Keeping God’s Word before us at all times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Hezekiah demonstrates how trust in Yahweh is the opposite of idolatry

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

Core of the Bible podcast #90 – Hezekiah demonstrates how trust in Yahweh is the opposite of idolatry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

God dwells among his separated people

Paul’s admonition is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit.

Core of the Bible podcast #89 – God dwells among his separated people

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or separation from uncleanness, and how Paul reminded the early believers how they were not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained. In doing so, God promised to dwell among his own sons and daughters.

  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Paul’s admonition here is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit. This, he says, is working toward complete holiness; that is, with holiness as the fulfillment or the end goal of this cleansing.

However, the motivation for this goal comes from some promises he has just mentioned. Since this is the first verse of chapter seven in our Bibles, this must mean he mentioned some promises at the end of chapter six. What promises is he referring to?

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 – And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Yahweh Almighty.

These are, indeed, amazing promises:

  • that God would dwell among them
  • that he would be their God, and they his people
  • that he would welcome them
  • that he would be a Father to them, and they would be as sons and daughters

But all of these wonderful promises are contingent on this cleansing of defilement of body and spirit, involving a setting apart of some sort. Let’s review the passage in full to see the context:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says Yahweh. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says Yahweh Almighty.”

So we can see the promises that God would dwell among them and they would be sons and daughters hinges on the condition that they separate themselves from all uncleanness of the idolatry of those who do not believe.

I know this passage has classically been used for the purpose of warning believers to not marry non-believers, and while that is certainly a valid recommendation, that is not the context of this passage; marriage is nowhere in Paul’s sights here.

The real message is that separation from non-believers is required in any type of joint-effort where a compromise of God’s principles would become involved. Believers are not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained.

Two of the primary challenges believers faced in Paul’s day included the practice of eating food in a temple of a local deity, and by eating food purchased in the marketplace that had been previously offered to an idol. In that time, a fellowship meal in an idol’s temple was the ancient approximation of what we might today consider going out to eat in a restaurant. It was also a challenge for Jews to purchase meat in the market, not knowing if the food had already been in an idol’s temple prior to being offered for sale in the local market. These were such serious issues that Paul devotes a whole chapter (chapter 8) in his first letter to the Corinthians to these practices.

Paul devotes so much focus on these topics because it was a primary social practice that was a restriction for the new believers in Messiah, as well. Avoiding idolatrous food was one of the main points that had come out of the first Jerusalem Council decision. You may recall how in Acts 15, a convening of various sects of Messiah believers was called to establish consistency on how the Torah was to be applied among the believing congregations. And out of that discussion and debate came the following summarized conclusions:

  • Acts 15:20 – Instead, we should write and tell them [that is, new believers in Messiah] to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.

This instruction from the Jerusalem Council highlights how Torah was still the guiding principle of the early believing communities. All of these restrictions that were reported out to the fledgling congregations of Messiah are based in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

  • Leviticus 19:4 – Do not turn to idols or make cast images of gods for yourselves; I am Yahweh your God.
  • Deuteronomy 6:14 – Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you…
  • Leviticus 18:26 – But you are to keep my statutes and ordinances. You must not commit any of these detestable [sexually immoral] acts ​– ​not the native or the alien who resides among you.
  • Leviticus 17:12 – Therefore I say to the Israelites: None of you and no alien who resides among you may eat blood.

The council had rightfully deferred to God’s Word to establish fellowship guidelines of the mixed congregations who had participants from varied traditions and backgrounds. These were necessary as part of the practices to allow for shared meals; they had to all be on the same page as far as acceptable meats and personal sanctification in relationships.

So, while the conclusions of the council were designed to allow for fellowship and create unity among believers, it also delineated the separation that was necessary for the promises of God to be fulfilled among them. They would need to be diligent in separating themselves from the accepted social norms in order to be united together in solidarity as God’s people.

In a moment, we will return to the instruction of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians explaining the importance of why believers should not be unequally yoked with non-believers. In doing so, I am hopeful we can learn some principles for application within our own lives and social situations in our current generation.


