Trusting that God knows

God reveals he is close to those who are close to him.

One of the many psychological dangers believers face is to get to a point where, whatever we may be going through, we begin to think we are the only one who is experiencing this challenge. Or, we may begin to think that God no longer hears us. We may lash out wondering why he has not responded to our supplication.

However, Yeshua offers a different perspective, one that reveals how God understands our trials and needs.

Matthew 6:7-8 – “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as those among the nations do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:31-32 – Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For those of the nations seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

David, famous for continually pouring out his heart before God, corroborated this idea a millennium prior to Messiah:

Psalm 38:9 – O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

For those who are trusting him and seeking to follow his ways, the Bible teaches us that God is present and involved in our lives as we seek to accomplish his will.

However, when God appears to be silent, the Word reveals it is not without good reason. When Israel struggled to hear from him, it was because they had strayed so far from him that he had to pour out his judgment upon them.

Jeremiah 14:10-12 – Thus says Yahweh concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore Yahweh does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.” Yahweh said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”

Ezekiel also provides the reasoning that God would no longer hear them.

Ezekiel 8:17-18 – Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”

The blatant and shameless idolatry of Israel and Judah resulted in God pronouncing judgment upon them by having them overthrown by their adversaries: first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. They were removed from their place of privilege and he refused to listen to them because of their persistent rejection of him by pursuing the gods of the other nations.

From these examples, in those seasons when God appears to be silent, we should do a self-check to ensure we have not strayed from his calling on our lives, from standing firm on what has been revealed to us up to this point in our walk with him. God has promised to be present among his people when we learn to continually trust in him for all things.

Ezekiel 37:27 – My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.


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

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

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

The quality of God that exhibits his greatest strength

God’s power and might are overshadowed by the depth of his forgiveness.

Core of the Bible podcast #63 – The quality of God that exhibits his greatest strength

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness is revealed in the Bible as being the strength of Yahweh that historically distinguished him from the pantheon of ancient gods and continues to do so today.

Psalm 130:3-4 – “If You, O Yahweh, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.”

The Psalmist here writes, “But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.” The quality of God that most causes people to revere him is the fact that he is willing to forgive those who sincerely admit their failings. By contrast, the deities of the ancient nations exhibited their power through their strength, ruthlessness, and promises of fulfillment of selfish ambition.

For example, out of the hundreds of ancient Egyptian gods listed by the World History Encyclopedia, there are numerous gods with unique attributes of power, healing, war, death, and success. However, not one of them is mentioned as a god or goddess representing or offering forgiveness. Forgiveness was not a concept known to the ancient Egyptians.

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/885/egyptian-gods—the-complete-list/

Likewise, the Greek deities were depicted with weaknesses and foibles rivalling those of the most degenerate of human behavior.  While the Greeks had very mature philosophies surrounding justice and equity, the concept of personal forgiveness was not widely known or accepted.

David Leigh, writing on forgiveness in the ancient Greek culture for Seattle University comments:

“A study of the earliest Greek literature and philosophy indicates that the Greeks developed a strong sense of justice and law as related to both gods and humans, but did not develop a concept of forgiveness or mercy. The closest they came to the latter concept was the practice of legal leniency and the notion of ‘pity’. But pity was a later development, especially in Greek epics and drama, as a human response to the strict notions of justice and law that dominated their mythology and early philosophy…it is clear that forgiveness was not a primary virtue for these early Greeks. Neither the gods nor human beings in early Greece were seen as ‘forgiving’ people their injustices or offenses.”

Forgiveness, Pity, and Ultimacy in Ancient Greek Culture, David J. Leigh, S.J., Seattle University, Seattle, WA 98122 USA.

Additionally, out of the hundred or so Roman deities who were responsible for everything from childbirth, fertility, money, harvest, future, etc., there was only one goddess noted within the bounds of what could be considered forgiveness: Clementia. Yet, even this is not necessarily evidence of forgiveness as we know it today, but an ideal of legal clemency (which is where the word comes from) in matters of justice.

Quoting from William Mann, commenting on the book “Ancient Forgiveness” from the Cambridge press, he writes the following:

“In “The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings,” Susanna Morton Braund concentrates on the role that Seneca may have played in commending clementia to rulers as a virtue of self-restraint, manifested in mildness of behavior. Conceived in this way clemency is an exclusive prerogative of the powerful. As Seneca defines it clementia is “the leniency of the more powerful party toward the weaker in the matter of setting penalties”, not to be confused with forgiveness. While forgiveness seeks reconciliation, clemency achieves subordination, frequently producing public humiliation in its recipients.”

Charles L. Griswold and David Konstan (eds.), Ancient Forgiveness: Classical, Judaic, and Christian, Cambridge University Press, Reviewed by William E. Mann, University of Vermont.

In our modern society and culture steeped in several millennia of forgiveness as a cultural ideal, we take for granted that forgiveness has always been a philosophical concept that was honored among all people, but history states otherwise. From our modern perspective, we have only a fleeting glimpse of the tyranny and injustice that was displayed throughout the ancient world. For millennia, with the rise and fall of many empires, that environment was a harsh place with cruel justice, both physically and spiritually.

