The Kingdom of humility

God has designed his Creation to operate in unison with his will.

God has designed his Creation to operate in unison with his will.

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

Yeshua taught the necessity of humility in the establishment of the Kingdom of God. In fact, his first recorded message to the people was one of repentance and humility before God.

  • Matthew 4:17 – “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
  • Mark 1:15 – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

However, this was not a new message to the people of God. They had been urged all along through the Prophets and the Writings of the Tanakh to ensure that their hearts were never lifted up.

  • Psalm 34:18 – Yahweh is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 51:16-17 – You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.
  • Isaiah 66:2 – My hand made all these things, and so they all came into being. This is Yahweh’s declaration. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at my word.

This makes sense, since the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth has always been the purpose of God since the beginning of all things. The consistency of the message is staggering considering all that took place throughout the history of the people of Israel, and the many times they rejected this simple principle.

  • Deuteronomy 8:14 – “be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.”
  • 2 Chronicles 32:25 – However, because his heart was proud, Hezekiah didn’t respond according to the benefit that had come to him. So there was wrath on him, Judah, and Jerusalem.
  • Psalm 94:2 – “Rise up, Judge of the earth; repay the proud what they deserve.”

The Kingdom is not and will not be made up of those who are self-assured in their own purposes; this is the anti-Kingdom mentality. This is the worldview that seeks to leverage everything and everyone around them to their own advantage and design. Even (especially) among God’s own people, this frame of mind produces not the blessing of God, but the judgment of God. We must remember that we are made in his image; we are not him.

Yet, through all of this, the thread of humility before God is one that remains foundational to the establishment of the Kingdom. God still calls people to lay their own plans down before him and to pick up the cross of his purpose and will in the face of adversity and sometimes even ridicule. This is how the Kingdom grows: through each individual choosing to accomplish God’s will, not their own, with the gifts and resources he has provided each one of them.

James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves before Yahweh, and he will exalt you.”


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

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

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

The kingdom of God’s children

Humility is the quality of child-like faith that God requires.

Humility is the quality of child-like faith that God requires.

Matthew 18:3 – “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Here in the account of Matthew, the disciples had posed the question to Yeshua, asking who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. However, in Luke and Mark’s accounts, the question arose due to the fact that the disciples had been arguing about who among them was the greatest. Regardless if these were the same or different occasions, the root lesson that Yeshua provides is the same: one must become like a child.

In what way should a believer mimic children? Depending on the age of child being discussed, children can be mean or they can be self-centered and stubborn. Clearly these are not characteristics of being the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The only clue we have from the text suggests this was a small child who was at least able to stand, as Yeshua had the child stand among them. When children are very young, they are in a constant state of learning; learning how to behave, how to interact with others, and how to do basic skills that they will need for the rest of their lives. No one looks to a young child to be an expert in anything because they just haven’t had the time and practice necessary to become skilled at anything. It is this aspect that Yeshua hones in on, the idea is that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who is in a constant state of learning.

This actually hearkens back to Yeshua’s discussion with Nicodemus in which he says in order to see the kingdom of God, one must be born again. The passage there in the third chapter of John clarifies that Yeshua was not talking about being physically re-born, as if that were possible. And the emphasis here is the same: if being born means to come into a new environment with a new set of eyes, then becoming a child means seeking how to operate within a new environment of living. Yeshua was highlighting how the disciples would need to be giving up pre-conceived ideas to experience the fresh things that God was about to do. The kingdom was not about greatness among men, it was about humility in God’s eyes.

The emphasis Yeshua makes in both cases is a sense of humility that is required to be a faithful disciple. Yeshua is not suggesting believers should be immature and self-centered as many children can be, but they should be innocent to evil and willing to learn new things in new ways that God wants to convey. There is an element of repenting, as Yeshua says one must “turn” to become like a little child. Therefore, our growth within the kingdom should never be a source of pride or lifting oneself up above others, but an opportunity to reach out to others in love so they can be helped along the way, as well.

If we can learn to remain humble and of service to others while we travel the path of the kingdom in this world, then God has the opportunity to lift us up and use us as he sees fit for his purpose.

Matthew 18:4 – “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child ​– ​this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”


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.

Reverence, humility, and helping others

Recognizing how Job’s friends interacted with him should help us be better friends.

Core of the Bible podcast #64 – Reverence, humility, and helping others

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and the duty of believers to humbly reach out to others in respect of reverence of God, or the fear of Yahweh.