As Paul writes to the congregation in Corinth, he apparently feels compelled to provide a stark contrast between believers and non-believers as a way of shaking them out of a sense of complacency that they may have lapsed into regarding idolatry. Of course, ancient Greece was awash with all forms of varied idolatry, testified to this day by the literature of the time and the surviving architecture. To remind the believers of the severity of this command against idolatry, Paul, as he is known to do, quotes from several selections of Torah, or God’s instruction, to make his point:

2 Corinthians 6:16 – And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.

  • Leviticus 26:11-12 – I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.
  • Ezekiel 37:27 – I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

2 Corinthians 6:17 – Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you.

  • Leviticus 7:21 – If you touch anything that is unclean (whether it is human defilement or an unclean animal or any other unclean, detestable thing) and then eat meat from a peace offering presented to Yahweh, you will be cut off from the community.
  • Isaiah 52:10-11 – Yahweh has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of Yahweh.

2 Corinthians 6:18 – And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Yahweh Almighty.

  • Isaiah 43:5-6 – “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west.  “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up! ‘ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back! ‘ Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth
  • Hosea 1:10 – Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And in the place where they were told: You are not my people, they will be called: Sons of the living God.

Paul pulls together principles rooted in the holiness of God. Avoiding ceremonial uncleanness is the model, the example, of how believers were to ensure they were continuing to pattern their lives after Messiah within their assemblies, and to demonstrate how they had become God’s sons and daughters. If they did so, God would be among them and he would regather them to himself.

Uncleanness practices outlined in Torah went beyond just what types of animals one was permitted to eat to other sanitary practices among the people of God, from bodily fluids to accidentally touching dead bodies. But the overarching principle of all of these commands was the same: separating oneself from these things was an act of holiness, which by its very definition means to be set apart.

Paul is using that same established Torah logic among the believers in Corinth to remind them of their unique position among their generation, and that they should not forfeit their standing with God on the accepted conventions and customs of the day. According to Yeshua’s admonition of Matthew 5:8, believers were to have a pure and blameless heart at all times.

  • Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Separation from all unclean practices was necessary to achieve this.

You may have noticed that none of the passages that Paul references in his instruction are direct quotes, but they have a common theme of the restoration of God’s people to himself. Isaiah 43 and Hosea 1 are great and pivotal prophecies describing the long-awaited migration of God’s people returning back to Jerusalem from among the nations.

As such, we can gain an even greater understanding of the separateness that Paul is speaking to. As these believers had been scattered throughout the nations in the past, they had become susceptible to the idolatrous practices of their various cultures. Paul is using these passages as a way of weaning them off of their cultural traditions and practices that were hindering their walk with Yahweh through their new-found faith in Messiah Yeshua. He is using these texts to remind them of their true purpose as God’s people, and God’s care and concern for them as his own children. If they were to forsake their idolatry, God would indeed live among them and be a Father to them.

But if this is how Paul is applying these texts, then we can also begin to see how these wonderful prophetic indicators were not necessarily meant to be about a literal migration back to Israel, but a spiritual one. God was indeed calling his people back to himself from among the nations, but they were not necessarily returning to physical Jerusalem, but instead to the prophetic Zion, the New Jerusalem.

If this was the principle in Paul’s day, then how much more does that same principle apply in our day? How can we apply this same principle of separation? What types of accepted conventions in social discourse today compromise the principles of God and his character according to his Word, his Torah? What activities demean and denigrate God’s glory, yet are considered “ok” by the rest of our society?

These are questions that we need to be able to answer within the context of our own social environments wherever we are. When we can take a serious look at how we are potentially compromising our faith within our social arenas, we can then open the door to further obedience to God’s Word.

With our eyes open and our hearts guided by the eternal Torah of God, we can begin to understand the types of things we are to avoid being “yoked” together (i.e., going along with) non-believers for the sake of fellowship. We cannot be united with non-believers in those things because they compromise God’s integrity and honor, and violate the sanctity not only of his Word, but of our united fellowship together as God’s people.

Paul’s admonition is that when we do actively separate ourselves, when we cleanse ourselves from these things, then we are truly behaving like God’s sons and daughters, and only then will he be present among us. This is the fulfillment of those ancient promises that generations have looked forward to. When we take decisive actions to maintain our holiness out of godly respect and honoring of him, we demonstrate the validity of God’s Word and the kingdom of God becomes visible to others in our actions.