If we are to place a biblical faith within the context of its origins, it was a shining beacon of light in the midst of a sea of darkness. The ideals of forgiveness offered through the God of the Bible were unheard of in the ancient world until they were exemplified by the ancient Israelites in their torah practices, which culminated in the gospel of the kingdom brought forth by their Messiah and his early believers.

In this light, Yahweh stands out among the ancient gods for his characteristic forgiveness.

Psalm 86:2-5 – “You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You.  Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long. Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, O Lord, are kind and forgiving, rich in loving devotion to all who call on You.”

This is why Moses could stand before the Israelites as they were preparing to enter the land of Canaan and say:

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – “Look, I have taught you statutes and ordinances as Yahweh my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to possess. “Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as Yahweh our God is to us whenever we call to him? “And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today?

These righteous statutes and ordinances resulted in the ability of the Hebrew prophets to extol the mercies and forgiveness available to the people when they would return to Yahweh from serving the harsh gods of the surrounding nations.

Isaiah 55:7 – “Let the wicked man forsake his own way and the unrighteous man his own thoughts; let him return to Yahweh, that he may have compassion, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

This is one of the main reasons idolatry has been forbidden by the true God; he wanted to protect his own from experiencing the unnecessary and cruel harshness of those cultural and societal demands. His way provided a nearness of relationship that those other religions could not provide.


At the dawning of the spiritual Kingdom of God being realized on the earth, a baby was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, two righteous parents who were faithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel. After the child’s birth, Zechariah, filled with the Spirit of God, uttered a prophecy about John:

Luke 1:76-79 – “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,  to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.  Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us  to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This was the continuation of a path of forgiveness for God’s people that would rise above the forgiveness offered through the substitutionary sacrifices of the torah of Moses. Those physical sacrifices pointed a way toward ultimate fulfillment, and a way of peace that would be laid out through the ministry of Yeshua.

Beyond exhibiting the forgiveness that God had been offering to the Israelites through their sacrificial offerings, Yeshua emphasized the responsibility and duty of people within this kingdom to forgive one another.

Matthew 6:14  – “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

Mark 11:25  – “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.”

Luke 11:4  – “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us…”

This forgiveness was to extend not only to those with whom individuals were familiar, but to provide kindnesses to enemies and workers of harm, and to be generous to those in need, as well.

Luke 6:27-31  – “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.”

This is where the gospel light shines the brightest. This is the root of how the world is changed through believers in each generation. Considered in view of this principle of mutual forgiveness and kindness to even adversaries, this explains how God’s kingdom can expand to the entirety of earth. This is not a kingdom that is to be established by force or by might, but by love and forgiveness. Force and might may hold sway for temporary times and in limited areas, but it always gives way to the next sweep of power and might.

Forgiveness, though, operates from a different base than forced subjection; it is a subtler but stronger might that captures the heart, and in so doing causes willing obedience and respect. It is not as visible and decisive as forced compliance, yet it spreads farther, reaches deeper, and lasts longer than any armed campaign could accomplish.

The God of the Bible is indeed all powerful. He represents himself as having created all that exists, and he has the ability to destroy kingdoms and lift up others for his own honor and glory. And yet, surveyed against the backdrop of historical beliefs and cruel demands of pagan gods, his greatest strength lies not in his unchallenged power to create or destroy, but in his demonstration of and willingness to provide forgiveness to those who turn to him.

If our God is a God of forgiveness, and if we consider ourselves to be his children through faith, then should we not mimic the characteristic that would most demonstrate his greatest strength?  In this way, our likeness with our Father is displayed, and honor is brought to his name. This is the path of forgiveness and peace that we are tasked with walking.

Luke 6:36 – “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.


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 holiness of God’s people, then and now

God’s standards of holiness don’t change.

Leviticus 20:26 – You must be holy because I, Yahweh, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.

This admonition to holiness is set amidst the context of the practices of the nations of Canaan that Israel was displacing.

Leviticus 20:23 – “You must not follow the statutes of the nations I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and I abhorred them.

In the context of Leviticus 20, the “things” the nations were guilty of were the contaminations of idolatry (which included spiritism and child sacrifice), sexual immorality, and eating of unclean foods. Avoiding all of “these things” is what would set ancient Israel apart from the other nations; this is what would make them “holy.” This setting apart is the holiness that distinguished Israel as God’s people.

In consistent fashion, the holy Spirit of God led the first recorded council in Jerusalem to similar conclusions. As those among the nations were coming to faith in Messiah along with the scattered Jews and God-fearers in the synagogues, there were idolatrous practices being introduced into the community of believers, such as food offered to idols and cultural promiscuity. Paul and the other apostles deal with some of these issues in their epistles to various groups of believers. But the council, through the guidance of the holy Spirit, had issued a decisive template for the believing congregations to follow that was worded very similarly to the injunction of Moses to the ancient Israelites in remaining holy.

Acts 15:28-29 – “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision ​– ​and ours ​– ​not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements: “that you abstain from idolatrous offerings, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things. Farewell.”

