Keeping the commands of God over our traditions and impulses

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of vigilance. Keeping the covenant and commands of God requires multi-faceted vigilance, as cultural influx that negates or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it has been since ancient times.

The Bible is filled with admonitions to keep the covenant or to keep the commands of God. We read about it so often that we may sometimes gloss over the significance of what it means to keep the words of God.

Psalm 119:57, 60, 63 – Yahweh is my portion; I promise to keep your words. … I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. … I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.

God had conveyed many specific directives to the ancient Israelites through Moses, including this necessity to keep his commands.

Exodus 19:5 – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples…”

In this passage, God made it clear that those who obey him by keeping his covenant would be his people. The word we translate as keep or to keep in English comes from the Hebrew root word shamar which at its most rudimentary level means to observe and watch. In its primary sense, it means to heed, pay attention to, or observe (in practice) the covenant and the commands of God. This is the generally accepted meaning when it is used.

However, it also means to guard, preserve, or protect. This is a huge concept in Hebrew thought as it relates to the commands of God. Based on passages like Exodus 19:5 that we just reviewed, both the ancient and modern Israelites have understood themselves to be the receivers of God’s wisdom above all other nations in the world. As such, it was their responsibility to preserve his words through oral traditions and written records. Thankfully for all believers today, it was due to this dutiful caretaking of God’s words that we even have a Bible today.

But over the centuries some of the caretakers of the written records had taken this instruction to the extreme by making additional traditions and rules which were intended to guard the Torah even further, to prevent people from violating the original commands. The original intent of creating these extra rules may have been sincere enough, but soon the traditions and rules became equivalent, or even superior to, the original command of Yahweh and they ended up elevating the man-made traditions above the word of God itself. By the days of Yeshua, there were so many rules and regulations about the rules and regulations of God that it had become a hot mess of traditions mixed over the top of the original commands of God.

According to rabbinical lore, the motivation behind these Jewish traditions and rules was to “build a fence” around the Torah by designating specific actions as a way of protecting people from violating the actual commands of God. This is known as halakha, or the way to walk. These are the religious rules, sometimes called the Oral Law, that rabbinical thinkers and teachers have provided over the centuries. Since approximately 200 A.D, these oral teachings have been summarily encapsulated in the body of Jewish literature known as the Talmud.

To be fair, Jewish thought distinguishes between explicit commands and those derived from rabbinical teaching in the Talmud. For example, the command to observe the Sabbath is explicit right in the text of Exodus:

Exodus 20:8-10 – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:  You are to labor six days and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must not do any work ​– ​you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates.”

As we can see, the command to observe the Sabbath clearly involves not doing any work on that day. But in Jewish practice, there is also a “fence” command that the rabbis have created to where even holding a tool is against the Torah. It does not say that in the scriptural text, but the logic is that if you are forbidden from holding a tool, you are less likely to accidentally break the command of not working on the Sabbath.

In orthodox circles, both the text of Torah and the principles of halakha in the Talmud are considered legally binding in matters of practice. This Sabbath command is only one example of thousands of added commands to the Torah that orthodox Jews were and are expected to observe. So it can be seen that the original “guarding” of God’s word, the keeping of the commands, had eventually become corrupted into a convoluted system of man-made traditions and rules, even by the days of Yeshua. In fact, Yeshua famously chastised the religious leaders of his day for this very thing:

Mark 7:8-13 – “…you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.” He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother;’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is to say, given to God;”‘ then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.”

In this example, rather than taking care of parents as Torah commands, the rabbinical halakha allowed that same potential care of mother and father to be considered an offering to God; a loophole to release people from taking care of their parents yet still appearing as pious and observant. These various interpretations of the commands led to many differing opinions and loopholes in the Torah that were (and still are) argued over and debated in the synagogues and among the people. Yeshua is recorded as exposing these fence commands as being too strict and derailing the original intent of the Torah in the first place.

However, in his own teaching and doctrine, Yeshua is recorded as having established his own type of halakha in regards to the Torah. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua speaks about at least two of the Ten Commandments (the explicit commands of God) and expresses a specific halakha for each.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the Gehenna of fire.

Matthew 5:27-28 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Here we can see how Yeshua takes the base, textual commands of Yahweh and defines a specific halakha or “fence” command for each. To avoid breaking the commandment against murder, one must control their anger. To avoid adultery, one must control their attention and desires. But notice the difference between the halakha of the Jewish authorities and Yeshua: the Jews focused on specific actions to prevent breaking the commands; Yeshua focused on specific attitudes of the heart from which would flow the correct actions and the true keeping of the Torah commands. Rather than constantly having to remember a bunch of man-made rules to avoid breaking the Torah, Yeshua taught that a right heart will by default keep Yahweh’s commands perfectly.

This is the good news of the New Covenant theology of Yeshua and the Kingdom of God! It is the fulfillment of the aspirations of all of the old prophets who foretold that Israel would receive a new heart that would be obedient to the Torah.

Jeremiah 31:33 – For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Yahweh: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The New Covenant is based on the Spirit of God dwelling among his people and causing their hearts to be changed to follow his Torah because it will be internalized, “written on their hearts.” With their hearts made righteous, his people would then by default accomplish his will and be the light to the nations that they have always been destined to be. This is why Yeshua told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” to see the Kingdom of God; an act of creation as decisive and real as physical birth. Those who receive the teaching of Yeshua and the commands of God are re-created into new beings with new hearts that produce new actions, actions that honor God and keep his Word.

The other definition of keeping as it relates to the covenant and commandments is to watch. Watching implies an alertness, being aware of surroundings, looking for any holes in the perimeter defenses to maintain the security of what is being guarded. This is the level of vigilance necessary to make sure that what God has provided is not being diminished by outside influence.

This is probably the most under utilized aspect within the concept of keeping the covenant and commands. Cultural influx of worldly ideals is and has been the biggest adversary to the people of God over the centuries. Living in an environment with a constant stream of values that negate or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it always has been. Unfortunately, with our Western worldview, the current efforts of God’s people to prop up defenses for God’s Word is many times based on arguments regarding literal interpretations of biblical events rather than standing firm on the text with literary defenses. In discussions today, we waste time trying to set historical dates and evidences for things like Noah’s flood or the age of the earth which only cause further debate and strife, both within and without the kingdom.

