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.


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.

Becoming compassionate givers

By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are God’s children.

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how God is honored when we respect him in all things, including how we demonstrate that compassion to others through obedient and intentional generosity.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.

The concept of giving to those in need is evident all through the biblical writings. Traditionally, this has come down to us through the ages as the giving of “alms.” Alms is a word that is not used much in modern English these days, but it is interesting to note a little about the history of the word.

It’s definition is typically along the lines of “charitable relief of the poor,” especially as a religious duty, or “that which is given to relieve the poor or needy.” It comes from the old English word aelmesse, which was based on a Latin version of the Greek term eleemosyne, meaning mercy, pity, or compassion as exhibited in charitable giving. This Greek phrase is used in Bible passages describing the charitable obligation to help others. For example:

Matthew 6:1-4 – “Be careful not to practice your charitable giving in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, “so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Acts 3:1-3 – One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to ask for charitable giving from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked to receive a charitable gift.

But the term in its wider usage really means any act of compassionate giving across a spectrum of generous actions. For example, it can mean kind actions towards others.

Acts 9:36 – There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and charitable helping of the poor.

Acts 10:1-2 – There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

It can also mean charitable offerings for the purposes of God’s people.

Acts 24:17 – After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people…

However when it comes to giving to those in need as mentioned in our passage in Deuteronomy 15, the idea of helping the poor is depicted as lending to them, not outright giving. Why is it important to understand this distinction?

Well, it has more to do with the receiver than the giver. Many times, people will struggle to accept outright handouts because of their pride. They don’t want to be made to feel they are unable to meet their needs on their own. This is actually an emotionally good and healthy response for anyone who is otherwise able to provide for themselves but may have just fallen on hard times; it happens. When encountering someone who is need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay back what was lent to them whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance.

In ancient Israel, those who would beg for charitable handouts were typically those who had no other means of income: the lame or blind who could not work, widows and orphans (who had lost their husband/father as the provider). In the Hebraic culture, these were considered legitimate reasons for true charity, and helping and giving donations to these individuals was commanded by God and highly commended within their social culture.

Deuteronomy 26:12 – “When you have finished paying all the tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you are to give it to the Levites, resident aliens, fatherless children and widows, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

Zechariah 7:9-10 – “This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

Notice, foreigners or resident aliens were also included in this social order, as they would suffer from having the status of immigrants, and were typically afforded only the most menial of jobs in that ancient society.

However, for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet.

Exodus 22:25 – “If you lend silver to my people, to the poor person among you, you must not be like a creditor to him; you must not charge him interest.

Leviticus 25:35-37 – “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. “Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you. “You are not to lend him your silver with interest or sell him your food for profit.

In our passage above, God, through Moses, is urging that the Israelites would open their hearts to those who were poor, and lend freely. This was a necessary urging from him because many times people would take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends.

In a moment, we will look at how all of this background was built upon by Yeshua in his teachings of giving and loaning to those in need. As is typical, Yeshua not only reinforces these principles of Torah, but then elevates them to new levels of generosity that is to be expected within the kingdom of God.

As we move into the New Testament writings and the teaching of Yeshua, we find that some of the familiar passages where Yeshua is teaching on generosity have even more meaning when he relates how believers should be viewing acts of giving and loaning to others. For example:

Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Notice the emphasis on not turning away from those who would seek to borrow.

Luke 6:35 – “But love [even] your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Now, here is where we begin to see God’s true heart of compassion for those in need. Yeshua teaches that even if our intent is to genuinely help others by providing them a loan of some sort, he says if you are doing so, don’t expect anything in return. This echoes the instruction of Moses in not expecting to receive interest on the loan, and takes it to the next level of not even expecting to be repaid at all.

This is a radical upgrade to the principle of generosity that the Jewish culture of his day would have been familiar with from the previous passages of Torah. Just as Yeshua upgraded the command against adultery to not even looking at a woman with lustful intent, Yeshua here upgrades the command to not charge interest to not being concerned about being repaid at all!