As can be seen by these comparative texts, avoidance of practices associated with idolatry, sexual immorality and unclean foods have always been the earmarks of God’s people that set them apart from the other nations. Therefore, I believe these distinctions should in like fashion remain as the defining characteristics that demonstrate the holiness or set-apartness of God’s people even today.


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.

Humble service in a kingdom without icon

God simply desires our sincere honoring of him every day by the outworking of our practical faith among the rest of his Creation.

Core of the Bible podcast #58 – Humble service in a kingdom without icon

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom, and how the Kingdom of God should not have any type of iconography or attempt to represent God through any physical location or facility. All of these detract from the simple essence of who he is in Spirit and truth. Idolatry is the most represented affront to the majesty of God and his Kingdom throughout the entire Bible.

Right after God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt and told them he wanted them to be representatives of his kingdom as priests, he then gave them the Ten Commandments. One of the primary commandments was against idolatry.

Exodus 20:4-5 – “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them…”

Yeshua confirmed that God abhors idolatry, and further revealed how God desires spiritual worship based on the truth, not some physical representation of him.

John 4:23-24 – “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

If I were to paraphrase these two passages, it might sound something like this:

Have nothing to do with tangible representations of any god, including the one true God. Worship the Father (Yahweh) alone, and in spirit and in truth only.

For whatever reason, humans love icons and iconography. We seek to identify everything with a symbolic representation of some sort, whether it is a brand logo, an app, or a digital navigation menu. In honesty, I must admit there is a certain logic to this mode of communication: it acts as a type of shorthand for a larger idea or concept that can be communicated quickly and simply.

In a similar way, throughout history civilizations have represented their concepts of their gods with a plethora of iconic representation, from statues to intricate carvings of various symbols to grandiose temples. The idolatry of the Bible, however, is generally concerned with the statues and carvings of the various gods that continually led Israel away from the one true God, Yahweh. Baal and Ashtoreth were two of the most notable “local” gods in the land of Canaan which threatened to lure Israel away from Yahweh.

Judges 3:7 – “The Israelites did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight; they forgot Yahweh their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs.”

Judges 10:6 – “Then the Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. They worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Aram, Sidon, and Moab, and the gods of the Ammonites and the Philistines. They abandoned Yahweh and did not worship him.”

The cultural power of these gods was so strong within the land of Canaan that the Israelites suffered with them throughout their history, in spite of dramatic showdowns with the likes of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:17-19 – “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, the one ruining Israel? ” He replied, “I have not ruined Israel, but you and your father’s family have, because you have abandoned Yahweh’s commands and followed the Baals. “Now summon all Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

After watching the false prophets attempt to provoke their gods to manifest themselves at their offering altars, God reveals himself at the simple invocation of Elijah to make himself known.

1 Kings 18:37-40 – “Answer me, Yahweh! Answer me so that this people will know that you, Yahweh, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “Yahweh, he is God! Yahweh, he is God! ” Then Elijah ordered them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let even one of them escape.” So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.”

The reason that God had even brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan in the first place was so that they would eradicate these false representations and the wicked practices, such as child sacrifice, that went along with them.

Deuteronomy 9:4-5 – “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. “You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, Yahweh your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness…”

This is how strongly God is opposed to false gods and the idolatrous worship that goes along with them.

Sometimes, during periods of reform and return to the worship of the one true God, the Israelite tribes were successful in removing the idols and false worship of the nations around them.

1 Samuel 7:4 – “So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtoreths and only worshiped Yahweh.”

1 Samuel 12:10 – “Then they cried out to Yahweh and said, ‘We have sinned, for we abandoned Yahweh and worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths. Now rescue us from the power of our enemies, and we will serve you.’

However, there are indications that even when the Israelites were doing what they were supposed to do in removing the false gods and idols, in typical fashion, they were still missing the true meaning of having Yahweh as their God, since they continually desired him to simply save them from the power of the their enemies, but not from the power of their own sinfulness.

Ultimately, the Kingdom of God was not to be just about an idyllic kingdom to be protected from its enemies, but to be a kingdom made up of individuals who were to practice “righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit,” (Romans 14:17).

—–

Additionally, the idolatry of Israel was not always focused on other gods, but on the one true God, just through some form of statue or representation of their own making.

Consider the golden calf incident. Most people think that the golden calf was a foreign god that the Israelites were worshiping, however, they made the golden calf in honor of Yahweh God and instituted a festival to him! The Israelites created it as a representation of the God who had brought them out of Egypt (Ex. 32:4), and also as a representation of the God who would go before them and conquer. They bowed down to it and danced around it.

Exodus 32:4-5 – “He [Aaron] took the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, “Israel, this is your god, who brought you up from the land of Egypt! ” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of it and made an announcement: “There will be a festival to Yahweh tomorrow.”

This shamed the magnificence of the one true God and Moses rightly and immediately destroyed it.

Consider the bronze snake that Moses had made in obedience to Yahweh’s command for healing of the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21).

Numbers 21:6-9 – Then Yahweh sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died. The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede with the LORD so that he will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.”

