How we can sanctify ourselves for God’s use in any situation

When we refine ourselves in God’s Word, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him.

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or sanctification, and how our ongoing commitment to God’s word distinguishes us beyond just participating in God’s Kingdom in ways that are more beneficial for God’s overall purposes.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Holiness is about being sanctified or set apart for God’s specific purposes. In the example that Paul uses here with Timothy, there is also an ongoing refinement that is similar to recognizing the differences between ordinary plates for everyday use and fine china that would be used for special occasions. There is a cleansing or refining process that he mentions: “those who make themselves clean.”

So, let’s take a closer look at this process of sanctification or being set apart. Sanctification is clearly a process that God performs by calling people to himself but is also partly a process that we are responsible for, as well, as we walk in the way that he has called us to.

To help break this down a little further, I’d like to focus on these two aspects in separate sections; the first part of the equation is God’s calling and setting apart his own for himself. The second part is how we continue that process of sanctification as we live out our lives within the Kingdom.

I believe this first part can best be illustrated by reviewing a parable of Yeshua in which he outlines this process of God calling a people to himself. Now, the context of Yeshua’s parable appears to have been given in the house of one of the Pharisees, who had invited many individuals to a banquet at his home.

Luke 14:1 – “One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely.”

When Yeshua then sees how those who were invited chose the best seats, he taught them with a parable on humility.

Luke 14:7 – “He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves.”

This parable is summarized in the following verses:

Luke 14:10-11 – “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So this lesson in humility spurred on a further conversation, as he then received a question from one of those at the table:

Luke 14:15 – “When one of those who reclined at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!'”

At this point, Yeshua spoke to the group in another parable, the parable of the wedding banquet. It appears to have been one of the central teachings of Yeshua as it is also recorded in a parallel passage in Matthew 22. Here is Matthew’s version regarding who is called.

Matthew 22:1-3 – “Once more Yeshua spoke to them in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to summon [call] those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come.'”

This parable, which as we shall see is also a prophecy, neatly outlines the institution of the Kingdom of God at Messiah’s coming. Those who were invited to the banquet were the Jews, and yet most of them refused to recognize him as their Messiah.

Matthew 22:4-6 – “Again, he sent out other servants and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: See, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.”

This illustrates the period of persecution that was unleashed upon the believers in the first century. Yeshua had warned the religious leaders that they would do these horrendous things, and he also had prepared his followers that this will be done to them.

Matthew 23:34 – “This is why I am sending you [religious leaders] prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.”

Matthew 24:9 – “Then they will hand you [you followers of mine] over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.”

So this parable can be shown to be more than just an illustration of a spiritual truth, but of a coming outworking of God’s purposes, as well. In a declaration of finality, Yeshua then explains the response of the king to those who had refused his call.

Matthew 22:7 – “The king was enraged, and he sent out his troops, killed those murderers, and burned down their city.”

This was the same prophetic foresight that Yeshua predicted in another context.

Luke 21:20 – “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near.”

This actually did occur within that generation, as the city of Jerusalem was burned down and the temple was destroyed, just as Yeshua had predicted.

Now the completion of the parable is summarized succinctly by Luke in his gospel:

Luke 14:21-24 – “…Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’ ” ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’ Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ “

This was an indication that the call of God had to be extended to the Jews first, but when they refused to come, the call or invitation then went out to whomsoever would come.

Peter had proclaimed this same message to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Acts 3:13, 15, 25-26 – “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Yeshua, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him. … You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. … You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Paul reiterated this principle that was also used on his missionary journeys prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. He would visit a city and first present the kingdom message to the Jews, and then to a wider audience, whoever would listen.

Acts 13:45-48 – “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what Yahweh has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles to bring salvation to the end of the earth.”‘ When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honored the word of Yahweh, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Paul also taught the universality of the gospel of the Kingdom message to the Roman congregation.

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

The call or invitation of God was to become universal once the Jews had had an opportunity to respond first; if they rejected it, God would reach out to whoever would listen and believe. In the grandest sense, this opportunity of the Jews to respond to God’s mercy was demonstrated to have been completed once the destruction of Jerusalem had occurred. From that point on, all who would then hear with “ears to hear” would then be invited and called into the Kingdom.

In a moment, we will look more closely at how this calling is worked out in the life of a believer once they have responded favorably to God’s invitation.


So with the completion of the call of God going out specifically to his people of that day and age, the Jews, God’s call then moves into a universal sphere of all who will listen to the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom. This is why Paul and the early believers were so anxious to ensure as many as people as possible could hear and understand the gospel message.

Romans 10:14-15 – “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Once a person has responded to the call of God, God then sets them apart, or sanctifies them by placing them within the body of believers who make up the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:10 – “God has made us what we are. He has created us in Messiah Yeshua to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.”

According to Paul, believers are “created in Messiah Yeshua.” This demonstrates how one becomes initially set apart by believing in Messiah; when that occurs, there is a “new creation” that takes place.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Messiah from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

One becomes born again or born from above, and a new life in a new environment begins. The old worldly perspective no longer applies; all things are made new for the believer.

Additionally, one cannot be a believer without being “in him.” One can say they believe in God and be attached to any religious expression in the world, but one cannot be a believer in the God of the Bible without believing in Yeshua as the Messiah, the one sent by God to free people from bondage to sin.

Okay, now, so far, I realize we have traveled a lot of Scriptural miles today and covered some far-ranging concepts in the process, but let’s return back to the starting point of Paul’s original illustration of dishes and bowls in the large house.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Paul tells Timothy that “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds…” The “large house” can be viewed as the Kingdom of God. Paul is not here discussing the condition of the world at large, but the conditions that exist among God’s own people. At this point, God has sanctified and set apart those who have responded to his call, as we have seen, and the large house can be viewed as where all the activity of the Kingdom takes place.

But now, Paul begins to make a distinction between that which is everyday from that which is special, and he intimates it is a process initiated by the believer by saying, “those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes…”

Not to belabor the illustration, but there appear to be distinctions of sanctification among believers as well. This is not outside the bounds of Scriptural precedent, either.

For example, the Levites were all priests, but the sons of Aaron held specific duties within the overall priesthood. In another example, Yeshua had twelve disciples, but we find Peter, James, and John as a kind of “inner circle” of the disciples, whom Paul semi-sarcastically refers to as “pillars of the faith.”

Galatians 2:9 – “When James, Peter, and John ​– ​those recognized as pillars ​– ​acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

So once we are made pure by the act of God sanctifying us, we have a need to remain pure because of our ongoing association with the world and its influences. The psalmist also ponders this idea of keeping one’s way pure.

Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

In an overall sense, God has set us apart by drawing us to faith in Messiah so that we may do the good things he has prepared for us to do, according to his word. But by continuing to sharpen our obedience to God’s word, we also distinguish ourselves from those in God’s household who are content to remain simply with their sanctification from the world.

In Paul’s example, these are the plates used for ordinary purposes, for the basics of eating and drinking, for the rough and tumble of everyday existence. These are the plates and bowls that have chips and cracks, that have rough edges, blemishes and marks from use. They are serviceable in the uses they are designed for, but they all carry evidence of that use, and are not as likely to be used for special occasions.

By contrast, the gold and silver plates and cups are those which would be used for specific events that are noteworthy: the holiday gatherings with friends and family, or the formal dinners with respected individuals and guests. Paul is implying that, apart from God’s sanctification from the rest of the world, believers can “cleanse themselves” further from rough, ordinary use into something that is more useful to God in special ways. But this has to be an intentional purpose on their part, something that is chosen to do by disciplining themselves in his word to create and maintain the luster and polish required of the fine china.

This is not to be a point of disagreement or schism within the body as if some are “more spiritual” than others, but only a distinction of growth, learning, and application. After all, an acorn is not yet an oak tree, but it contains within it every aspect of the mighty oak. Small seedlings may have sprouted, but they have not yet achieved the heights of the mature oak tree. In this sense, all of us “former acorns” are in various stages of our spiritual development within the Kingdom of God, and we need to support and encourage one another along the way, so that every believer grows to their fullest potential in the time given to us.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

The context of the passage with the dishes, plates, and cups helps us frame a reference for this concept of living worthy of the calling, as Paul had just mentioned it to Timothy a few verses earlier.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.”

This is the same principle that he goes into further detail with the believers in Ephesus, encouraging them to make intentional choices and effort in living the new life, as he puts it, in the “putting on of the new man” or the new self.

Ephesians 4:17-24 – “Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”

The making of the effort to present ourselves unashamedly to God demonstrates our willingness to manifest the great gifts that God has given us. Of course, God can use any vessel for his purpose, fine china or regular plates, but the fine china is designed for the most special of occasions to bear the finest foods. If this is the case, why shouldn’t we seek to improve the opportunities for God to use us by setting ourselves apart in ways that allow him to use us in any situation that he sees fit?

Let me hasten to add this is not in any way a justification for some who would try to intentionally set themselves above others just for the purpose of being considered better or more valuable to God than other believers. If this is the case, then Yeshua’s parable on humility has lost its footing. Instead, we should seek to continually sanctify ourselves not for our glory but for God’s. In this way, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him and provide him the greatest amount of “special dishes” to use as he sets the banquet wide for any and all to come to him.


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

The way of holiness is narrow

The path less traveled holds the greatest reward.

The path less traveled holds the greatest reward.

Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

In reviewing the overarching themes of Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount, many of the concepts overlap with one another and can be classified under several headings. This passage about the broad way and the narrow gate is one of those concepts.

I have typically placed this passage under the heading of vigilance, as one of the most outstanding features of this illustration is how difficult the entrance to the narrow gate is, and how persistent one must be to enter in that way. However, it is not only difficult, but narrow. This narrowness suggests a setting apart, a holiness, of those who seek to follow this way.

The Greek word used for narrow is only used in this one illustration of the way of life being a narrow door or gate. The secondary passage is a similar illustration Yeshua uses in the gospel of Luke.

Luke 13:23-25 – “Lord,” someone asked him, “are only a few people going to be saved? ” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’

Again, Yeshua relates to his hearers how the way is not only difficult (by saying it would be necessary to make every effort), but that it would also be a narrow door. To my way of thinking, this confirms that the way of holiness or being set apart will be evident only in those few (contrasted with the many) who would persist in seeking the things of God, i.e., the narrow way.

What interests me about connecting these two passages in this way with this similar illustration is that the Luke passage is contextually about Yeshua warning that generation that the time (in his day) was short. When judgment was to fall (in the destruction of Jerusalem forty years hence), the door to being rescued from that judgment would be shut. Those of that generation who had rejected the message and teaching of Messiah, seeing that, when it came to pass, Yeshua’s prediction was correct, would suffer the ruin and loss of all that they had believed in. Most of them would lose their lives in the destruction of the city.

In the Mark passage, Yeshua says the broad way that most would travel leads to destruction, meaning ruin or loss. Connecting these two passages in this way highlights the meaning of those who would follow the narrow way would be the holy or set apart remnant, those of Israel who did recognize Yeshua as the Messiah and who diligently and faithfully strove to enter at the narrow gate.

The good news is that this teaching still rings true in the more universal fashion in which it is typically viewed: that most people in the world continue on a wide path to ruin and loss due to their own oblivious lifestyles, while those who are diligently seeking out the things of God end up setting themselves apart by maintaining their focus and journey on the narrow path of holiness and faithfulness to God. This is who we are today, those of us who continue to place our faith in the Messiah. Through our vigilant and persistent following of him, through the narrow gate of Messiah, we have access to the place of safety and fellowship with God.


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

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

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

Operating under the freedom of forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

How to change the world (or at least your corner of it) for God

Understanding why you believe is the strongest root for what you believe.

Core of the Bible podcast #52 – How to change the world (or at least your corner of it) for God

Today we will be exploring the topic of the integrity, and how living out the firm convictions we hold about God’s word can be a shining example to others who don’t know God. These firm beliefs can have a positive influence into the world around us, and ultimately glorify God.

A clear example of this type of successful witness is illustrated by the early life of the prophet Daniel. In his days, the Jewish people had been taken captive to Babylon, and Daniel’s life began to take on a different purpose.

Daniel 1:1, 3, 5, 8 – “During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. … Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. … The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. … But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.”

One of our admonitions from Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount is to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands (Matt. 5:20). Sometimes these external commands take the form of direct regulation, and sometimes these “commands” come in the form of allowances or tolerations of our culture that would violate the purity of our relationship with God. We must resist both forms of this type of cultural influence if we are to maintain our integrity and our holiness as God’s people.

In the case of Daniel and his friends, they were removed from their home and brought to a completely different culture under a new political regime. Even though they were favored within this new dynamic, Daniel and his friends, in their integrity, resolved not to be negatively influenced by this turn of events and to remain loyal to God.

The Hebrew culture that Daniel had been raised in had very specific dietary requirements in order to maintain faithfulness to the Torah, or instruction, of God for his people. This is spoken of in detail in Leviticus 11 where various types of animals are considered “unclean” for consumption by God’s people. These dietary commands were intended to be an indication of the holiness, or set-apartness of God’s people from among the other nations.

