The lamp of God

Being created in God’s image, it makes sense that his stamp is embossed within us.

Being created in God’s image, it makes sense that his stamp is embossed within us.

Proverbs 20:27 – The spirit of man is Yahweh’s lamp, searching all his innermost parts.

Different English renderings of this verse appear to be unsure of how exactly to render this unusual phrase.

  • New International Version: The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being.
  • New Living Translation: The LORD’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.
  • Amplified Bible: The spirit (conscience) of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching and examining all the innermost parts of his being.
  • Contemporary English Version: Our inner thoughts are a lamp from the LORD, and they search our hearts.
  • Good News Translation: The LORD gave us mind and conscience; we cannot hide from ourselves.

Is Yahweh somehow invading our personal human spirit, or is it speaking of the human spirit in general? Is it speaking of our mind, conscience, or inner thoughts?

The spirit of man is using the term “neshamah,” or life-breath, for man. This term is closely associated with the word “ruach” which also is typically translated as spirit. In Hebrew thinking, the life-breath is something from God that animates us as individuals. This is evidenced when God created Adam.

Genesis 2:7 – And Yahweh God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [neshamah]; and man became a living soul.

When the spirit departs, the body dies.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 – Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [ruach] shall return unto God who gave it.

The term “adam” can be speaking of an individual or the entire human race. I think we can get some direction here from another familiar passage as well:

John 1:9 – The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.

There is a light that enlightens every person (all people: adam); it is called the Word, or the Spirit of God. Because of it’s association with the first chapter of John, most people assume that the Word is Yeshua. In one sense, that is true, because he was called by John “the Word made flesh.” He was so completely filled with and obedient to the Spirit of God that they were indistinguishable.

But John says this same light enlightens everyone, and this passage in Proverbs, written a millennia prior to John, is saying the same thing: the lamp of Yahweh is somehow connected to the spirit of all people. We have stumbled in our English Bibles at trying to describe it as conscience or inner thoughts, but the fact is that since all mankind (adam) is created in God’s image, we all have a connection to the Creator of all.

The writer of Hebrews takes this even further by describing how the Word of God, his eternal Spirit, is active within us.

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

I can’t think of a more precise explanation of how the lamp of Yahweh searches the innermost parts of our being. As believers, our call to holiness is heightened by recognizing that somehow God is active within the depths of every person. We are set apart by continually growing in obedience to his Word, his Spirit.

I recognize this is not commonly accepted theology, but it is what the Bible records describe when we understand them within their cultural context. I believe this is why believers gravitate to the Bible, what we also call the Word of God, because it was conveyed to mankind through that same Spirit of God. As we recognize the Voice speaking to us from its pages, we are drawn closer to understanding the God of the universe and his desire for all men to come to him, as well.


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

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

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

The unique prayer life of God’s children

We have work to do, not stuff to get.

We have work to do, not stuff to get.

Matthew 6:9 “Pray then in this way:…”

People pray in many different ways to many different gods. Prayer is so ubiquitous that it appears to be a practice that is hard-wired into the human psyche.

What sets believers in Messiah apart from all others is not just that we pray, but that we should be praying to the one true God in a certain way with a certain focus and understanding that others do not have. When asked of his disciples for teaching on prayer, Yeshua’s answer provides a rich storehouse of wisdom in practice.

Yeshua understood that people of all nations pray but are typically using many empty words to no purpose, other than, I suppose, making themselves feel better. However, he encourages a specific way of praying that has purpose and direction. He provides a model prayer that demonstrates simplicity and humility.

First, where and how we pray are both important: our place of prayer should be a place of privacy apart from others to demonstrate sincerity in speaking only with God, and not for the sake of appearing over-righteous to others.

Prayer should be offered directly to God, addressing him as a loving Father, not as some vengeful deity who needs to be appeased. We need to recognize that even though God exists beyond this reality, he is still accessible and active here, as well. He is set apart from all other gods and his character illustrates his uniqueness.

Our primary focus in prayer should be for God’s reign to be recognized by all upon this earth, and in so doing, his will would come to pass in this reality in the same way it is accomplished in the heavenly realm. This is the unique nature of the prayer practice of those who would consider themselves Yeshua’s disciples. Everything in our lives should center around God’s kingdom, not ours.

Even when praying for our own needs that arise each day, Yeshua reminds us our focus should still be on others, forgiving those who have wronged us, just as we have committed wrongs against our heavenly Father. If we expect him to forgive us of our shortcomings, we need to have the same level of concern for others.