If we would instead recognize and defend the literary nature of the Bible and recognize the intent of the stories and what they are trying to teach rather than when they physically occurred, we would go much further in honoring God’s purpose in having an eternal record of those things. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I don’t believe those events occurred within history, it’s just that the biblical record is not a newspaper account that can be completely catalogued and charted in the realm of scientific study; it has never been intended to be such a record as that. And when believers attempt to become scientific about the Biblical accounts of various things that were never intended to be viewed in that fashion, they end up dishonoring the very One they are intending to honor, much like the Pharisaical leaders of Yeshua’s day.

We have to remember that the ancient Hebrew mindset was more symbolic and figurative than literal when it came to relating their events and history. Because of this, we must exercise care in our determination of historical events, common phrases that were used for familiar items and processes for them, and spiritual experiences that conveyed God’s truth in symbolic fashion. Just like the Pharisees of old, we can become so consumed with the minutiae of the letter of the Word that we miss the spiritual meaning of what it actually means.

There are also different emphases when it comes to being vigilant and watching as related in the teachings of Yeshua and his disciples. Some of the watching involves care in what type of teaching you expose yourself to:

Mark 8:15 – And [Yeshua] cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

This would indicate a measure of discernment that would be needed in the information being received both from religious and political authorities. Another type of watching comes from vigilance with our own actions, to ensure we are not carried away by worldly desires.

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

2 John 1:8 – Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Another type of watching involves the care of God’s leaders among his people, to be diligent in ensuring that those who have been given into their care are properly provided for so that the people can effectively serve God.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In our practice of watching carefully over God’s Word, ourselves, and each other, we must ensure that our vigilance in keeping his Word centers on honoring God, not on our personal theories about God or our personal traditions beyond what the text really says. The stories and message of the Bible are all meant to express the reality of God’s Kingdom, and his faithfulness with his people, reassuring us that God is the Creator of all and that he always does what he says. If this is the case, and we are to be his children, then we should also always do what we say so we can honor  and represent him faithfully in all things.

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been. As we remain faithful to the intent and the spirit of his word, not just the letter of the law or loyalty to our religious traditions, we can guarantee a fulfilling future for our descendants whom God will draw to himself and his Kingdom in ages to come.


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

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

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

Keeping God’s Word before us at all times

Believers should be so imbued with God’s Word that it causes them to act with the integrity of his commandments as a reflex.

Today we will be looking at one of the seven core Bible principles: integrity. Reviewing the information today I hope to show how believers should be so imbued with God’s Word that it causes us to act with the integrity of his commandments as a reflex.

Deuteronomy 6:18, 25 – Do what is right and good in Yahweh’s sight, so all will go well with you. … For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands Yahweh our God has given us.

As Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter the land of Canaan, he encouraged them to continually be reminded of doing what is good and right so that they would be sure to follow all of the commands of God’s law. If they were to do what was right from the heart, that is how they would be sure to be following all of God’s commands and they would be considered righteous.

In the same way, Yeshua taught that believers should demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands.

Matthew 5:20 – “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

What Yeshua was teaching the audience of his day was nothing new. God had continually put before the Israelites that the integrity of the actions they were to pursue and the decisions they made should have been coming should have been coming from a genuine place in their hearts, not just outward compliance. Moses had urged this of the Hebrew community over a millennia earlier:

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 – Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart

In order to continue this focus in their culture Moses had provided them a specific set of instructions or a template that they could implement in the lives of their communities. Over the years, the Israelites would form many traditions around his original template.  Ultimately, this was by design to help them to maintain a continuous recognition of the commands of God.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9 – and you shall teach [these words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.

One of the primary methods used by Hebrew believers over the years to accomplish this doing of the commands stems from the ongoing recitation of the Shema and the practices associated with it. What is the Shema? As outlined from a popular Jewish website Chabad.org, this process has become a daily declaration of their faith.

Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) (“Hear, O Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is the centerpiece of the morning and evening prayer services, encapsulating the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.” In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41. Its recitation twice daily (morning and evening) is a biblical commandment. In addition, we recite it just before retiring for the night, as well as in the Kedushah [set-apart] service on Shabbat. Indeed, this succinct statement has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah [closing of the gates] prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth.” – Chabad.org – What is the Shema

So let’s take a closer look at the principal section of the Shema that we reviewed a few moments ago in Deuteronomy 6.

First, Moses states the purpose of this instruction in the opening verse: “These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart…” This is his over-arching objective in the instruction he is about to reveal: to have the words that God commands on their hearts, not just in their minds. When God’s Word is on the heart of the believer, then all of the actions that stem from that foundation will be correctly motivated and acted upon.

Moses then proceeds to explain how to imbue the entire community with the richness of God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 6:7 – “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Notice the progression he outlines here. First be sure the children are taught the truth of God’s Word. If they are not exposed to the Word of God on a regular basis, they will likely form their own opinions based on the corrupted cultures around them and they will potentially fall away from the one, true God to a belief system of the popular culture or one of their own making.

“You shall teach them to your children…” The Hebrew phrasing in this passage could be literally rendered as, “You shall diligently sharpen your children.” The imagery is that children need to be constantly honed in the things of God in order to be a useful implement to God throughout their lives, much like a sharp knife is much more useful than a dull one. This is a process, not a program. It is something they must be exposed to on a regular basis through the course of their lives.

Moses continues, “You shall talk of them…” The commands of God are something that should be a topic of discussion as situations are encountered each day, whether at home or out and about in the community, or traveling on an extended journey. How do God’s commands apply to what the children are experiencing, or the family situation that is at hand? What better way to demonstrate the truth of God’s Word than to live it out in our daily, practical experiences? But in order for believing parents to do so, they must also be imbued with God’s Word. Adults must take the time to understand how God’s Word applies in their lives as parents so they can faithfully share that wisdom with their children.

