Hezekiah demonstrates how trust in Yahweh is the opposite of idolatry

Exhibiting a strong trust in God should be based on defending God’s honor for his glory.

Today we will be looking at the topic of trust, and how exhibiting a strong trust in God should be based on defending God’s honor for his glory and not relying on the idolatrous practices of our culture. To do so, we are going to be reviewing a pivotal event in the life of King Hezekiah, considered to have been one of the most faithful kings in all of Israel’s history.

2 Kings 18:5-6 – Hezekiah relied on Yahweh God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him. He remained faithful to Yahweh and did not turn from following him but kept the commands Yahweh had commanded Moses.

One of the primary achievements of Hezekiah’s reign was the removal of idolatry from Israel.

2 Kings 18:3-4 – He did what was right in Yahweh’s sight just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the high places, shattered the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles.

As we look at the descriptions of some of his actions, we find that he had “shattered the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles.” These are descriptions of the implements that were used in the worship of false gods. The sacred pillars were roughly the equivalent of a type of memorial obelisk made of stone used in the worship of false gods. Poles of Asherah were wooden carved images or sacred trees, sometimes translated as a grove. These were locations where idolatrous worship of the Phoenician goddess Ashtoreth or Asherah took place.

However, it is important to note that Hezekiah also removed the worship sites known as “the high places.” These were ancient worship sites that had been used by the Canaanites long before Israel inhabited the land. Especially before there was a temple in Israel, and sometimes after, it was a common practice to worship gods, including Yahweh, in areas on high mountains that were considered sacred. Both the prophet Samuel and Solomon are recorded as frequenting high places in the worship of the one true God, Yahweh.

1 Samuel 9:19 – “I am the seer,” Samuel answered. “Go up ahead of me to the high place and eat with me today. When I send you off in the morning, I’ll tell you everything that’s in your heart.

1 Kings 3:2-4 – However, the people were sacrificing on the high places, because until that time a temple for Yahweh’s name had not been built. Solomon loved Yahweh by walking in the statutes of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.  The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there because it was the most famous high place. He offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.

It was from this environment, the high place at Gibeon, that God appeared to Solomon in a dream and granted him wisdom above his contemporaries.

From these few examples, it can be seen that the worship of Yahweh had become intermixed with the worship of the false gods of the land of Canaan. But this was something that God had specifically warned the Israelites not to do.

Deuteronomy 18:9 – “When you enter the land Yahweh your God is giving you, do not imitate the detestable customs of those nations.”

Albert Barnes in his commentary on this passage relates how the high places had become part of the culture of the land.

“They were the rural centers for the worship of Yahweh, standing in the place of the later synagogue, and had hitherto been winked at, or rather regarded as legitimate, even by the best kings. Hezekiah’s desecration of these time-honored sanctuaries must have been a rude shock to the feelings of numbers…”

For Hezekiah to remove the high places and re-direct everyone’s worship to the temple in Jerusalem was a monumental task. In today’s terms from an American perspective, it would be the equivalent of a state governor essentially destroying rural church buildings in every small town and telling everyone they can only worship God “officially” in the capital city of the state. Not likely to be a popular move. But Hezekiah was not doing this as a popularity concession; he was dutifully upholding the law of God, as a king should:

Deuteronomy 12:10-11, 13-14 – “When you cross the Jordan and live in the land Yahweh your God is giving you to inherit, and he gives you rest from all the enemies around you and you live in security, then Yahweh your God will choose the place to have his name dwell. Bring there everything I command you: your burnt offerings, sacrifices, offerings of the tenth, personal contributions, and all your choice offerings you vow to Yahweh. … Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings in all the sacred places you see. You must offer your burnt offerings only in the place Yahweh chooses in one of your tribes, and there you must do everything I command you.”

Hezekiah took this command seriously because the people had strayed back into their comfort zone of local idolatry. But by any standard, this was a bold move that demonstrated just how zealous Hezekiah was for God’s honor. In fact, his zeal was so strong that he even took action against a shameful practice of his own people regarding the one, true God.

2 Kings 18:4 – He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for until then the Israelites were burning incense to it. It was called Nehushtan.