When Hezekiah became king, he ended up having to destroy it because it had become an object of worship in and of itself (2 Kings 18:4)

Consider the ephod or breastplate that Gideon made to represent the victories of the Israelites over the Midianites (Judges 8:22-27).

Judges 8:22, 24-27 – Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian.” … Then he said to them, “Let me make a request of you: Everyone give me an earring from his plunder.” Now the enemy had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites. They said, “We agree to give them.” So they spread out a cloak, and everyone threw an earring from his plunder on it. The weight of the gold earrings he requested was forty-three pounds of gold, in addition to the crescent ornaments and ear pendants, the purple garments on the kings of Midian, and the chains on the necks of their camels. Gideon made an ephod from all this and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. Then all Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his household.”

While Gideon’s intent was to honor God, it became an object of worship itself and created corruption among the Israelites.

All of this is a form of syncretism, a blending of what is true about God with the falsehood of idolatry and foreign culture. This is the most dangerous type of idolatry because those who are engaged in it believe they are truly worshiping the one true God through it, yet they are demeaning everything he stands for.

To this day, iconic representation can be found throughout the world, some even becoming popular tourist destinations due to their magnificence.

As I have been reviewing current popular religious destinations, I have been a little shocked to find that many of the most well-attended religious sites are actually based on Christian lore, such as Fatima in Portugal where there were alleged visions of Mary, Lourdes in France, or any of the Roman Catholic sites within Rome. These locations are filled with idolatry of all sorts: images, statues, and various representations of Mary and other religious saints and figures.

There are also magnificent and extravagant temples throughout India and Asian countries with representations of various gods and goddesses and many well-meaning religious traditions.

However, in the Bible God warns us that although this may be typical and commonplace among our various cultures and religions, we are not to identify him in this sort of way. He is to be worshiped in spirit and truth only, not by some sort of symbolic representation. The wisdom in this instruction is that he knows that the thing that is created to represent him can then replace him in the minds of the worshipers.

Idols of other gods are an offense to him, because there are no other gods that have created all things, and ascribing power to something other than him is an insult to his sovereignty over his Creation.

Idols meant to represent him or aspects of his power are also offensive to him, because no one thing can represent his majesty and glory in all of Creation. Ultimately, as we have seen, he knows that the representative thing becomes the object of worship. Any created thing is not a thing to be worshiped, even if we believe it is representing the one true God. No one thing in all of Creation can represent him, and is therefore offensive to him.

What if I was to create an icon of my wife, and in order to honor her, I burnt incense to that statue every day, or got down on my knees and professed my love for her to the image? I don’t need an iconic representation of my wife to honor her; I just need to demonstrate my love to her every day in how I live my life by respecting her and caring for her.

In the same way, God doesn’t want to be worshiped through some shallow representation of a portion of his being; he wants to be recognized for the beneficent Creator that he is in all of his qualities and honored from the heart. Similar to the simplicity and sincerity that I would show my wife, God expects these plain and humble actions in my worship of him.

—–

Additionally, from a practical standpoint, I am extremely saddened by the idolatry present throughout the world for another significant reason: the sheer waste of resources that could be used to help people in real need.

If we were to total all of the money and resources that are sacrificed in the worship of these false idols and their traditions, I am convinced that hunger and poverty throughout the world could be eradicated many times over. I am convinced that resources spent on religious idolatrous enterprises in every culture, including Christianity, are consuming what is available for the ever-growing population of humanity.

Think of the largest religious festivals and the resources they consume: Hajj (Islam); Chinese New Year; Diwali (Hindu); Ramadan (Islam); Setsubun (Shinto); Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu); Navarati (Hindu). These all, while time-honored examples within each of these cultures, are from the biblical perspective considered idolatrous festivities to the gods of those religions.

Lest anyone think that we in American Christian culture are any less guilty of idolatry, simply consider the resources allotted to Easter, Halloween and most significantly, Christmas. According to statista.com, the financial value spent at Christmas is 843 BILLION dollars, and that is in the US alone! Easter has been in the 18 billion-dollar range, and Halloween has gone from 3 billion to 10 billion over the last 15 years. That totals 871 billion dollars spent annually on these idolatrous festivals in the US alone.

Now, a quick search of world-wide poverty initiatives brought me to borenproject.org, where they quote a Columbia University professor’s estimate of ending world poverty:

“In his book End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, provides one answer to the question “how much does it cost to end poverty?” He argues that poverty could be eliminated by the year 2025 thanks to “well-placed development aids”. Investment in local farms to boost capital and productivity, education for both children and adults, enhancing access to health services and leveraging renewable energy resources are the best ways to end poverty.

“So, how much does it cost to end poverty? Sachs, as one of the world’s leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty, stated that the cost to end poverty is $175 billion per year for 20 years.”

Looking at only one year’s spend on religious idolatry, and in only the United States, this equals less than one-fourth of the combined financial impact of Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Now, if we were to estimate the costs of these other global religious festivities and their idolatrous practices, it is clear that the ability to raise up the quality of living and eradicate poverty around the entire world currently exists, if only we could have our eyes opened to the offerings still being made to idolatrous practices around the world.