Moses says to talk about the commands of God “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road.”  This constant focus on God’s commands would show that his Word is being implemented within the daily fabric of the family, not only at home but when running errands or traveling. When children see that the God’s Word is a vital part of the parents’ lives at all times and in every place, they are more likely to be receptive to it themselves seeing that it has universal application.

He says to also be sure to review it “when you lie down and when you get up.” This is where Judaism derives the principle that the Shema should be recited twice daily: in the evening (when you lay down) and in the morning (when you get up).

As an aside, notice how the day is reckoned in Hebraic culture: first there is evening, then there is morning. We get a glimpse here of how sunset begins the day and the morning begins the second half of the day. In our Western culture, we might have stated it as “talk about God’s Word every morning, noon, and night.” But for ancient Hebrews, a total day is halved between darkness first, and light second. This mirrors the Creation narrative:

Genesis 1:2-3, 5 – Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. … God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was an evening [listed first], and there was a morning: one day.

Ancient cosmology aside, the focus of Moses’ command is to indeed have a constant attention to God’s Word throughout the totality of every day. If the Israelites were to do so, the commands of God would always be the constant focus of his people, acting on it from the heart in all they do.

The next section of the Shema illustrates another picture of the constancy of the Word within the hearts of the believing community.

Deuteronomy 6:8 – “Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.”

Now from this one sentence has come a Jewish tradition that was practiced up through the days of Yeshua and is still practiced by Jews today: the wearing of tefillin or phylacteries. From the website of the Jewish Virtual Library, we gain the following definition of tefillin:

“Tefillin are two small black boxes with black straps attached to them; Jewish men are required to place one box on their head and tie the other one on their arm each weekday morning… The Pharisees … took the text literally; the words of the Torah are to be inscribed on a scroll and placed directly between one’s eyes and on one’s arm.”

However, with the entire section of this instruction from Moses beginning with “these words shall be in your heart,” the command has also been understood to be figurative, in the sense that every thought (between the eyes) and every action (of the hands) should be prompted from the commands of God. The Jewish Virtual Library article also points out how various Jewish groups have had this type of interpretation over the years.

“Certain Jewish groups — including probably the Sadducees, and definitely the medieval Karaites — understood the last verse to be figurative; it means only that one should always be preoccupied with words of Torah, as if they were in front of one’s eyes.”

In my view, I believe that is the intent of Moses’ instruction, seeing how the primary emphasis is not on any outward show but on ensuring that the words of God are in the hearts of the believer. I think this is illustrated most clearly by seeing how this phrasing of signs and symbols on the hand and between the eyes is used in another section of Scripture where Moses is explaining about the annual practice of observing the week of Unleavened Bread at Passover.

Exodus 13:6-10 – “For seven days you must eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there is to be a festival to Yahweh. “Unleavened bread is to be eaten for those seven days. Nothing leavened may be found among you, and no yeast may be found among you in all your territory. On that day explain to your son, ‘This is because of what Yahweh did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that Yahweh’s instruction may be in your mouth; for Yahweh brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand. Keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.”

Notice how the practice of observing the week of unleavened bread was to be a sign on the hand (in practice) and a reminder on the forehead (in the mind). It was established as an annual object lesson to remind the ongoing Israelite descendants of the significance of the flight from Egypt. By keeping this command in a physical way, the believing community would be bringing to remembrance, as a memorial, the event that formed them into a nation of God’s own people.

Well, so far we have looked at the commands of Moses and how some Jewish traditions have sprung up around those commands. In a moment, as we continue to look at other commands and traditions, it is my hope that we can glean an understanding of the importance of keeping God’s Word at the foremost of our thoughts and actions every day.

Having reviewed some of Moses instruction in Deuteronomy, we now switch gears for a moment to review a secondary passage of the Shema that Israel recites each day from the book of Numbers.

Numbers 15:37-41 – Yahweh said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all Yahweh’s commands and obey them and not prostitute yourselves by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh your God.”

So, a secondary practice that has arisen out of the texts of the Shema passages is the wearing of tassels on one’s garments. The tassels were to be reminders to be diligent in following all of God’s commands. There is nothing in this command that suggests it is a figurative type of imagery, but by all accounts it appears to be the literal description of a specific practice. When worn on one’s own clothing, the tassels were to be a personal reminder to keep God’s commands throughout every daily situation. Seeing others wearing the tassels would also bring to remembrance the diligence needed in keeping God’s commands.

But over the years, as the practice grew within the leadership of the community, it had become corrupted as well. The tassels had become the equivalent of a religious status symbol, and, as with all social trends, it began to be abused. People began to change the appearance of their tassels to appear more righteous than others by lengthening them beyond what the typical tassel might be. Between this and the practice of wearing tefillin as mentioned previously, these things led to a pious hypocrisy of the religious leaders that Yeshua ultimately called them out on. But note: Yeshua didn’t condemn the Jewish leaders for the wearing of tefillin or tassels, but he did confront them because those things had become status symbols depending on how large the scripture boxes were, or how long their tassels had become. The outward show had replaced the inward meaning, and this opened them up to pride and hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:2-7 – “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.'”

When the object lessons we use to remind ourselves of God’s commands or to teach others about his Word become the primary focus of our practice, then we have lost sight of the spirit of God’s Word and we have succumbed to the idolatry of our traditions. This can be a slippery slope, which is why I believe God prefers simplicity from the heart. If a believer today wants to wear tassels as object lessons in the genuine spirit of the command of being reminded of the significance of God’s Word throughout the day, then I believe they should be free to do so. But if the wearing of tassels is only for attempting to appear more righteous than others, then the tassels have become idolatrous. It’s not necessarily the practice itself (excepting outright idolatry) but the motivation behind it that has any value.

Returning now to the Deuteronomy passage, the final admonition from Moses regarding the commands of God in this section was to, “write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.” Again, this constant and intentional placing of God’s Word where everyone in the household and where guests would pass on a regular basis would serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in providing his people with his instruction. God’s instruction only has meaning when hear it, see it, and know it. The repetition of talking about it in the house and when traveling, to wear the tassels and see them on others, and to touch the commands of God in the entering and leaving of the home all work together to keep the believing family knowing the one true God.