The Israelites had become so corrupted in their idolatry that they had even begun to worship the bronze snake that Moses had made during the wilderness journeys of Israel six or seven hundred years earlier. Apparently it had become a religious relic that was elevated to the status of an object of worship. Ironically, that which had brought the Israelites healing in the desert had become the corrupted focus of worship rather than keeping their focus on the God who had healed them.

From these examples, it would seem that, left to our own devices with no regard for God’s law, people will always default to a type of personal worship of our own choosing based on the cultural norms of their environments. All of these actions that Hezekiah was forced to take on God’s behalf only underscore the reforms that were necessary against the ingrained idolatry of the land. He was adamant he would not succumb to the cultural influences that continually crept in among the people of God, and he would stand firm for God’s honor at all costs.

In a moment, we are going to look at the pivotal event in Hezekiah’s reign that forced him to rely even more strongly on his trust in Yahweh than he had demonstrated with his reforms against idolatry. In doing so, I’m hopeful we can glean some principles which we can apply in our own lives to grow our own trust in God for his increased glory and honor.

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The events surrounding Hezekiah’s encounter with Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, are so prominent in Israel’s history that the story is recounted in three different books within the Tenakh or Old Testament: 2 Kings 18, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36. Assyria at that time, roughly 700 B.C, had become the equivalent of an ancient superpower and was on a military campaign against the surrounding nations when Israel had come into its sights. In pursuit of his objectives, Sennacherib had declared war on Jerusalem. Prior to setting up a siege, the commander of Sennacherib’s army was declaring the king’s intent to the people of the city. This was a common practice as a form of intimidation and as a way of undercutting potential resistance against the forces that would seek to overpower them.

To begin this process of intimidation, he first tries to destroy the character of Hezekiah in the minds of the people who were within earshot of his message:

2 Kings 18:22 – “Suppose you say to me, “We rely on Yahweh our God.” Isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You must worship at this altar in Jerusalem”?’

Notice how he zeroes in on the contempt many in Israel likely felt when Hezekiah had destroyed the high places which were their familiar places of worship. He tries to undermine the righteous actions of Hezekiah by accusing Hezekiah of destroying the altars of Yahweh in the high places. But the reality, as we have seen, is that God forbade the Israelites from worshiping at all the “sacred places” that they would see when they entered the land. He never authorized worship of himself at the high places, only at the place he would name. By removing the high places as worship sites for Yahweh, Hezekiah had actually been upholding the law. Sennacherib tried to use this righteous action against him, and convince the people that Hezekiah was against the worship of Yahweh.

So, one of the first principles we can see is that our detractors will try to use our righteous actions against us, because when we act in faith according to God’s Word, our actions typically don’t line up with the cultural norms.

Next, we see how the commander of the Assyrian army levels his sights on the trust and faith in Yahweh that Hezekiah had been trying to instill in his people.

2 Kings 18:30-32 – “Don’t let Hezekiah persuade you to rely on Yahweh by saying, “Certainly Yahweh will rescue us! This city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” ‘  “Don’t listen to Hezekiah, for this is what the king of Assyria says: ‘Make peace with me and surrender to me. Then each of you may eat from his own vine and his own fig tree, and each may drink water from his own cistern until I come and take you away to a land like your own land ​– ​a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey ​– ​so that you may live and not die. But don’t listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, “Yahweh will rescue us.”

Our next principle for application is that if the detractors can’t malign our character and actions, they will then turn to undermining our faith. They will attempt to provide reason and examples as to how our faith in Yahweh is worthless in the face of their superior reasoning and practical provision.

Notice he says he would allow them to return to their own homesteads and have autonomy until he was to take them away to a land like their own land. He essentially is trying to get them to trade their faith and trust in Yahweh’s protection for a return to their homes and a larger security that he claims he can provide. “No need to believe in all this Yahweh stuff,” he says, “when I can clearly provide you what you really are expecting from Yahweh anyway.” Believers need to be aware that the detractors will always offer some form of security outside of the provision of God to compromise their faith.

Finally, after defaming Hezekiah and the peoples’ faith in Yahweh, the commander then crosses a line that spells the doom of the Assyrian campaign against Jerusalem: he maligns, not just the character and actions of Hezekiah or the faith of the people, but the character of Yahweh himself.

