The amazing news of the Kingdom of God

The object lesson of the nation of Israel was fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua.

“It shall come to pass that, as you were a curse among the nations, house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Don’t be afraid. Let your hands be strong.”

Zechariah 8:13

In the time in ministry of Zechariah, Israel and Judah had been taken captive into the nations and had lost their temple in their homeland due to their disobedience. In all of this time, they wondered if God would ever restore their nation. As Zechariah’s prophecies continued to unfold, it was revealed to them that they would return to their land and they would be a blessing and their fortunes would be restored.

Zechariah 8:11-13: “But now I will not be to the remnant of this people as in the former days,” says Yahweh of Armies. “For the seed of peace and the vine will yield its fruit, and the ground will give its increase, and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things. It shall come to pass that, as you were a curse among the nations, house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Don’t be afraid. Let your hands be strong.”

This wasn’t just good news, this was amazing and wonderful news! God was planting the seed for the establishment of not just the physical kingdom of Israel, but the eternal kingdom of God on earth.

From the early beginnings of Yeshua’s public ministry, this very concept of the good news of God‘s kingdom was recorded as the first message he preached in the synagogue in his hometown.

Luke 4:16-21 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written:  The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. He began by saying to them, Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.

This focus on the amazing news of the revelation of the kingdom of God continued as he went about doing good among all the villages of Israel.

Mark 1:14-15: “Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.””

The nation of Israel had been God‘s demonstration of power to the world. They also became the object lesson of faithlessness and faithfulness. In their faithlessness, they were removed from the land and scattered among the nations. In their faithfulness, they were restored to their land and received the promised inheritance; not just in the physical land, but of the full spiritual riches that God intended for all people through his chosen son, Messiah Yeshua.

Galatians 3:14: “that the blessing of Abraham might come on the nations through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

The kingdom of God had moved from the natural into the spiritual, and would be expanded to all nations. This was the amazing news of Yeshua and the early believers! As a spiritual kingdom, it could now be eternal and last from generation to generation without end. This is the kingdom that believers today are a part of, as we seek the God of Israel and as we seek to remain faithful to his Torah, or Word, and his Messiah, Yeshua.


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.

The maturity of forgiveness

When we are forgiving of others, we are not only setting an individual free from condemnation, we are also setting ourselves free from the emotional bondage created by our insistence on holding that condemnation over their heads.

Core of the Bible podcast #28 – The maturity of forgiveness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, especially as forgiveness reigns over judgment, and how forgiveness is a sign of emotional and spiritual maturity.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:36-37

When we typically think of the quality of forgiveness, it’s usually placed as a virtue that is opposite hatred. To forgive is to love and not to hate. However, in this passage, we find that mercy and forgiveness are placed in direct contrast not with hatred, but with condemnation and judgment.

In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, it says “Seek not to judge at all. If you must judge, be not eager to condemn.”

Albert Barnes writes: “This command [to not judge] refers to rash, censorious, and unjust judgment.” He continues this thought by saying, “people are prone to be severe judges of others.”

Of course, it’s easy to condemn someone else, but that type of condemnation is not always based on all of the facts. Additionally, if we are overly judgmental of others, we may be guilty of committing the same acts.

For example, consider the passage of the woman caught in adultery in John 8.

John 8:3-11 – Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. “In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? ” They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? ”  “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Recognize it was primarily the scribes and Pharisees who were confronted with their hypocrisy.

Or consider the situation of David when the prophet Nathan confronts him on his affair with Bathsheba:

2 Samuel 12:1-7, 9, 13  – So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very large flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised her, and she grew up with him and with his children. From his meager food she would eat, from his cup she would drink, and in his arms she would sleep. She was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.  David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! “Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.”  Nathan replied to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD God of Israel says: You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife ​– ​you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword.” …  David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Hypocrisy and unjust judgment go hand in hand. Barnes concludes: “the heart is deceitful. When we judge others we should make it a rule to examine ourselves on that very point. Such an examination might greatly mitigate the severity of our judgment; or might turn the whole of our indignation against ourselves.”