Leviticus 11:45-46 – “For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy. This is the law concerning animals, birds, all living creatures that move in the water, and all creatures that swarm on the ground…”

Since Daniel and his companions would have no idea what kind of meats might be provided to them during their captivity, they determined it would be best to stick only to vegetables, since there were no dietary restrictions in Torah regarding vegetable foods.

Now, to me, this demonstrates a high level of integrity that Daniel and his friends possessed. They had been removed from their homeland and were living in a totally different environment. And even though they were captives, they were being treated well. It would have been easy to justify eating whatever was provided to them. However, even given the “freedom” to eat all types of foods and meats in his new environment, Daniel was committed to remain faithful to the requirements of Torah at any cost.

Daniel 1:9-12, 15 – “Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.” Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff … “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. … At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.”

Now there are many people who have taken this information to mean that God desires all people to be vegetarians because of the positive effects of this type of diet on Daniel and his friends. And if someone chooses to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, I wouldn’t contest it. I think it’s totally fine and if done properly it can provide all of the necessary nutrients people need and it can have many healthful benefits. However, I don’t believe that this verse or passage should be used to justify that God desires all people to be vegetarian. Clearly, as mentioned previously in Leviticus 11, God has definitely allowed his people to eat meats, just specific kinds. This, to me, indicates something else was going on here. In this instance of Daniel in Babylon, I believe God was providing a unique case of nourishment for the point of demonstrating his ability to provide for those who remain faithful to him. Daniel and his friends became examples to this chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s staff that their God was able to meet their needs, even if it meant going against the cultural command or regulation of eating the royal rations.


This idea of foods and holiness continued to be an issue into the age of the apostles and the early Messiah believers. This may seem counterintuitive to most believers today because of the general understanding that Yeshua removed all restrictions on unclean foods for believers in the New Covenant. However, I am going to be presenting a different perspective today and one that I hope can at least be considered based on a demonstration of the information and history on this topic.

Regardless of how people today think there were no dietary restrictions on believers, the Bible clearly relates that there were at least some, which was demonstrated by the first council in Jerusalem in Acts 15. Let’s look at that findings of that council to see what those restrictions were.

Acts 15:19-21 – [James speaking] “Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the nations who turn to God, but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood. For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”

Okay, so we can immediately determine a couple of things from this passage. Firstly, there were clearly sexual restrictions, and food restrictions on meat offered to idols, meat that had been strangled (or not bled out), and from blood specifically. These restrictions are all based in Exodus 20, Leviticus 18, and 19.

Exodus 20:4-5 – Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them…” [Food offered to idols would be considered serving the idol].

Leviticus 18:29 – “Any person who does any of these detestable practices is to be cut off from his people.” [The entire chapter there describes in graphic detail a whole list of defiling sexual practices].

Leviticus 19:26 – “You are not to eat anything with blood in it…”

So for believers today to say that there were no Torah dietary restrictions on believers in Messiah after the death and resurrection of Messiah, that is just not the case.

Secondly, this command is being directed at “those among the nations who turn to God.” Who are these people? Well, we know that the Jews had been scattered among the nations to Assyria and Babylon hundreds of years earlier in an event recognized as the Diaspora or Dispersion or Scattering. It is known that many if not most of them continued to live in those areas.

To demonstrate this, let’s review a list of those individuals who had assembled at that significant Pentecost in Jerusalem at the beginning of the apostolic age:

Acts 2:5-6, 8-11 – Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven. When this sound [rushing wind] occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them [the apostles] speaking in his own language. … “How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts), Cretans and Arabs ​– ​we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.”

The study of tongues will have to remain for another time, however, we can see where all of these Jewish believers were living at that time: all over the known world. Additionally, Peter also emphasizes the mission to the Diaspora Jews by assigning his first epistle to those very Jewish believers:

1 Peter 1:1 – “Peter, an apostle of Yeshua Messiah: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…”

You see, non-Jewish Gentiles were not exiles that had been dispersed abroad, but Jewish colonies in these areas were. They were scattered everywhere, and this is why the apostle Paul began missionary journeys to these areas. He would begin first in the synagogue in those towns, and then share the gospel of the kingdom with anyone else who would listen if the Jews of that area rejected his message.

The third thing we can see from the Jerusalem council passage is that the restrictions that they came up with were aimed at those scattered Jews first and foremost. Why? Well James makes the following statement in v. 21: “For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”

Why would he mention anything about Moses and synagogues unless this was who the council’s resolution was aimed at? These facts help us identify that the message of these food restrictions was aimed at Jewish believers and the God-fearers (Gentiles who also worshiped the one true God) and were familiar with the dietary restrictions of Leviticus 11. They would be familiar with it because “every Sabbath day [Moses] was read aloud in the synagogues.”

This also helps us recognize why food offered to idols became such a focus among the early congregations, as idolatry is absolutely forbidden in scripture and would have been a hotly debated topic.

There was much concern among the various congregations regarding the types of foods that would be acceptable to eat, and the potential opportunities to eat unclean foods were many and varied.

There were markets in the urban areas where meat was sold in the nations to where the Jews had been scattered. Sometimes that meat had been offered to idols before being put out for sale to the general public in the market. Also, banquets were routinely held in the shrine of some idol; they didn’t have restaurants in those days. All of these cultural routines had become a source of contention for many of the early believers, because they couldn’t tell if the food they were purchasing or eating, even if it met the dietary restrictions of Leviticus 11, had been previously offered to an idol, thereby in their minds becoming unclean in the sight of the one true God.

The apostle Paul spends quite a bit of several epistles in attempting to address this cultural concern so that believers could maintain their integrity among the nations where they were living, and still remain faithful to God. Most prominently he addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians chapters 8 and 12, and Romans 14. Both of these believing communities at Rome and Corinth were living among idolaters, and would have plenty of opportunity to encounter food offered to idols. Some of the Roman believers had gone so far as to adopt the method of Daniel by only eating vegetables in order to avoid accidentally eating unclean food (Romans 14:2).

The ultimate point through all of this was that there was an emphasis on maintaining integrity and holiness as God’s people among the nations. God had emphasized to his people to “be holy because I am holy” in the context of the dietary restrictions of Leviticus 11, and his New Covenant people in those cultures were trying to maintain that level of integrity in their daily practice.