2 Kings 18:33-35 – “Has any of the gods of the nations ever rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my power? Who among all the gods of the lands has rescued his land from my power? So will Yahweh rescue Jerusalem from my power? ‘ “

This is the common mistake of those who would come against the people of God: they equate Yahweh with the rest of the false gods in the world, and in doing so, they attempt to set themselves in the place of, or even above, God himself. They position themselves as the final authority, claiming the ability to operate independently of any deity, and in their own interests. The sad reality, though, is that in taking this stance, the commander had now made the conflict with Israel not about Hezekiah, or the faith of the people in the city, but he had set the Assyrian army in conflict with God himself.

Having heard this rant of the commander of the Assyrian army and having received a letter outlining their demands, Hezekiah, being strong in faith and not being deterred by the king’s arrogance, did what all of us should do when confronted with intimidation against the honor of God: he brought the situation before God. He laid out the demands of the Assyrian king before God in the temple, and simply prayed for God to make himself known in the midst of the conflict.

2 Kings 19:14-19 – After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to Yahweh’s Temple and spread it out before Yahweh. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before Yahweh: “O Yahweh, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Yahweh, and listen! Open your eyes, O Yahweh, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God. It is true, Yahweh, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all–only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O Yahweh our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Yahweh, are God.”

Notice, Hezekiah recognized that this was not a battle of armies or protection, but a battle for the honor of God’s Name. “Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against [you], the living God.” This isn’t about Hezekiah’s honor, or the faith of the people, but about the Name and character of God himself. Hezekiah knows that this is the opportunity for God to demonstrate his superiority over the fake gods of the land, and to let the other kingdoms know he really is the one, true God. Hezekiah rightly places the battle in God’s hands, since it was to be a demonstration of his power against the enemies who had defied him. If God were to deliver Jerusalem, known even to his enemies as his favored city, then “all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, Yahweh, are God.”

Although Hezekiah had previously attempted to placate the king of Assyria by sending him silver and gold, he knew that now was the time, not to act, but to step out of the way and to trust Yahweh to accomplish his purpose in defending his chosen city and his Name. Through this act of incredible trust and humility demonstrated by Hezekiah, God responded through the prophet Isaiah that he would indeed protect Jerusalem and the honor of his Name.

2 Kings 19:20, 32-34 – Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “Yahweh, the God of Israel says, ‘I have heard your prayer to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria.’ … “Therefore, this is what Yahweh says about the king of Assyria: He will not enter this city, shoot an arrow here, come before it with a shield, or build up a siege ramp against it.  He will go back the way he came, and he will not enter this city. This is Yahweh’s declaration.  I will defend this city and rescue it for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

True to his word, the very next day, almost the entire Assyrian army was dead:

2 Kings 19:35-36 – That night the angel of Yahweh went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

It’s one thing to trust God for one’s own private needs or the needs of one’s own family, but consider how much faith Hezekiah was displaying by trusting God for an entire city, and even the nation of Israel against a foreign invading army! Think of some of the alternatives he could have reasoned through with his advisors: he could have mustered troops to come out in battle against Assyria, trusting in the might of his own army. Or he could have sent word to Egypt trusting in a foreign country as an ally to come and defend the city, but he didn’t do either of these things. When he recognized the battle was really not about him or his faith, but about God’s honor, he simply laid out the situation before God and prayed humbly and sincerely for God to act. Through his simple act of faithfulness, the aggression of a military superpower was averted.

So, what other kinds of applications can we draw from the story of this encounter?  Well, the main thrust of the story appears to center on Hezekiah’s faith and trust in Yahweh, relying on Yahweh to provide the necessary and appropriate resolution to the defense of his favored city. When we truly trust God, we need to learn to get out of his way and allow him to move in situations and arrange outcomes that are far beyond our capacity.

But there is also a strong, underlying subtext regarding Hezekiah’s zeal against the idolatry and complacent worship prevalent throughout the land. It took a clear understanding of God’s Word and bold action to re-set the time-honored practices of God’s people who had strayed from the truth. This corruption of idolatry is contrasted with the faith and zeal of Hezekiah. That which can be seen (a false god) is devalued in light of that which cannot be seen (the one, true God). We must not only repent of our own idolatrous tendencies, but to provide God’s perspective for those who may not yet realize the depth of their own complacency and compromise with the culture, much like those who would worship Yahweh at the idolatrous high places throughout the land of Israel.

