Outward strength through internal compassion and unity

Believers must always stand for peace and righteousness with one another and with all others.

Core of the Bible podcast #99 – Outward strength through internal compassion and unity

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of compassion, and how compassion and unity with one another can provide a foundation for reaching others with the message of the Kingdom.

1 Peter 3:8-9 – Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other in brotherly love. Be compassionate, and keep a humble attitude.  Do not give back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, give blessings, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.

According to Peter, being compassionate is simply one of many expected traits believers should exhibit. The compassion he is speaking of here is extended not just to those outside of the faith, but to one another. If we cannot be compassionate with one another, how can we be truly compassionate towards others who are not believers?

For us to be truly compassionate with others, we should be operating from a base of harmony with one another, and recognizing one another’s needs sympathetically. Once we are able to show brotherly love to each other through humility and compassionate actions, we can then have a united purpose with those outside the faith.

Humility is a challenging trait to exercise because almost everything we are involved in on a daily basis in our current culture urges us to succeed over others to achieve goals and progress in our careers, or to draw people to our online content. If we remain humble about our skills and abilities, we may be passed over for promotions at work or for other opportunities where we could exercise those skills.

We all know how social media is purposely designed to generate “likes” and followers based on unique or controversial topics, and so it tends to breed a continual stream of those who are posting their opinions to pose as knowledgeable or successful in areas where they may or may not be. It is common knowledge that most people’s feeds are nothing but contrived and arranged photos to highlight only the best of what they want to share, not the reality of their lives.

It is this type of conditioned social response that is becoming “hard-baked” into our culture more than it ever has before due to the ubiquitous presence of being connected online. And yet, though we as a society are more connected than ever before, we have never been so distant and segregated than we are today. We are becoming lost in the echo chambers of our own fantasies that we think are the representative journals of our lives, and we are seeking only to elevate ourselves to appear more successful than we really are.

Peter’s direction to maintain humility and compassion among each other could not come at a more needed time in the history of society. However, he was only building on the teaching of his master. Yeshua taught, “Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth,” (Matthew 5:5) and, “Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matthew 11:29).

The apostle Paul also taught humility:

  • Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
  • Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
  • Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…

Likewise, James taught humility:

James 4:6, 10 – …God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  … Humble yourselves before Yahweh, and he will exalt you.

As we survey these apostolic writings we find that humility is a constant and recurring theme like a drumbeat against the selfish and hypocritical show-boating of the religious leaders of their day. The true faith of God is based not on outward show, but on inward sincerity and demonstrative concern for others.

Humility and compassion are tied together at the hip because they are both concerned with the needs of others above the needs of oneself. Consider that if every believer put the needs of other believers above their own, each person would be amply supported through the collective encouragement and assistance of others. It is this type of mentality that Yeshua taught and instilled in his disciples so that they would be able to faithfully teach it to others.

Peter says that with humility and compassion, we can then sympathize more effectively with one another, and it is in sympathizing with one another we become united.

How desperately unity is needed among believers today! We have isolated ourselves into our creeds and denominational strongholds, rejecting others who are not in 100% agreement with every aspect of our own beliefs. We gather weekly in similar but separate chambers, attempting to worship the same God but in separate ways that we deem best.

I recognize it is a fine line between remaining vigilant for truth and yet attempting to bridge the gap between others who may not be in total agreement with our views, but if we as believers don’t have the ability to at least begin these conversations, then how can the rest of the world do it, as well? We are supposed to be the light of the world, not the poster children for disunity and isolation from one another.  When we can’t even find the humility and compassion to begin conversations over doctrinal differences, we are likely to never bridge those gaps at all, much less make an impact with those outside the faith.

This leads to Peter’s next point about being examples to others through our humble and peaceful actions in the process of blessing others. In a moment, we will explore a little deeper the need we have for building unity with one another in order to serve as a springboard for creating peace amidst the rest of the world.

Once he establishes their preferred base actions with one another, Peter expands his directives to their attitude toward others who did not agree with their positions or their beliefs.