This is an indication of how Yeshua continued to uphold Torah yet demonstrate its true intent when operating from the heart, not just the written command. It’s as if he was saying, “You think you are upholding Torah by not charging interest, but if you really want to uphold Torah, don’t even expect to be repaid.”

To take it even further, this wasn’t just a command for fellow Israelites, but it was to be applied towards enemies, as well! In the economy of the Kingdom of God, there was to be no more social distinctions between foreigners and natives, men and women, slaves and free. Paul illustrates this in the context of describing the equality of those who were demonstrating faith in Messiah.

Galatians 3:26-28 – for through faith you are all sons of God in Messiah Yeshua.  For those of you who were baptized into Messiah have been clothed with Messiah. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.

Even though we are off on a bit of a tangent, this sense of equality before God in Messiah is the glue that held the remnant assemblies together through the persecution they endured from their fellow Jews and from the oppression of the Romans. Having a united stance in the face of adversity can overcome all odds.

Back to to the topic at hand of generosity that Yeshua taught, if believers were to loan money with the idea of not expecting anything at all in return, they would be operating in the true spirit of generosity that God desires. This accomplishes two purposes: it maintains the dignity of the receiver and it removes any chance of hard feelings for not being repaid in the future. If anyone was to “loan” to someone in need, that loan should be treated as a donation and any repayment as a bonus. All types of giving are highly recommended in the Bible, as we know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving freely is a required dynamic within the economy of the kingdom of God.

Additionally, God has proclaimed that those who demonstrate generosity and compassion toward others will receive generosity and blessing in return.

Psalm 41:1-2 – Happy is one who is considerate of the poor; Yahweh will save him in a day of adversity.  Yahweh will keep him and preserve him; he will be blessed in the land. You will not give him over to the desire of his enemies.

Proverbs 19:17 – Kindness to the poor is a loan to Yahweh, and he will give a reward to the lender.

Psalm 112:4-5 – Light shines in the darkness for the upright. He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.  Good will come to the one who lends generously and conducts his business fairly.

Having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving can make us more responsible givers. In outwardly loaning to those who have need, we can allow them dignity. Inwardly considering these helper-loans as outright donations or charitable giving, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future.

God is honored when we honor and respect him in all things, including how we manage our finances and our relationships with others. By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are his children by operating with the same compassionate principles he provides to us.


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.

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks

If forgiveness resides in our heart, we can then speak and act on that forgiveness.

Core of the Bible podcast #91 – Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how it relates to the condition of our heart. If forgiveness resides in our heart, we can then speak and act on that forgiveness. However, if what we say is unforgiving, then the words we speak illustrate or reveal what is actually in our hearts.

Luke 6:45 – The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

I knew a man who was recently honored at his work for being an outstanding performer, always receiving gracious comments from customers with whom he interacted on a regular basis. He even received national recognition and many accolades from his company for his achievements. However, when a particular crisis arose and he was challenged by his boss with a sharp disagreement over his mishandling of a particular situation, what began as a discussion of strategy degraded into a string of profanity and lashing out. He ended up blaming a customer for what was in reality his own inability to bring a situation to its proper conclusion. This indignation, it would seem, was always simmering and bubbling under the surface of the polished outward appearance of his performance. When a situation challenged his work, what was truly in his heart boiled over and out of his mouth, revealing the true nature of his character.

Yeshua calls this the “fruit of the tree.” The wider context of our verse today demonstrates this idea.

Luke 6:43-45 – For there is no good tree that brings forth rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that brings forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

If, as Yeshua teaches, “each tree is known by its own fruit,” then we can ascertain very quickly what is in a person’s heart by what they say, how they say it, and what they do. What we say is important, because our speech is what makes the contents of our heart known to others; it is the authorized (by us) commentary on what is in our heart.

Proverbs 10:20 – The tongue of the righteous is pure silver; the heart of the wicked is of little value.

Notice how the tongue of the righteous is contrasted with the heart of the wicked. By locking these two themes together, Solomon is passing commentary on how the tongue (that is, what we say) and the heart are absolutely connected.