Let’s think about that for a moment. Consider the things we worship today (that is, things that we look to for refuge, rescue. or solutions to our problems). Things like our phones and devices, social media, television, movies, celebrities, politicians, sports, our homes, sometimes even ourselves. On the religious side, we may have a favored denomination, or place of worship, or tradition that does not line up entirely with God’s Word. What types of “Hezekiahan” reform would be necessary in our culture today to honor God? How is God’s honor and Name being maligned today? How can we lovingly but firmly present the case for God’s honor to those who are wrapped up in the idolatry of these worldly distractions?

But be aware, as we remove some of those “high places” in our lives, we may begin to feel the pressure and resistance of those who have not yet reached that same level of trust and faith. This is where we have to consider deeply where we are making our stand for God, and like Hezekiah, be prepared by laying out the oppositional positions before God and praying for his honor to be maintained, not ours. Hezekiah staked everything on God’s honor and reputation above the gods of the invading force and the culture around him. He had reached the point where he had removed himself as being able to do anything further in his own might over these false deities, and instead allowed God to manifest himself as a demonstration to others that “all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, Yahweh, are God.”

As individual believers in Messiah, we can only look at the patterns and habits of our own lives as examples to others. We are not authorized to go around tearing down other peoples’ idols, but we are authorized to teach them how to do so. When we not only trust in God for ourselves but live out actions and practices in our interactions with others match that internal perspective, we honor God and then have the potential to rally others to the cause of Messiah in this world.


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.

Biblical teaching that carries depth and eternal purpose

The purpose of God is fulfilled when we give proper honor to his Word.

The purpose of God is fulfilled when we give proper honor to his Word.

Titus 2:7-8 – “Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.”

As Paul is writing to Titus regarding how he should be a godly leader, he mentions that his works and his teaching should be supportive of each other. He shouldn’t just teach about the right things but he should practice doing good, as well.

In regard to the nature of Titus’ teaching, Paul uses two terms that I believe are lacking among many modern Bible teachers, and these terms are typically translated as integrity and dignity. Looking a little deeper into these terms we might learn a little more about how unique these characteristics are.

By looking at the second word first, the word usually translated as dignity, we can see an important aspect represented here. The Helps Word Studies reference provides an interesting expanded definition for us.

“[this word] reflects what has been transformed by God and exhibits “moral and spiritual gravity (gravitas)” – like what attends a deep, godly character. This sense of dignity also invites reverence from others, who should likewise exalt what is noble (morally-elevated).”

I think that this is a significant characteristic that is lacking in much of modern Bible teaching today. Many, if not most of those espousing biblical concepts will do so in a way that panders to their audience, usually using many informal colloquialisms to try to make the message more palatable for their tastes.

A Christian writer by the name of Alec Satin writes about the continual increasing informality of worship today in his article, What is irreverent worship?

“Reverence to the Lord is sober. It’s attentive, quiet and alert. It’s inconceivable that you would simultaneously check your email on your phone while you’re having an audience with the Queen of England. So how in the world could it possibly be okay for you to check Facebook while you’re supposedly worshipping the King of all creation?”

This indication of the informality of the congregation leads back to the informality of the leadership and the type of teaching going on in congregations today.

Returning to Paul’s admonition to Titus, the first word describing the type of teaching Paul recommends is usually translated as integrity or purity. It is unique in that this form of the word is used nowhere else in the Greek New Testament. Because of its uniqueness, it can be helpful to get to its root word to see what it is derived from that can perhaps broaden our understanding of its use.

The underlying Greek root is a word that is typically translated as immortality or incorruptibility. Here are some examples:

  • Romans 2:7 – eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality;
  • 1 Corinthians 15:53 – For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality.
  • 2 Timothy 1:10 – This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Messiah Yeshua, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Once again, an expanded definition from the Helps Word Studies provides an explanation of the term:

“properly, [it means] no-corruption (unable to experience deterioration); incorruptibility (not perishable), i.e. lacking the very capacity to decay or constitutionally break down.”

