and focus on the important things like the Kingdom of God, we have more strength to overcome our struggles, which by comparison, are much less significant. Having our perspective changed from temporary to eternal will change how we respond to these hurdles. We will find over time that the anxiety and distress over temporary things will begin to fade as we focus more on the eternal things.

So to begin looking at this passage in Matthew 6, according to Yeshua, life is more than food.

Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.

He is reassuring his hearers that if God is able to provide animals their food, he can certainly provide it for those who are serving him in his kingdom.

This is an echo from the Psalms:

Psalm 104:20-21 – You send the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about. Then the young lions roar for their prey, stalking the food provided by God.

Those who are serving God in his kingdom may not always know how or what kind of food they will have, but God is able to provide it when the focus is first and always on him.

Continuing in Matthew 6:26, Yeshua states the conclusion of this provision for animals by saying, “And aren’t you far more valuable to God than they are?” The implied answer, of course, is yes you are! You have far more worth than many sparrows or lions because you are created in the image of God; your whole being is modeled on his.

Yeshua also teaches us that the body is more than clothing.

Matthew 6:28-30 – “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

God’s provision of food and clothing for believers is being compared to the natural order within God’s creation. Just as being a participant in God’s creation entitles his creatures to the natural provision of their needs, being a participant in God’s kingdom naturally entitles his children to the basic necessities of living.

Psalm 37:23-25 – The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.

The provision of these basic needs belong to those who are seeking first the kingdom, i.e., believers. However, if there is no kingdom-seeking going on, there is no guarantee that this provision will be met. The benefits of the natural order of creation belong to those who trust in the Creator, as the benefits of the natural order of the kingdom belong to those who trust in the King.

Also, the basic needs being discussed here may not be what one would expect or is accustomed to. What we consider basic and what God considers basic may be two different ideals completely. But if we are trusting in him for our spiritual needs, Yeshua is implying that God will meet our physical needs. We may not be rich, but we will be able to get by. We may not always have the type and quantity of food that we want, but we will not actually starve. That gives God a wide latitude of options when it comes to meeting our needs.

Our role is to recognize his provision and to be grateful and content with what he has provided for us. As Paul writes:

Philippians 4:11-13 – Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Messiah, who gives me strength.

To understand more about how God can provide, we can view some examples of how he has done so in the past.

The most apparent and significant example of this principle is expressed in how God provided for the priests who spent all of their time regarding the things of God involved with sacrifice and maintaining the Tabernacle. Because they spent all of their time in this necessary service and ministry, they were not granted any land inheritance, and they could not farm for themselves. God provided for their needs by allowing them to eat (with specific limitations) the choicest offerings of the people that were brought to God.

Leviticus 10:12-15 And Moses said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that remains from the offerings made by fire to the LORD and eat it without leaven beside the altar, because it is most holy. You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your share and your sons’ share of the offerings made by fire to the LORD; for this is what I have been commanded. And you and your sons and daughters may eat the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the contribution in a ceremonially clean place, because these portions have been assigned to you and your children from the peace offerings of the sons of Israel. They are to bring the thigh of the contribution and the breast of the wave offering, together with the fat portions of the offerings made by fire, to wave as a wave offering before the LORD. It will belong permanently to you and your children, as the LORD has commanded.”

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 The Levitical priests—indeed the whole tribe of Levi—shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They are to eat the offerings made by fire to the LORD; that is their inheritance. Although they have no inheritance among their brothers, the LORD is their inheritance, as He promised them.

So we see that because the priests were wholly occupied with the work of the Tabernacle, God was providing for their needs in the very acts of their service.

The Tabernacle or Mishkan in Hebrew was the symbolic root of God’s kingdom on the earth, which is why it is explained in such detail in the Old Testament. It represented God’s presence on the earth; it is where forgiveness was offered as repentant people brought their offerings. It was the center and heart of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, and everything in that community revolved around the presence of God in that place and his guidance in every aspect of their lives. To be a member of the Levites who were continually working within the courts of the Mishkan was considered a great honor, and they were highly regarded by others in the community.