In a heated discussion with the Pharisees, Yeshua says the following:

Matthew 12:34-37 – “Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Yeshua teaches that the heart is like a storeroom where either good things exist, or where evil things exist. The underlying Greek term is where we get our word thesaurus from. Consider what a thesaurus is: a thesaurus is a storehouse of words that have similar meanings. Our heart is a storehouse where similar things are stored, either good or bad. It implies a wealth, abundance, or treasure; either a treasure of positive, helpful things or an abundance of unhelpful and wicked things. We make deposits in our hearts with every thought, every interaction, and every distraction. Based on what we allow ourselves to be engaged with every day, it is up to us if those things that we are storing up are good or evil. Either way, Yeshua teaches that the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart, so whatever we have stored up in our heart is what is going to come out at some point.

According to the logic Yeshua uses here, the words we say are evidence that can be used in our favor, or against us. This is the same principle today used in courtrooms to determine the guilt or innocence of individuals. How many times on a courtroom drama on TV or a courtroom scene in a movie have you seen the story lead up to a climax when an individual becomes trapped in the witness stand being confronted with information that varies from what they are testifying under oath?

This is the same type of process that goes on in people’s minds when we are interacting with each other. We all pass judgment on others, not necessarily to be overly critical, but to gauge the sincerity of an individual to see if their words line up with their actions. When they do, we consider that individual trustworthy; when they don’t, we de-value what that person says because they are inconsistent and therefore unreliable. In essence, we are conducting “fruit inspections” as part of our normal course of interacting in a society of individuals.

Looking at these passages, we can see how Yeshua is teaching that the heart is the driver of what we say and do. If our speech and actions are not where they need to be, we may be in need of some work on our hearts.

This is where things can get challenging.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 – The heart is more deceitful than anything else, frail and weak ​– ​who can understand it?  I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.

Notice how Yahweh lets us know that the difficulty we face when we explore our own hearts is that we can easily be deceived when doing so. It’s like being dropped into a dark cavern without a map and being expected to know where every winding passage leads. The light from our headlamp only shines for a limited way in front of us. From time to time, the cavern walls crumble with the threat of cave-in due to the frailty and weakness of the structure. We may travel for hundreds of yards down  a passage only to reach a dead end.

Additionally, we have difficulty being objective when we explore our hearts because we are intimately and inextricably emotionally tied to outcomes that are based on our heart motives which can be weak and unsupported. When we discover long-standing perspectives that may be unfounded or not as we expected, we can become disoriented and lose our way within the emptiness of failed ambitions or missed opportunities.

But the good news, according to Jeremiah, is that Yahweh also says that he understands our heart by searching out its depths, and testing and trying the mind. He provides everyone according to their way, “according to what their actions deserve.” In this type of biblical karma, God is providing an experience for each person based on what actions are being driven by the heart’s disposition.

If this is the case for all of humanity, then it is in our best interest to look to Yahweh as the Creator of all to understand the true condition of our heart.  This is not something we should attempt on our own due to the potential dangers we just discussed. If the heart that we have is so frail and deceptive, how can we control what comes out of its overflow in our speech and actions? How can we fill our hearts with love and forgiveness that is necessary to engage with others in ways that our Creator desires?

In a moment, we will see how God has provided a solution to the challenges we face in the wayward directions of our hearts. He himself can provide the motivation and strength that is so critical to living a life that has real and demonstrable love for others.   

If we revisit what Yeshua taught in relation to our hearts, that we speak comes out of the overflow of whatever good or evil is stored up in the heart, then it is in our best interest to know how to ensure that we have only good in our hearts. However, from what we have learned so far, the heart is frail and can be deceptive even to our own reasonings.

There was a promise made to ancient Israel that we can look to to help us understand how God views the situation. Israel had become corrupt before God, and because they refused to listen to his instruction, they were removed from the land he had promised to them and they were spread among the nations as a punishment for their disobedience. Yet, God reveals this happened as a way of teaching them that they would need to rely on him, not their own strength and reasoning, to accomplish his Word.