Now this idea is based on an interesting verse in Job which has several different meanings depending on which English version one is using, or how one places the emphasis in the original language.

The NIV relates Job 6:14 in the following manner:

“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”

This is pretty straightforward, and even contains a nice moral theme of demonstrating that those who are not kind with their friends are demonstrating that they themselves have forsaken the “fear of the Almighty.”

Now, we’ll talk more about the fear of God in a little bit; but want I want to focus on for the moment is comparing this translation of this verse with a more accurate one from the NASB. It reads like this:

“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.”

The Holman CSB reads in a similar way:

“A despairing man should receive loyalty from his friends, even if he abandons the fear of the Almighty.”

These types of translations are closer to the text and the context, and express a different emphasis of conveying that friends should extend kindness to their friends even when (or specifically so the friends don’t) abandon the fear of God.

Now, truth be told, I had written a whole article last year on this verse, focusing on the first type of translation, how not extending compassion to one’s friend could be an indication that someone has lost the fear of God. When we don’t recognize how God wants us to reach out and help others, we are negating our reverence for God. I said it this way:

“If we do not have the fear of God, Job says, we have no motivation for expressing compassion to those less fortunate or those who are going through rough patches in their lives; we withhold kindness. We instead focus on our personal agendas which end up being relatively insignificant by comparison.”

This is not an untrue statement. We are typically self-centered by nature, and if we do not have the fear of God in our lives, we typically spend little time caring for the needs of others.

However, this is not what this verse actually says when it is viewed in its entire context. Contextually, the secondary versions from the NASB and the Holman CSB are more accurate. These focus on the friends providing compassion to a friend in need so that the needful friend does not abandon all hope and reject the fear of God altogether.

Let’s look at the context to show how this bears out.

In this passage, Job is bewailing the struggle and grief he is experiencing.

Job 6:2, 4, 8-10 – “Oh that my grief were actually weighed And laid in the balances together with my calamity! … “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, Their poison my spirit drinks; The terrors of God are arrayed against me. … “Oh that my request might come to pass, And that God would grant my longing! “Would that God were willing to crush me, That He would loose His hand and cut me off! “But it is still my consolation, And I rejoice in unsparing pain, That I have not denied the words of the Holy One.”

This is the recurring theme of Job: how he maintains his innocency and yet God is afflicting him.

Then, in his continuing monologue, Job becomes dismissive of his friends who, rather than building him up, are instead accusing Job of some wrongdoing that has resulted in his condition.

Job 6:25-27 – “How painful are honest words! But what does your argument prove? “Do you intend to reprove my words, When the words of one in despair belong to the wind? “You would even cast lots for the orphans And barter over your friend.”

Job is saying they are not acting as true friends who should be comforting him; rather they are providing arguments of why he is wrong during his time of suffering. They are not acting as true friends, but as judges, trying to outdo each other to provide the correct assessment of why he is in the predicament he is.

So, understanding the fuller context can now help us determine which of the translations of verse 14 are more accurate. Is Job saying that forsaking a friend means one has lost the fear of God themself, or is he saying that real friends would comfort a friend in need to prevent him from abandoning his fear of God?

Notice what Job says:

Job 6:26 – “Do you intend to reprove my words, When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?

Job is upbraiding them for reproving him when they should recognize instead that someone who is in despair is likely uttering words with no meaning. They should be comforting him in his affliction rather than trying to prove to him why he deserves to be afflicted. They should be doing everything they can to make sure that Job does not lose his fear of God in his despair.

This type of textual analysis really drives home to me the importance of good, comprehensive Bible study. It is very easy for us to arrive at faulty conclusions when we are pulling verses out of context for the sake of proving some point we are attempting to make. It’s kind of like Job’s friends who grasped at anything to show Job why he was in the wrong; we have a tendency to create our own type of meaning where there really isn’t any, and we miss the bigger picture of our responsibility toward others.

This, I believe, is one of the main reasons the apostle James could write the following:

James 3:1-2 – “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways…”

Teaching about the Bible is a humbling challenge that requires constant re-evaluation and sometimes a readjustment of perspective. Seeing how this verse can be slanted in different directions reminds me of how I need to humbly and prayerfully ensure I am also always trying to convey the correct context at all times to derive the greatest application.


Now that we understand a bit more about the context of Job 6, we can look at verse 14 as helping us understand how and why we should be interacting with our friends who may be struggling.

“A despairing man should receive kindness from his friends, even if he abandons the fear of the Almighty.”