This is why it is so important for people everywhere to understand the true nature of the Kingdom of God, and to recognize the simple and humble service he expects of his people, not extravagant displays like the pagans!

I believe it is clear we should also re-think some of our own practices in our believing congregations in light of this focus on idolatry. Beyond the seasonal holidays, there are plenty of idolatrous offerings occurring right here in American congregations, as well. How many times have people been admonished to “give sacrificially” to a building fund or to reach some financial goal for the congregation’s sound system or some other facility related function? We spend literally billions on parking lots, building improvements and maintenance, media systems and staffing to manage all of these facilities which remain mostly unused for most of any given week. These are real funds that could be better spent helping those in need while the congregation finds humbler means of gathering once or twice a week.

If this kind of commentary sounds jaded, then so be it. When I served as an intern pastor and also an elder over a number of years in small, local congregations, the amount of ministry time and resources wasted on building campaigns and maintenance was staggering to me. These tax-exempt corporations we have set up as ministry centers suffer from the same myopic budgeting that many secular businesses do. In essence, the facilities themselves have become idols for these congregations, idols that need constant attention and exorbitant resources. Instead, our facilities can be humble places of week-long ministry rather than just fancy audience arenas for a single isolated time each week.

I have heard time and time again that the description of an idol is simply “anything that comes between you and God.” However, from a biblical perspective, that is not really accurate at all. According to the Bible, an idol is an image or practice of some sort to which the powers of God or a god are ascribed, and therefore honor and sacrifice should be paid to it. It may be a figure, an institution or an ancient tradition. Idolatry of this sort in today’s day and age looks like this:

Candles, financial gifts, or food that is offered to statues of gods or supposed saints.

Costs to travel to religious sites for idolatrous religious festivals.

Thinking that by giving to the church building program or giving sacrificially to rescue the church budget is giving to God.

The financial debt and ruin incurred at Saturnalia in an effort to “decorate for the holidays” and to ensure no family’s “Christmas” gifts were overlooked.

These are examples of what modern idolatry looks like. Idols are real things created by people to somehow substitute or represent the one true God and their service to him, not just emotions or feelings that come between us and God. Emotional distractions are all legitimate ways we can be swayed away from God as well, don’t get me wrong. However, true idolatry is the participation in a physical event or honoring of traditional, physical icons in lieu of worshiping the one true God in spirit and in truth.

Yahweh, the God of the Bible, sets himself apart from all other gods by demanding we stop trying to represent him or his kingdom symbolically, whether through some type of iconography, grand facility, or through wasted resources on idolatrous traditions and practices. We can’t represent him fairly in those instances and, even if it is attempted, whatever we make becomes an object of corruption.

There are quite literally thousands of faith traditions throughout the world, even in regards to the God of the Bible. Whatever our personal faith tradition, we must find ways to combat the idolatry that is present through iconography, statues, and symbolic representation.

God simply desires our sincere honoring of him every day by the outworking of our practical faith among the rest of his Creation. This is what living in and for his kingdom should be.


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

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

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

The contrast of confidence in trusting God

We can choose where we set down our “roots” of faith.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 – “This is what Yahweh says: Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind. He makes human flesh his strength, and his heart turns from Yahweh. He will be like a shrub in the desert; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. The person who trusts in Yahweh, whose confidence indeed is Yahweh, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.”

The Bible is all about contrasts: light and dark; summer and winter; good and evil. These contrasts serve to illustrate the characteristics of the created world and the balance of equity in God’s hand.

One of the most famous passages to illustrate this type of literary device is from the book of Ecclesiates:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”

In the passage we are reviewing today in Jeremiah 17, the tribe of Judah is being accused by God of having become unfaithful to him and pursuing idolatry as opposed to remaining loyal and faithful to him. To illustrate their sinfulness, the prophet Jeremiah is inspired to provide them a series of contrasts:

  • Trust in mankind – trust in Yahweh
  • Curse – blessing
  • Heart turned from Yahweh – confidence in Yahweh
  • Desert shrub – well-watered tree
  • Lack of vision – no anxiety

What I find interesting in this imagery is not only the contrasts, but the one constant: the drought or heat. Both the shrub in the wilderness and the tree near the water experience the heat of the drought conditions; however, only the tree planted by the water is described as having rich foliage and producing fruit.

Jeremiah had made his point well in chastising Judah for their idolatry and unfaithfulness. Yet, I think there are also some lessons we can take away from this word picture, as well.

We all experience droughts of adversity in this life, yet there is a real and qualitative difference between the shrub of the desert and the tree planted near the water. While trees can only sprout where the seeds have landed, as people we can choose where we “set down roots” of faith. Where we do so can result in a curse or a blessing; a heart of isolation on our own or a heart of confidence in God; a lack of vision or removal of anxiety. Trusting in our own limited understanding can result in short-sighted consequences, while trusting in the God of the universe can result in lasting confidence through adversity.

Left to our own devices, we may think all trees experience the same conditions; however, trusting in Yahweh helps clarify the contrasts between good and bad.

Yeshua confirms these contrasts are real and truly do exist; and yet, like Jeremiah, he also reassures his hearers of the blessing and provision afforded to the faithful.