Ezekiel 36:23-28 – “I will honor the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations ​– ​the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh ​– ​this is the declaration of Yahweh GOD ​– ​when I demonstrate my holiness through you in their sight.  For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

This is an amazing passage that provides us some critical information in the discussion of the heart. Yahweh said in order for Israel to be the light to the nations that they were destined to be, he would need to not just renovate or repair but to replace their collective heart with a new one. This new heart would provide the motivation and strength, guided by his own Spirit, to actually follow his statutes and ordinances, as he had originally intended for them.

This same thing is also mentioned in the famous passage in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 – “Look, the days are coming” ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration ​– ​”when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. “This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt ​– ​my covenant that they broke even though I am their master” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. “No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know Yahweh,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them” ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.

This teaching that would be in their hearts would be placed there by God himself. He would provide them the new hearts of obedience that would accomplish his purpose in the world. Ezekiel relates that the nations would come to know Yahweh when they saw him demonstrate his holiness through them by restoring them to himself, even though they had strayed so far from him.

When Yeshua arrived to instruct the nation one last time before they would disappear from the world stage, he pronounced the same message to Nicodemus, a leader in Israel, this message previously revealed by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

John 3:3-8 – Yeshua replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  “How can anyone be born when he is old? ” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born? ”  Yeshua answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

To be born of the Spirit of God was another way of saying they needed to have a new heart. This was the only way for Israel to have the contents of their hearts switched from evil to good. God was doing a work with the remnant of his people who would hear this message of the kingdom to become the born-again people of the new covenant and the new Creation. In doing this work in their lives, God would be demonstrating his holiness among his own people, and through this faithfulness those from among the nations would be drawn to Yahweh, as well.

Romans 15:8-12 – For I say that Messiah became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praise to your name.  Again it says, Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people! And again, Praise Yahweh, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples praise him!  And again, Isaiah says, The root of Jesse will appear, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; the Gentiles will hope in him.

God knew all along that once he chose Israel, they would fall away and he would have to scatter them throughout the known world. But this was also with the understanding that in drawing them back to himself through Messiah, others from among the nations would also be drawn to him. This was and is the method that God has set in place to draw all people to himself through Messiah Yeshua. God has demonstrated himself faithful with Israel, thereby providing a firm foundation for those of other nations to come to him, as well.

If we are to be speaking and demonstrating forgiveness and reconciliation with others, then that forgiveness and reconciliation will truly need to be in our heart. This can only be accomplished when we step out of the way of our old natures and allow God to work through our renewed nature in those situations.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19 – Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Messiah after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Yeshua Messiah, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Messiah, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.

As this message of reconciliation spreads, more and more people have their hearts changed out to become hearts of obedience guided by the Spirit of God. That’s the good news of the kingdom. The even better news is that, knowing we still have the capability to slip and fall accidentally from time to time, we still retain the ability to ask for ongoing renewal when we mess up.

1 John 1:6, 9 – If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. … If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If, as Paul writes, we are new creations, then we need to operate within the new Creation of God’s kingdom, and live and abide by its principles, not the principles of this old Creation. Both Yeshua and Paul convey that the principle of reconciliation and forgiveness is a core principle of God’s kingdom. If our hearts have been renewed, then that forgiveness and reconciliation can truly reside in our new hearts. What we place in our heart from that time on is up to us.

Our ability to speak this forgiveness and reconciliation to those around us appears to be a choice that we have every day, but only when we recognize and remember who we really are. It is in this fashion that God is honored among the nations when his children are operating with the righteousness of his kingdom regardless of the outward situations and conditions they encounter. When the abundance of the heart is good treasure, then that good treasure can’t help but be shared with those who need it most.


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.

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.

A faith that leads to new realities

Exhibiting true faith in God provides him the means with which to be glorified in ways beyond our imagination.

Exhibiting true faith in God provides him the means with which to be glorified in ways beyond our imagination.