It’s been said that immersion in a foreign culture is the best way to learn another language. In a sense, the Kingdom of God is foreign to the cultures of this world, and it takes immersion for us to truly understand the scope and power of its presence here in the lives of believers.

The idea of being intentional about how we handle God’s Word is the key. In reality, as Yeshua illustrated, there is nothing wrong with using physical reminders as object lessons for the deeper spiritual significance. A problem only arises when those physical reminders and traditions become the objective that surpasses the underlying spiritual meaning.

The method Moses outlined of identifying what is most important in the Bible and reviewing it in an intentional way should be an example to us today. It demonstrates the tenacity required to imbue our culture with a recognition of an obedient life, an upright and righteous life, a life of true integrity.

How diligent are we in making sure the words of God are in our hearts so we can act on them without even thinking? Like physical reflexes, we should respond to our situations and conditions in ways that honor God because his instruction is thriving in our hearts. When situations arise that demand our obedience, we shouldn’t have to seek commentaries and biblical concordances; we should be so imbued with God’s Word through our daily practices that his Spirit can bring those insights to the forefront of our thinking (between the eyes), and therefore our actions (through our hands), whenever needed.

Moses’ method in his template for the family and the community involves a constant, daily, repetitious routine that would saturate the culture of the people with God’s Word. Some of the practices were to become symbolic object lessons that would keep God’s Word before them at all times. If we could find ways to incorporate this level of diligence in our daily routines for ourselves and within our families, we would not only be following the commandments as God outlined through Moses, but we would also be living lives of integrity that would be clearly and intentionally patterned on God’s Word.


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

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

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

Consistently seeking the kingdom of God

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

Psalm 1:1-3 – How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Yahweh’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

I love the brevity and directness of these few verses. In them, we learn that happiness for the believer is derived from the avoidance of certain practices and the diligent pursuit of something else. They also convey the results that can be expected when this advice is followed.

As believers we are to avoid:

  • walking in the advice of the wicked
  • standing in the pathway with sinners
  • sitting in the company of mockers

For each one of us, this may take different forms, whether it is our interactions with our work and social groups, or the company we keep online with friends and acquaintances. These typical behaviors, while popular choices in the current culture, are not fruitful at all for the believer.

Instead, we are to diligently pursue Yahweh’s instruction or torah, and meditate on it day and night. This should be the consistent focus of our daily lifestyle. If we do so, we can expect the following results:

  • We will be like a tree planted beside flowing streams (constantly nourished)
  • bearing its fruit in its season (being productive within the kingdom of God)
  • and whose leaf does not wither (remaining vibrant)
  • Whatever we do will prosper (based on the right knowledge of following God’s word)

According to the text, there is no downside for the believer to be thoroughly engaged with God’s word on a daily basis. All of these results are benefits not only for ourselves, but also for that of others who may be seeking to understand more about the God of the Bible. To bear fruit is to provide practical guidance and assistance to others who can be helped by our positive influence in their lives.

While there are many examples throughout the Bible, in Psalm 119 is most completely conveyed the attitude of someone who is desirous of God’s instruction, seeking whole-heartedly to follow his ways.

  • Psalm 119:14-16 – I rejoice in the way revealed by your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
  • Psalm 119:43-48 – Never take the word of truth from my mouth, for I hope in your judgments. I will always obey your instruction, forever and ever. I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts. I will speak of your decrees before kings and not be ashamed. I delight in your commands, which I love. I will lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and will meditate on your statutes.
  • Psalm 119:97 – How I love your instruction [torah]! It is my meditation all day long.

Yeshua spoke about it this way:

Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Meditating on God’s word involves reflection and musing over its meanings and implications providing insights into righteous ways. It involves study, but also a deep and intimate devotion, resulting in prayer and communion with God. It is not just about setting aside fifteen or thirty minutes or an hour a day, but about having a constant baseline of relying on the principles of God’s word throughout the day. In between and underneath our necessary functions as members of our society, we should always default to a godly perspective that can help guide our decisions and actions. The promise is that if we intentionally keep this mental focus, we will prosperous and fruitful for God, which ultimately honors him. And isn’t that the type of believer we should be?


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

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

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

Separation through the Word

Obedience to God’s Word is essential to a holy life.

Obedience to God’s Word is essential to a holy life.

Psalm 119:101-102 – “I hold back my feet from every evil way in order to keep your word. I do not turn away from your ordinances, for you have taught me.”

Believers cannot live holy lives unless they know the Word of God. It is the instruction of God that teaches us what is right and what is wrong.

Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”

Left only to our own understanding, we can’t know what the evil way is because typically every way can look equally beneficial.

Proverbs 16:25 – “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.”

Sometimes we go along with what everyone around us is doing because it seems like the right thing to do. But when we shine the light of the Word of God onto it, it can change its appearance to end up being the very thing that is leading people astray. Many campaigns and movements seem to be beneficial, but they end up causing greater issues than expected. As humans, our foresight is limited, and we can’t always see the ramifications of all of our choices.

This is why we, as believers, need to choose a different path, one that is separate from the way of the world. We may appear to others to be the one fish that is swimming upstream while all the others are heading in the other direction. But this is only because we have chosen to follow One who has perfect knowledge and is not just following statistics. We are the ones who are looking for the narrow entrance while all the others are continuing on through the broad road.

Matthew 7:13 – “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to destruction is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.”

We have received God’s Word as the gracious gift that it is. Just as Yahweh set apart Israel in the wilderness by giving them his commandments, we have been set apart by this same instruction of God.

Titus 2:11-12 – “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age…”

Those of us who are seeking to be followers of Messiah and children of Yahweh must operate under different principles than the rest of those who are only out for themselves and what they can obtain on their own. Seeking to be image-bearers of God in this world, we are not only instructed to be on a different path, but we are obligated to.

Psalm 34:12-14 – “Who is someone who desires life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.”

The way of holiness is a way that is separate and distinct for a reason. It is not only a protection and benefit for those who are obedient, but it is also a light to those in the darkness, that they may be drawn to its wisdom and thereby drawn closer to God.


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

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

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

Faith is being receptive to the abundance of God’s Instruction

For anyone to trust in Yahweh, there must be a trust in his Word.