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 graciousness of our forgiving God

Our gracious actions towards others are a reflection of the graciousness which has been extended to us by God.

Our gracious actions towards others are a reflection of the graciousness which has been extended to us by God.

When Yeshua taught his disciples to be forgiving, it was not some new principle that they had never been aware of before. It was something that he emphasized was important for them to practice, since their Father in heaven practiced it. If they were to be considered his children, they should likewise exhibit his characteristics.

We would be hard pressed to find a more stark example of this forgiving nature of God than to review the life of one of the most notorious kings of Judah: Manasseh.

2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 9 – Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that Yahweh had dispossessed before the Israelites. … So Manasseh caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to stray so that they did worse evil than the nations Yahweh had destroyed before the Israelites.

Manasseh was so enamored with idolatry that the text says he caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit greater abominations than even the original Canaanites whom God had Israel conquer because of the horrific nature of their detestable practices. You may recall that when Moses was preparing the Israelites to take the land, he reminded them at that time why God was doing this.

Deuteronomy 9:4 – “When Yahweh your God drives them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘Yahweh brought me in to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ Instead, Yahweh will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness.

God had used Israel as a cleansing, purifying force to clean the land of the impurities of the wicked practices of the Canaanites. Here in the Chronicles, it is recorded that Manasseh was so idolatrous it was worse than the original idolatry that caused God to raise up the army of the Israelites in the first place. So, as it turns out, God had to resort to a similar strategy to once again demonstrate justice against a nation of rebellious idolaters.

2 Chronicles 33:10-13 – Yahweh spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they didn’t listen. So he brought against them the military commanders of the king of Assyria. They captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he sought the favor of Yahweh his God and earnestly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. He prayed to him, and Yahweh was receptive to his prayer. He granted his request and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that Yahweh is God.

Even though Manasseh had become so depraved, he finally came to his senses, but only after God had raised up the Assyrians to come against them for their rebellious idolatry. But even so, it appears to have been a sincere repentance, and we know this because of the actions that Manasseh demonstrated after coming to truly realize that Yahweh is God when he was restored to Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 33:15-16 – He removed the foreign gods and the idol from Yahweh’s temple, along with all the altars that he had built on the mountain of Yahweh’s temple and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. He built the altar of Yahweh and offered fellowship and thank offerings on it. Then he told Judah to serve Yahweh, the God of Israel.

There is great comfort in knowing that even in the depths of some of the most heinous idolatry, God honors those who repent and turn to him. Manasseh’s repentant spirit provided him the opportunity to make amends and to do his best in correcting the wrongs that he had committed. Not everyone gets that opportunity. Sometimes the people we have wronged have moved on or have died, and we have no physical way to reconcile with them. At other times our situation may have changed so dramatically that it we cannot correct the wrongs that have occurred.

But the example of Manasseh should teach us at least one most important principle: God is willing to forgive when we are sincerely repentant of the errors of our ways. It is then that we can learn obedience to do whatever we can to make amends to those who may have been hurt by us, but also to maintain a sense of forgiveness that we have received toward those who would seek the same from us. Experiencing this depth of true forgiveness from God allows us to extend that same type of forgiveness to others.


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 undeniable distinction of God’s people

As believers, we should check how much we blend into the background of this world.

As believers, we should check how much we blend into the background of this world.

Leviticus 20:26: “You shall be holy to me; for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

This act of God setting his people apart from all other nations was decisive and clear cut. There was not any ambiguity about the requirements that he was establishing for his people. He provided them clarity on many of the main cultural characteristics which were prevalent in that day, as well as today. There was to be an avoidance of idolatry, which was an avoidance of essentially all of the mainstream religions of the day. They were to maintain distinctions based on the food they were to eat, their sexuality, and the types of clothing they would wear, and the calendar they would keep. All of these things played into how God was setting a standard that was in no uncertain terms to distinguish his people from all others.

To illustrate this, the word that is used to describe how they have been set apart is the same Hebrew word that was used in the act of Creation itself, and how God separated and distinguished some things from other things.

  • Genesis 1:4 – God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
  • Genesis 1:6-7 – Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters that were below the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse; and it was so.
  • Genesis 1:14-15 – Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and they shall serve as signs and for seasons, and for days and years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
  • Genesis 1:16-18 – God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; [He made] the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.