When we are condemning and judgmental, we are are out of balance with God’s ideal, and we then place ourselves in the path of accountability with God himself.

Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Yeshua teaches us to not be critical of others. In this teaching, he highlights that there is a balance, or a universal equity that God maintains. If an individual is overly critical of others, the same level of critical judgment will be applied to them. This is not only conveyed in the treatment received by others, but in respect to our ultimate accountability to God.

Albert Barnes writes, ” You shall be judged by the same rule which you apply to others. It refers no less to the way in which people will judge of us, than to the rule by which God will judge us.”

John Gill adds, “Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; censure not men’s persons, and judge not their state, or adjudge them to condemnation for every offence in practice, or because they differ in principle, lest you should be treated in like manner by others; and especially, lest you should fall under the righteous censure, judgment, and condemnation of God.”

This condemnation by God is not always recognized by others because the timing of this judgment does not always immediately follow an infraction. However, the Bible promises that justice will always be realized in the balance of God’s Creation, in his time.

Now by contrast, there is fair judgment as a legitimate function of our abilities, and it provides a necessary distinction between right and wrong. We rely on our judgment to ensure that fairness is being practiced or demonstrated. Consider what Albert Barnes writes in regard to this aspect of judgment:

“Christ does not condemn judging as a magistrate, for that, when according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does he condemn our “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, for it is impossible ‘not’ to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every palliating [or disguised] circumstance, and a habit of ‘expressing’ such an opinion harshly and unnecessarily when formed. It rather refers to private judgment than ‘judicial,’ and perhaps primarily to the customs of the scribes and Pharisees.”

This fairness type of judgment is not a complex function of humans. For example, even toddlers can recognize when playmates are being fair or unfair when it comes to sharing toys.

However, where judgment becomes problematic is when it is no longer used as a tool of objective equity, but when it becomes a method of abusing our relationships with those who may not agree with us. We may be quick to pronounce judgment before understanding all of the facts of a particular situation, or we may be over-zealous to condemn a quality that we ourselves demonstrate on occasion, just as David did.

Once we have embedded our perception of a situation, or closed our mind to new data about what may have actually happened, we have shut off the potential for further interaction or possible reconciliation, and when that happens, condemnation typically results.


Now that we have detailed many different aspects of judgment and condemnation, let’s focus on the balance of forgiveness. By contrast, forgiveness is a quality that sits outside of judgment. When judgment is the primary objective, the possibility of forgiveness becomes diminished. When maintaining or restoring a relationship is a primary objective, then the potential for forgiveness increases. Both are necessary, but both serve different purposes.

Forgiveness is a more abstract quality that requires an increased level of maturity over just determining what’s right and wrong. There has to not only be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed, but another “something” beyond the understanding of that wrong or that perceived imbalance of equity, that is still willing to reach out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

Referring to Vincent’s Word Studies, the Greek word for forgive has another nuanced meaning.

“Lit., release. … Christ exhorts to the opposite of what he has just forbidden: “do not condemn, but release.”

When we forgive someone, we release them from condemnation; that’s what forgiveness is. The condemnation appears to us as a deserved punishment for some infraction. However, forgiveness provides a release; that person is now set free.

Additionally, a release is just as effective emotionally for us because now we no longer have to hold that infraction against that individual. Holding grudges consumes large amounts of emotional energy that can be better used in building positive relationships. When we are forgiving of others, we are not only setting an individual free from condemnation, we are also setting ourselves free from the emotional bondage created by our insistence on holding that condemnation over their heads.

Here’s an interesting perspective that you may not have considered when reading this passage in Luke 6. Following closely on the heels of this admonition to forgiveness, Yeshua then introduces the blessings of generosity.

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure ​– ​pressed down, shaken together, and running over ​– ​will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Rather than making this solely about giving of our resources to needy individuals (which is still an important and valid concept), if we keep the immediate context of judgment and forgiveness, we find that this concept of generosity actually applies to the topic at hand and connects forgiveness with generosity. When we forgive, we are being generous; generous with our mercy, generous with our emotions, and generous with our friendships. This generosity of action, according to Yeshua, leads to that generosity being returned to us many times over. When we are generous forgivers, forgiveness comes back to us over and over.

The Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary puts it this way:

this form of mercy is suggested by Matthew 7:2, [to] be giving, implying a constant habit, and therefore a generous nature.— good, generous measure; these words and those which follow apply to man’s giving as well as to the recompense with which the generous giver shall be rewarded.—pressed down, shaken, and overflowing…”

John Gill presents an interesting analysis of the cosmic retribution or balance that was evident among the Hebrew thinking of the day, and is also evident within specific patterns and stories presented in the Bible.

“And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. This was an usual proverb among the Jews; it is sometimes delivered out thus, “measure against measure”; but oftener thus and nearer the form of it here, “with what measure a man measures, they measure to him”: one might fill up almost a page, in referring to places, where it is used in this form:”

And he provides the following biblical examples:

“With what measure a man measures, they measure to him”; so the woman suspected of adultery, she adorned herself to commit sin, and God dishonoured her; she exposed herself to iniquity, God therefore stripped her naked; the same part of her body in which her sin begun, her punishment did.

Samson walked after his eyes, and therefore the Philistines plucked out his eyes.

Absalom was lifted up in his mind, with his hair, and therefore he was hanged by it; and because he lay with his father’s ten concubines, they therefore pierced him with ten lances; and because he stole away three hearts, the heart of his father, the heart of the sanhedrim, and the heart of Israel, therefore he was thrust with three darts: and so it is with respect to good things;

Miriam waited for Moses one hour, therefore the Israelites waited for her seven days in the wilderness;

Joseph, who was greater than his brethren, buried his father;

and Moses, who was the greatest among the Israelites took care of the bones of Joseph, and God himself buried Moses.”

This commentary and excerpts from Jewish writings demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of this principle recognized by Jewish writers throughout their history and their writings. All throughout God’s word we see this balance of righteousness being meted out. This principle applies in all situations, at all times.

Through recognition of the reality of this universal balance that God maintains, on even the most basic of levels we should be challenged to grow in maturity in our relationships and our dealings with others. If we are truly intent on keeping God’s word and honestly serving him in all things, then our hearts should be filled with love and forgiveness and it will in like fashion be returned to us, many times over, both from men and God. As we continually plant seeds of forgiveness through acts of mercy, we will find they will ultimately blossom into genuine and reciprocal love.


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.

The separation of the righteous is holiness

Living in this world means there will always be a distinction between the people of God and everyone else.

See that you walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and men of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Proverbs 2:20-22

God is a god of distinction; everything in his creation is set against its opposite: light and darkness, high and low, near and far, good and bad. In Hebrew thought, this duality is what actually defines the created world; everything stands in contrast with something else.

In a similar way, holiness is a process of being set apart. A contrast is created; a distinction between one thing or person and something or someone else. The vessels of the tabernacle were holy because they served a unique and special purpose in the tabernacle. The priests were holy because they served a unique and special purpose in the work and operation of the tabernacle. In a similar fashion, God’s people are holy because they are set apart for a unique and special purpose.

Yeshua alluded to this principle as he shared the dynamic of the kingdom of God, and how the good and bad would be distinguished from one another.

Matthew 13:47-48 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad.

Proverbs 2:20-22 above (as many of the proverbs do) also makes this distinction between the good and the bad, the righteous and the wicked. In the language of the law of God, only the obedient and faithful individuals were guaranteed to remain in the land that God gave them. They would be set apart as holy and distinct from all other nations. However, if they became disobedient and pursued other gods, they would be removed from the land.

Deuteronomy 28:58, 64 – If you are not careful to obey all the words of this law, which are written in this scroll, by fearing this glorious and awe-inspiring name ​– ​the LORD, your God ​– ​ … Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will worship other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.

Yeshua prophesied the same thing to the Israelites as he ministered among them, sharing the news of the kingdom.

Luke 21:22-24, 32 – …these are days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for there will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will be killed by the sword and be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled by the nations until the times of the nations are fulfilled. … Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place.

