Have faith in Yeshua, God’s faithful representative

Having faith in Yeshua means you are placing your faith in God.

“”Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”

John 14:1

This statement by Yeshua is a pivotal moment of clarity and intimacy with his disciples. In the waning hours of his life and ministry, he is pouring into his disciples some of his most profound teachings.

Repeatedly throughout this passage, Yeshua claims oneness in unity with his father, God. As God’s authoritative representative on earth, Yeshua is stating that he has fulfilled his mission and his representation of God to his people. Placing their faith in him is the same thing as placing faith and trust in God.

This can only be so because of the Hebrew concept of agency. As God‘s anointed representative, everything Yeshua teaches is exactly what God would teach if he were on the earth. This is why Yeshua has been historically been recognized as God. His representation of God is so perfect, the two become indistinguishable.

Yet, rather than prove his Godhood, this exactness of representation is the very thing that makes him the Messiah, the Anointed One. The whole reason that Yeshua should be believed is because he perfectly represented the heart and will of the Father to his people. Those who were to place their trust in Yeshua would thereby be placing their trust in God.

This concept of agency, which is so common and original to the ancient Hebrew culture understanding, has been minimized or lost through the ages of non-Hebrew Christianity. In its place has arisen the philosophical construct of a trinitarian God which flies in the face of the long established Hebrew concept of the unity and oneness of God, the only true God.

Yeshua was encouraging his disciples to believe in him, not because he was God, but because he had faithfully represented everything God wanted them to know. This is the type of trust and faith that God desires of us: by believing in his Messiah, we are believing in him. And by believing in him, we are considered his children.

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

Intimacy with God by setting ourselves apart through fasting and prayer

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

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

Daniel 9:3

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 16:29, 31

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

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

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

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

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

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

Matthew 6:16-18

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

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

Trusting God by listening and taking action

God wishes to have an active relationship with us based on trust.

The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many troops for me to hand the Midianites over to them, or else Israel might elevate themselves over me and say, ‘My own strength saved me.’ … The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the three hundred men who lapped and hand the Midianites over to you. But everyone else is to go home.” … When Gideon’s men blew their three hundred trumpets, the LORD caused the men in the whole army to turn on each other with their swords. They fled to Acacia House in the direction of Zererah as far as the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath.

Judges 7:2, 7, 22

Gideon’s trust that God would do what he said was based on reassurances that God had provided him. This was evident all along in his journey to becoming a savior of Israel from the oppression of the Midianites.

When Gideon was first called by God through an angel, Gideon asked for a sign to confirm this was truly God’s plan. This was demonstrated by a dramatic acceptance of his sacrificial offering. Immediately after this, God instructed him to tear down his father’s idolatrous altar.

When he was preparing to attack the Midianite armies, Gideon asked God for a sign by placing a fleece of wool on the ground overnight. If the fleece demonstrated wetness or dryness opposite to the normal dew patterns, he would know that it was really God who was asking this of him. Once this was confirmed, Gideon rallied his troops for battle.

As a final act of trust, God asked him to reduce his forces to just 300 men. When he did so, God still provided him reassurance as he and his servant spied on the enemy camp and overheard their fear based on a dream that Gideon was going to overtake their army.

All of these examples in the life of Gideon point to an interesting facet of trusting God: God will provide reassurances when he asks for our trustful actions. In these examples, these were not outward signs to all of Israel, but were private and personal reassurances that provided Gideon the confirmation that God was communicating with him, and that he would come through for Gideon if Gideon would act in faith by trusting in what he asked of him.

It starts with us hearing something from God. We have his word to inspire and encourage us to obedient actions. Perhaps it is an admonition from a sermon or bible study, or more typically, a spark of inspiration from personal meditation in God’s word. Then, we respond by reaching out to him to make sure we understand clearly what we think we heard. If we are sincere and attentive, we will find God responding to us in a way that only we can know, a way that has his “fingerprints” all over it.

In our lives today, we may not have visions of angels or miraculous fleeces to provide us confirmation of God’s direction. However, if we are attentive, we receive confirmations that are private and personal to us. Perhaps there is a saying on a billboard which you pass on the freeway that resonates in answer to prayer, or a song that comes up in your playlist with encouraging lyrics that match what you asked of God.

This is the relationship God wishes to have with us: an active relationship based on trust. And for trust to take place, there has to be back and forth communication to establish that trust on which our actions are based.

The Bible knows nothing of a blind faith, only a trust in what may be unseen to others but known to be real to us. And acting on that unseen trust is how we demonstrate our faith in God and fulfill his purposes in this world.

Vigilance over temptation

Prayer to avoid temptation keeps us focused and receptive to God and his resources.

And he [Yeshua] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:40-41

Yeshua was speaking this to Peter for the specific purpose of admonishing him to stay alert with him while he was praying in Gethsemane. However, this has become a type of universal admonition, and not without good reason.

Praying to avoid temptation was a key teaching within Yeshua’s template for prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Based on the original word definitions, this can be expanded and paraphrased as “May we not be lead into adversity and hard testing; nevertheless, rescue us from anguish, harm, and all evil.”

Praying in this manner is a demonstration of vigilance. When praying to avoid temptation, 1) there is an awareness of the possibility of impending challenges and 2) there is a recognition of God’s ability to provide assistance or escape.

The act of praying focuses the mind on the essential needs of the moment. This is necessary because vigilance also involves alertness and overcoming the distractions and limitations of fleshly influence. While our spirit may be willing, many times we become spiritually disoriented as worldly impulses (whether internal or external) overwhelm us.

Remaining steadfast in prayer to God keeps us focused and in communication with the One who is more than able to provide us the necessary strength to overcome.

Intimacy with God

When our inner convictions become just an outward show, we have denied ourselves and create a mockery of God.

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites [do,] for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:16-18

When you fast, take measures to be certain it is not obvious to others.

Our private works of humility and worship in the service of, and communion with, the one true God should remain private. If we are sincere in preparing our hearts and bodies to be receptive to the leading of God, we must maintain that intimacy.

When our inner convictions become just an outward show, we have denied ourselves and create a mockery of God. Self-adulation and false humility demonstrate a shallow understanding of our spiritual condition for the simple purpose of bettering ourselves in the eyes of others.

Denying body and soul is a personal discipline that is meant to take our eyes off of ourselves and our own needs. Making a display of it contradicts everything it is intended to accomplish.

However, maintaining a vital and dynamic intimacy with God through our heart understanding working in concert with our actions provides great personal reward. This is an unseen way in which we are strengthened to visibly serve others effectively in his name.