Now we come to our practices as believers today. Do the food restrictions of Leviticus 11 still apply to believers today? If it was a simple matter of all of Torah being done away with at the cross, as most people hold to in our current time, then the answer would be no, we are not limited in our food choices. However, as many of you who have participated in these podcasts or followed my posts at coreofthebible.org may know, I hold that Torah is eternal, regardless of covenant. I believe this because Yeshua was absolutely clear on this point in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:17-19 – “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

I believe, as Yeshua taught, that only the Torah commands that have been fulfilled are no longer enforceable. This would include things like anything related to the priesthood or tabernacle, since those all foreshadowed the work of Messiah in life and in his substitutionary death on the cross. The commands have not “gone away” for the reason that they can still testify to the truth of Messiah, so that we can still see what they were and how they apply, but they have been fulfilled in Messiah. This is why we no longer have a need for a temple or animal sacrifices.

However, the food laws were not tied to the temple or the priesthood, but to the holiness or the set-apartness of God’s people. God’s people are only holy or set-apart when we live in holy and set-apart ways. We are still commanded in the New Testament writings to be holy.

Ephesians 1:4 – For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

Unless a believer today thinks it’s ok by God to not be holy in all we do, then I believe we are commanded by God’s eternal Torah to abide by those same commands in regard to food. And really, when you pare the list down to its essentials, it essentially limits the modern believer’s diet only in regard to pork and shellfish. While God’s people have always been allowed to eat certain insects, I really don’t plan on beginning that practice.

Let me be quick to add that I believe this really is a personal decision of conscience between God and the individual, at least based on Paul’s instruction in this area. In regards to food practices of New Covenant believers, the term “conscience” is mentioned at least 8 times. Ultimately, Paul says that all things should be done in love, and that:

Romans 14:22-23 – Whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin.”

Look, I’m not going to go around and condemn believers who still eat pork and shellfish because I realize that they are likely simply living in the tradition they were taught; I don’t believe they are being purposely rebellious toward God. I can only share my perspective based on my studies and practices that I have come to know over the years of looking at and reviewing the roots of these types of issues in the ancient cultures and texts. I know I don’t have all the answers, but I do my best to live faithfully to the convictions I do have, and really, that’s all that can be expected of anyone. The issue comes down to one’s understanding of covenant, law, Torah, idolatry, and holiness. These are big topics that require a large scope of wisdom and understanding of ancient cultural practices that in many ways do not make sense to us in our modern world.

What we do need to keep in mind is that integrity is based on our own understanding of God’s word at any given time. As we grow in faith, our understanding of these kinds of things can shift and grow over time, which may require different actions as we come to new awareness of our relationship with our Creator.

What we should focus on is that our commitment to integrity has the ability to influence others through maintaining a set of internal convictions based on God’s word that will not be shaken under any circumstance. This was how Daniel maintained a strong, positive witness for Yahweh even while in captivity in Babylon. This type of strong conviction is a highly valued commodity among all people because it is rarely seen in common practice.

Probably the simplest way to understand all of this information is that it is our obligation as believers to be so thoroughly committed to our faith that through our integrity we become the influencers of those around us, rather than allowing them to influence us. Don’t just know what you believe, but why. Understanding why we allow or don’t allow certain things in our lifestyle practice will provide the strongest witness to outsiders who are curious to understand more about the Bible, God, and Yeshua. These are the types of godly interactions that God can and does use to grow the kingdom, and to change the world.

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

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

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

Faith for those who are about to believe

God counted on visible judgment to spark belief.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 – This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” ​– ​and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Messiah Yeshua might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who [are about to] believe in him for eternal life.

This passage breaks out into two main ideas: v. 15 which relates what must have become a common saying at the time, and then Paul’s encouragement at his example of God’s mercy in v. 16.

The saying “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” was apparently becoming common among the believers as a general declaration of the gospel message. That Yeshua had come to save sinners does sum up this idea; however, in the context of what Paul has written, it appears that it carries an unusual sense of imminency.

This may not be readily apparent upon a surface reading, but I recently noticed that in the Greek text, the phrase that involves believing in Messiah for eternal life is prefaced with the concept of imminency: those being about to, or intending to, believe in Messiah. The literal Greek phrasing is as follows: “I was shown mercy that in me [the] foremost, might display Yeshua Messiah the perfect patience, as a pattern for those being about to believe on him to life eternal.”

It appears as if Paul is implying that something momentous in his day is about to happen that will cause many people to believe in Messiah for eternal life. When they do, they will be able to look at the experience of Paul as a pattern of how gracious God is.

My personal belief is that Paul and the apostles were aware of the impending destruction of Jerusalem as being the motivator for encouraging repentance among the Jewish congregations along with those God-fearers who were participating with them in their worship of the one true God. The urgency with which this judgment and repentance is repeated continually during the message to the scattered Israelites throughout the book of Acts demonstrates this point.

Acts 3:19-23 – “Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, “that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Yeshua, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. “Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning. “Moses said: Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers and sisters. You must listen to everything he tells you. “And everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people.
Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 17:30-31 – “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Acts 24:24-25 – Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Messiah Yeshua. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”
Acts 26:20 – “Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the nations, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.

The apostles kept this repentance and judgment of God at the forefront of their understanding of the times that they were in, and in their teaching to all the people they ministered to.

Because of this, I believe Paul had a sense that when the judgment was going to be poured out on Jerusalem that many Jews and others among the nations who had heard their message would see and understand those events and would become believers in Messiah for eternal life. The righteous judgment of God upon his rebellious people would spark many at that time to place their faith in the Messiah, and in that way, “all Israel,” that is, the believing remnant inclusive of non-Jewish God-fearers, would be saved.

This is why at the end of his discourse on this concept in Romans 9-11, Paul could exclaim:

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.


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

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

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

An invisible, present kingdom and a future certainty

The good news of the kingdom is that it will reach its fulfillment when every heart is in alignment with the principles of the God of the universe.

Core of the Bible podcast #44 – An invisible, present kingdom and a future certainty

Today we will be exploring the topic of the Kingdom of God, and how it was established in the days of Yeshua, is present today, and how it will come to certain fulfillment over all the earth at some point in the future.

To understand this further, we can begin by looking at how Yeshua taught about the kingdom.

Luke 17:20-21 – When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Yeshua replied, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

All throughout his ministry, Yeshua spoke of the nearness of the kingdom. This nearness was to be demonstrated through healings and as a witness against those who would not believe.

Luke 10:9 – “Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’

Luke 10:11 – “‘We are wiping off even the dust of your town that clings to our feet as a witness against you. Know this for certain: The kingdom of God has come near.’

The nearness of the kingdom was also to be the motivation for repentance for his immediate audience.