For anyone to trust in Yahweh, there must be a trust in his Word.

Psalm 19:7-11 – The Instruction of Yahweh is perfect and complete, refreshing and bringing back the soul [to him]; the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, wisdom for the simple. The precepts of Yahweh are upright, joy for the heart; the commandment of Yahweh is clear, light for the eyes. The fear of Yahweh is pure, lasting for ever; the judgments of Yahweh are true, righteous, every one, more desirable than gold, even than the finest gold; his words are sweeter than honey, even than honey that drips from the comb. Thus your servant is warned by them [as by a shining light], observance brings great reward.

All of the ancient writings of the biblical texts speak with a unified voice on the reward of keeping the Torah, the Law or Instruction, of God, just as it is mentioned here in the nineteenth psalm. Wisdom is crowned as the ultimate prize, and it is depicted as residing within God’s Instruction.

  • Psalm 111:10 – The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.
  • Proverbs 2:6 – For Yahweh gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
  • Proverbs 3:13 – Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding,
  • Proverbs 4:7 – Wisdom is supreme ​– ​so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding.

As the apostle Paul is crafting his argument to the congregation in Rome, he quotes from this very psalm as he isolates the source of faith in Yahweh:

Romans 10:17-18 – so then the faith is by hearing a report, and the report is through the Word of God, but I say, Did they not hear? yes, indeed — ‘to all the earth their voice went forth, and to the ends of the habitable world their sayings.’

Paul is here quoting Psalm 19 where it speaks about the witness of God in his creation, specifically the wonder of the heavens:

Psalm 19:1-4 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard. [Yet] their message has gone out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world…

This corroborates what he has previously mentioned in his opening statements to the Roman believers:

Romans 1:19-20 – …what can be known about God is evident among them [those who don’t know him], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

When one is drawn to the God of the universe through his Creation and begins to look for further insight, his Word, his Instruction is found to contain his wisdom and understanding.

Psalm 19:7 – The Instruction of Yahweh is perfect and complete, refreshing and bringing back the soul [to him]; the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, wisdom for the simple.

Living in this world one is placed in a paradigm of God’s crafting: a world and universe that is a living illustration of his power and majesty, and a book of Instruction that can guide one into a living relationship with him. Faith in the God of the Bible would be inevitable if it were not for the stubbornness of our own hearts in wanting to be independent and self-sufficient, drawing our own conclusions about our worldview rather than obeying the wisdom of his abundant Instruction.

The Psalmist encourages us that “observance [of God’s Instruction] brings great reward.” The reward is self-contained within the keeping of it and is available to all! According to this passage, it brings joy, clear perception of truth, and warning from dangerous error. If these are only some of the primary benefits of faith in God, why would we instead persist in choosing our own way?


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.

Being intentional with God’s Word

Being regularly engaged with God’s word in meaningful ways is what sets us apart for his will.

Core of the Bible podcast #68 – Being intentional with God’s Word

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how being regularly engaged with God’s word in meaningful ways is what sets us apart for his will.

Psalm 1:1-2 – “Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of Yahweh and reflects on his teachings day and night.”

A life that is set apart in holiness has its roots in the diligent study of torah, or the instruction, of Yahweh. This constant input of God’s teachings is what generates within us a desire to do what honors him and directs us to deal fairly with others. Since we are commanded to be holy, a practical understanding of what it means to “meditate” or “reflect on” his teachings can benefit our spiritual growth and nourishment.

Firstly, if our review of God’s instruction is to be constant, it must be comprehensive. We should be reviewing all of God’s word on a regular basis, not just cherry-picking our favorite verses. At a minimum we should be reviewing all of the Bible at least once a year.

There are many different ways this can be accomplished in today’s world. In our day and culture, at least here in America, we have a large variety of versions and translations to choose from. We also have many different media options from print, to online, to apps for our mobile devices. We have audio versions and video versions that can be listened to and viewed regularly. If any generation has the ability to be steeped in God’s word, it is our current information-rich society.

Typically, one of these through-the-year plans will have daily readings each including a portion of the Old Testament, Psalms, and the New Testament. When broken down into bite-size pieces like this, it is easily achievable to read the entire Bible in only 15 or so minutes a day.

The problem that can be encountered with these plans comes when some unavoidable event comes up that causes the reader to lose a day or a couple of days. Getting caught up to get back on track becomes more and more challenging with each passing day, and eventually it is just easier to give up. Part of this stems from the versions that list the actual date for each passage to be read, and once a few days are lost or we get behind, it can be a struggle to keep up. I find it’s easier to use a plan that doesn’t have dates attached to each reading, therefore, if a day or two is missed, it just takes a couple of days longer than a year to complete the entire Bible.

My favorite method is based on a chart that was created by the para-ministry Young Life, and it breaks all of the passages down by the genre of content on each day of the week rather than by simply Old or New Testament each day. This way, there is more consistency and variety throughout each week.

Now over the years I have modified this method for my own preference, but as an example, on Sundays I read through the books of Moses. Mondays and Tuesdays are prophecy, Wednesdays are the Apocryphal books, Thursdays and Fridays are historical books, and Sabbath is New Testament. Additionally, each day I read a portion from Proverbs and Psalms in an ongoing rotation throughout the year. I have had the most success with this method, as it has the variety I need, but also the consistency of regularity that works with my daily and weekly routine.

Whatever plan one chooses, just take it one day at a time to continue or create a daily routine. There really is no excuse to not engage regularly with God’s Word for believers in today’s day and age, other than not having the discipline to do so, which leads to the next point.

Secondly, our review should be intentional. We have to set apart time each day to be successful. Like any relationship, there has to be constant interaction in order for the relationship to grow. The psalmist uses the language of “day and night” to convey the constancy of this meditation in God’s word.

Again, my personal practice is that my morning time is when I can most focus on my relationship with God and my deeper thinking about theological issues. I’m typically up really early while the rest of the family is sleeping so I have the quiet time I need to focus. For other people, late at night might be the best for them, after the events of the day have calmed down and everyone else in the household goes to bed.

All I know is that for me, personally, if the day gets going before I have had my quiet time, I rarely have another opportunity throughout the day and I am usually so tired by the evening that I am straight off to bed.