This was the initial and primary pattern of how God would provide for those who were sacrificing all of their worldly inheritance to participate in this model of the kingdom on earth. And this is an eternal pattern that is established for us right down to our current day and age. As we seek first his kingdom, we need to trust that God will provide for us so we can keep our attention and focus on him and his purpose at all times. And when we truly trust him for our provision, he will not disappoint us.

Another interesting aspect of God’s provision is brought out as we look at the sacrifice of Abraham. In the story, Abraham is preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac in amazing and unswerving obedience to God’s request. As they are assembling everything necessary for the sacrifice to take place, Isaac innocently asks where the lamb is for the sacrifice.

Genesis 22:8, 14 – “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.”

Well, of course, all along Isaac was intended to be the sacrificial offering, and yet just as Abraham is about to fulfill his duty in faithful obedience, something happens.

Genesis 22:12-14 – “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of Yahweh it will be provided.”

While this famous passage is used to teach many wonderful and, yes, challenging aspects of God’s character and purpose which we do not have time to explore in this lesson, it primarily focuses on the idea that God is a provider; in fact, that is one of his names: Yahweh-Yireh (Or Jehovah Jirah, as the song goes).

While this passage confirms God’s ability to provide, let’s take a step back from the imagery of the story into the text itself. I find it interesting to note that the word for provide actually has a root in the word ra’a: to see, perceive, appear, cause to see. It’s as if at a point, God’s provision is made apparent when it wasn’t apparent previously.

Genesis 22:13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

As soon as the test was over, Abraham saw the ram caught in the thicket. So then the question becomes, had the ram been there the whole time, or did it just happen to get  caught right at the time Abraham needed it? Well, the verse doesn’t actually say, but it does raise some interesting ideas of just how God’s provision comes to pass.

We can see a similar idea of seeing God’s provision another narrative involving Abraham with the story of Hagar. When she was being sent away by Abraham into the wilderness, the passage says she saw a well of water when the need arose:

Genesis 21:14-16, 19 – So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears. … Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.

So the question is, did God miraculously provide a well that wasn’t there previously, or did he just reveal its location, make it apparent, to Hagar when her need was greatest?

Another famous example revolves around the rivalry between the nation of Aram and Israel. Elisha was the prophet of God at the time, and knew that God would deliver the Israelites from the hand of Aram:

2 Kings 6:14-17 – So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city [of Dothan]. When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

By contrast, just like revealing provisions that were not apparent previously, God can also cause some not to see when the reality is right before them.

2 Kings 6:18-20 – As the Aramean army advanced toward him, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, please make them blind.” So the LORD struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked. Then Elisha went out and told them, “You have come the wrong way! This isn’t the right city! Follow me, and I will take you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to the city of Samaria. As soon as they had entered Samaria, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, now open their eyes and let them see.” So the LORD opened their eyes, and they discovered that they were in the middle of Samaria.

Yeshua touched on this concept of “seeing and not seeing” in the preaching of the kingdom:

Luke 10:23-24 Then Jesus turned to the disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Mark 4:11-12 “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside everything is expressed in parables, so that, ‘ they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.’”

Of course, this is a quote from a famous passage in Isaiah, demonstrating how God would be very intentional with reaching out to Israel, and yet they would reject him, being blind and deaf to his pleadings:

Isaiah 6:8-10 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” And I said: “Here am I. Send me!” And He replied: “Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the hearts of this people calloused; deafen their ears and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

So what can we take away from all of these stories of God’s provision, and seeing and not seeing? Well, according to the example of the Levites, we can see that God will provide for those who are wholly engaged in the service of the kingdom. We can also understand from the stories of Abraham, Hagar and Elisha that God’s provision becomes apparent when it is needed, in his timing.