This aligns most closely with the literal rendering of the original Hebrew which reads: “To him who is afflicted, by his friend, kindness, even though the fear of the Almighty he forsakes.”

This admonition of Job for all believers drives us to the conclusion that we should always extend kindness, not judgment, for those we know who may be suffering. In doing so, we are helping to keep them from losing their reverence for God in their despair. Or if they have no reverence for God, we demonstrate God’s love to them in simply caring for their needs without judgment.

This was recently brought home to me by reading an article by Allie Brosh, the creator of the “Hyperbole and a half” blog and books. In it, she describes in a humorous, yet poignant and profound way, how people she knew found it almost impossible to relate to her while she was battling severe clinical depression.

She relates it this way: “They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it’s frustrating for them when that doesn’t happen. From their perspective it seems there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you’ve simply lost track of…”

This is almost the exact situation Job found himself in. His friends were trying so hard to analyze why he was afflicted, they just kept attacking his problem from their perspective, when all he really needed was some affirmation that they were there for him.

Allie continues how it appears from the perspective of the one who is afflicted: “The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions.” She then goes on to describe how the most helpful things would have been for her friends to say things like, “Sorry that you are going through this,” or “Wow, that seems really difficult, but I still like you.” In this way, they would be affirming their concern without laying down judgment on why she was suffering. That type of compassion goes a long way toward providing real comfort to those in need, even if it doesn’t solve their problems.

The good news is, Allie was able to overcome her deep depression and regain her sense of purpose. And, while I don’t personally know Allie or her spiritual state before God, if she had been a believer during her affliction, and her friends had acted in a godly, supportive and non-judgmental way, she would likely have been encouraged to not lose all hope in her reverence for God, her “fear of the Almighty,” as Job says.


So, as promised earlier, let’s explore this phrase a little further. “The fear of the Almighty” or “the fear of the Lord” are phrases that have fallen out of use in our modern religious vernacular. Rarely is God represented as a being who is to be feared; rather, his mercy and forgiveness are emphasized above and beyond all of the qualities of his being.

To better understand this admonition to fear God, we would do well to investigate the word that is translated in our English versions as “fear.” In regular vocabulary, that word to us means to be frightened or scared of something or someone who might do us harm. However, in biblical terminology, the term goes beyond that into a broader usage of “reverence” or “awe.”

If we have the fear of God, we have the deepest respect and reverence for God, recognizing just how awesome and powerful he really is. Whether we read of his power in the creation of all things, or the separating of the Red Sea, or in the resurrection of Yeshua, we are glimpsing the majesty and glory that sits outside of our natural understanding into the supernatural realm of God’s character and abilities. When we incorporate that perspective of the other-ness of God into our daily lives, we cannot help acting and working differently than others around us who have a physical-only worldview.

This concept of perspective-changing awe is a known commodity, even outside of religious environments. Marina Koren, writing in the The Atlantic periodical under their science category, relates the following assessment of awe. She dubs it “galaxy brain,” and conveys that it is a concept that has demonstrable effects in the lives of those who experience it:

“Imagine yourself at a scenic vista somewhere on Earth, such as the rim of the Grand Canyon or the shore of an ocean stretching out past the horizon line. As your brain processes the view and its sheer vastness, feelings of awe kick in. Looking at a photo is not the same, but we might get a dose of that when we look at a particularly sparkly Hubble picture of a star cluster. The experience of awe, whether we’re standing at the summit of a mountain or sitting in front of a computer screen, can lead to “a diminished sense of self,” a phrase psychologists use to describe feelings of smallness or insignificance in the face of something larger than oneself. Alarming as that may sound, research has shown that the sensation can be a good thing: A shot of awe can boost feelings of connectedness with other people.”

Having the larger perspective of awe can help us realize that the things we value as important to us in the short term of our temporary lives pale in contrast with the more important things that the God of the universe expects of us, such as helping others.

When someone receives a kind gesture from another person, have you ever heard them say something like, “This helped me regain my faith in humanity?” This implies that everyone is so used to being treated negatively by others that one kind action can have a big impact on them. As believers, though, our purpose through kindness is not to have others regain their faith in humanity (although that is a good start), but it is to have them recognize how the God of the universe is reaching out to them through our kind and helpful actions. We should be helping others to maintain their fear of the Almighty, or to recognize it if they have never experienced it.

This involves a large level of humility. Describing the “galaxy brain,” Marina Koren said when we experience this sense of awe it results in “diminishment of self.” Taken as a whole, the Bible is really all about instilling in us a sense of diminishment of self.