The prophet Samuel was one of the greatest prophets to arise in ancient Israel. His mother, Hannah, was a woman of great faith. Even though she had been childless for many years, she steadfastly trusted in Yahweh through the depth of the emotional trauma she experienced at lacking the ability to conceive.

1 Samuel 1:10-11 – She was deeply distressed and prayed to Yahweh and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Yahweh of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

This is the prayer of someone of great faith. Hannah was placing all of her trust in the One whom she knew could provide for her deepest need, even though she could not yet see the results of that faith. In the anguish of her heart, she prayed silently but earnestly in the presence of the Eli, the high priests at that time, who inadvertently thought she was muttering to herself due to drinking.

1 Samuel 1:15-17 – But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before Yahweh. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”

Hannah replied to Eli that she had been “pouring out her soul” before Yahweh. The Hebrew phrase means to spill over, or gush out. This describes the intensity with which she prayed to God, and exhibits the depth of the anguish in her very soul.

I can recall in my own life only a handful of times where I have prayed with a similar level of intensity. Yet it was in those times of my deepest anguish that I also felt closest to the presence of God. God seems to reward our honesty within ourselves with his own presence; when all of our defenses are broken down and we are left alone with only the bare root of some raw emotion. It is as if the intensity of our experience and the diminishment of self somehow thins the veil between the natural and the supernatural, and suddenly we somehow sense his presence, even though he is always there. This type of deep communion with God when we have reached the end of ourselves is the most honest expression of faith. In Hannah’s case, it resulted in the granting of her desire for a son.

1 Samuel 1:20 – And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from Yahweh.”

This event so strongly influenced Hannah that she could only rejoice in the blessing of receiving what she had asked for.

1 Samuel 2:1-2 – And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in Yahweh; my horn is exalted in Yahweh. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like Yahweh: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.”

I believe it was this intensity of Hannah’s’ faith that provided the foundation for Samuel to become one of the strongest and most influential prophets Israel had ever known. Her practical experience of God’s providential working in her life set the tone that allowed her to guide and direct the small boy Samuel to God’s service in the tabernacle. Her faith spilled over into the blank canvas of her son’s life which then resulted in the establishment of a kingdom and the oversight of the direction of an entire ancient nation.

We must never underestimate the influence of our sincere faith as it affects the lives around us in ways that God can use for his purpose and glory, and in ways that we may not even be able to fathom. This is how faith in God can move mountains.


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.

Helping those who cannot help themselves

This is how we become God’s workers and co-laborers in the building of the Kingdom.

Core of the Bible podcast #85 – Helping those who cannot help themselves

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God wants them to be.

Luke 6:35-36 – …he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.

In our English Bibles, sometimes verses that express compassion will mention mercy or kindness; sometimes compassion is equated with forgiveness. However it is expressed, we are commanded by Yeshua to be like God in regard to his mercy and compassion. What does that look like? Some examples taken from God’s dealings with ancient nation of Israel can provide us some indications of how God’s mercy and compassion is defined.

  • Ezekiel 16:5 – No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you, to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open field, for that your person was abhorred, in the day that you were born.
  • Psalm 78:36-39 – But they flattered him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they faithful in his covenant. But he, being compassionate, forgave iniquity, and didn’t destroy them. Yes, many times he turned his anger away, and didn’t stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away, and doesn’t come again.
  • Micah 7:18-19 – Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn’t retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
  • Jeremiah 12:15 – It shall happen, after that I have plucked them up [from their land due to their disobedience], I will return and have compassion on them; and I will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.

God’s compassion has been evident in choosing to take care of Israel as caring for an abandoned baby. His compassion is evident in forgiving them when they were consistently unthankful and disobedient to him. His compassion is evident in restoring Israel to the land he had promised them even after their captivity for disobedience.

If we are to be merciful and compassionate like our Father, we need to recognize that the examples he sets for us are teaching us that compassion is all about reaching out to and helping those who are unable to help themselves.