What this implies is that God’s provision is already here, but many times we just can’t see it. Though we may be physically incapable, mentally incapable, or spiritually incapable of seeing clearly, we can be certain that God’s provision is always at hand for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

When we are trusting in God and his Messiah, we are placing ourselves in line with those believers in the past who have had real provision of needs shown and available to and around them. God’s bounty is abundantly more than we can ever ask for.

Learning to trust God in this way liberates us from micro-managing. Trusting God allows God to be God, and for Yeshua to reign as Lord in our lives, because then we can be freed to live for him. As we focus on the kingdom and the righteousness of God, God provides for our needs.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that If we are truly trusting in God, we can know that he will supply these basics of life through whatever means he chooses. They may not be in the brand or style that we would choose for ourselves, but knowing that they can and will be provided can free us up to focus on the more significant aspects of this life. When we truly trust God, we demonstrate that we are not subject to the typical anxieties of this life. We are then living out the values of his kingdom, knowing the King provides for his subjects.

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

You can also view all previous episodes of the podcast here.

Becoming Set Apart through the Simplicity of Prayer

Through the “Lord’s Prayer,” we can learn from Yeshua what should be the guiding principles of our prayer life, setting us apart for God’s purposes.

Core of the Bible Episode 12 – Becoming Set Apart through the Simplicity of Prayer

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of holiness, or being set apart, and the necessity of regular intimate conversation with God that directs our lives.  

Yeshua stated it this way:

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the [nations] do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way…” Matthew 6:6-9

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I have expressed this as, “Make every effort to pray in a private place, simply and sincerely.”

Let me say at the outset of our time together today that this is not meant to be a comprehensive teaching on prayer. There are many different aspects to prayer that could take a much longer time to cover in greater detail; however, I would like to focus on this specific teaching of Yeshua, as I believe it boils a lot of the extraneous information about prayer down to its essentials.

Every culture has an understanding about prayer, and there are many different expressions of this practice. Some traditions are very ritualistic and have designated prayers for specific days. Some produce prayer books for different types of prayers for different things. Prayer can be individual or collective. Even with the various Christian traditions, we have prayers during a collective time of worship and teaching.

While these traditions are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves, they tend to obscure the simplicity with which Yeshua taught his disciples in how to pray.

We learn about many aspects of prayer by looking more closely at the parameters of Yeshua’s instruction. There are specific things to avoid, actions to do, and expected outcomes.

For example, in Matt. 6:5, he states:

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.

So here is an admonition of what NOT to do: don’t pray publicly for the sake of being seen as more righteous than others. Notice, he doesn’t say that we shouldn’t pray in public, but that we should check our motives.

Instead, he instructs that we should “go into your inner room, close your door” when we pray. This ensures we are not putting together fanciful orations for the sake of impressing others; there is no on there except you and God.

The outcome of this private practice is that “your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.” What’s interesting to consider is what type of reward is being mentioned here.  

In typical Hebraic fashion, Yeshua is contrasting this reward with the type of reward previously mentioned when he was speaking about hypocritical prayer. The reward of the hypocrite is to be publicly recognized as righteous, or lifted up in the eyes of others as they selfishly put on a show for the benefit of being recognized by others. That is their reward: the brief recognition by others. This idea also fits neatly within the context Yeshua mentioned just prior to this teaching on prayer, which is a teaching on private giving, as well.

For the truly righteous who pray in private, however, the blessing comes from God, not people, and it also implies the blessing will be personal and private, just like the prayer was. And in contrast to the temporary nature of the recognition of others, this reward will be lasting. Through this, it appears that Yeshua is conveying the personal and intimate nature of prayer, that it should be passion we pursue rather than a show that we put on for others.

While Yeshua he did pray openly among others, typically giving thanks for food and drink or most notably with his “high priestly prayer” with his disciples in John 17, by and large Yeshua demonstrated a separation from others in his own prayer life.  

Mark 14:32 – Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

Luke 6:12 – During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.