Setting aside whatever time works for you is critical to the success of this type of commitment to read through the Bible. If you do not have a routine, you are less likely to keep going.

Additionally, with a quiet time routine, your mind and body are more likely to remain engaged with it because it becomes a natural part of who you are and what you do. I look forward to my quiet time each day because I enjoy spending time with God in his Word, but if I don’t make the time for that interaction to take place, it rarely happens on its own.

Thirdly, this daily review of God’s Word should be meaningful. We need to be critically engaged with God’s instruction. What do I mean by this? Essentially, we need to be thinking about what it is that we are reading: who was this written to? When was it written? What is the goal of the author in writing this material? These are the types of things that help us begin to understand the overarching narratives that become evident as we gather information on the whole of the Bible and not just our favorite comfortable passages.

It’s popular today to do some form of Bible journaling, where one comes to the Bible with markers and pens, ready to note any insights that may become apparent in that daily reading. Using this type of approach helped me begin to see many of the connections throughout the Bible, how it is essentially “hyper-linked” between passages and quotations throughout. In fact, at one point, my marked-up Bible became so worn that pages began to fall out. Some wonderful friends in the congregation surprised me by taking the time and expense to have it rebound for me as a gift so I could continue to use it as the valuable reference tool it had become.

The more comprehensive our understanding is of all of God’s Word, the more clarity we can gain on his overall purpose and goal for humanity within his Creation. When we have a better grasp of his purpose and goals, then we also have more understanding on his expectations of us as individuals, and we become empowered to bear fruit for him.

A comprehensive understanding of the Bible helps us realize that God desires people to rule over his Creation as his representatives, but they have constantly rejected his authority and suffered the due consequences of that rejection. He then chose one nation, Israel, to be an example and a light to the rest of the world. The Bible is their record of the experiences they encountered on that journey with God. Through their example and his interactions with them, we learn of how God desires to interact with all people.

Coming to conclusions like this can only be gained by continual and deep reflection on the context of the original writings of Scripture. Rather than looking for a meaningful verse that just sounds good, or simply passing popular scripture memes on social media, the life of true faith in the God of the Bible is one that seeks to understand not only what the Bible says this life is about, but how it is to be lived to best honor our Creator.

Finally, while there are different learning styles, we can have various levels of meaningful engagement depending on how we choose to interact with the Word. Most people do this through reading. This engages one level of our critical insight. If one comes to the Bible to read and to journal or take physical notes, our comprehension begins to grow on a couple of levels. By reading and taking notes while listening to an audio version, our comprehension grows on multiple levels. The key is to recognize that God has provided his Word for a reason, and it’s the most important reason in the world: so we can know him. If doing additional things besides just reading sounds too difficult and challenging, then at least reading or listening to the Word on a regular basis can continually familiarize the believer with its content.

Here are a couple of other ideas for helping our understanding grow:

  • When we study, we can read the word out loud, interacting through sight, speech and hearing.
  • We can select different versions or parallel Bibles to keep the variety of expressions fresh, and our understanding broadened by the subtle variations in versions.
  • By committing meaningful passages to memory and reciting them over and over (i.e., “hiding God’s word in our heart,” Psalm 119:11), we have our most intimate and meaningful application of this engagement.

Through all of this, I would hope that you have at least one takeaway from today’s information, and that is that whatever method works for you in spending time with the God of the Bible, your diligence in that effort sets you apart from the rest of the world who is simply trying to find their own way based on what seems best to them at the time. This being set apart, this holiness, is what God wants for his people, because he does desire our continual spiritual growth in knowing him and in our fruitful work in helping others.

In what ways can you be more engaged with God’s instruction? Perhaps experimenting with different levels of interacting with his word through the media options available to us can provide fresh perspective and renewed insight. The more intentional we are in learning from his guidance, the more set apart and available for his purposes we become.


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.

Involving God’s word and his Spirit in all of your ways

Ancient wisdom which provides continual direction and guidance within the will of God.

Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.

Vigilance of thought is one of the most challenging yet most rewarding aspects of a believer’s life. The thoughts and plans we have will reveal what is truly in our hearts. To lead a life that is constantly focused on defrauding others or finding ways to exploit relationships is one that is bound to fail. In this proverb, Solomon illustrates this way as “folly.”

According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon, this type of individual demonstrates characteristics of always being morally bad, one who:

  • despises wisdom & discipline
    • Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
    • Proverbs 15:5 – A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
  • mocks at guilt
    • Proverbs 14:9 – Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.
  • is quarrelsome
    • Proverbs 20:3 – It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
  • is licentious
    • Proverbs 7:7, 10, 21-23 – and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, … And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. … With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
  • it is folly and useless to instruct him
    • Proverbs 16:22 – Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
    • Proverbs 27:22 – Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.

All of this speaks to the foolishness of the one who rejects wisdom and discipline. The proverb goes further, though, and explains that fools are deceiving. They will operate from a base of deception and exploitation of the weakness of others. Their continual mode of operation is selfish gain with no regard for the harmful effects on others. This in itself is a mode of self-deception, as well; thinking one can always simply manipulate a situation for their own gain.

By contrast, those believers who are vigilant in all their ways will seek to avoid these dead-ends of life by “discerning their way.” The Hebrew word for discerning means “to consider, perceive, understand, distinguish, have insight.” Just reviewing this list of words demonstrates that to discern one’s ways is a practice that takes time and careful thought. Fools may rush in, as the old saying goes, but it’s the wise who take their time to review the consequences of their actions. Only then will they take the appropriate course of action.

One of the key benefits of this practice that I have seen in my own life is having peace about momentous decisions which need to be made. When I feel pressured to make a big decision about something, whether it is a large purchase or a career move, I have learned to ensure that I do not arrive at a hasty decision. Anything that presents itself as urgent immediately goes into a “consideration buffer.” Through meditation on God’s word and through prayer, the correct ways will ultimately present themselves.

The apostle Paul related this principle to the Ephesian congregation, as well.