Proverbs 15:33 – “The fear of Yahweh is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.”

Proverbs 29:23 – “A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.”

Yeshua even spoke about the obedience of humility in this way:

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Paul, in writing to the Philippian congregation, says:

Philippians 2:3-4 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

As we have seen, humility can be accomplished through a sense of awe and wonder for the God who created all things and who placed us within his creation to make a compassionate difference in the lives of those around us. Our kindness toward others not only reveals our reverence for God, but for those who are in desperate situations, it can revive or even create a kindred sense of awe for God.

When we operate within that sense of big-picture reverence for our Creator, we are not only encouraged but compelled to express his compassion. In this way, the two greatest commands, to love God and love others, can be fulfilled in 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.

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.

The quiet and contented trust in Yahweh

When we truly trust in God, we demonstrate a calm humility in all things.

Psalm 131:1-3 – Yahweh, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved with things too great or too wondrous for me. Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like a weaned child. Israel, put your hope in Yahweh, both now and forever.

We can learn some ideas about trusting in Yahweh from this brief psalm of David. Some Bible versions will place a title on this psalm, such as “A song of quiet trust.” What catches my attention are some of the simple details of trusting God.

The point of the psalm is actually the last verse, “Israel, put your hope in Yahweh both now and forever.” The word for hope carries ideas of patient and expected waiting. Considered by itself, is this not what trust is? When trust is complete, then any delay in the fulfillment of what was promised is merely a time of patient waiting, for it is sure to come to pass. When trust is complete, there is no anxiety, no pained or striving searching, but merely calmness and certitude until it comes to pass.

David also mentions the idea of humility; trust is humble because it does not try to get out ahead of the one being trusted. There is no vaunting of personal agenda to find out ahead of time when something will come to pass. In humility, there is only a quiet and reserved acceptance of the current state, even if unknown, until the trusted thing is realized.

Trust also does not try to enter into areas with which it is not familiar in an attempt to hurry along an intended result. David recognized some things were just “too wonderful” for him, and in his humility, he was willing to leave those things to God.

And finally, David uses the illustration of a weaned child in its mother’s arms. A child who is not weaned will struggle and fuss with the mother in order to be fed from the mother’s breast. However, a weaned child can rest securely in the arms of its mother with no anxiety of nourishment or need of sustenance beyond the simple protective care of her embrace. The child’s soul is stilled and quiet because it needs nothing more.

In David’s poetic imagery, this is what trust in Yahweh looks like. A humble and content child resting securely and without need within the guarded safety of a loving embrace. When we can learn to quietly rest in the arms of a loving God, we can still those irrational fears and doubts that bubble up within our consciousness, knowing that he is more than able to guide us through any uncertainties that may arise.


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! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

We can only be truly compassionate when we are humble

We need eyes to see what God sees.

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, loving as brothers, and be compassionate and humble…

As Peter is summarizing his exhortations for the congregations he is writing to, he echoes a theme which is represented in the prophet Micah.

Micah 6:8 – People, he has told each of you what is good and what it is Yahweh requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

This is such a powerful admonition that even today, a local congregation near where I live has adopted this verse as their mission statement represented simply in their name: “6:8.”

This same simple principle is stated by Yeshua when he was asked what the greatest commandment is.

Matthew 22:37-40 – He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. “This is the greatest and most important command. “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

The entirety of God’s torah, his instruction, rests within the simplicity of these statements. What is captured in the writings of Micah and Peter, and more subtly in the statement of Yeshua, is a key element that makes this all-encompassing directive possible: humility.

When we can operate in true humility, we are freed to accomplish the purpose of God with others. When we remove our typical focus on ourselves, we can become his hands to reach out in love to others. This is how true compassion is manifested.

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

In our vain and vacuous culture today, we are so accustomed to looking out for ourselves that this central biblical concept seems almost foreign. We are so focused on trying to gain prestige, honor, self-improvement, visibility, followers, and influence that we have no time or energy left for God and the purpose of his kingdom.

Expanding on the exhortation of Micah, Alexander MacLaren comments:

Some people would say that this summary of the divine requirements is defective, because there is nothing in it about a man’s duty to himself, which is as much a duty as his duty to his fellows, or his duty to God. But there is a good deal of my duty to myself crowded into that one word, ‘humbly.’ For I suppose we might almost say that the basis of all our obligations to our own selves lies in this, that we shall take the right view-that is, the lowly view-of ourselves.