Luke 11:1 – He was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

So we can see that Yeshua did demonstrate a practice of personal prayer apart from others, even during his time of public ministry with his disciples.

Another practice Yeshua admonishes us to avoid is to ramble excessively in prayer, calling up every random thought and desire to place it all before God. This was something that the contemporary pagan religions practiced, and he was urging his followers not to follow the practices of the surrounding nations, a common Old Testament them, as well.

Matthew 6:7  “When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

It’s simple: the reason we don’t need to review every little detail of our petty lives is because, ultimately, God already knows what we need.

So if prayer is not about asking God for what we need, then what is it for? In the following verses in Matthew 6, Yeshua lays out an appropriate method or outline of prayer to ensure those who seek him would be approaching him in a manner that honors him while not demeaning the petitioner.

In the frontier culture of colonial America, a maxim of the basics of education became reduced to the concept of the three R’s: Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic. Now, while the three R’s of the prairie schoolhouse education summed up its basic tenets, in like fashion, I submit for your consideration that prayer, as taught by Yeshua, can also be summarized with three R’s:

– Recognition: we need to recognize God for all he is, for all he has done, and all he is doing. Acknowledging his authority and purpose helps us keep our perspective.

– Repentance: confession and repentance are not only good for the soul, they are a requirement. This is the opportunity to make sure we are being open and honest with God about all conflict in our lives.

– Request: with the correct perspective of God, and a humble heart of repentance, we are now in a state in which we can request what’s appropriate and necessary in our lives, not just flippant and shallow desires of the moment. God has promised to meet our needs, not our wants.

Let’s compare these three simple principles with Yeshua’s model prayer, what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer, to see how these characteristics are exemplified.


Matthew 6:9 – “Pray, then, in this way”:  

It amazes me that even though Yeshua specifically showed his disciples how to pray when he was asked, that we still choose instead to follow all sorts of man made prayer ideals. We have prayer campaigns, 40-days of prayer, prayer vigils, prayer with fasting, prayer beads, prayer chains, prayer groups. Clearly we have a need and a desire to pray; why don’t we just simplify everything and listen to our Master provide us the instruction we need?

In his model prayer, Yeshua begins with the first R: recognition.

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”  

That’s it! Not a long list of how amazing, how beautiful, how wonderful he is. We can leave that to the Psalmists, and for our own meditation on those qualities of his. These may be offered in sincerity of praise to him, but in some ways, they can come across as simply a way of buttering him up before we ask for what we want.

Instead, for prayer purposes, Yeshua keeps this recognition of God simple: he is in heaven, which means he is above and beyond the comparatively trite and finite existence we experience. He therefore has the ability to see beyond what we can see and to apprehend what would be best for us in any given situation.  

Additionally, his Name (his character) is holy, that is, set apart from everything and everyone else. Recognition of these factors demonstrates our understanding that we are in communication with the one true God of the universe.

Both God’s kingdom and his will are equated in this verse. I’ve talked about this before in previous teachings. The kingdom coming is God’s will being done on earth. If his kingdom is heaven, and his will is accomplished there, then his kingdom on earth is anywhere his will is being accomplished on earth.

If our prayer is based on these facts: that God is all knowing, that he is set apart from this corruptible world, and that accomplishing his will is the expansion of his kingdom on this earth, our prayers would have a much different tone and form of expression, would you agree?

Now on to the second R: request.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  

While this is a request, it only comes on the heels of recognizing who the provider of bread is: the one true God. By requesting our daily provision be met, we are assenting to his ability to provide it. This is a request that is contingent on our understanding of God’s power and authority.

It is also an understanding that this bread is only a provision within the context of accomplishing his will and purpose on this earth. We have no right to expect God’s provision if we are simply living for ourselves and our own selfish desires.