Ephesians 5:15-18 – Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless indiscretion. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

He represents how paying careful attention to how a believer should walk involves understanding the Lord’s will and being filled with the Spirit. Being vigilant with our actions means that we are taking the time to involve God in all of our decisions in life. We are examples to others of how God’s goodness and mercy watch over us and protect us from every false way.

Psalm 119:103-104 – How sweet your word is to my taste — sweeter than honey in my mouth. I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.

Psalm 119:127-128 – Since I love your commands more than gold, even the purest gold, I carefully follow all your precepts and hate every false way.

Hating every false way means there is a high dependence on the truth of God’s word. If Paul related the days were evil in his day, how much more we need to vigilantly follow his advice, and the advice of Solomon and the Psalmist, today: “Pay careful attention as to how you walk, discerning your way, carefully following God’s precepts.”


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

The integrity of knowing and doing God’s will

If we are to maintain our integrity in any given situation, then we should have the clarity of purpose and direction that God’s will provides.

The Hebrew word for integrity (tom, pronounced tome) has been discussed before as meaning simplicity or completeness. But one of the other variations for this word comes from the stones that were used by the high priest to determine God’s will in any situation.

Tom is a basis for the word thummim (pronounced too-meem) as in the “Urim and Thummim.” Thummim means perfections, and Urim (pronounced oo-reem) means lights. Therefore, in some versions of the Bible, instead of simply transliterating Urim and Thummim in the descriptions of the high priest’s breastplate, they will use the phrase “lights and perfections.”

Exodus 28:30 “Place the Urim and Thummim [lights and perfections] in the breastpiece for decisions, so that they will also be over Aaron’s heart whenever he comes before the LORD. Aaron will continually carry the means of decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.

Leviticus 8:8 Then he put the breastpiece on him and placed the Urim and Thummim [lights and perfections] into the breastpiece.

Numbers 27:21 “He will stand before the priest Eleazar who will consult the LORD for him with the decision of the Urim [lights]. He and all the Israelites with him, even the entire community, will go out and come back in at his command.”

Nehemiah 7:65 The governor ordered them not to eat the most holy things until there was a priest who could consult the Urim and Thummim [lights and perfections].

There has been much speculation as to how these stones worked, or what mechanism was involved in order to determine what God’s will was in any given situation. Some think the stones would be used kind of like holy dice. Others think that the stones lit up when a certain question was asked. However, regardless of the method, the result was that God’s will would be determined through the use of these stones. It was a simple method and it was complete in that the determination would be final.

What is interesting to me about the Hebrew language is that all the word meanings within a root group tend to blend together and overlap. The simplicity and completeness of integrity is also a means for determining God’s will, just as the stones were for the high priest. The continuity of Hebrew thought comes through the completeness of the root word tom culminating in the perfections of the word thummim. To be complete is to be perfected.

If we view integrity as being the simple choice in any given situation, we may find that we are operating within the ethics that God prefers. Understandably, the simple choice is not always the easy choice, but it is typically the clearest path to doing what’s right. If we are to maintain our integrity in any given situation, then we should have the clarity of purpose and direction that God’s will provides.

The Greek word telios (pronounced tell-ee-os) carries this concept into the New Testament writings. For something to be telios is to reach its fullness, maturity, or completion. This is why Yeshua could instruct his disciples to exhibit this most essential characteristic of their heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The apostle Paul said that believers could determine God’s perfect will through being transformed by the renewing of their mind.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Whether in Hebrew or Greek, this clarity of purpose and understanding of God’s will is provided by the simplicity and completeness of integrity, just as the perfections of the stones did for the high priest.

For believers today, we don’t need physical stones to understand God’s will and act with integrity. God’s will is best determined by having a thorough understanding of his word and by allowing our minds to be renewed by God’s Spirit as to how to apply it in day to day actions. Therefore, it can be said that those who live lives of integrity are truly living their lives according to 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.

Fear of God removes all other fears

“Don’t fear, neither be afraid. Haven’t I declared it to you long ago, and shown it? You are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? Indeed, there is not. I don’t know any other Rock.””

Isaiah 44:8:

If we are fearful, then we are not trusting completely in God.

This famous passage in the book of Isaiah speaks of the uniqueness of God compared to the idolatry of the world. People put their faith and their trust in all sorts of things when they are not trusting the God of the Bible. Perhaps it’s riches, armies, their own resources and strength, or other gods fashioned out of wood and stone; none of these provide the depth and security of trusting in the one true God.

We know he can be trusted above others because what he says has come to pass. His faithfulness which is demonstrated through his word gives us all the reason we need in order to trust him fully for the future we cannot see. Since he knows the end from the beginning, we can rest within his perfect will when we trust in him completely.

Trusting in him removes other fears: fear of men, fear of events beyond our control, fear of death. Additionally, when we are faithful witnesses of him to others, our trust is renewed, our faith is strengthened, and our fear diminishes as we recount his deeds among his people over the generations and millennia of time. This God can be trusted because he has demonstrated is faithful.

Therefore, we have no need to be fearful in this life. Fear evaporates in the burning presence of active faith in the one true God. Fear of God removes all other fears.


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

The kingdom of humility and wisdom

Humility can be likened to an empty cup, ready to be filled. As the saying goes, “The more you know, the more you learn what you don’t know.”

Core of the Bible podcast #23- The kingdom of humility and wisdom

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of the Kingdom of God, and how the individuals making up this ever-expanding kingdom have hearts of humility and are filled with wisdom.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

A paraphrase to expand on the meaning of this passage conveys that to have an empty spirit, ready to receive and obey the slightest instruction, you will be blessed as the kingdom of heaven is yours.

To be poor in spirit is to remain humble amidst an abundance of wisdom and provision. It is a recognition of personal lack in the face of great resources. As the sayings go, “The more you learn, the less you understand,” or, “The more you know, the more you learn what you don’t know.” It is an acceptance of this spiritual type of destitution as a foundation for understanding.

To illustrate this, the Rev. Joseph Benson in his 19th century commentary, conveys the following.