1 Peter 3:9-14 – Do not give back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, give blessings, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of Yahweh watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But Yahweh turns his face against those who do evil.” Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.

Peter is here quoting directly from Psalm 34, a psalm which focuses on the protection and blessing of Yahweh which rests upon the righteous. The entire psalm contextually enriches this passage in 1 Peter. But if we widen the context of Peter’s quote by even a few surrounding verses, it helps to provide a little more substantial basis for the point he is making in his letter.

Psalm 34:11-16  – Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of Yahweh.  Who is someone who desires life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good?  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech.  Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.  The eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help. The face of Yahweh is set against those who do what is evil, to remove all memory of them from the earth.

The psalm states that those who practice what is right in seeking peace with others are the ones who are truly demonstrating the fear and respect of Yahweh. This was a very real need and an accurate assessment of the social status of the early believers. They were always in danger not only from the civil strife of their day, but from the religious antagonism and persecution of their Jewish brothers and sisters. Additionally, they were challenged with resisting the influences of the pagan society. Through all of this, Peter encourages them to repay evil with blessing and seeking to maintain the peace, because “this is what God has called you to do.”

Notice also the dichotomy in how Yahweh makes himself known among the people: “The eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help. The face of Yahweh is set against those who do what is evil, to remove all memory of them from the earth.”

Our society today has this backwards. The cultural tendency today is to glorify and maintain the memory of those who do evil and to erase the memory of those who are righteous. The Bible and those who are honest and upright are mocked or viewed as simpletons and backwater fools, while those who are notorious criminals and murderers are glorified and memorialized in books, movies, and television. Just look at the popularity of TV shows that do “hard-hitting” documentaries and series on “true crime” stories. Consider the glut of books and dramatic shows and movies that are based on law enforcement and legal themes, all dealing with those who do evil. True crime as a genre is so wildly popular it has also spawned a whole industry of podcasts, all relating how these vicious crimes have affected the lives of ordinary people.

With this steady diet of aberrant behavior constantly portrayed in our social consciousness, is it any wonder that these types of behavior are more and more becoming the hallmarks of modern society? The psalm states that God is set against these types of individuals to remove all memory of them from the earth, and we instead magnify their wickedness for the sake of ratings, popularity, and morbid curiosity.

By contrast, Peter says that the believers have been called by God to consistently swim upstream against the current of wickedness around them.  We must maintain righteous behavior, not to be congratulated for doing so, but because it is simply the right thing to do. And when we do so collectively as believers, we demonstrate a unity with one another that can be recognized by others. We create a firm foundation to then stand united in the face of opposition and evil. Not only that, but more than just standing firm against opposition, it is the believer’s obligation to turn away from evil, to provide blessings in return for insults, and to seek and pursue peace with all others. We have no other alternative approved by God; we must always stand for peace and righteousness with one another and with all others.

For our part, peace in the world may not happen in this generation or even in the next five or ten generations, but if it grows with each generation, then we are making progress. According to this passage, peace grows through humility and compassion; there is no other way. If it doesn’t begin with us, those of us who have experienced the grace of God and live and move in his Spirit, then who has the ability to accomplish it in any lasting way?

For us to fulfill our obligation and our calling, as Peter says, we should mimic those early believers in their harmony, humility and compassionate actions with one another so we may be able to effectively stand together for God’s purpose. When we openly demonstrate the fear of Yahweh by doing what is right with one another and actively seek peace with all of those around us, we serve this higher calling we have received and build on the legacy of Messiah in continuing to establish the Kingdom of God in this world for all time.


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.

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

Following our God of compassion

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

Being a believer in the God of the Bible presents a primary challenge that has eluded the Body of Messiah over the centuries since he walked this earth: unity. Those who claim to believe in Messiah and abide within the dictates of the Bible have been marginalized in society, and yet splintered and at war with each other at times.

Our struggles among ourselves are typically centered on issues of doctrine: what is considered orthodoxy and what is considered heretical. This is nothing new, as the Bible is filled with examples of individuals and groups who have separated and fought with each other within the overall Hebraic worldview and the Judaic roots of our faith.