I don’t think anyone would have a problem telling the differences between the night and the day, or darkness and light. This is the level of distinction (i.e., holiness) that should be evident in God’s people of any generation, even unto this day.

God still calls us to be holy and set apart, not to walk in the compromised ways of the nations where we find ourselves. We should be attentive to the commands and rules that God has set in place since, as our Creator, he knows what’s best for us and what is also in his best interest and purpose.

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written: ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”


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

Yeshua and the Kingdom of the ten commandments

Did Yeshua teach the ongoing validity of all ten of the commandments?

Did Yeshua teach the ongoing validity of all ten of the commandments?

There are some passages where he enumerates five or six of the ten commandments all at once.

Matthew 19:16-19 – Just then someone came up and asked him, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life? ” “Why do you ask me about what is good? ” he said to him. “There is only one who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones? ” he asked him. Yeshua answered:

  • Do not murder;
  • do not commit adultery;
  • do not steal;
  • do not bear false witness;
  • honor your father and your mother;
    and love your neighbor as yourself.

So this passage covers commandments 5-9. Yeshua clearly taught these. What is a little more subtle in this passage is that Yeshua essentially affirmed all ten commandments by listing even just these five. This is a literary practice which we have come to call synechdode, in which a part stands for the whole. By telling the inquirer it was necessary to keep “the commandments,” and then listing five of them, it can be ascertained that all ten were implied.

Also, Yeshua had mentioned how he did not come to abolish the commandments, but to fulfill them by demonstrating their true meaning.

Matthew 5:17, 19 – “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. … “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

He here cautions that breaking any of the commands would result in a diminished status, while doing and teaching them would be a sign of greatness within the kingdom.

Ok, but what about being a bit more specific on the remaining five commandments? We still need to see if he enumerates commandments 1-4 and 10.

The first commandment is “Do not have other gods besides me.”

Matthew 4:10 – Then Yeshua told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship Yahweh your God, and serve only him.”

This identifies the upholding of the first commandment.

Now, as to the second commandment about graven images, there is no direct instance of Yeshua condemning idolatry in the generally accepted sense. The only time the term for an idol, eikon, is mentioned by him, it is in reference to one of the coins of Caesar which had Caesar’s “image and inscription” on it. This was a tacit reference to idolatry, because many Jews would not carry coin for the fact that coin images were considered idolatry. The fact that the Jewish leaders could produce a coin when Yeshua requested it was also a condemnation of their own covetousness.

Luke 12:15 – He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”

The tenth commandment against covetousness which is covered here, is also a recognition of idolatry, as Yeshua’s disciple Paul would teach. Paul taught that covetousness is equivalent to idolatry, and Yeshua definitely taught against covetousness.

Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.

His disciples also taught against idolatry, which would convey that Yeshua did so also. Everything the apostles teach would have to be in accordance with Yeshua’s teaching.

As for the Sabbath, Yeshua made an outright declaration about it:

Mark 2:27 – Then he told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

Yeshua not only practiced Sabbath worship and taught in the synagogues on a regular basis, but he blatantly referenced it in this passage. By this statement, he clarified that the Sabbath was not to be a ceremonial list of do’s and don’ts (which it had become in Jewish practice). Instead, his declaration focuses on the fact that the Sabbath was made for man, and not just for Jews, but for the specific purpose of benefitting any person who would partake of it.

Now the only remaining commandment is the third commandment about not taking the Lord’s name in vain. The answer to this representation in Yeshua’s teaching can be identified by defining what this commandment means in the first place. Many people think it means that one should not use God’s literal name as a swear word. But the commandment actually has a deeper meaning than that.

To not take the name of the Lord in vain really means to not become associated with him and everything that Yahweh’s character exemplifies (i.e., his name) to no purpose. If one is only joining with Yahweh because of upbringing or social pressure and not really living by his standards, then that person has taken Yahweh’s name “in vain,” that is, to no purpose. His torah, or instruction, has no value in that person’s life because they don’t really take it seriously.

If this is the definition we are using for the third commandment, then the whole Sermon on the Mount, a summary of Yeshua’s teaching, is all about not taking Yahweh’s name in vain or to no purpose. Yeshua was constantly teaching about sincerity in practice, not to be hypocritical in anything. He emphasized the heart motive behind every action, which points to a faith in Yahweh that is vibrant, not just something that is participated in only for religious reasons.