Peter would agree as he encourages the believers to do that very thing.

1 Peter 5:5 – … All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

If we are not hearing from God and wondering why he appears to be absent from our individual lives and our current society, it is likely because he is resisting us. The passage Peter is alluding to here is from Proverbs 3:34, which says, “He scorns the scornful but gives grace to the humble.” God is scorning us due to our collective and individual pride. Our pride is in the way, distancing us from him.

God desires us to exercise his compassion to others but this can only come about when we become humble, or in biblical phraseology: lowly of mind. When we think less frequently about ourselves and more about the needs of others, we demonstrate our likeness to our Father who is compassionate and merciful with us.

Psalm 103:13 – As a father has compassion on his children, so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear him.

Humility sheds the scales from our eyes and allows us to see clearly the needs of those around us. The world that God would have us reach for him comes into view and yearns for our help. Only through humility can we truly exhibit God’s love to others, and in so doing, bring glory to his Name and reputation.


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! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The kingdom of humility and wisdom

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

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

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

Yeshua stated it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

Benson concludes by quoting from the prophet Isaiah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intimacy with God by setting ourselves apart through fasting and prayer

Fasting is a spiritual practice that, done for the right reasons and in the correct, dignified manner, will provide a deep level of personal connection with God.

And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes…

Daniel 9:3

Fasting is a practice of believers mentioned throughout the Bible, typically coupled with intense, focused prayer.

Mark 9:29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.
Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained themselves elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan not tempt you for your lack of self control.

Fasting is also related to a humbling of oneself before God. In many English versions, this is typically translated as affliction or humbling; to “afflict one’s soul” was an act of humility before Yahweh. This was specifically listed as a commanded practice on the Day of Atonement each year, a day of seeking God and petitioning him for forgiveness.

And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger who sojourns among you: … It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and you shall afflict your souls by a statute forever.

Leviticus 16:29, 31

In the wilderness, the Israelites were forced to fast as a way of understanding that God would also supply their needs through the manna.

And you shall remember all the ways which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

They were set apart in the wilderness, a people called to a unique way of life that was to exemplify the kingdom of God on the earth.

In teaching of the fulfillment of this kingdom, Yeshua continues this idea of being set apart through fasting. He encourages this practice with believers but cautions then not to make a show of it with others, otherwise their “humbling” would become a form of hypocrisy.

Moreover when you fast, do not be as the hypocrites, of a sad appearance; for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face, that you do not appear unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret: and your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you openly.

Matthew 6:16-18

Yeshua specifies that true fasting is “unto your Father,” as a means of private intimacy in communication with him. Fasting is a spiritual practice that, done for the right reasons and in the correct, dignified manner, will provide a deep level of personal connection with him. This practice provides us an opportunity to continually set ourselves apart in seeking God’s purpose within his 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.

Meekness that moves mountains

As believers express God’s power with gentleness and humility, anything is possible.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

Conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and you will be blessed as an inheritor of the whole world.

Most English translations of this verse use the words like meek or humble instead of gentle to designate those who will be blessed as inheritors of the earth. As is typically the case, in shifting between languages certain meanings are lost and others are gained. What Yeshua is expressing here is not timidity or weakness, but rather strength that is under complete control, having the ability to demonstrate great power without harshness. This is a vital ingredient in the make up of the integrity of a believer.

It’s a non-intuitive way of viewing power in general, as we typically associate power with directness and abruptness of absolute authority or influence. However, the quality spoken of here is one of constancy of purpose and direction, yet having the ability to convey that definitive purpose in a way that is steady and unyielding but without being severe.

Biblical meekness or gentleness can be likened to a forest stream as it winds its way down a mountain in the wilderness. The power of the water is steady and unyielding, yet it doesn’t flow in a straight line from the top of the mountain to the lake into which it empties itself. It flows over and around rocks and obstacles as it makes its journey, softening the edges of hard rock and scooping bits of soil and pebbles in its path and carrying them away. Over time, its effects become more prominent as the channel for the stream becomes deeper and more defined. While, from one perspective, the water can be thought of as yielding to the hard rocks along the way, it is actually molding, shaping, and moving the mountain as it flows over and around the rocks and pebbles in its path,

This is the concept of biblical meekness or gentleness: strength under control, flexible but unyielding, having a powerful purpose but adapting to its environment while accomplishing its ends.

As believers express this integrity of gentleness in expressing God’s powerful purpose ar0und them, anything is possible. This is the type of power that truly inherits the earth.