Next, Yeshua provides another key aspect of prayer with the other R: repentance.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  

Forgiveness can only come after repentance; repentance of our actions that have offended God or repentance of our actions that have hurt others, or repentance of others who have hurt us. While forgiveness is a topic we can explore in and of itself, in the context of this prayer, Yeshua clearly is making the point that God is not obligated to forgive us if we are not willing to forgive others. He makes that clear just a few verses later:

Matt. 6:14-15 – For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.

God does not want us to be hypocritical, and certainly not within our prayers. In fact, all of this teaching on prayer is within the overall context of avoiding hypocrisy: we should not make a big show of our giving (vss.1-3), we should not make a big show of our praying (vss. 5-7), and we should not make a big show of our fasting (vss. 16-18). (Fasting will be another topic for another day). These are all things the religious leaders loved to do, and Yeshua is condemning these practices because their hearts were not right. They wanted to look good in front of others when they had corrupt hearts that could not ascertain the true needs of others. They sought the hollow approval of men rather than the true approval that only comes from God.

By contrast, a heart that is right with God will be satisfied within its own domain; it won’t need the approval and affirmation of others in order to be justified. It knows it’s right with God and it won’t be swayed by external judgment.

Back to Yeshua’s model prayer, he continues with another request:  

‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  

Very few people actually enjoy tests. In grade school I certainly never enjoyed tests, especially ones I was not prepared for. I would scramble for answers and hope some of the multiple choice options made sense so I could muddle my way through. If it was math or another subject where I had to show my work, I would need that much more preparation to ensure I could pass the test. And that was the idea: knowledge of the upcoming test would (or should) have forced me to learn the material more thoroughly.

But I can also say that when I was actually prepared for a test because I did know the material, I was not concerned with the process of taking the test; in fact, I kind of enjoyed it because providing the right answers gave me a sense of satisfaction. It also confirmed for me that I truly was familiar with the material. When I was prepared, I didn’t mind the test and I knew after the test that I was going to get a good grade.

In like fashion, God tests his people; not to see them fail but to show them how much they know about themselves and their own abilities.

Deuteronomy 8:2 – Remember that for forty years the LORD your God led you on your journey in the desert. He did this in order to humble you and test you. He wanted to know whether or not you would wholeheartedly obey his commands.

Testing is also a refining process, where the impurities are drawn off of precious metals by heating them up to a liquid state. Once the “dross” is drawn off, what remains of the original metal is now a more purified condition.

Proverbs 17:3 Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

Psalm 66:10-12 – For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us like silver. You led us into the net; You laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but You brought us into abundance.

Job 23:10-12 Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have followed in His tracks; I have kept His way without turning aside. I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.

2 Pet 1:6-7 – now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

In Yeshua’s prayer, he is encouraging us to petition God that, by his mercy, we would be spared, not from ALL testing, but from hard testing and to be delivered from evil that exists along the way. But there’s no guarantee that would be the case. This clause in this model prayer is just a reminder, an ongoing understanding that we always need to be prepared; God can test us at any time. How familiar are we with his ways? Through testing, large or small, we will be shown what we know and if how we have patterned our life matches his purposes.

That is his goal for us, that our lives match his purposes. Many times I have heard Christian leaders say we should be seeking to become more “Christ-like.” To that I say: be careful what you wish for. If that’s the case, then we can look at the life of the Messiah and see that it was filled with testing: in the wilderness with hunger and visions, battling doctrine with the religious leaders, having his sanity questioned with his friends and family, and ultimately going willingly to one of the most publicly humiliating and gruesome deaths imaginable. He did all this because it was within God’s purpose for him.

Are you ready for that level of testing? Because if you are desiring to be more Christ-like, you can likely expect more of that.

Finishing  up our brief review of Yeshua’s model prayer, in most of our English versions of this passage, a final aspect of this teaching ends once again with a recognition of God’s authority and power:

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

Some scholars think this was a sentence that was added to the text by over zealous scribes. While that may or may not be the case, it brings the model prayer full circle by ending with the same level of recognition with which it begins: God is all powerful and holy, and all of our prayers should also be enclosed within that understanding. Notice, in this  outline that Yeshua provides us, there can be no request without that recognition, and there can also be no request without repentance. Therefore, our repentance and requests are contingent on the recognition of God’s person and purposes.