Yeshua exhibited this same type of compassion, just like his Father, helping those who could not help themselves.
He understood this principle and took it upon himself to teach and shepherd his people who were like lost sheep without a shepherd. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 50:6 – My people were lost sheep; their shepherds led them astray, guiding them the wrong way in the mountains. They wandered from mountain to hill; they forgot their resting place.

Yeshua recognized that this was the condition of his people, which is why he so ardently strove to ensure they had a correct understanding of the Kingdom of God, not just the corrupted traditions of the religious elite.

  • Matthew 15:24 – [Yeshua] replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
  • Matthew 9:36 – When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
  • Mark 6:34 – As Yeshua came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he taught them many things.

The text tells us that the act of teaching them “many things” was an act of compassion on his part. Perhaps these were the teachings of Luke 6, compared to the instruction of the Sermon on the Mount. If these were part of Yeshua’s regular teachings, it is not unlikely that they may have been conveyed at this time.

Additionally, he compassionately healed their sick.

Matthew 14:13-14 – Now when Yeshua heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he got out he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Yeshua healing the sick was an act of compassion for their suffering, and also an indication that the Kingdom of God was present among them.

Luke 11:14, 20 – Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the man who had been mute began to speak, and the crowds were amazed. … But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you.

Yeshua’s compassion was an indicator that God’s Kingdom on the earth was becoming a reality, and that soon it would be a universal constant among all the nations.

Also, Yeshua demonstrated compassion on the crowd’s physical hunger in the remote place where he had been teaching.

Matthew 15:32 – Then Yeshua called the disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days and they have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry since they may faint on the way.”

He miraculously provided for them in a dramatic demonstration that God has the ability to provide for all physical needs.

Finally, and most importantly, in a representative fashion Yeshua took up the sins of the rebellious upon himself.

Romans 5:6-8 – For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.

The text mentions the helplessness of those whom Messiah died for; there was nothing they could do to change their condition before a holy God. They are classified as ungodly and sinners. The word for helpless is literally strengthless, having no strength in and of themselves to overcome their ungodly and sinful ways. By all rights, these are individuals who are deserving only of the the wrath of God due to their defiance of his ways. Yet the example of Yeshua, by assuming the symbolic role of a sacrificial lamb for those who place their faith in him, assumes their place and identity before God. His death then becomes representative of the believer’s death for disobedience, and they are counted by God as released from their due penalty for breaking his laws and are allowed life.

John 15:12-13 – My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.

Our compassion is to be based on this type of love and compassion that have been exhibited by Yahweh and Yeshua. It is a compassion that provides for the needs of others when they do not have the ability to help themselves, even at the expense of our own lives. But how are we to apply this same concept in our daily living? In a moment, we will begin to explore some application of these principles in the lives of believers today.


As stated previously, if we are to be merciful and compassionate like our Father or like Messiah Yeshua, we need to recognize that the examples that are set for us are teaching us that compassion is all about reaching out to and helping those who are unable to help themselves.

Zechariah 7:8-10 – Again the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah: “Yahweh who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’

Yahweh, speaking through the prophet Zechariah, instructed his people that demonstrating true justice is evident when they show brotherhood and compassion with each other. He lists helpless among them, like widows, orphans, the poor, and foreigners (all who were considered the lowest class of their society) were not to be oppressed in any way. There should never be any indication of plotting evil against others for selfish gain or personal agendas.

1 John 3:16-18 – By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet shuts off compassion 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.

Having the ability to share our worldly resources with those in need is certainly one of the most recognizable ways we can demonstrate compassion with others. In this passage, the apostle John equates this kind of compassion with love: the same type of love that Yeshua demonstrated with us.

Yeshua himself taught that no matter who the individual is, the helpless one should be a concern for those who have the ability to help; this is a true demonstration of compassion.

Luke 10:33-35 – But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him. He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this way.’

In this most famous parable of Yeshua regarding the good Samaritan, the illustration is placed before us of the depth of compassion shown to be evident in someone caring for the needs of another, an anonymous individual who had no ability to help themself after being assaulted and left for dead. I can think of no greater example of helplessness than this. We are encouraged to follow the example of the Samaritan in the parable in the summation of the lesson by Yeshua.