Our prayers for personal desires should be primarily intent on the avoidance of being led astray and succumbing to the desires of this world above the needs of the kingdom. Praying just for things we want is not always in the best interest of the kingdom.

When we pray in this way, our lives become set apart from others because we are not just praying for stuff and things, but for God’s glory and honor to be manifest in this place and time, and to recognize his will is more important than ours. When this becomes our guiding purpose, then his will can and will be accomplished on this earth through us.


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

Set apart through simplicity

When we make the Word of God our singular focus, we become holy.

When we make the Word of God our singular focus, we become holy.

Matthew 6:2-23 – “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!”

Yeshua’s teachings are filled with simplicity and transparency.

  • Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Don’t criticize others unfairly.
  • Don’t be hypocritical.
  • Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

The life that seeks to honor God is not a complicated one. It is a life that is lived in equity with others and in abiding by the simple direction of God.

In the Hebraic worldview, having a good or evil eye represents what one focuses on. In the Bible version represented above, Yeshua encourages his followers to have a healthy or good eye. But as is typically the case, the underlying Greek phrasing brings out some color into this basic black and white English rendering. According to the Helps Word Studies, this word means: “unfolded, single – literally, “without folds” … referring to a single (undivided) focus, i.e. without a (secret) “double agenda” which prevents an over-complicated life (becoming needlessly distracted).”

It is commonly understood that having too many objectives in life can be overwhelming, and source of great stress and anxiety. On top of the typical stresses of earning a living, managing family concerns and taking care of ourselves, in our modern culture we have added the constant distraction of juggling an online presence, being consumed by messages and notifications, pulling us away from our real life into another level of digital schizophrenia. This exemplifies the darkness of the eye that is bad, the effects of wicked, malicious, or slothful attention that result in obscurity of meaning and purpose.

By contrast, Yeshua encourages simplicity and singleness of focus and direction. This is what brings peace and purpose into our lives and makes us holy. When we have the correct sense of purpose, it’s as if our whole body becomes full of light. We have the ability to plan effectively and to accomplish so much more for God and for the kingdom when our priorities are right and we have a clear sense of direction.

We must discipline ourselves to remain focused on what’s important: the teachings of Yeshua and the Word of God. As we apply that type of clear direction in our lives, we simplify our approach to living life, and become the set apart people God desires us to be.


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

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

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

Separated for a purpose

Holiness is the evidence of the salvation God provides.

Holiness is the evidence of the salvation God provides.

Leviticus 20:23, 26 – “You shall not follow the practices of the nation that I am driving out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. … ‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I Yahweh am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.”

All throughout the book of Leviticus, God reiterates over and over how his people were to be distinct from the people around them. They were to avoid copying their religious practices and social customs. Yahweh says, “Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.” And yet, as the history of Israel unfolds, we find that they stubbornly continued the idolatrous practices that eventually led to God removing them from their land by the Assyrians and Babylonians.

2 Kings 16:6-8 – “In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.”

The same God still desires his people to be holy and set apart today. Yet there appears to be an ongoing desire to participate in the customs of the people around us. It is no longer just a mild or sporadic resistance to certain aspects of obedience to God, but now flagrant disregard for the commandments and practices that should be setting us apart. God has provided the commandments as a way of protecting his people from the harm that comes from these destructive practices, and yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish God’s people from the rest of the nations.

Fearful of appearing to be legalists, God’s people instead go along with the cultural and societal practices under the guise of “reaching out” to others, or simply out of ignorance. Believers have been taught for so long that the law of God has been “done away” in Messiah, that they have adopted an “anything goes” mentality instead of maintaining a purposeful separation from the harmful practices of our societies.

Understanding why God wanted his people separate can help: God’s people are his, and bear his name in this world.

Leviticus 20:26 – “You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and I have separated you from the other peoples to be mine.”

When we recognize our lives as believers are not our own, we begin to understand that God has rightful authority to direct us and that he does so because he cares for us and wants to rescue us completely from the worldliness around us. The longer we resist his authority and instead choose our own paths, the longer we will remain in conditions he never desired for us to be in.


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.

You become like what you worship

This principle applies to people of all nations.

Within the revelation provided to the apostle John, we get a glimpse of a scene in heaven with the saints extolling the majesty and holiness of the one true God.

Revelation 15:2-4 – And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed.”

In this scene, those who had been brought through the trials of the tribulation predicted by Messiah now stand before the throne of God, worshiping him. They describe him as the one who alone is holy because of his “amazing deeds” and “judgments” which had been revealed.

The outworking of these judgments within the Revelation are a demonstration of God’s holiness, his set-apartness from all other gods. He alone could rightfully carry out the actions that are represented there because it had all come to pass due to the failure of his people to honor him.