This idea of teaching that lacks the capacity for decay means that, by default, it must be based on the most foundational aspects of the gospel message, not what is considered the most culturally acceptable aspects of that message. When all we take away from the Bible is a paradigm of social acceptability and fodder for a cause du jour, we rob the Word of its power and we defame God’s honor. We should not be using the Word to serve our purposes, but instead we should be submitting our purposes, goals, and aspirations to the Word.

We read in the Bible how the Word of God is eternal and unchanging.

1 Peter 1:22-25 – Since you have purified yourselves by your obedience to the truth, so that you show sincere brotherly love for each other, from a pure heart love one another constantly, because you have been born again ​– ​not of perishable seed but of imperishable ​– ​through the living and enduring word of God. For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this word is the gospel that was proclaimed to you.

Peter, quoting from Isaiah, mentions not only how the Word of God endures forever, but is the imperishable seed that causes people to become born again, or born from above. When that message is compromised by becoming culturally issue-oriented, it robs God’s Word of its power, and reduces the majesty of God to the image of man.

It is up to us to ensure our message remains focused on the eternal and imperishable gospel of the Kingdom, and thereby any opponents will not be able to say anything bad about us or our teaching. In this way, the honor and glory of our God will remain intact and visible for all to see, and those seeking the immortal Word of life can be satisfied.


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

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

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

In this kingdom we bear the name and character of God

This is what the third commandment is all about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and this my title for all generations.'”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The most intimidating woman in the Bible

How do we measure up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Living righteously removes fear

Doing what’s right instills confidence in those who practice it.

Psalm 112:1 – Praise Yahweh! Happy is the person who fears Yahweh, taking great delight in his commands.

The idea contained within the completeness of this psalm is that the righteous individual, one who fears God and abides by his word, is blessed by God.

  • v. 2 Their descendants will be powerful and blessed
  • v. 3 They will have wealth and riches

They are:

  • v. 4 industrious, gracious, merciful
  • v. 5 just in all dealings
  • v. 9 generous
  • v. 9 they receive honor

This is the picture of a righteous person who lives with integrity. This is also the idea that the disciples of Yeshua had of someone who is considered righteous by God. If someone was rich and powerful, they thought, it was clear they were blessed by God.

However, Yeshua provided further insight regarding wealth and power.

Matthew 19:23-26 – Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved? ” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Yeshua took the disciples perspective that all wealthy people must be blessed by God and turned it on its head, a concept which astonished the disciples. True wealth, he says, is maintained by those who are rich toward God and toward his righteous standards.

Matthew 6:19-21 – “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In fact, that was the very discussion he had just had with the rich young ruler, and which caused the disciples to be considering this question of God’s blessing on the wealthy in the first place.

Matthew 19:21-22 – “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard that, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Our perspective must always be based on the overall message of God’s word, not just certain aspects of it, or verses taken out of context here and there. When God says the righteous will be blessed, he means it; but being blessed by God should not be the reason and motivation for living righteously.

Living according to God’s standards provides for needs and also allows one to be generous with others as God provides above and beyond. Yet, being wealthy, something many people seek to attain, should not be an end in itself. When it is, then the attainment of riches becomes the standard, and any means will be used to reach that goal.

Instead, Yeshua encourages believers to focus on doing what’s right, and God will bless as he sees fit and in his own timing. When this understanding is the focus of the individual, the confidence of the believer is that, though they may not have attained their own personal financial desires, doing what God requires according to his wisdom is more valuable than any riches in the world.

A sampling from the Proverbs can easily demonstrate this:

Proverbs 3:13-14 – Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding, for she is more profitable than silver, and her revenue is better than gold.
8:11, 19 – “For wisdom is better than jewels, and nothing desirable can equal it. … “My fruit is better than solid gold, and my harvest than pure silver.
16:8, 16, 19 – Better a little with righteousness than great income with injustice. … Get wisdom — how much better it is than gold! And get understanding — it is preferable to silver. … Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud.

True wealth is not measured in dollars and cents, but in the abundant measure of doing what’s right. When this is the true stance of the believer, there is no fear of losing that abundance, because it is not something that can be taken away.