In the days of Yeshua and the early believers, there were many factions of the faith, notably between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judea. When Yeshua met the woman at the well, she stated one of those doctrinal differences evident at that time:

John 4:20 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Additionally, famous within the “orthodox” Judaism of the day, another difference was demonstrated by the beliefs of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The apostle Paul even used these differences in a ploy to defend himself before their tribunal.

Acts 23:6-8 – When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead! ” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.

Paul repeatedly urged for unity and oneness among the faithful congregations to who he wrote his epistles:

  • Ephesians 4:1-4 – Therefore I, the prisoner in Yahweh, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit ​– ​just as you were called to one hope at your calling ​– ​
  • Colossians 3:12-15 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as Yahweh has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.

So why is this so hard to achieve? How is it that those who claim to believe in Messiah are still so fractured and splintered among thousands of denominations today? I suggest it may have to do largely with a lack of compassion. In recently reading a section of Israel’s history, I was struck by one sentiment that was expressed by the writer of 2 Chronicles in relation to the following of the Torah.

2 Chronicles 30:16-20 – [The priests] stood at their prescribed posts, according to the law of Moses, the man of God. The priests splattered the blood received from the Levites, for there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves, and so the Levites were in charge of slaughtering the Passover lambs for every unclean person to consecrate the lambs to Yahweh. A large number of the people ​– ​many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun ​– ​were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Yahweh provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” So Yahweh heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

The people had failed to obey every little detail of the Torah in relation to the purification rite, but Hezekiah recognized that their hearts were in the right place, and they were acting with the best of intentions, so he interceded for them. And the text says that God heard that prayer and healed or reconciled the people to himself.

Perhaps if, like Hezekiah, we did less judgment and more intercession on behalf of those whose doctrine may not line up 100% with our own, we may provide more occasions for oneness and unity as believers in the one God of the Bible. This is due to the fact that intercession on behalf of others stems from a heart of compassion, and compassion and mercy are the defining characteristics of Yahweh himself.

Exodus 34:6 – Yahweh passed in front of [Moses] and proclaimed: Yahweh ​– ​Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

When we exhibit compassion towards all others, not just in the context of helping the downtrodden and poor of society but extending compassion towards others who believe in the Bible but still may not agree with us, we open up opportunities for communication and dialogue, dialogue that can enlighten and enrich. Perhaps we can ask God for hearts like Priscila and Aquila.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of Yahweh; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Yeshua, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Recognizing that Apollos’ heart was in the right place, Priscilla and Aquila were moved to openly discuss doctrine with Apollos to help him understand “the way of God more accurately.” Of course, we all may think we have the most accurate understanding of God’s word. But if we are truly humble and realize that none of us have all the answers, we should keep at least a small door open to improving our own understanding of God’s word “more accurately.” Perhaps, when we focus less on the letter of the law and more on the hearts that are truly seeking the God of the Bible, we may be more successful in attuning ourselves to that same passion and building bridges to unity in the process.


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

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

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

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

Loving from the heart

True compassion for others begins with an all-consuming love for God.

True compassion for others begins with an all-consuming love for God.

Many believers are familiar with the prophecy of Micah if for no other reason than this famous verse about acting with compassion:

Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

But Micah is only signifying what God had repeatedly told Israel over and over. Notice how Micah says, “He has shown you…” This is not something that God had done in a corner somewhere distant; no, God had repeatedly told them how he desired their hearts to be right and to demonstrate compassion with others in all things, providing this justice and mercy in tangible ways.

Through Isaiah, he warned them of the impending judgment for their failure to learn that lesson.

Isaiah 1:16-17: “Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice. Relieve the oppressed. Judge the fatherless. Plead for the widow.””

Through Zechariah, he emphasized how there should be no evil in the heart, no falsity in the words out of the mouth in the carrying out of his commands.