As this prophecy came to pass in the fiery destruction of Jerusalem in the first century, we can see that God is consistent in his view of separation; the good are rewarded the wicked are removed. Since he has demonstrated how seriously he takes this principle of holiness, we would do well to heed the admonition of Moses to “fear the awe-inspiring name of Yahweh our God,” along with abiding by the advice of Solomon:

Proverbs 2:20 – See that you walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.


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.

The narrow way of effort and personal sacrifice

Avoiding the wide way that leads to destruction requires intentional actions.

Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

When Yeshua is speaking about the way to life, he in no way signifies ease and complacency. Instead, he mentions the difficulty with which this way is attained, and the relatively small number of people who remain determined enough to find it.

All of this implies that whatever the general crowd is believing about the way of God is very likely not the correct way, because the way to life is constricted and compressed. It is a difficult, narrow way that takes perseverance, determination, and sacrifice to locate and to maintain.

If this concept sounds foreign to us today, it would indicate we have strayed from the truth of God’s word. We have wandered onto the wide path of destruction because it is an easier way. It is a shallow and wide plain that most people travel because it does not take as much effort to navigate, and there is a like-minded camaraderie with others who also want the way to be easy and are anxious to be with others. It is a way requiring no personal risk, the path of least resistance, a mentality of safety in numbers.

Additionally, as much as this may be a foreign concept today, it was equally foreign to Yeshua’s original audience. The path of the religious leadership was the wide way, and most people accepted the rules and regulations that had been added to the simple law of God. However, Yeshua continually railed against the hypocrisy and insincerity of the religious establishment, pointing people to a kingdom where God was their Father, and they were accountable for their own relationship with him. But with that accountability came responsibility, responsibility to really do what’s right at all times, and not just go through the motions of religious man-made dogma. Doing what’s right is hard; it takes intentional thought and effort and personal sacrifice. That is why so few people actually commit to the narrow and restricted way.

However, the vigilant are those who remain alert to their surroundings and are always searching for the specific details of what’s right in God’s eyes, details that can get lost in the blur of activity each day. They are the ones who are constantly on the lookout for the narrow and difficult way in all of their actions, and are willing to put in the effort and sacrifice to stay focused on God’s purpose. Because this is their direction and where they find meaning, they are emboldened with the sense of personal connection and identification with Yeshua and the Father. Yeshua says the narrow way is the way of life, and that life is its own reward.


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.

The resourcefulness and confidence of integrity

Working diligently within the will of God allows us to shine brightly in a world of darkness.

Proverbs 31:10, 29-31 Who can find a wife of noble character? She is far more precious than jewels. … Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all! ” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised. Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

One would be hard pressed to find fault with the woman represented in Proverbs 31. This paramount of virtue and industry has been a standard revered for ages, since these words were originally penned. If such a woman were to exist, she would be worthy of high praise, indeed.

She is typically known as the woman of noble character, but if we dig a little into the language, we find another aspect of character at work: strength. The word that is typically translated as noble or virtuous is a Hebrew word meaning strength, resources, or ability. Going further into the root language, we arrive at the word for twisting or whirling about, as perhaps in a dance. Taken together, these meanings convey that this woman is not just noble, but a resilient and resourceful individual who is poetically active and engaged at all times. Everything she does is worthy of praise and honor. She takes care of her husband and her family; she reaches out to those in need; she is constantly doing something that brings honor to her family name and to God. Her activities are known and recognized by others, and God is honored by her determination and character.

Using a slightly different word picture, Yeshua encourages his believers to be of a similar mindset.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

When we see how these themes intertwine, we can arrive at the conclusion that Proverbs 31 isn’t speaking about a specific woman at all, but is a personification of the collective people of God who are to be continually active in the works and will of God. As the bride, we honor our husband when we are diligent and faithful in our duties, dancing joyfully about within his perfect will for us. As we do, our light shines out in meaningful ways to others; it cannot be hidden.