Luke 10:36-37 – Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Yeshua said to him, “Go and do the same.”

This mercy or compassion is the quality that should be evident in our lives, even if we do not know the individual who is in need.

In a more subtle way, we can also demonstrate compassion on those with whom we may be at odds due to some unreconciled conflict.

Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

If someone has wronged you, the relationship cannot be restored unless you extend compassion; you are helping someone who cannot get help themselves get past some misunderstanding or offense. This is equally as compassionate as providing food or clothing to those who have none, or very little. If we are to imitate our Father, it has to be in relentlessly building bridges between those who are unyielding in their positions or those whose circumstances will not be changed without some sort of intervention. Our compassion is designed to be the catalyst that drops barriers, opens doors, meets physical needs and sparks understanding. Compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God ultimately wants them to be.

This is the end-goal of the command for us to be merciful and compassionate with others. It has less to do with our obedience and more to do with genuinely desiring to help those who cannot help themselves. When we lay down our own lives (our personal ambitions and plans) for the sake of others, we are then acting in a godly fashion that God expects of his children. To exhibit the characteristics of God by helping the helpless is not only an honor and privilege he affords us, but we also then become the avenues through which God can work in practical ways in their lives.

Through helping the helpless, we demonstrate we are followers of Messiah Yeshua. This is how we bear God’s image in this world. This is how we become God’s workers and co-laborers in the building of the Kingdom.


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.

Trusting God for ransom and atonement

The ancient practice of Israel regarding the Day of Atonement is rooted in the depths of the Torah.

The ancient practice of Israel regarding the Day of Atonement (Yom haKippurim) is rooted in the depths of the Torah.

Leviticus 16:29-31 – “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before Yahweh. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.”

Yom Kippur differs from Passover (Pesach) in that Pesach represents God redeeming his first born people from out of slavery, while Yom Kippur was meant to cleanse and purify sin from the nation. The redemption accomplished at Pesach set the people free from their forced obligation to unwillingly serve the harsh taskmasters of Egypt. God “paid the price” as it were so their indebtedness to slavery was removed and those who sought to drag them back to slavery were wiped out in the Red Sea. But at Yom Kippur, any collective sin that may have been unaccounted for throughout the year was removed from them through the symbolic act of a representative goat that was sacrificed and of a second live goat bearing their sin into the wilderness. As these acts were concluded, the people were to consider themselves cleansed and pure for service to God once again.

Both of these holidays on the biblical calendar balance each other out. One must be delivered from oppression in order to act freely. Yet, with that freedom comes the ability to act rebelliously, wherein a secondary cleansing process is provided to remove that potential sin from the community. In this way, there is no excuse before God as to why an individual might act in defiance to God’s word. He has provided the redemption price from unwilling servitude to sin (represented by Egypt/Pharaoh) and he has also provided the means of ongoing cleansing from inadvertent rebellious acts (due to freedom) through the dual goats at Yom Kippur. Both of these days represent the symbolic work of Messiah Yeshua for the nation of Israel and any who would also place their faith in him. Yeshua became the symbolic ransom of Pesach and also the ongoing cleansing of sin symbolized in the goat ceremony at Yom Kippur.

  • Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:5-6 – For there is one God, [and] one mediator also between God and men, [the] man Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony [given] at the proper time.
  • Hebrews 9:24-26 – For Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.
  • Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

On the day of atonement, one goat was sacrificed, while another had the sins of the nation pronounced upon it and was sent alive out into the wilderness to remove sin from the community. This duality was fulfilled in the imagery provided by not only the death of Messiah as the King of Israel, but also his resurrection to the right hand of the Father as the first-born son of God.

To the common believer in ancient Israel, it required trust in God to know that they were not only ransomed from involuntary solitude at Pesach, but also that their sins were removed from them at Yom Kippur. The work of God among his people has always been by faith.