  • Zechariah 7:9-10: ““Thus has Yahweh of Armies spoken, saying, Execute true judgment, and show kindness and compassion every man to his brother. Don’t oppress the widow, nor the fatherless, the foreigner, nor the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.’”
  • Zechariah 8:16-17: “These are the things that you shall do: speak every man the truth with his neighbor. Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates, and let none of you devise evil in your hearts against his neighbor, and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate,” says Yahweh.”

This repeated injunction of focusing on the heart is emphasized in the teaching of Yeshua and his disciples, as well.

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Matthew 18:35 – “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

Most importantly, Yeshua emphasized how the basis of the Kingdom of God, and the righteous actions of the heart, were rooted in a sincere, genuine, and complete love for Yahweh. This was the first and greatest commandment which would lead to the second most important commandment: to love others.

Matthew 22:37-39 – 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.”

The failure of the religious leaders to exemplify true and genuine compassion was also the condemnation Yeshua pronounced against them, using the same words of Isaiah:

Matthew 15:8 – “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

These compassionate actions are at the very center of the message of the Bible, and the Yeshua’s words in the Sermon on the Mount simply clarify something that God had been saying all along: the goal of all of Torah, or God’s instruction, is loving one another genuinely from the heart, not out of religious obligation. This is the message he taught his disciples: that true love for God causes us to truly love others. This was the message that the disciples sought to distill to those under their care and direction, as well:

  • Romans 8:28 – “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God…”
  • 1 Corinthians 2:9 – “But as it is written, What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived — God has prepared these things for those who love him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 16:14 – “Do everything in love.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:5: “but the goal of this command is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith…”

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

Operating under the freedom of forgiveness

Being forgiven and forgiving others allows for great collaborations to flourish.

Being forgiven and forgiving others allows for great collaborations to flourish.

Nehemiah 1:11 – “Please, Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to that of your servants who delight to revere your name. Give your servant success today, and grant him compassion…”

This prayer for forgiveness was offered to God by Nehemiah as he learned of the disrepair of the city of Jerusalem. During their captivity in Babylon, the city had become burned and its walls broken down. When Nehemiah, a Jewish leader servings the Babylonian king, became aware of the city’s condition, he approached God with a prayer of repentance.

Nehemiah 1:6-7 – “…let your eyes be open and your ears be attentive to hear your servant’s prayer that I now pray to you day and night for your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against you. Both I and my father’s family have sinned. We have acted corruptly toward you and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances you gave your servant Moses.”

This recognition of their humbled state in their captivity then allowed Nehemiah to petition the king to allow him to return and oversee the rebuilding of the city.

Nehemiah 2:4-5, 8 – Then the king asked me, “What is your request? ” So I prayed to the God of the heavens and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.” … The king granted my requests, for the gracious hand of my God was on me.

The rest of the book of Nehemiah then relates the struggles and persistence of the Jewish people to rebuild Jerusalem under the oppression of their enemies. This was a Herculean effort that involved the coordination of many different families and tribes to overcome the adversity to successfully rebuild the protective walls of Jerusalem. Yet all of this work and effort could only be conducted under the recognition of God’s forgiveness and his promise to restore his people to their land.

Nehemiah 1:8-9 – Please remember what you commanded your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. “But if you return to me and carefully observe my commands, even though your exiles were banished to the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have my name dwell.”

The history of this event reminds us of the power of forgiveness and its ability to allow us to operate with passion and purpose again. The Jews had felt defeated and powerless after their captivity, and yet the power of God’s forgiveness and the promise of restoration re-energized them to conduct one of the largest volunteer efforts in ancient times.

When we recognize our own disobedience and are truly repentant before God, we too can be relieved of the oppressive state of inactivity within his purpose. More importantly, even beyond ourselves, when we forgive others, we also release them from the weight of unresolved conflict, allowing the continued growth of relationships and shared experiences to prosper. This freedom afforded by forgiveness is the bedrock foundation of the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of God.


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 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.

Humbly serving others reveals God’s glory

We can magnify God by genuinely helping others in need.

We can magnify God by genuinely helping others in need.