Matthew 4:17 – From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Therefore, in Yeshua’s teaching, the advent of the kingdom was to be evidenced through miraculous events that would be a witness to those seeing them, and a prompting of repentance for those who wished to be included within it.

In Luke 17, Yeshua is asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom would be established, and Yeshua has to doctrinally reset their expectations. He mentions it would not be something dramatic with an observable political program and a specific location, but was a present reality already changing hearts, minds, and bodies.

This mention of the nearness of the kingdom presents similar challenges even today. Most believers in our day have the same expectation as the Pharisees: that the Messiah of God will come to rule and reign over a physical kingdom, and all nations will be a witness to the power and majesty of God.

However, to hold this view misses the essence of what Yeshua was teaching: the kingdom is not the coming visible manifestation of a political entity, but is an invisible, living community made up of those with changed hearts of obedience toward God.

Commentators have split over the interpretation of the words expressing that the kingdom of God is “in your midst,” or “within/inside you” in verse 21. Even in English, we can sense the similarity of these meanings, and both present different shades of the reality of the kingdom as Yeshua describes it.

Some commentators have chosen to interpret the meaning as “within you,” pointing to the internal nature of being born from above, and how God desired to rule their hearts.

For example, Charles Ellicott had the following opinion:

“The marginal reading, “among you.” has been adopted, somewhat hastily, by most commentators. So taken. the words emphatically assert the actual presence of the Kingdom. It was already in the midst of them at the very time when they were asking when it would appear. The use of the Greek preposition is, however, all but decisive against this interpretation. It is employed for that which is “within,” as contrasted with that which is “without,” as in Matthew 23:26, and in the LXX. version for the “inward parts,” or spiritual nature of man, as contrasted with the outward, as in Psalm 103:1; Psalm 109:22; Isaiah 16:11.

Psalm 103:1 – My soul, bless the LORD, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psalm 109:22 – For I am suffering and needy; my heart is wounded within me.

Isaiah 16:11 – Therefore I moan like the sound of a lyre for Moab, as does my innermost being for Kir-heres.

It was in that [inner] region, in the life which must be born again (John 3:3), that men were to look for the kingdom; and there, whether they accepted it or rejected it, they would find sufficient tokens of its power.”

Other modern commentators have sided with the “in your midst” interpretation citing the fact that the kingdom was already being manifested in that day as Yeshua ministered to the people of Israel.

Here is an example from the Pulpit Commentary:

“That kingdom will be marked out on no map, for, lo, it is even now in your midst. It may be asked – How “in your midst”? Scarcely not as Godet and Olshausen, following Chrysostom, think, “in your hearts.” The kingdom of God could not be said to be in the hearts of those Pharisees to whom the Master was especially directing his words of reply here. It should be rather understood “in the midst of your ranks;” so Meyer and Farrar and others interpret it, Luke 17:21″

With these differing opinions, Albert Barnes states what I believe is a reasonable balance between both positions.

“When an earthly prince visits different parts of his territories, he does it with pomp. His movements attract observation, and become the common topic of conversation. The inquiry is, Where is he? which way will he go? and it is a matter of important “news” to be able to say where he is. Jesus says that the Messiah would not come in that manner. It would not be with such pomp and public attention. It would be silent, obscure, and attracting comparatively little notice. Or the passage may have reference to the custom of the “pretended” Messiahs, who appeared in this manner. They said that in this place or in that, in this mountain or that desert, they would show signs that would convince the people that they were the Messiah. Compare the notes at Acts 5:36-37.

Acts 5:36-37 – “Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. “After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered.

“Is within you – This is capable of two interpretations.

1. The reign of God is “in the heart.” It does not come with pomp and splendor, like the reign of temporal kings, merely to control the external “actions” and strike the senses of people with awe, but it reigns in the heart by the law of God; it sets up its dominion over the passions, and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

2. It may mean the new dispensation is “even now among you.” The Messiah has come. John has ushered in the kingdom of God, and you are not to expect the appearance of the Messiah with great pomp and splendor, for he is now among you. Most critics at present incline to this latter interpretation. The ancient versions chiefly follow the former.”

To my way of thinking, there exists a difference of meaning because both interpretations have merit. Both present the obvious truth that Yeshua was making with the Pharisees: whether internal to each individual or already present in their midst, either way, the coming of the kingdom has nothing to do with the setting up of a visible organization or entity ruling over the entire earth, and this is what they were hoping for a messiah to come and do.

—-

How like the Pharisaical expectation is the modern expectation of a returning Messiah to defeat all of the enemies of God and to physically rule and reign from a physical throne in the physical city of Jerusalem. To hold to this view is to disregard passages speaking of the spiritual nature of the New Jerusalem to to which we are called, not the physical location.

For example, after recounting the dramatic appearance of the revelation of God at Mt. Sinai, the writer to the Hebrews says this:

Hebrews 12:22-24 – Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.

This is the “city” that we have been called to!

The apostle Paul, contrasting fleshly Israel with God’s true spiritual people, writes:

Galatians 4:26 – But the Jerusalem above [that is, the heavenly or spiritual Jerusalem] is free, and she is our mother.

Unfortunately, it appears that Christians today have fallen into the same false hope of the religious elite of Yeshua’s day, and misunderstand his purpose and goal for God’s people. The kingdom of God was established by Yeshua and continues to grow to this day.

That the kingdom of God has already been established during the lifetime of Yeshua and the disciples is a fact that is borne out by several historical factors that are brought out within the Word of God.

One of the most foundational aspects is the fulfilled prophecy of Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

In Daniel 2, the king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that he did not understand, in which he saw an image made of various metals: gold, silver, bronze, and iron mixed with clay. Daniel interprets each of those metals to be representative of various empires that would be established from his days forward into their future.

Almost all commentators agree the final kingdom of iron mixed with clay was the Roman empire. Daniel predicts that the kingdom of God, an eternal kingdom, would be set up or established “in the days of those kings.”

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

Whatever eternal kingdom God was establishing would therefore have to be established prior to the demise of the final earthly empire of the vision: the Roman empire.

If Yeshua was successful in establishing the kingdom of God “in the days” of the Roman empire, then this prophetic vision has been fulfilled, at least to its establishment in time. The fullness of its fulfilment, the crushing and ending of all other kingdoms, is still in process.

Other indications that the kingdom was established in that first century timeframe was that Yeshua provides some timing markers within various teachings.

For example,

Matthew 11:12 – “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force.

Yeshua is here indicating that the kingdom of God had been in the process of being established since the preaching of John the baptizer which preceded even his own ministry.

In another place, Yeshua says to his detractors:

Matthew 12:28 – “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Essentially, Yeshua is saying that if miraculous healings are taking place by God’s Spirit working through me, these things are outward evidence that the kingdom of God is being established.