Romans 1:16-17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Messiah’s sacrificial obedience to the Father not only fulfilled these foreshadowing biblical types, but also demonstrated a life that was yielded 100% by faith to the purpose of God and his kingdom coming to this earth. Our faith in observing these days represents our commitment to God and our faith in him. Setting these days aside to reflect on the marvelous provision of God for his people is representative of our love for him.

Of course, there are no longer any actual animal sacrifices that can be (or should be performed). However, what remains is the potential for our own sacrificial obedience to his word. Observing biblical sabbaths revealed in God’s word is an act of faith, just as it was for the ancient Israelites. It should not be a matter of obligation or duty, but a desire from the heart to recount his faithfulness in these past events and to memorialize these events for our families and future generations within the ever-growing kingdom of God.


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

Vigilance in worship

It takes effort, consistency, and sacrifice to worship God in a way that he desires.

It takes effort, consistency, and sacrifice to worship God in a way that he desires.

Worship today has come to mean many different things to different people. For most, worship is what happens every Sunday at the local church building from 10:30 am to noon. The style of worship varies; some prefer traditional hymns in a quiet, classical style from the European Middle Ages; for others, it is a celebratory party-like atmosphere with flashy performances and contemporary, upbeat tunes. In yet other congregations, it is complete silence, waiting for God’s Spirit to move upon someone to speak and provide insights from God’s holy perspective.

In the Bible, we see that worship encompassed many of these different expressions. The priesthood of Israel had specific and intentional responsibilities within the service of the Temple that had grown and morphed over time. While their primary sacrificial duties were laid down by Moses, as the temple was established in the days of David and Solomon, we find that other duties relative to music and singing became established within the realm of the priestly worship.

1 Chronicles 23:1-5 – When David was old and full of days, he installed his son Solomon as king over Israel. Then he gathered all the leaders of Israel, the priests, and the Levites. The Levites thirty years old or more were counted; the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand by headcount. “Of these,” David said, “twenty-four thousand are to be in charge of the work on Yahweh’s temple, six thousand are to be officers and judges, four thousand are to be gatekeepers, and four thousand are to praise Yahweh with the instruments that I have made for worship.”

These traditions carried on throughout the years and became part of the Israelite priestly and liturgical environment. However, with the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D., the earthly priesthood and the liturgy of the temple worship were abolished. There were no more proscribed rites or ceremonies for the people of God in relation to liturgical worship.

Now, don’t think that I am saying it is somehow wrong or misguided to continue to create songs or sing together to honor and praise God; that is not the point. In fact, believers in Messiah have been encouraged by Paul to do so.

Ephesians 5:18-20 – …be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to Yahweh, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Yeshua Messiah…

Rather, I am describing something that goes beyond any type of liturgical and sometimes mechanical praise toward to God. Even though the second temple was still standing in Paul’s day, God had provided him insights into the future of his Kingdom and the coming age. Paul knew that God was working a spiritual work among his people that would far surpass any physical representation or temple service that God could provide.

When it came to describing the type of worship that was acceptable to God, Paul naturally grabbed hold of a principle taught by Yeshua about what true worship in the service of God looks like:

Romans 12:1 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.

The believers who were presenting themselves, body and spirit, to God were the ones who were honoring the true spirit of worship that God desires. Yeshua had taught this same principle.

John 4:23-24 – “But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Living a life of sacrifice means diligently and consistently laying down our own desires at the feet of God and seeking to accomplish his purpose in our life. This is the path of believers in abiding in him, walking according to his commandments above the demands of the culture around them. To love Yahweh your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, to truly do this, is to walk a sacrificial path of true worship that honors God and brings glory to his name. The new covenant is a martyr’s covenant; we must die to ourselves in order to live for him.

Matthew 16:24-25 – Then Yeshua said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.

This is the heart of true worship: becoming a living sacrifice where every thought is captive to Messiah and every action is an action based on the love of God for all of his Creation. This is where true worship lies, not in the halls of music and self-performance, but in the quiet and determined attitude of self-sacrifice.


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

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.


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