Matthew 6:31-34 – “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ‘ or ‘What will we drink? ‘ or ‘What will we wear? ‘ For the nations eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”


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

Did Yeshua teach pacifism?

All interests are subservient to the eternal interests of the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 5:39 – But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

The concept of forgiveness runs strong within the teachings of Yeshua. In order to not retaliate to aggressive behavior or a personal affront requires a measure of self-control and maturity to allow the insult, and sometimes injury, to pass.

But to what extent does the Bible teach that should believers remain non-retaliatory? Should a father protect his family from home intruders? Should a believer be engaged with a national military conflict? These are difficult questions because the Bible speaks to many different types of situations and has been used to support many different positions on this topic.

Even though I am a veteran of the American military, as I have grown in my biblical understanding over the years, I have gravitated toward a more pacifistic stance. From a philosophical standpoint, the idea of believers serving in opposing military forces would mean that believers are essentially killing other believers for the sake of their respective national interest. This would mean that the national interest has taken precedence over the universal spiritual kingdom of God. Under any other circumstance, believers would not be pitted against each other in a fight to the death.

In fairness, though, I must also admit that the passage quoted above about turning the other cheek is contextually about personal responsibility, and is not an absolute morality standard. If we believe love is the primary response for believers, we must remember that Yeshua also taught that the greatest love for others is self-sacrifice. Yeshua used the example of the good shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep; however, as King David was famous for, that was typically in protecting the sheep from the wild animals, not other humans.

But is that self-sacrifice to be exhibited in acts of aggression toward others? Is it morally defensible from the Bible to kill a human aggressor in order to save others?

1 John 3:16 – By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Once again, John is not setting up a universal morality standard here, as the context of this passage is in ensuring that believers are diligent in providing for one another’s physical needs. In that sense, we should put the interests of others above ourselves.

1 John 3:15, 17-18 – Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. … But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Paul reiterates this point, as well.

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.

If I was to land upon a more definitive position regarding what might be called biblical messianic pacifism within the Kingdom of God, I would offer the following: in personal quarrels, forgive and do not retaliate. When faced with endangerment of others not able to protect themselves, placing oneself as a non-lethal protector and defender is justifiable and honorable.

Some may argue that God is not against war, as he commanded the Israelites to kill and essentially exterminate the Canaanites. But we must remember the campaign against Canaan was God’s judgment upon those nations for their detestable idolatrous practices, and was not primarily about Israel’s interests. Moses made this abundantly clear as he spoke to the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan to take the land.

Deuteronomy 9:5-6 – “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations Yahweh your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know, therefore, that Yahweh your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

God’s use of Israel in war was a measure of physical judgment upon the Canaanites that was a metaphorical baseline within the over-arching biblical narrative: God’s enemies would be vanquished and his universal kingdom would be established in their place. However, to presume any war fought today is a righteous and holy war against idolatrous barbarians because of their wickedness and rebellion against God would require mental gymnastics beyond the scope of reason.

How we apply Yeshua’s admonition to turn the other cheek may lead us to differing conclusions regarding personal defense and national interests. But we must remember that even national interests are subservient to the eternal interests of the Kingdom of God. Doing what is biblically “correct” in any situation requires a holistic view of the entire Bible, not just cherry-picking proof-texts to support a personal or public agenda.


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 Yahweh is to bear his image in this world

Fear of Yahweh influences every part of the believer’s life.

Psalm 115:9-13 – Israel, trust in Yahweh! He is their help and shield. House of Aaron, trust in Yahweh! He is their help and shield. You who fear Yahweh, trust in Yahweh! He is their help and shield. Yahweh remembers us and will bless us. He will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear Yahweh — small and great alike.

In this psalm is a contrast between those who trust in idols and those who trust in Yahweh.

Psalm 115:4-8 – Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk. They cannot make a sound with their throats. Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

By contrast, Yahweh was known to have spoken Israel at Sinai; he listened to their prayers; the sacrifices of Israel were a pleasing aroma to him; Yahweh’s hand brought destruction upon Egypt; the clouds are described as being the dust beneath his feet. This is the God who stood in stark relief against the backdrop of the idolatry of the nations that surrounded Israel.

Fear of Yahweh is set as distinct from idolatry; for whoever trusts in Yahweh, he is to them a help and a shield. This implies that the idols are not a help and a shield to those who trust in them. Yahweh made the heavens and the earth; the idols did not. Yahweh deserves praise; the idols do not.

If those who trusted in their idols became like them, then it implies those who were to trust in Yahweh become like him. The reason idolatry is so wrong because it is assigning to a created thing the image that belongs only to Yahweh. Only Yahweh can assign his image to something, and he did that when he created man and woman.

Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.

If men and women are designed to be image-bearers of God, then we should not try to assign that image to anything else in this life.

Psalm 115:1 – Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to your name give glory because of your faithful love, because of your truth.

Yahweh is worthy of praise because he is truthful and remains faithful to his covenants. If those who fear him bear his image, then they should be truthful in all things and remain faithful to their covenants. In the psalmist’s view, Yahweh was living and active, a protector and helper of Israel, Aaron, and all who feared him. To become like Yahweh is also to become a protector and helper of those in need.