So, we can see that throughout his ministry, Yeshua constantly emphasized the importance of the kingdom, and repentance necessary to enter that kingdom. This was because the religious leaders of Judaism had co-opted the true worship of Yahweh into their own brand of man-made rules and traditions. Yeshua urged people to repent of these false and essentially idolatrous practices and to return to the true spirit of the torah, not just the letter of it. The kingdom of God is therefore established on God’s very words, his ten commandments, not in spite of them. Since Yeshua preached the kingdom of God, he clearly taught all of the ten commandments as the base of that kingdom, as well.


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

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

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

Two faithful kings with differing outcomes

Believers are called to be faithful, but how that faithfulness is recognized by God remains within his Providence.

Believers are called to be faithful, but how that faithfulness is recognized by God remains within his Providence.

2 Kings 18:5-7 – Hezekiah relied on Yahweh God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him. He remained faithful to Yahweh and did not turn from following him but kept the commands Yahweh had commanded Moses. Yahweh was with him, and wherever he went he prospered…

Hezekiah is a great example of faithfulness rewarded. His reforms throughout Israel an the removal of idolatry throughout the land served to demonstrate his faithfulness to Yahweh. He is recorded as having maintained the commands of Moses and not having turned at all from Yahweh. His faithful pleading before Yahweh spared the city of Jerusalem from an Assyrian invasion.

Years later, we come to the reign of Hezekiah’s great-grandson Josiah, a king who also is known for his faithfulness to Yahweh and his sweeping reforms throughout the land, removing idolatry and pagan practices from all aspects of the life of Israel that had arisen during the time of his grandfather, Manasseh. Yet, we find a differing result of his faithfulness than was exhibited towards Hezekiah.

2 Kings 23:25-27 – Before [Josiah] there was no king like him who turned to Yahweh with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him. In spite of all that, Yahweh did not turn from the fury of his intense burning anger, which burned against Judah because of all the affronts with which Manasseh had angered him. For Yahweh had said, “I will also remove Judah from my presence just as I have removed Israel. I will reject this city Jerusalem, that I have chosen, and the temple about which I said, ‘My name will be there.’ “

The wickedness of the previous king, his grandfather Manasseh, had been so great that God had determined that judgment was necessary upon the nation. Is this an indication that the faithfulness of Josiah was to no avail? Did Josiah conduct all of those great reforms only to have God ignore all of his faithful efforts? We may find an answer in the response of Yahweh to Josiah that he had received through the prophetess Huldah.

2 Kings 22:18-20 – “Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of Yahweh: ‘This is what Yahweh God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, “because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before Yahweh when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’ ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration. “‘Therefore, I will indeed gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster that I am bringing on this place.’ ” Then they reported to the king.

God knew that Josiah’s heart was right, so he himself was blessed with peace during his lifetime. However, God also knew that the people’s hearts were not right, because they kept falling back into the idolatry that they had been commanded to avoid at all costs, even by Moses himself. No matter how faithful the king was in abiding by the law of Moses, God knew the heart of the people had not been changed.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 – “When you enter the land Yahweh your God is giving you, do not imitate the detestable customs of those nations. “No one among you is to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire, practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, practice sorcery, “cast spells, consult a medium or a spiritist, or inquire of the dead. “Everyone who does these acts is detestable to Yahweh, and Yahweh your God is driving out the nations before you because of these detestable acts.

The people were receiving the judgment they deserved because of their continued refusal to follow the torah or the instruction of God, and instead continued to abide by the wicked practices of the pagan nations that had been driven out before them. Josiah was spared because he had demonstrated himself faithful. He had done everything he could to ensure that, as much as possible, he had afforded the people an opportunity for repentance and faithfulness, as well. Had they whole-heartedly repented, there is the possibility that the destruction of the city could have been avoided, and they could have remained in the land.

From this, we may be able to take away an understanding that we, as believers in Messiah, are tasked with being faithful to God. The rest of society may not agree with our stance on issues that are based on pagan propositions, just like the idolatry that ancient Israel faced. But that does not mean we should lose hope, or fall from our faithful stance.