There is a principle revealed throughout the Bible that ties the holiness of believers to their worship of the one true God. Just like the saying that relates “you are what you eat,” the biblical principle is “you become like the one you worship.”

1 Kings 11:2 – “Of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, You shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods…”

The apostle John admonishes his audience to reject the false gods of this world.

1 John 2:16 – For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

If we worship the false gods of this world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, we will become consumed with them in our daily lives. This is why the Bible in so many different ways condemns these things, from the Ten Commandments through the Sermon on the Mount. This is why this song in Revelation can be titled “the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.”

However, if we worship the one true God, since he is holy and set apart, we become holy and set apart. This is not only the result of our worship, but is a commandment which becomes a statement of fact of the reality of our lives:

Leviticus 20:26 – And you shall be holy unto me: for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.

Romans 11:16 – For if the first-fruit is holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Our holiness is a derived holiness from God, it is not something we manufacture or invent within ourselves as if it were some sort of way that we could make up to try to please him. Our holiness becomes evident only when we produce fruit in keeping with his commandments because we are single-mindedly focused on pleasing him. Our devotion to him drives the holiness in our lives.

And the holiness in our lives drives the nations to worship him, also. As they see the separateness of our lives that are devoted to him, they learn of his deeds that he has performed on behalf of his people. We can then say with the saints in heaven, “Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?”

——-

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.

Taking correction to heart

We must overcome a casual approach to godly living.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Holiness as a destiny?

What the Bible teaches about predestination

Jeremiah 1:4-5 – Now the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

When Jeremiah was called by God, it was revealed to him that his role as a prophet was something that had been in the mind of God prior even to his being conceived or born. From this, many great Bible thinkers over the millennia have ascertained this an indication of a universal principle for all men; that God predetermines the lives of all: some for holiness and righteousness, and others for corruption.

John Gill (ca. early 1700’s) writes:
“‘I knew thee’…. Not merely by his omniscience, so he knows all men before their conception and birth; but with such a knowledge as had special love and affection joined with it; in which sense the Lord knows them that are his, as he does not others, and predestinates them unto eternal life; and which is not only before their formation in the womb, but before the foundation of the world, even from all eternity.”

The Keil and Delitsch commentary (ca. 1800’s) states:
“God in His counsel has not only foreordained our life and being, but has predetermined before our birth what is to be our calling upon this earth; and He has accordingly so influenced our origin and our growth in the womb, as to prepare us for what we are to become, and for what we are to accomplish on behalf of His kingdom. This is true of all men…”

With all due respect to these great theological minds, I believe that drawing a universal principal from this verse oversteps the intent of the text and brings us within the halls of Calvinism: the idea of predestination of all people.

I believe Scripture reveals that God can and does select some individuals for specific purposes within the outworking of his kingdom. Some other expressed examples of this besides Jeremiah include Samson, John the baptizer, and even Paul the apostle.

Judges 13:3-5 – And the angel of Yahweh appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. … No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Luke 1:13-15 – But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Galatians 1:15-16 – But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone…

The Geneva Study Bible states it very simply and concisely:
(g) The scripture uses this manner of speech to declare that God has appointed his minsters to their offices before they were born, as in Isa 49:1, Ga 1:15.

This clarifies this principle to demonstrate that God works his purpose as he sees fit and raises up individuals to accomplish his will as needed in specific instances and specific roles. As an example of this, Scripture tells us that God even had a specific purpose for the Pharaoh of Egypt who contended with Moses:

Exodus 9:16 – But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

However, to draw from this that everyone is pre-destined to holiness or condemnation is over-stepping the bounds of what is being conveyed through the use of this type of language and imagery. Yeshua states it this way:

Luke 14:8, 10-11 – “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, … But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Through this, Yeshua teaches us that our role as believers is simply to remain humble and faithful to God through his word in all things. And if God so chooses to call us up to a higher station, that is certainly his prerogative. Of that honored individual, it could be said that God has set them apart for that specific purpose in that place and time. But to draw from this that everyone else at the table was pre-determined for dishonor goes beyond the overall context of Scripture.


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.

Loving actions spring from God’s forgiveness

God’s love should be the primary motivation for our love for others.

If you’ve been a reader of this journal for any length of time, you know that one of the key principles from the Sermon on the Mount revolves around the holiness, or set-apartness, of believers. Example after example is provided by Yeshua on what the religious hypocrites practice, and how he encourages his disciples to do the opposite, or to do something more meaningful. The disciples’ lives were to be pure and blameless with a righteousness that surpassed that of the Pharisees because of the sincerity of their hearts.