Matthew 16:28 – “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Most clearly, Yeshua made reference to the fact that the kingdom would be firmly established within the physical lifetime of some of his disciples.

Based on these various indicators, I believe that the kingdom was being established internally within the hearts of God’s people during the life and ministry of John the baptizer and Yeshua. This invisible kingdom of God ruling hearts was being evidenced by the outward workings of extraordinary miracles of conversions and healings.

After the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the disciples carried the gospel message of this kingdom to the scattered tribes of Israel among the nations. The culmination of the establishment of the eternal kingdom was finalized at the destruction of Jerusalem, when the old system of Judaic sacrifice, symbolized by the temple, was destroyed and eradicated forever, never to be rebuilt.

Because the eternal kingdom was to be established “in the days of those kings,” there would be no end to it. It would continue to grow until it filled the earth.

This is where I believe we are now in the biblical timeline of events. God’s kingdom has been firmly established two millennia ago, and has been growing and spreading, ebbing and flowing like a rising tide throughout the world during each successive generation.

Yeshua told a parable of the kingdom expressing how the kingdom would grow over time, not be established in an instant.

Matthew 13:31-32 – “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. “It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”

This parable is a metaphor for how the kingdom would grow over time, like any other living thing God has created. But even as it grows, the kingdom is being manifested every day in the lives of believers through their changed hearts, minds, and bodies. As we learn and place God’s commands within our hearts by faith, we then begin to express outward actions in accordance with his will by that same faith. Those outward actions then influence the individuals around us as an outward demonstration of the inward reality of the invisible kingdom, and the outward reality of the kingdom adds another branch, another area for animals to metaphorically enjoy its shade and perch within its protective covering.

The good news of the kingdom is that it will reach its fulfillment when every heart is in alignment with the principles of the God of the universe. The prophetic certainty is that it will take place, we just don’t know when. Since it has already been going on for over two thousand years, we need to understand the full growth and maturity of the tree in Yeshua’s parable may still not happen for hundreds or possibly even thousands of years. This may sound foreign to modern evangelical ears, but this is the pattern and projection of God’s Word and sure prophecy regarding his kingdom on this earth. Two thousand years in light of an eternal kingdom is only the beginning.

This should not be a cause for dismay, but one of energizing hope for the future of all people, and for our participation in being co-laborers with God in bringing this to pass! Our role is to faithfully pass that baton to each successive generation, and it will all be fulfilled in God’s perfect timing and within his purpose. Each heart won with the gospel or good news of the eternal, invisible kingdom is another place where God’s kingdom is established. It is promised to continue to grow until God is “all in all,” (1 Cor. 15:28). In that day, there will be no need for a physical representative kingdom, because God will be ruling every heart as he intended from the beginning, and all the world will culminate in manifesting his glory and majesty.


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

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

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

Biblical meekness that inherits the earth

The biblical definition of meekness provides the basis of integrity

Core of the Bible Podcast #38 – Biblical meekness that inherits the earth

Today we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how integrity is vividly illustrated in the concept of biblical meekness.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

What I would like to do today is to look at the two main aspects of this principle of Yeshua: what the Bible says this meekness or gentleness is, and then to review what inheriting the earth is all about.

Looking at some modern definitions of the word “meek” present us with ideas like “easily imposed on” or “overly submissive.” Words like “weak, timid, soft, and yielding” are also considered modern synonyms.

Yet, if you were to look a little further into some of the archaic definitions, you would find “gentle” and “kind.”

As is typically the case, in shifting between languages throughout time certain meanings are lost and others are gained. Looking at definitions derived from the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible we come up with some definitions that provide a different emphasis.

For example, the Easton Bible dictionary says that meekness is “a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked.”

Friberg Lexicon says that meekness is as “a mild and friendly disposition, gentle, kind, considerate.”

Bauer’s Lexicon says meekness is when a person is “not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance, gentle, humble, considerate.”

What Yeshua is expressing here when he says the meek shall inherit the earth is certainly not timidity or weakness, but rather strength that is under complete control, having the ability to demonstrate great power without harshness. This is a vital ingredient in the make up of the integrity of a believer.

This is a non-intuitive way of viewing power in general, as we typically associate power with directness and abruptness of absolute authority or influence. However, the quality spoken of here is one of constancy of purpose and direction, yet having the ability to convey that definitive purpose in a way that is steady and unyielding but without being severe.

I had recently come across an article from Llewelyn Martin, writing over at Pilgrim Ministries, that conveys a sense of this nature of Moses and how we should view his actions and behavior along with those of Yeshua.

“Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Vine’s defines meekness like this: “It is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God.” It is the attitude of accepting God’s work in our lives without disputing or resisting what He brings our way. It is the ability to see everything that comes along as something that God allows and wants to use to strengthen and purify our character. Whether it is circumstances that are contrary to our plan or people that insult or injure us, we realize that God has allowed it to purify us. It is complete reliance on God in what He asks of us or brings to us.

We tend to view meekness as weakness or mildness; however, in reality, meekness is strength. We know that Jesus was meek, but He was not weak. It took strength to meekly accept God’s lot for His life without using all the resources at His disposal to avoid it. He instead laid that all aside to follow through with God’s plan for Him. Meekness is the ability to use God’s power to fulfill His will when we have the power and ability to follow our own plan or defend ourselves. It is not being at the end of our rope and then needing to rely on God. It is having rope left but choosing instead to accept God’s plan. Therefore, meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness or self-interest. It is the calmness of spirit that is neither self-exulting nor self-degrading; it is not preoccupied with self at all. Meekness can only be realized through the Holy Spirit empowering our lives.

-Llewellyn Martin, Moses the Meekest Man

Moses The Meekest Man | Pilgrim Ministry

That biblically meek men can be influential leaders was also brought into focus by an article I found at Perspective Digest. This excerpt highlights the driving force behind biblical meekness which is a patient yet firm conviction of God’s will.

Review of the biblical use of the term translated as “meek” pertaining to Moses (Num. 12:3), provides good insight into Old Testament significance of this quality. Though at times synonymous (and even confused) with the related word translated “poor” or “afflicted,” the term’s 18 most certain occurrences never represent high social standing or popular esteem. …

For meekness as leadership principle is neither dependent on popular permission, nor on personal whim and preference. It is controlled neither by social status nor by personal will. It is the simple conviction that this is what God, unique and supreme Authority, has required and would will. It is doing what God says to do regardless. Patience with human perversity is part and parcel of such leadership, for the crowds do eventually follow, however reluctantly. But however unwilling the multitude may prove to be, God will still lead, and His meek human agent will lead by following Him (Ps. 25:9). Such single-minded, shame-despising commitment was and is the leadership of Jesus (Heb. 12:2), and of His servant Moses.