Hebrews 11:6 – Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

God is a rewarder of the faithful, but it may not be in the form or ideas that we have about what that may look like. He may choose to save and deliver from the results of unfaithfulness, or he may choose to allow judgment to fall around us on those who remain resistant to the truth of God’s Word. However, we can be sure that, regardless if we receive any perceived benefit at all, our individual faithfulness will not go unnoticed by him.


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

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

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

Facing certain death with the integrity of defiant obedience to God

An ancient story challenges our own commitment to the principles of integrity taught by Messiah.

An ancient story challenges our own commitment to the principles of integrity taught by Messiah.

In the third chapter of Daniel, the story is told of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were three Hebrew captives during the Babylonian captivity. Recognition of their names has come down to us in this day and age because of their staunch refusal to worship an idolatrous statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Enraged at their disobedience to the the royal command, the king confronted these three rebellious subjects.

Daniel 3:14, 16-18 – Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up?” … Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

The magnitude of their defiance to the idolatrous command of the king reverberates through the millennia to our day. Interestingly, the actions of these three young men were completely aligned with the principles of integrity that Yeshua was to teach hundreds of years later.

  • Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Matthew 5:10 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
  • Matthew 5:16 – “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.
  • Matthew 5:19 – “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

There is a Hebraic tradition that during their time in the fiery furnace, that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worshiped and praised Yahweh for all of his acts of Creation. In the depths of their most severe trial they chose to honor and praise the God for whom they were being sentenced to the cruellest of deaths.

The qualities of integrity demonstrated by these three young men illustrate for us how consistent the Torah or Instruction of God is. The same principles of integrity that guided these three men have been the guiding light of God’s people throughout the biblical record and the history of believers. They defiantly stood for the principles of an eternal kingdom in the face of certain death, just as we should stand for the same principles and the same kingdom today.

The writer to the Hebrews captures the motivation that should guide our actions in our current age of cultural idolatry and blatant disobedience to the principles of God’s kingdom. After listing the deeds of the righteous ancestors of the faith, he concludes this remembrance of their faithfulness and integrity in the face of the bitterest persecution provides the promptings necessary for our own battles.

Hebrews 11:39-40; 12:1 – All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us. Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us…

Even though they were willing to give their lives, God protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego through the fiery furnace, a miraculous occurrence which caused the king himself to worship the God of Israel.

Daniel 3:28-29 – Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.”

If this story stands for anything today, it should remind us that whether or not God delivers us from our own fiery trials, to honor and obey him above the dictates of our culture should be our guiding principle. Through his teaching and exemplary sacrifice, Yeshua corroborated the same principles of integrity that these Hebrew men demonstrated in the face of their greatest persecution. We can honor their commitment to the truth of God and the teaching of our Lord and Messiah by likewise being defiantly obedient to 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.

God’s will is the purity of his people

Believers must maintain their faithfulness to God in order to remain pure for his purpose.

Believers must maintain their faithfulness to God in order to remain pure for his purpose.

1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7 – For this is God’s will, your sanctification: … For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.

As Paul is writing to the Thessalonian congregation, he is reminding them of their high calling to purity.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 – Additionally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Master Yeshua, that as you have received instruction from us on how you should live and please God ​– ​as you are doing ​– ​do this even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Master Yeshua.

Paul’s objective is that the Thessalonians would live and walk in a way that pleases God. Even though they had been doing so, he is encouraging them further to refrain from the impurity of the accepted culture around them and specifically the “lustful passions” of those who didn’t know God.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 – For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from immorality of idolatry, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions, like those of the nations, who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother in this manner, because Yahweh is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.

We can learn from this that some of the cultural permissiveness may have begun seeping into the congregation, as Paul warns them not to conduct these types of offenses between themselves as members of the assembly. Many Bible versions will relate this offense as some type of sexual promiscuity; however, the word can also mean whoredom, in the sense of immoral idolatrous practices, as related here. As stated many times before, God views idolatry as a type of spiritual harlotry, since when it is practiced the people are substituting the covenant bond of Yahweh for another god, and thereby committing adultery against him.

1 Thessalonians 4:8 – Consequently, anyone who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who gives you his holy Spirit.