I have learned that the woman’s confidence and resourcefulness allows her to laugh at tomorrow (v. 25). There is nothing outside of ourselves that can dampen our integrity or our efforts when we are busily engaged within the perfect will of God and his purpose for the kingdom.


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

Trusting in God or wealth

We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option, and Wealth then becomes our Lord.

Core of the Bible podcast #27 – Trusting in God or wealth

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust, and how that in which we have placed our ultimate trust, God or Wealth, will always be evident in our lives.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24

You cannot be bound equally both to God and to your confidence in wealth. One will always take precedence over the other, and the results of following either will be evident in your life.

The issue that Yeshua focuses on is not necessarily the results of following either (which are evident throughout the biblical writings), but the complete inability of humans to multi-task serving God in among other responsibilities in this life. He says emphatically, “you CANNOT serve God AND wealth.” In literal terms, the text reads there is NO ABILITY to do both.

Looking at the example Yeshua gives us, it’s as if we were to picture ourselves as slaves, and we have two masters. These masters, while both responsible for us, can command us with conflicting information that would require actions that would go against the other.

For example, let’s say “Lord 1” commands us to fetch water from a nearby spring for his thirst, and immediately “Lord 2” commands us to get his slippers for his cold feet. Which command do we do first? We can’t do both tasks at the same time, and yet they are equally important. Do we get the water first, or the slippers? Both Lords are equally commanding and we are obligated to obey them both.

It becomes readily apparent that if we are to choose one Lord over the other as the primary Lord of us, then the secondary Lord’s commands are moved to the secondary position. In this case, if we chose Lord 1 and his water fetching as being primary, we would then do that task first, and Lord 2’s task of getting his slippers would have to wait.

Also of note is that Yeshua does not provide a third option, as if there was an option to have no Lords at all and just do whatever we want at any given time. He posits that those are the two options, either God or wealth, and we will in fact serve one primary Lord from those options.

This raises the point of just how powerful Wealth as Lord is; he (if we are to personify him for our discussion) actually rivals God in scope and influence, at least from our limited perspective in this world. This is also why he is so dangerous.

Let’s continue this little thought experiment of personifying Wealth as Lord. From our perspective, this Lord can control where we live based on our financial situation. He can control what and how much we eat based on our buying power. He can control the type of car we drive, or if we even have one. If we do have a car, he controls how long our commute is based on where we have to perform our work. He can control our daily lives based on other types of employment requirements we have: how long we have to spend each day at our jobs and how much time off we are allowed to do what we need to do for ourselves and our families, if we have one. Perhaps we have no spouse and children because the Wealth has not granted us the financial stability to do so. He controls our ability to receive appropriate health care, and may even be directly responsible for the length of our lives depending on how hard we have to work and what kind of dangers we face doing our jobs. The list goes on: where we can afford to vacation, what kind of clothes we wear, the social circles we are a part of, and so on.

Wealth as Lord is a very powerful master, indeed. When viewed from our limited perspective, it becomes immediately apparent why people choose to serve the Wealth as Lord, since Wealth appears to provide for the best outcomes of all of these things. Perhaps at times we have also served this Lord, as well. Even if we don’t always do what he wants us to do right away, many times we still answer his call.

But here is something to consider: perhaps if we can look beyond Wealth as Lord and see that there is only one Lord of Wealth, then we find that we only truly have one Master.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 – Be careful not to say, “My own ability and skill have gotten me this wealth.” You must remember the LORD your God, for he is the one who gives ability to get wealth; if you do this he will confirm his covenant that he made by oath to your ancestors, even as he has to this day.

1 Chronicles 29:12 – You [Yahweh] are the source of wealth and honor; you rule over all. You possess strength and might to magnify and give strength to all.

Proverbs 8:18, 21 – Riches and honor are with me [Wisdom], long-lasting wealth and righteousness. … that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, and that I may fill their treasuries.

If we are faithful with the Wisdom which God provides, we will have the ability to look to the only One who provides what we need, and that is God.

Yeshua confirms which Lord needs to always be first:

Matthew 6:32-33 for all these [things] do the nations seek for, for your heavenly Father does know that you all have need of all these; but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added to you.