Fear (that is reverence, respect, awe) of Yahweh influences every part of the believer’s life. As we bear the image of God to the world around us, we stand in contrast to the idolatry that still exists today. Modern idolaters trust in their wealth, in their social status, and in their prideful accomplishments.

However, believers should demonstrate the true power of imaging God: being truthful and faithful in their dealings with others and being protectors and helpers of those in need. By doing these things, we can become a blessing that honors our Maker.


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 holiness of marriage

Why the representation of intimacy between a man and a woman is regarded so highly by God.

Matthew 5:32 – “But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

According to Yeshua, the holiness of the marriage union is essential. In fact, it is so critical, that he provides heart-insight on the command against adultery by saying:

Matthew 5:28 – “But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The sanctity of marriage is fueled and kept in check by the man and the woman continually setting apart their spouse from all others, so much so that to even lust after anyone else can be considered an emotional violation of the marriage vow.

The reason this is so is because the marriage union of a man and a women is symbolic of our faithful relationship to God. Anything else outside the singular and faithful union of a man and a woman is considered a form of idolatry to God. This is illustrated by the fact that, throughout the Bible, whenever Israel began to go after other gods, they were accused of spiritual adultery.

In the book of Judges, when Israel was newly settling in the land of Canaan, they demonstrated their unfaithfulness by almost immediately “prostituting themselves” by following other gods.

Judges 2:11-12, 16-17 – “The Israelites did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight. They worshiped the Baals and abandoned Yahweh, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them. They angered Yahweh, … Yahweh raised up judges, who saved them from the power of their marauders, but they did not listen to their judges. Instead, they prostituted themselves with other gods, bowing down to them. They quickly turned from the way of their fathers, who had walked in obedience to Yahweh’s commands. They did not do as their fathers did.”

Hundreds of years later, after the reigns of David and Solomon and many other kings who continued to rebel against God, he raised up firebrand prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel to declare their judgment for their unfaithfulness. In a scathing commentary by the prophet Ezekiel throughout the entire chapter of Ezekiel 16, he confronts the religious elite of Jerusalem with the following accusation:

Ezekiel 16:2-3, 32-33 – “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices. “You are to say, ‘This is what Yahweh GOD says to Jerusalem: … “You adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! “Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave gifts to all your lovers. You bribed them to come to you from all around for your sexual favors.”

In like fashion, Jeremiah recounts the list of Israel’s rebellious and wayward prophets, likening them to acts of adultery.

Jeremiah 23:14 – “Among the prophets of Jerusalem also I saw a horrible thing: They commit adultery and walk in lies. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, and none turns his back on evil. They are all like Sodom to me; Jerusalem’s residents are like Gomorrah.”

The sanctity of the nation that God had set apart from all others was gone. They had compromised their unique marriage relationship with the one true God by succumbing to the allure of the gods of the competing cultures.

Even after their captivity and up until the time of Yeshua, they never regained their relationship with God. This is blatantly recognized within the imagery of the Revelation, as religious Israel of the first century is represented as the whore, the adulteress, who rides the political beast of Rome.

Revelation 17:3-4 – Then he carried me away in the Spirit to a wilderness. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, jewels, and pearls. She had a golden cup in her hand filled with everything detestable and with the impurities of her prostitution.

Because of her continual and unrelenting rebellion against God’s marriage union with Israel as his own bride, Jerusalem was destroyed and her temple worship, the unique system of worship that set her apart from all other nations, was abolished.

However, there was a faithful remnant who had come out of the nation: those who believed in the Messiah God had sent to rescue them. The true marriage and spiritual worship was established with the faithful remnant, with the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of God, becoming the new and eternally faithful bride.

Revelation 21:2, 9-10 – I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. … Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,

This should be a clear message about how seriously God views the marriage bond between a man and a woman. From God’s perspective, true intimacy, whether between a man and a woman or the representative spiritual union between a person and himself, is valued so highly that it is represented as a sparkling kingdom utopia of his blessing and mercy. This is where God dwells with his faithful and set apart people, and where we dwell with him. This is the holiest of all marriage relationships.

Revelation 21:3 – Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their 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.

Moses’ practical steps for community faithfulness

Vigilance requires constant focus.

Deuteronomy 11:16 – “Keep careful guard that you are not enticed to turn aside, serve, and bow in worship to other gods.”

As the nation of Israel was nearing the end of its wilderness journeys, Moses cautioned them to ensure they remain faithful to all that they have received, so they could have success in their new homeland. He cautioned them against the primary sin of the idolatry of the nations that were inhabiting the land.

As a method of remaining faithful, Moses provided an outline of some practical steps to ensure that they were guarding their souls and protecting their little ones so the next generation would not forget what they have experienced, and how God desired them to act in righteousness amidst the idolatry of their surroundings.

In Hebrew practice even to this day, Jews all over the world recite these several passages as a daily statement of faith, known as the Shema.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. “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. “Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”

There are other passages included in the Shema recitation, however, if we break apart this passage we may gain some understanding for maintaining our own faithfulness as well.

“Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This is a prerequisite to any form of diligent faithfulness. The sole motivation for believers should not be a hope of future reward, but simple and sincere love of Yahweh that consumes every aspect of our being.

“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” When we memorize portions of Scripture, we gain the ability to recall in an instant an appropriate instruction that can assist us throughout the trials of each day.

Psalm 119:9-11 – How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.

“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.” To instill our biblical values in our children, we need to repeat them to our children in a variety of ways. When we are sitting in our house or walking or driving along the road with them, we should be drawing out spiritual understanding from these life experiences. Evening and morning prayers are valuable to model for them so they can learn how to pray and recite important passages as they grow.

“Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.” This practice is viewed literally by most orthodox Jews by physically tying phylacteries, scripture boxes, to their arms and heads. However, in other contexts where this same type of language is used, it can be taken metaphorically to represent that the hands should always be about the work of the kingdom, and the mind (between the eyes) should always be focused on God’s commands.

Finally, Moses commands them to, “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” This is the practice of affixing a mezuzah, a small scripture box, to the door frame of the home, and also ensuring that each city or village entrance identifies the commands of God in a visible statement. These visible reminders at the point of entrance provide touchpoints amidst the daily travels.

These practices, while intended primarily for the Israelites as they were about to be moving into a new form of living in the land of Canaan, still provide relevance for us today. God’s instruction, his torah, should be such a practical focus of our lives each day that we cannot stray from God’s commands. These types of practices provide physical reminders to us and help our children navigate the mazes of temptation and spiritual distractions of their generation, as well. Through memorization, recitation, and practical obedience, we can be continually reminded to stay focused on God’s purpose and be better prepared to successfully pass the faith to the next generation.


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

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

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

The Ten holy Commandments

Defining the life and practice of every believer in the one true God.

We may be familiar with the Ten Commandments that were revealed by God on Mount Sinai, but perhaps it has gone unnoticed that these commandments are the very fabric of holiness that sets believers apart from the rest of the world. Let’s briefly consider each one within the context of our modern world.

To love Yahweh our God, and have no other gods besides him.
Most people today do not recognize God as being over all, and yet this truth is fundamental. To worship him alone, and to do so in spirit and truth is the essence of biblical faith.

To have no physical representation of any god, including the one true God.
Idolatry remains prevalent in this world to this day. Beyond the plethora of other gods being represented elsewhere, even within the halls of Christian denominations, iconography and representative symbolism abounds. Yet God desires we avoid this preoccupation with representing the un-representable. Our focus instead is to represent him through our faithful words and actions.

To not take his Name in vain.
Many people confess to knowing and believing in Yahweh God, and yet their lives tell a different story. Consistency in our lifestyle matching up with our belief system is essential. If we honor him only with our lips and not with our actions, then our faith is in vain.

To keep the Sabbath holy.
This culture today knows little of special days for rest from worldly activities and focus on spiritual realities. The seventh day was set apart as holy from the beginning of Creation, and recognition of this heritage provides strength and purpose for the other six days.

To honor mother and father.
This principle goes beyond just the recognition of earthly parents to the concept of authority in general. We live today in a world of parents who are not godly, children who don’t respect them, and where general authority is despised. Believers must re-connect this chain of honor in these various arenas of experience.

Do not murder.
Our news outlets are filled with this reality, as are our popular fictional television series which focus on crimes and investigation. While most people may not physically kill another individual, Yeshua heightens this commandment to not even be unrighteously angry with someone, which is where this rebellion begins. Anger is dividing this country and it’s up to believers to be the peacemakers in these storms of contention.

Do not commit adultery.
In the beginning, God created one man and one woman for each other. This is God’s ideal. Faithfulness to that ideal in today’s world may be considered a fairy tale for some, but is necessary all the same. In fact, monogamous faithfulness can provide much needed stability within the family unit. As goes the family, so goes the community; as goes the community, so goes the city, and the country, and the world.

Do not steal.
Not taking anything that doesn’t belong to you involves anything from physical objects to online copyright infringement. Believers are challenged to honor this commandment in all areas of life, and to be examples of righteous actions within their circles of influence.

Do not bear false witness.
Beyond perjuring oneself in a court of law, this commandment applies whenever something falsely may be said about someone else. Believers set themselves apart by being truth-tellers in all aspects of their lives.

Do not covet.
Some believe this commandment sums up all of the others, for if we do not covet what others may have, we will honor God and our parents and we won’t seek to harm others in any other way. According to Yeshua, this is the summary of all of the commandments in the Bible: to love God and love others.

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

Believers are grateful for what they have, not jealous of what they don’t have. Gratefulness is one of the most sincere ways of honoring God, as it involves honoring him with everything we have.

This brief summary of the Ten Commandments should provide us with a fresh perspective of holiness. God has designed these commandments as the means and methods of being uniquely qualified to represent him in this world. The fact that we can still see how impactful they are is testament to the fact of their universality.

To be holy is to be set apart. When we faithfully practice these commandments, empowered by his holy Spirit, then we, too, become holy and set apart which is God’s desire for all people.


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