  • Lael Caesar, Moses’ Meek Leadership

Perspective Digest : Moses’ Meek Leadership

Believers are encouraged to have this quality of great strength and capability within humble and steady control, coupled with respect and kindness for others.

Titus 3:1-2 – Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Some other words from other versions of verse 2 use language like, “they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone,” or “to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

Biblical meekness is powerful because it is also one of the visible fruits of God’s holy Spirit working within us:

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This Biblical meekness or strength that is under humble control can be likened to a forest stream as it winds its way down a mountain in the wilderness. The power of the water is steady and unyielding, yet it doesn’t flow in a straight line from the top of the mountain to the sea into which it empties itself. It flows over and around rocks and obstacles as it makes its journey, softening the edges of hard rock and scooping bits of soil and pebbles in its path and carrying them away. Over time, its effects become more prominent as the channel for the stream becomes deeper and more defined. While, from one perspective, the water can be thought of as yielding to the hard rocks along the way, it is actually molding, shaping, and moving the mountain as it flows over and around the rocks and pebbles in its path.

Matthew 11:29 – Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Yeshua encourages us to learn of this biblical meekness from him. When we take it to heart and actually practice this with those around us, our strength that is under control can positively influence the hardened and sharpened opinions of the world around us.


Now that we have a broader understanding of biblical meekness and how we should exercise this same quality that Yeshua had, how is it that this quality allows believers to inherit the earth? Well, we can begin to understand this better when we recognize that when Yeshua was saying that the meek shall inherit the earth, he was actually referencing a quote from one of the Psalms.

Psalm 37:11 – But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

However, in Psalm 37, the contextual reference is to the land as an eternal inheritance, not the earth as a whole. The Hebrew word for earth (eretz) can be translated as either “earth” meaning the whole globe, or “land” as in the land of Israel. It is up to the translator to choose the usage.

We can see the land referenced throughout this Psalm:

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. …

9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. …

11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. …

22 for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. …

29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. …

34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

The reason that using the word land instead of earth in these passages is preferred is that this same type of language of inheriting the land is all through the Old Covenant. This was the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his descendants.

Genesis 12:7 – Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 13:17 – Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 15:18 – On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…”

In that last passage, the land is even physically described as being bordered by Egypt to the Euphrates, the physical land of Israel.

To Isaac, God said, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father,” (Genesis 26:3).

To Jacob he said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring,” (Genesis 28:13).

So to inherit the land was the result of faithfulness and obedience to God. Conversely, to not enter or to be cut off from the land was language that defined the consequences of unbelief.

Numbers 32:11 – ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me…

Deuteronomy 28:58, 63-66 – “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the LORD your God, … “It shall come about … you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life.

This is the state of the wicked and unrepentant: to be cut off from the land.

God told Solomon: 1 Kings 9:6-7 – “But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

So we see that the land was instrumental to the promises and purpose of God for national Israel. These promises then reached their fulfillment within the spiritual kingdom of God.


When Yeshua said the meek shall inherit the earth, I believe he used this phrase of inheriting the land metaphorically, applying it directly to the kingdom that emanates from heaven. This can be demonstrated by looking at the immediate context of the teaching of meekness within the Sermon on the Mount:

Mat 5:3, 5, 10 3 Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … 5 Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth [land]. … 10 Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore, if Yeshua used references to the land inheritance to metaphorically stand for the Kingdom, then I believe we can also. God gave national Israel (physical descendants of Abraham) the Land; he gives believers (spiritual descendants of Abraham) the Kingdom.

Luke 12:32 – “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Therefore, we now come to the final aspect of this land question. If the land was to be given to Israel forever, then why did this not come to pass, as they were removed through several different scatterings through the ancient empires of Assyria, Babylon and Rome?

I believe this has to do with the nature of the eternal promise, and its fulfillment in the kingdom of God.

We know that nothing on this earth is eternal. The apostle Paul even taught that everything which can be seen is temporary.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

By that logic, the land is something that can be seen and is therefore not an eternal possession in and of itself. I believe these references to an eternal land are foreshadowing the everlasting kingdom, the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of heaven.

The prophetic Zion is mentioned as having everlasting qualities.

Psalm 125:1 – Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.

Psalm 146:10 – The LORD will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

Micah 4:7 – “I will make the lame a remnant And the outcasts a strong nation, And the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion From now on and forever.

This is also as the writer to the Hebrews relates when he ties all of this imagery together:

Hebrews 12:22 – But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…

He even carries forward the promise of the land that was made to Abraham as a promise that even Abraham knew was something larger, more permanent, and a future possession:

Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-14, 16 – By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign [land,] dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. … All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. … But as it is, they desire a better [country,] that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Psalm 125:1 reads: Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.” In an allusion back to this passage, the writer of Hebrews also mentions how the kingdom of God cannot be shaken.

Hebrews 12:27-28 – This [expression,] “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;

This kingdom which cannot be shaken is the New Jerusalem, Mount Zion, representative of the kingdom of heaven. Just as the physically faithful inherited the physical land, then the spiritually faithful inherit the spiritual kingdom. This is the kingdom that was prophesied to spread to all kingdoms, and last forever.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and [that] kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.

Daniel 7:13-14 – “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and [men of every] language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

As this kingdom is to be spread over the entire earth, then in a very real way, the meek shall indeed inherit the earth, with the caveat that it will be so when the realization of the heavenly kingdom is over all the earth.

So to summarize a lot of broad-ranging information today, we can see that Yeshua’s saying that “the meek shall inherit the earth” is indeed a reality that is underway and growing to fulfillment with each passing day.

The concept of biblical meekness or gentleness is strength under control, flexible but unyielding, having a powerful purpose but adapting to its environment while accomplishing its ends.

This is the force that overcomes the mighty and powerful, beating swords into plowshares, replacing the kingdoms of men with the kingdom of God, as believers remain firm on the principles of God’s kingdom. We, as the biblical meek, are the stream cascading down the mountain of God, smoothing the rough stones and scooping up the willing along its way into the vast ocean of eternity.

As believers are diligent in bringing about this integrity of gentleness in expressing God’s powerful purpose around them, anything is possible. The world of rebellious men becomes the possession of God as willing hearts turn to him. To him every knee shall bow, and to him every knee shall confess. This is the type of power that truly inherits the earth.