Psalm 112: 7-8 – He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in Yahweh. His heart is assured; he will not fear.

This should be the central core of the believer’s perspective. Doing right according to God’s standards, living with integrity, allows one the privilege of confidence and dominion over fear; fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. When one is operating from this confident place of a settled mind, they can be more assured in their just dealings, and this can naturally lead to increased abundance. However, abundance in and of itself is not the measure to attain. It may be the by-product of faithful work and just dealings, but it should not be the end-goal of all industry.

While God can provide bountifully for his own, the larger perspective is that everything we have belongs to him and can be given up in a moment. When this is the heart perspective of the believer, then all confidence is in God, not in the abundance of things. There is no bad news that this type of assurance cannot overcome.


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.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

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

The beauty of a long life of integrity

Short or long, a life lived with integrity is its own reward.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory. It is attained by a life of righteousness.”

Proverbs 16:31:

In the ancient Middle Eastern culture of three thousand years ago, this saying would have had a much different connotation than we might see today. In fact, reading through the proverbs of Solomon, one might easily skip over this simple statement as being a quaint observation from the past.

In today’s society, we look less upon advanced age as the reward of a righteous life, and more of an expected right for all. We see little connection between the ethical quality of the life lived, and the duration of that life. Everything now is about advanced medical opportunities and mindful health practices. Whether a person is good or bad is rarely considered a factor in the role of longevity.

In the ancient world, growing older was considered a sign of blessing and honor. Generally speaking, the role of elders in society was viewed as being filled with gravity and wisdom. Elders in villages were looked upon as repositories of wisdom and guidance for the community. We see this was even a recommended practice among their early believing communities, as elders were to be appointed to lead the spiritual life of the congregations of Messiah.

To attain an advanced age was to have lived a life of right choices, and therefore worthy of respect. In our day, we see echoes of this mentality when individuals who live to be 100 years or older are interviewed as to what their “secret” is for having lived so long. If for no other reason than this, I would enjoy living to that advanced age only for the opportunity to share that a life of obedience and righteousness to the God of the universe provides wisdom for happiness and longevity.

Proverbs 9:10-11: “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.
The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied. The years of your life will be increased.”

Matthew Poole in his commentary has this interesting observation regarding the white hair of the aged:

“…[it is] a great honour and ornament, as it is a singular blessing of God, a token of great experience and prudence, as it comes nearest to God, who is called the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9.”

To be ancient of days is to be considered having qualities of wisdom approaching those of God. The white hair of age is not something to be dyed and colored to mimic the vibrancy of youth, but is to be a visible representation and celebration of longevity and honored living.

Of course, as with any general rule or maxim, there are always exceptions. Sometimes the wicked people continue on, while lives of integrity are cut short. This leveling truth was also revealed by Solomon:

Ecclesiastes 9:11  Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them.

While time and chance have a role to play within the wisdom of God, I think it can easily be demonstrated that, on the whole, short or long, a life of integrity and wisdom is its own reward. But for the aged among us who have genuinely lived lives of integrity, we should seek to provide the appreciation and respect they deserve.


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 resourcefulness and confidence of integrity

Working diligently within the will of God allows us to shine brightly in a world of darkness.

Proverbs 31:10, 29-31 Who can find a wife of noble character? She is far more precious than jewels. … Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all! ” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised. Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

One would be hard pressed to find fault with the woman represented in Proverbs 31. This paramount of virtue and industry has been a standard revered for ages, since these words were originally penned. If such a woman were to exist, she would be worthy of high praise, indeed.

She is typically known as the woman of noble character, but if we dig a little into the language, we find another aspect of character at work: strength. The word that is typically translated as noble or virtuous is a Hebrew word meaning strength, resources, or ability. Going further into the root language, we arrive at the word for twisting or whirling about, as perhaps in a dance. Taken together, these meanings convey that this woman is not just noble, but a resilient and resourceful individual who is poetically active and engaged at all times. Everything she does is worthy of praise and honor. She takes care of her husband and her family; she reaches out to those in need; she is constantly doing something that brings honor to her family name and to God. Her activities are known and recognized by others, and God is honored by her determination and character.