Prayer should be a core practice that comes from the very center of a believing heart. It is the one place and time where our focus should be solely on communicating with the all-powerful Creator of the universe, conveying requests aligned to his purposes with truly repentant and humble hearts. Because it is so significant, it should be a time set apart from everything, and everyone, else. In this intentionally isolated place and time, we have no masks to hide behind, no one to impress, and nothing to offer except our barest hopes for strength during testing and aspirations to be purified through all.  

“…[A]nd your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”

We hold on to that promise of Yeshua, that the Father sees and rewards those secret and genuine longings of our spirits to be submitted to him in fulfillment of his will and purpose. Those rewards may be different what we expect; however, whenever they come to pass, we can be confident they will exceed our wildest ideas of what they could possibly be, and they will last for eternity.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Holiness is a requirement for every believer. Prayer is the simplest method of maintaining our set apart condition in this world, as we seek God’s heart in authentic communication with him. Our holiness, or set-apartness, in this world stems from the very testing and refinement that God conducts within us on a regular basis, as we rely on him and submit to his will.

We need to keep in mind that holiness is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, vigilance, trust, forgiveness and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.  

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

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The Sabbath is a feature of the kingdom built into Creation itself

The Sabbath has always been intended by God to be a benefit, not a burden.

Then he told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27

The kingdom of God has been designed by God to be not just an ideal to strive for, but to be a practical outworking of his desire for human behavior.

In the Kingdom Charter, the Ten Commandments, lies an aspect of the kingdom that is largely neglected among Christians today. God’s people have been instructed to remember the Sabbath and keep it set apart. It is a gift from him, a sacred memorial honoring the Creator (Yahweh), his provision, and his eternal purpose.

Most people assume the Sabbath was instituted for Israel at Sinai. However, we find that the seventh day was actually set apart at Creation, as God demonstrated a practice of rest from his work of creating on that day.

On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.

Genesis 2:2-3

From the very beginning of all things, God declared that this day was to be set apart as special. The word Sabbath actually conveys more than just rest, but an intermission; the cycle of days is intentionally interrupted by something different, a unique day unlike the others.

Yeshua, seeing that the Jewish authorities had corrupted the purpose of the day into a long list of requirements and restrictions, stated simply that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath. The day was intended to be a benefit, not a burden.

The New Living Translation brings this out in its rendering of this verse:

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 – NLT

As humans come to recognize and honor their Creator and the Kingdom of God expands, the Sabbath cycle instituted at the creation of all things intentionally interrupts our daily routine and becomes the mode of reconnecting with the Source of our true life.

Trusting God by listening and taking action

God wishes to have an active relationship with us based on trust.

The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many troops for me to hand the Midianites over to them, or else Israel might elevate themselves over me and say, ‘My own strength saved me.’ … The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the three hundred men who lapped and hand the Midianites over to you. But everyone else is to go home.” … When Gideon’s men blew their three hundred trumpets, the LORD caused the men in the whole army to turn on each other with their swords. They fled to Acacia House in the direction of Zererah as far as the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath.

Judges 7:2, 7, 22

Gideon’s trust that God would do what he said was based on reassurances that God had provided him. This was evident all along in his journey to becoming a savior of Israel from the oppression of the Midianites.

When Gideon was first called by God through an angel, Gideon asked for a sign to confirm this was truly God’s plan. This was demonstrated by a dramatic acceptance of his sacrificial offering. Immediately after this, God instructed him to tear down his father’s idolatrous altar.

When he was preparing to attack the Midianite armies, Gideon asked God for a sign by placing a fleece of wool on the ground overnight. If the fleece demonstrated wetness or dryness opposite to the normal dew patterns, he would know that it was really God who was asking this of him. Once this was confirmed, Gideon rallied his troops for battle.