By this expression, “the poor in spirit,” [some] understand [this to mean] those who bear a state of poverty and want with a disposition of quiet and cheerful submission to the divine will; and [others] interpret it of those who are ready to part with their possessions for charitable uses. But it seems much more probable that the truly humble are intended, or those who are sensible of their spiritual poverty, of their ignorance and sinfulness, their guilt, depravity, and weakness, their frailty and mortality; and who, therefore, whatever their outward situation in life may be, however affluent and exalted, think meanly of themselves, and neither desire the praise of men, nor covet high things in the world, but are content with the lot God assigns them, however low and poor. These are happy, because their humility renders them teachable, submissive, resigned, patient, contented, and cheerful in all estates; and it enables them to receive prosperity or adversity, health or sickness, ease or pain, life or death, with an equal mind. Whatever is allotted them … they consider as a grace or favour. They are happy, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven — The present, inward kingdom, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, as well as the eternal kingdom, if they endure to the end. The knowledge which they have of themselves, and their humiliation of soul before God, prepare them for the reception of Christ, to dwell and reign in their hearts, and all the other blessings of the gospel; the blessings both of grace and glory.

Benson concludes by quoting from the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 66:1-2 Thus says Yahweh, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what kind of house will you build to me? and what place shall be my rest? For all these things has my hand made, and [so] all these things came to be,” says Yahweh: “but to this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.

Let’s look a little more closely at some of those descriptions.

To be of a contrite spirit is to be smitten or afflicted in spirit. This is a very strange way of describing a heart that is ready and yearning for God. One English dictionary describes contrite in the following way:

“Someone who feels remorse or guilt is contrite and in addition to feeling sorry, part of the definition includes wanting to atone for having done something wrong.”

Based on this type of understanding, it makes sense to describe a remorseful individual as someone who has had their heart smitten.

It appears that God is saying he is able to teach individuals who recognize their own humble standing before him, the God of the universe. The passage in Isaiah 66 is speaking of individuals who tremble at God’s word. To tremble at God’s word is to have a recognition and acceptance of his authority. If an individual recognizes that God is the ultimate authority and has concrete standards, then one has a perspective of either abiding by or defying those standards.  When an individual realizes their actions have transgressed the requirements of God, and they are truly remorseful about those transgressions, then they can be said to have their hearts or spirits smitten, and they become willing vessels, open to correction and training by the Spirit of God through his word. This is the type of individual who, according to Yeshua, is blessed, and who is a participant in the kingdom of God.

To be poor in spirit is also to be humble. In the Hebrew Scriptures, a word to describe this condition is shaphal, meaning depressed, as in, lower than other things, not depressed emotionally. This condition of lowliness is illustrated as something God honors. By that reckoning, humility should be a primary characteristic of all of God’s people.

Let’s take a look at how consistent this idea of humility and lowliness is throughout God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 8:14  “be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

2 Samuel 22:28 You rescue an oppressed people, but your eyes are set against the proud — you humble them.

Job 5:8-11: “”But as for me, I would seek God. I would commit my cause to God, who does great things that can’t be fathomed, marvelous things without number; who gives rain on the earth, and sends waters on the fields; so that he sets up on high those who are low, those who mourn are exalted to safety.”

Job 10:16 “If I am proud, you hunt me like a lion and again display your miraculous power against me.

Psalm 138:6: “For though Yahweh is high, yet he looks after the lowly; but the proud, he knows from afar.”

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to Yahweh; be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:19: “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor, than to divide the plunder with the proud.”

Proverbs 18:12  Before his downfall a person’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 29:23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but one of lowly spirit gains honor.”

Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Ezekiel 17:24: “All the trees of the field shall know that I, Yahweh, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish; I, Yahweh, have spoken and have done it.”

In modern terms, this concept of lowliness might be conveyed by saying an individual is an empty cup, ready to be filled. The cup, in its “poor” state, lacks the liquid with which it desires to be filled. However, recognizing that it is empty, it is willing to receive with joy the liquid wisdom as it is poured out.

By contrast, a cup that is already full of its own liquid cannot receive any further instruction, since it is already full. This individual has no room for growth or further revelation.

Yeshua confronted the leaders of his day because they were so full of their own teaching and doctrine, they had overshot the commands of God and had created their own un-keepable system of rules and regulations.

Mark 7:6-7, 9: “He answered them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ … He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”

An individual’s heart or soul that is full of something else cannot receive what God originally intended for it. In the extreme sense, Yeshua even confronted his own disciple Peter when Peter was introducing his own agenda into God‘s purpose and plan. This was in the context of Yeshua explaining to the disciples his impending crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

Mark 8: 32-33 Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But he [Yeshua], turning around, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you have in mind not the things of God, but the things of men.””

Injecting one’s own intent upon God‘s will and purpose is so objectionable to Yeshua that he labels it with the most egregious of titles: that of the satan or the ultimate adversarial position. Once an individual is consumed with their own passion and desire above that which God intends, their life has essentially moved to an adversarial position against the things of God. If that is the case, then that individual is no longer inside the kingdom, which is why Yeshua could confidently say within a parable to those tradition-filled Jewish leaders:

Luke 13:27-28 – …’I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from me, all you evildoers! ‘ “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.

Certainly, we don’t want to place ourselves in that position, so we need to be mindful of that possibility while yet remaining firm upon the truth and power of God. To that end, believers have been provided a wealth of resources and strength through the Spirit of God and his Word so they can always know the right things to do.

For example, the apostle Paul writes about his duty to ensure that the word of God was available to God’s people among the nations.

Colossians 1:25 “I have become [the servant of the assembly], according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known…”

John also conveys how this combination of their written instruction along with the anointing of God’s Spirit within the believers provided the ability to know the truth and overcome adversity and false teaching.

1 John 2:14, 20  I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the one who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one. … But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

Paul also conveys this same understanding about the ability of believers to understand spiritual things.

1 Corinthians 2:10-12: “But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God.”

If we, then, are seeking to follow in the footsteps of these early believers by remaining faithful to God’s Word and by seeking to be filled with his Spirit, we should have the same abilities to understand the truth and overcome adversity and falsehood.

To be poor in spirit is to keep your cup empty. This way, as we remain humble and teachable, we can then have plenty of room to receive whatever wisdom and instruction God is willing to pour into us. And in this fashion, the kingdom will continue to grow for his purpose and glory, and not our own.

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.