Using a slightly different word picture, Yeshua encourages his believers to be of a similar mindset.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

When we see how these themes intertwine, we can arrive at the conclusion that Proverbs 31 isn’t speaking about a specific woman at all, but is a personification of the collective people of God who are to be continually active in the works and will of God. As the bride, we honor our husband when we are diligent and faithful in our duties, dancing joyfully about within his perfect will for us. As we do, our light shines out in meaningful ways to others; it cannot be hidden.

I have learned that the woman’s confidence and resourcefulness allows her to laugh at tomorrow (v. 25). There is nothing outside of ourselves that can dampen our integrity or our efforts when we are busily engaged within the perfect will of God and his purpose for the kingdom.


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.

Trustworthy believers are faithful in speech

By being trustworthy individuals in speech and manner of life, we honor the God who calls us to be the lights in a world of darkness and strife.

“‘You shall not go around as a tale-bearer among your people.

Leviticus 19:16

Believers have come to trust in Yahweh because he has proved himself faithful. He has accomplished all with his people that he said he would. As his children, we should be exhibiting the same kind of faithfulness with others. If we cannot be considered faithful, why would anyone believe us when we tell them about the faithfulness of our God?

In the Bible, untrustworthy individuals were known as tale-bearers or slanderers. The root word for this type of person describes one who is a scandal-monger, one who would travel about spreading information with the intent of stirring up dissent. Believers were cautioned not only to not participate in such activity but to avoid these type of people altogether.

Proverbs 11:13 One who is a tale-bearer uncovers secrets, but one who is of a trustworthy spirit conceals a confidence.
Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a tale-bearer reveals secrets; therefore don’t keep company with him who opens wide his lips.

These tale-bearers and slanderers were a main target amidst Jeremiah’s denunciation of the wickedness of his own people, and one of the primary factors of Israel’s judgment in his day.

[God speaking to Jeremiah] “I have made you a tester of metals and a fortress among my people, that you may know and try their way. They are all grievous rebels, going around to slander. They are bronze and iron. All of them deal corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely. The lead is consumed in the fire. In vain they go on refining, for the wicked are not plucked away. Men will call them rejected silver, because Yahweh has rejected them.”

Jeremiah 6:27-30

[Jeremiah laments over the wicked state of his people] Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a spring of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people and go from them! For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. “They bend their tongue, as their bow, for falsehood. They have grown strong in the land, but not for truth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they don’t know me,” says Yahweh. “Everyone beware of his neighbor, and don’t trust in any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will go around like a slanderer. Friends deceive each other, and will not speak the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies. They weary themselves committing iniquity. Your habitation is in the middle of deceit. Through deceit, they refuse to know me,” says Yahweh. Therefore Yahweh of Armies says, “Behold, I will melt them and test them; for how should I deal with the daughter of my people? Their tongue is a deadly arrow. It speaks deceit. One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart, he waits to ambush him. Shouldn’t I punish them for these things?” says Yahweh. “Shouldn’t my soul be avenged on a nation such as this?

Jeremiah 9:1-9

When individuals demonstrate this kind of betrayal among their own people, relatives and friends, who can trust in them?

The apostle James relates a similar understanding of the power of the tongue at the culmination of the wicked generation in his day.

James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
James 3:5-12 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

James encourages believers to remain faithful in their speech and not to fall prey to the wickedness of the tongue, with which many in his day used to demean and curse others.

Peter also encourages believers to be faithful in speech and conduct, and he backs up his admonition with a quote from Psalm 34:

[Do not return] evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”

1 Peter 3:9-12

Our code of conduct exceeds that of the world so that we can encourage instead of demean, bless instead of curse. By being trustworthy individuals in speech and manner of life, we honor the God who calls us to be the lights in a world of darkness and strife.

…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

Philippians 2:13-15

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.

Be a Person of your Word

The beauty of integrity is in its simplicity.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Matthew 5:33-37

Be a person of your word, not requiring any oath to substantiate your actions. Simply say yes or no, and do what you say.

The beauty of integrity is in its simplicity. It is uncomplicated sincerity with nothing to gain, and nothing to lose. It is liberating; it allows you to live free of extraneous and unnecessary commitment. You are elevated in the eyes of God and others when you are known as one who can be relied on because you always do what you say.