Matthew 5:16 – “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

According to Yeshua, integrity is demonstrated when our right actions are visible to others.

This is not to say that we should hypocritically conduct good actions just to be seen by others; this is the opposite of integrity and the very thing Yeshua accused the religious leaders of.

Matthew 6:1 – “Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

No, Yeshua encourages right actions that cannot be hidden because they are simply the right thing to do, and one is not ashamed of doing the right thing, even if ridiculed or persecuted for it.

Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Being a righteous individual involves doing the right thing in situations where others are not; to shine in the darkness around us because we are demonstrating honesty and integrity when others are not.

In Luke 10, Yeshua tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in which the supposedly righteous people passed by the individual in need, but the Samaritan actually stopped to provide real help. This is integrity. The Samaritan’s deeds became apparent to the innkeeper and others; however, the actions were not done for their benefit, but for the benefit of the one in need. In doing the right thing when others aren’t, our deeds become more apparent and contrast more starkly with the “acceptable” opinions and deeds of the world around us.

Most times, even when there does not appear to be a biblical precedent, we can still know what the right course of action is because, like the Samaritan’s assistance, righteous actions typically involve effort and self-sacrifice. By contrast, what’s popular is usually convenient and easy and allows us to remain uninvolved.

God’s kingdom becomes apparent when we take action on behalf of others in this world through effort and self-sacrifice. As long as our focus is on others and not on ourselves, we can become lights that shine for God and through our actions point people to him. The lamp that Yeshua speaks of is thereby placed on a lampstand and others can learn by our example of humble service to others what kind of God we serve.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all 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.”


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.

To trust God by serving others removes anxiety from our lives

Allowing God to work in our interest, not against us, requires faith.

1 Peter 5:5-7 – In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.

Peter here is encouraging humility among those to whom he is writing. First for the elders and leaders of the congregations, and then for the young who might be resistant to authority. He then justifies this position with a quote from Proverbs 3:34, saying “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In his context, Peter relates that a position of humility is preferred so that God can then lift them up at the appropriate time. This is reminiscent of the teaching of Yeshua:

Luke 14:8-11 – “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. “The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

By drawing on this imagery from Messiah, Peter is encouraging humility among all the believers so that God would then have opportunity to exalt them. In this way, Peter continues, there was no need to be anxious, since God would surely accomplish this in his perfect timing. Take care of others, he says, and God will take care of you.

Humbling oneself requires a deep trust in God. In humbling oneself, one must believe that there is a greater good for God’s purposes that can result from this humility, because our natural response is not to humble ourselves in the service and preference of others but to serve ourselves and our needs above others.

From Peter’s perspective when we focus on ourselves we tend to be more anxious, not knowing how we can achieve or gain what we need. Yet, when we humble ourselves and choose to put others before ourselves, our anxiety can be shed in this service of God, knowing that he is the One who cares for our needs. While we are busying ourselves with the needs of others, God is working quietly on our behalf, providing us favor in our time of need.

The proverb contrasts this state of grace and favor among the humble with an unfavorable alternative by saying that God actively resists the proud and arrogant. This idea goes back to a principle I believe is throughout the Bible: there are natural moral and spiritual consequences built into this Creation by God. In this instance, when one is arrogant, self-centered, and mocking others God has set bounds in place that work against that type of individual, whether socially, physically, or spiritually.

The apostle James also leverages this same quote from Proverbs for a similar use, in encouraging his hearers to get their eyes off praying for things they personally desire and onto the needs of others.

James 4:3-4, 6 – You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. … But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Why should we place ourselves in an adversarial position against God by seeking our own elevated status and position? According to Peter and James, this is what happens when we seek our own desires above the needs of others. This condition creates anxiety for always having to gauge who we can trust and how we can maintain our standing.

Instead, when we demonstrate our trust in God and his design for the world by producing fruit of genuine humility and service for others, we can then shed our anxiety for our position and status in this world. Serving God by serving others relieves us from our concern for ourselves and allows us the freedom to truly provide for the needs of those around us with sincerity and love.


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.