So it is little wonder that the religious elite also questioned Yeshua on his choice of company that he kept.

Luke 5:30-32 – But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

If he was truly a teacher of the Word of God and was supposed to be demonstrating his holiness, or set-apartness, then why was he constantly fraternizing with the very people who the Pharisees condemned as flagrant sinners?

The answer Yeshua gives provides an insight into his life and ministry that should prompt us with a similar response.

Matthew 9:12-13 – When Yeshua heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

I think the rendering in this version brings out the meaning of the passage beautifully. The Pharisees were guilty of self-righteousness; those who believed every thing they did was so set apart from wickedness that of course God would favor them. However, Yeshua says that God is really closest to those who “know they are sinners.” Those who know they have violated his standards, and want to do what is right because they know they have offended him.

By contrast, the Pharisees did righteous things because they thought it would make them look better in God’s eyes than the sinful actions of those around them. Therefore they did not demonstrate the love for God and others or seek his forgiveness as God desired them to because they felt they were already on the right path, and of course God would favor them.

This is why Yeshua could drive the point home when confronted by a Pharisee as to why he allowed a woman to pour perfume on him and wash his feet with her tears. Yeshua illustrates that her actions and her tears of repentance demonstrated that she realized she had done sinful things, and she wanted to do whatever she could in response to the depth of forgiveness that God offered her.

Luke 7:47 – “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Our love for God and others will be proportionate to the recognition of the forgiveness that we believe we have received. When we realize the depth of God’s love in overlooking our blatant and sinful actions, we should be driven ever closer to him, and our lives should be living demonstrations of that bountiful forgiveness toward others in like measure as we have received.


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.

Becoming a vessel of honor

All believers are charged with purging worldliness from our lives.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honor, and some unto dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, set apart, suitable for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work.”

Here in Paul’s instructions to Timothy, he shares an illustration to highlight for Timothy how he should fashion his routine behavior. He uses the example of different types of utensils or cups in a wealthy household as being made of different materials for different purposes. Those made of gold and silver would be used for special occasions of honor. Those made of wood and clay were for more common use. Through this illustration, Paul encourages Timothy to “purge himself from these.” What are “these” that Timothy is to purge himself from?

In the context of the passage, there are several different negative qualities that are mentioned. In v. 4, Paul says, “No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer.” This intimates how believers should be set apart from participating in the mundane events that others get caught up in on a regular basis.

To make this point more apparent, Paul narrows the definition of what Timothy is to avoid as “quarreling over words.” Strong’s definition clarifies this as “to wrangle about trifling and empty matters.” In v. 16 Paul pulls even finer clarity on the concept by encouraging Timothy to “[a]void worldly and empty speech, since those who engage in it will produce even more godlessness…” The worldly aspect of this type of speech is defined in the Greek as being related to a threshold that one steps over, as a common entrance that is trodden under foot without care or concern. Anyone can cross that threshold into worldly speculation over the latest controversies. And when one does so, it produces only more irreverence for the things of God, more impiety and godlessness. For our generation, think of the latest social media trending topics, or political controversy du jour.

This is a consistent theme with Paul, as in his first letter to Timothy he had used the same type of language in his instruction there: “But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths,” (1 Timothy 4:7).

To counter all of this empty and worldly speculative nonsense, Paul says in that place, “Rather, train yourself in godliness.” Here in his second letter, he expands on what this training in godliness is by saying, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth,” (v. 15).

Here we see that diligent training in the word of truth is the counter to the empty and speculative nonsense that the world engages in on a daily basis. Paul is charging Timothy, as a mature believer who is responsible for leading others, to do his best to engage deeply with the word of truth. He encourages him to make himself a vessel of silver or gold that becomes set apart for God’s use because it is special or unique, and not simply something that is subject to common use like everyone else.

All of this is just another way that the apostle is encouraging Timothy to demonstrate holiness in his lifestyle, to be set apart from the commonality and ordinariness that so many others simply wallow in with little thought of anything that could be godly or redemptive. According to Paul, this is something that the believers must do for themselves, to be trained in the word of truth so thoroughly that there would be no need to be ashamed before the master.

In the same way, it is up to us to avoid becoming entangled in worldly affairs, wrangling over trifling, empty matters and silly myths. We are the ones entrusted with the word of truth, and it is up to us to separate ourselves in order to faithfully represent God’s word of truth to others, and so become the vessels of silver and gold that God can use in special ways for his unique and holy purposes.


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.