Paul strengthens his warning by saying God is an avenger of these practices, and to participate in these worldly activities is to reject the very holy Spirit of God.

From this, we can learn that if we are sincere in following the commands of God as followers of the Master Yeshua, we likewise have an obligation to resist the permissiveness of the culture we live in, since it is God’s will (or his intention, determination, and desire) that we be holy, set apart as pure and clean for his purpose. If we take lightly this responsibility and we fall into the seductive lair of cultural acceptance, we are dishonoring the name of the One who has called us to be his own. Our distinctiveness and usefulness as salt and light is diminished because we neglected to put our light on the lampstand and instead have hid it under a bushel. We have lost our saltiness and are good for no purpose of God except to be thrown out into the street to be crushed under the foot traffic.

Succumbing to the permissiveness of our culture robs us of our power in representing God to a world who needs to know him. We must sacrifice our own desires for the desires of God, and his desire and will is that we remain holy and set apart. This is God’s ultimate will for anyone who places their faith in him through Messiah, and he empowers us through his holy Spirit to do so.


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.

Inspiring a passionate vigilance for the Word of God

When God’s Word is taken seriously, believers passionately stand up for what’s right.

When God’s Word is taken seriously, believers passionately stand up for what’s right.

2 Kings 23:25 – “Before [Josiah] there was no king like him who turned to Yahweh with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.”

This account of King Josiah demonstrates the extreme vigilance with which Josiah eradicated idolatrous practices within Israel. Prior to his reign, under the wicked King Manasseh, the nation had fallen into some of the deepest levels of idolatry over a period of over fifty years. The wickedness was so great that God sent prophets to warn of the impending destruction if they did not repent.

2 Kings 21:10-12 – “Yahweh said through his servants the prophets, ‘Since King Manasseh of Judah has committed all these detestable acts ​– ​worse evil than the Amorites who preceded him had done ​– ​and by means of his idols has also caused Judah to sin, ‘this is what Yahweh God of Israel says: ‘I am about to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that everyone who hears about it will shudder.'”

The text then goes on to list all of the judgment that was about to be brought against Israel for their unfaithfulness. After Manasseh’s death, his son Amon continued the reign of wickedness for another two years, until his own servants conspired against him and put him to death. It is then that his son Josiah took to the throne at the tender age of eight years old.

However, eighteen years after his reign began, a discovery was made in the temple that had been long lost through the generations of idolatry: a copy of the book of the law was found. When it was read in the presence of the king, the text says he tore his clothes, which was a common indication of utter despair and repentance before God.

2 Kings 22:11, 13 – “When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. … ‘Go and inquire of Yahweh for me, the people, and all Judah about the words in this book that has been found. For great is Yahweh’s wrath that is kindled against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this book in order to do everything written about us.'”

Josiah then carries out a monumental campaign to eradicate all forms of idolatry in the precincts of the temple and throughout the land. Almost the entire next chapter relates his purification efforts in detail:

  • Destruction of all idolatrous materials that had been brought into the temple
  • Removal of all idolatrous priests, slaughtering them and burning their bones on their own idolatrous altars
  • Destruction of the houses of cultic participants
  • Destruction of the high places of idolatrous worship including Molech, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, Milcom, and the worship of the sun
  • Destruction of all of the idolatrous altars wherever they were to be found
  • He eradicated all mediums, spiritists, household idols and images everywhere in Judah and Jerusalem.

He then commands that the Passover be held that year, since Passover had not been celebrated according to the book of the law for generations. It was the most well-attested Passover in the history of Israel.

2 Kings 23:22 – “No such Passover had ever been observed from the time of the judges who judged Israel through the entire time of the kings of Israel and Judah.”

Through all of this, it becomes apparent that all of this reform was sparked by a reading of the book of the law. When the God’s Word is read, internalized, and believed in the heart, it causes a burning desire to honor him in every way possible, and to remove every hindrance that detracts from his glory.

If only our passion, zeal, and vigilance were as committed as Josiah’s, we would have believers rising up, not to destroy and eradicate physical things or people, but to destroy the arguments and justifications that the world uses to reject God and his Word.

As the apostle Paul writes:

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Messiah.

This is the level of vigilance needed of believers to turn this world of rebellion to obedience within the kingdom of God through the power of his Spirit.


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.