The kingdom which spans multiple ages and realities

We would expect nothing less of an eternal kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is an historical establishment, a present possession and a future reality.

The kingdom was present throughout the history of the Tanakh (Old Testament). The revelation of God at Sinai began a formal assembly of what would become God’s people.

Exodus 19:5-6 – “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, “and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

Through the kingdom of Israel, the Torah or Word of God was established and made known. This historical aspect of the kingdom of God was brought to fruition when its prophesied head, the Messiah, taught of its principles to the generation of that age.

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Matthew 5:19 – “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 9:35 – Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.

Yet, there was a sense of the kingdom that had not fully come yet, as the Messiah taught that the kingdom was always near but had not yet fully appeared in this reality.

Matthew 3:2 – and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near! “
Matthew 4:17 – From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew 10:7 – “As you go, proclaim: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’
Mark 1:15 – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! “

Beyond these urgent admonitions for repentance, there was a sense in which Messiah conveyed that the kingdom would come in a new way before that generation all passed away. When certain signs of judgment were to be fulfilled, they would know that it was “even at the door,” i.e., extremely imminent.

Matthew 24:33-34 – “In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near ​– ​at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.
Mark 13:29 – “In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that it is near ​– ​at the door.
Luke 21:31 – “In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

The reason the kingdom almost always appears to always be a future reality is because the writers of the Bible were living at a time where it had not fully blossomed into this reality. At the destruction of Jerusalem, when the old order of things had passed away, when the end of the age of national Israel had come, then could the next age, the age of the spiritual kingdom of God, begin to take hold in this world.

The early believers, the faithful remnant, were the seed that was planted among the nations. At the culmination of that age, the seed that had been planted in the soils of tribulation and watered with the blood of the martyrs then began to shoot forth. The work that was done among the fields of harvest of that chosen generation then began to bear fruit as the teachings of Messiah were taken up by those who had witnessed these things. As the writings of the apostles had been distributed to the congregations among the various nations of the Diaspora, the Tanakh was validated and the entirety of the Word of God began to spread.

Even while the apostles and early believers recognized that they were living at the end of that age, there was still a sense of the kingdom that they knew was beyond this present reality, an eternal inheritance that lie outside of this Created order. It was the inheritance of a heavenly kingdom, one that could only be entered when this earthly life is through.

2 Timothy 4:18 – The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.
2 Peter 1:10-11 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
1 Corinthians 15:49-50 – And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we will also bear the image of the man of heaven [Messiah]. What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption.

While we in this age can experience a spiritual communion with God and with his Messiah in the present spiritual kingdom of God, there remains as a hope for believers today a heavenly kingdom, an eternal reality beyond this Creation, the kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe…


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

Compassion never abandons others

Where there is compassion, there is always hope.

However, in your abundant compassion, you did not destroy them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and compassionate God.

Nehemiah 9:31

The book of Nehemiah recounts how Israel was restored to their land after the captivity of Babylon, and how they rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and reestablished worship in the temple.

As part of the rededication process, the people were read the books of the law, and the process culminated in a prayer by the Levites to renew the covenant. During this prayer, the history of Israel and their lapses of faithfulness are also recounted, as a means of eliciting the repentance of the people.

You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky and brought them to the land you told their ancestors to go in and possess.  So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them.  They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in your great goodness.  But they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They flung your law behind their backs and killed your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to you. They committed terrible blasphemies.  So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies.  But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in your sight. So you abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven and rescued them many times in your compassion.  You warned them to turn back to your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey.  You were patient with them for many years, and your Spirit warned them through your prophets, but they would not listen. Therefore, you handed them over to the surrounding peoples.

Nehemiah 9:23-30

But then, the merciful intervention of God is mentioned, and his deep compassion for his people.

However, in your abundant compassion, you did not destroy them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and compassionate God.

Nehemiah 9:31

Even though the Israelites demonstrated unfaithfulness time and time again, God never abandoned them. Some other translations may use the word forsake instead of abandon, but, to me, the word abandon captures the stark reality of what a forsaken individual or people stands in peril of. To be abandoned is to be unable to change the current situation without outside help. To be abandoned is to be left behind while care and concern are administered to others. To be abandoned is to have no hope. God demonstrated for all time that those with compassion do not abandon others in hopeless situations.

As God’s children, we are called to be a compassionate people, just as our Father is compassionate. Compassionate people provide help and hope and love to those who otherwise cannot receive it unless we are the ones who do so. If we are faithful in this calling, then we open up opportunities to likewise receive ongoing compassion from God and others, as well. 

Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall receive compassion.

Matthew 5:7

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

Vigilance and hard work are necessary for establishing the kingdom of God

Each generation requires the kingdom to be reestablished in its midst.

The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.

Nehemiah 4:17-18

The story of Nehemiah is one of reestablishing God’s presence in Jerusalem after the exile of the nation in Persia. God has placed in the heart of Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem to protect those living there against their enemies in the area.

While the historical account has merit for describing the return of the Jewish exiles, it also carries some analogous themes for the vigilance required in establishing the kingdom of God within each generation.

The kingdom has a central place of ancestral lineage as a figure: the city of Jerusalem.
1:5 Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it.”

It is a disgrace for the city to lie in ruins.
1:17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.”

Those outside the city are opposed to its presence.
1:10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

The ones reestablishing the presence of the kingdom meet with resistance.
4:7-8 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and the gaps were beginning to be closed, they were very angry, and all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.

Countering the resistance requires a sharp vigilance while the work progresses.
4:17-18 The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.

Those involved with the construction are relying on God’s strength and protection to accomplish the work.
4:4, 9 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their taunt back on their own heads, and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 9 So we prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

Infighting needed to be identified and resolved
5:5, 9-11 Now our flesh is the same as that of our kindred; our children are the same as their children; and yet we are forcing our sons and daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been ravished; we are powerless, and our fields and vineyards now belong to others.” … 9 So I said [to the leaders], “The thing that you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God, to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? 10 Moreover I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us stop this taking of interest. 11 Restore to them, this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the interest on money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.”

The Torah of God was central to the community
8:2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

The people collectively confess and agree to follow God’s instruction
9:38 Because of all this we make a firm agreement in writing, and on that sealed document are inscribed the names of our officials, our Levites, and our priests.

The community purifies itself
13:3, 30 When the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent. … Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign

While this is not an exhaustive list of themes, they briefly outline the level of vigilance necessary in the work of establishing the kingdom in a hostile environment. As we seek to work alongside God in growing his kingdom in this world, we can take to heart his responsiveness and favor as we cautiously but diligently set ourselves apart to fulfill the work in each generation.

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