As a final act of trust, God asked him to reduce his forces to just 300 men. When he did so, God still provided him reassurance as he and his servant spied on the enemy camp and overheard their fear based on a dream that Gideon was going to overtake their army.

All of these examples in the life of Gideon point to an interesting facet of trusting God: God will provide reassurances when he asks for our trustful actions. In these examples, these were not outward signs to all of Israel, but were private and personal reassurances that provided Gideon the confirmation that God was communicating with him, and that he would come through for Gideon if Gideon would act in faith by trusting in what he asked of him.

It starts with us hearing something from God. We have his word to inspire and encourage us to obedient actions. Perhaps it is an admonition from a sermon or bible study, or more typically, a spark of inspiration from personal meditation in God’s word. Then, we respond by reaching out to him to make sure we understand clearly what we think we heard. If we are sincere and attentive, we will find God responding to us in a way that only we can know, a way that has his “fingerprints” all over it.

In our lives today, we may not have visions of angels or miraculous fleeces to provide us confirmation of God’s direction. However, if we are attentive, we receive confirmations that are private and personal to us. Perhaps there is a saying on a billboard which you pass on the freeway that resonates in answer to prayer, or a song that comes up in your playlist with encouraging lyrics that match what you asked of God.

This is the relationship God wishes to have with us: an active relationship based on trust. And for trust to take place, there has to be back and forth communication to establish that trust on which our actions are based.

The Bible knows nothing of a blind faith, only a trust in what may be unseen to others but known to be real to us. And acting on that unseen trust is how we demonstrate our faith in God and fulfill his purposes in this world.

Vigilance over temptation

Prayer to avoid temptation keeps us focused and receptive to God and his resources.

And he [Yeshua] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:40-41

Yeshua was speaking this to Peter for the specific purpose of admonishing him to stay alert with him while he was praying in Gethsemane. However, this has become a type of universal admonition, and not without good reason.

Praying to avoid temptation was a key teaching within Yeshua’s template for prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Based on the original word definitions, this can be expanded and paraphrased as “May we not be lead into adversity and hard testing; nevertheless, rescue us from anguish, harm, and all evil.”

Praying in this manner is a demonstration of vigilance. When praying to avoid temptation, 1) there is an awareness of the possibility of impending challenges and 2) there is a recognition of God’s ability to provide assistance or escape.

The act of praying focuses the mind on the essential needs of the moment. This is necessary because vigilance also involves alertness and overcoming the distractions and limitations of fleshly influence. While our spirit may be willing, many times we become spiritually disoriented as worldly impulses (whether internal or external) overwhelm us.

Remaining steadfast in prayer to God keeps us focused and in communication with the One who is more than able to provide us the necessary strength to overcome.

Resting in His Care

When we focus on the things of this world more than God, then we have lost our true perspective.

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

Matthew 6:26-32

Your life is more valuable to God than all the beauty and provision represented in his Creation; he knows all of your needs.

As believers, we are easily and constantly distracted from what is truly important by our bodily needs and desires. Living on this earth presents us with challenges and struggles that can pull our focus away from God.

Trust is about perspective. When we focus on the things of this world more than God, then we have lost our true perspective. Yeshua calls this condition “little faith.”

Yet, the simplicity of trusting God can restore us to our spiritual and emotional “center.” A sincere understanding of God and his ability to provide for our basic needs gives us a foundation of trust that we can then build on. When this reality seeps deep inside to our core, it becomes a tap-root that can sustain us through the most adverse conditions.

God cares for what he creates. Whether birds, flowers, grass or people, he has built into his Creation practical mechanisms for sustenance that allow his universe to thrive. Seeing this provision and beauty within his Creation is his evidence to us, his proof, that he has the ability to provide for our needs. All we have to do is recognize this, and rest safely and securely within his care.

The ancient believers expressed a similar amazement at the care that God bestows upon mankind within the vastness of his Creation:

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. … When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Psalm 8:1, 3-4