We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option, and Wealth then becomes our Lord. We should always seek FIRST the kingdom and its priorities, and then place the concerns with wealth and provision as secondary, because the promise is then that these things “shall be added to you.”

—–

According to the New Testament writings, covetousness is equated with idolatry (Colossians 3:5). When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that God cannot be worshipped among any other gods, as one of many.

Yeshua makes it clear that every choice in life will fall under one heading or the other, God or worldly wealth, and whichever choice is made is a determination of which deity is being trusted.

Some of the writings which were contemporary with those of the biblical texts convey the dangers of focusing too much on the building of wealth and security of this world’s goods. While considered apocryphal by some, the writer of Ecclesiasticus penned the following practical wisdom almost three millennia ago:

Sirach 31:1-11 Wakefulness over wealth wastes away one’s flesh,

    and anxiety about it drives away sleep.

Wakeful anxiety prevents slumber,

    and a severe illness carries off sleep.

The rich person toils to amass a fortune,

    and when he rests he fills himself with his dainties.

The poor person toils to make a meager living,

    and if ever he rests he becomes needy.

One who loves gold will not be justified;

    one who pursues money will be led astray by it.

Many have come to ruin because of gold,

    and their destruction has met them face to face.

It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it,

    and every fool will be taken captive by it.

Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless,

    and who does not go after gold.

Who is he, that we may praise him?

    For he has done wonders among his people.

Who has been tested by it and been found perfect?

    Let it be for him a ground for boasting.

Who has had the power to transgress and did not transgress,

    and to do evil and did not do it?

His prosperity will be established,

    and the assembly will proclaim his acts of charity.

This whole narrative proclaims the honor of the one who, even though he may be rich, does not seek after it with all of his being.  Acts of charity would be evident with him as he seeks to not transgress the commands of God, and therefore his prosperity would be established.

Yeshua also proclaims this same principle in a story that is related of an encounter he had in his day with a rich young ruler.

Matthew 19:16-22 – Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.”

In the case of this sincere seeker, Yeshua gets right to the heart of the issue and puts this young man in the cross-hairs of the decisive issue: in order to attain to eternal life or salvation, will this man trust in his riches, or simply place his trust in God?

We may view the man’s response with empathy, because, while the question isn’t necessarily directed at us, we should also understand we are faced with the same principle. Where do we stand when it comes to our wealth? Are we willing to place the needs of others over our own security?

In concluding his discussion with the rich young seeker, the disciples expressed their astonishment at this principle that he seemed to be espousing. Wasn’t it the rich who were shown to be blessed by God, and thereby the ones who were essentially guaranteed an entrance into eternal life?

Matthew 19:23-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”

With God, what appears impossible to us becomes possible. It is not our trust that provides, but God who provides. Our trust in him merely becomes the means of demonstrating that it has been directed into the correct place when it is resting in the providence of God’s mercy and bountiful provision, whether for salvation or provision in this life. When that occurs, we then allow God the freedom to be God in our lives, and for him to provide and direct as he sees fit for his purpose and kingdom.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 – “Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God…

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.

This statement by Paul to Timothy is a reference to the very principle Yeshua made to the rich young seeker. God is the one who provides us all things. Since that is the case, do we really think that we can somehow provide for ourselves in any meaningful way beyond what he has given us?

This is the root principle that Yeshua was revealing. If we are choosing to trust wealth over God, then we are looking to the provision rather than the Provider. That is the foundation of all idolatry: trusting in a created thing rather than the Creator.

Instead, let’s learn to move away from our own perceived security and into the only true security that exists: that which comes from God. Once we learn to trust God, to really and genuinely trust him for every provision, it’s as if a whole world of possibilities opens up, and allows us the freedom to actually seek first his kingdom.

—–

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

Godly faith that roots up mountains

By committing all of our difficulties to God in prayer, we need to trust he has already provided the answers we need.

Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:23-24

These verses have been used in many ways over the years, most notably by the “name it and claim it” mindset prevalent in some of the various strains of Christianity. Within those groups, it is common to understand the meaning of this passage as being used as a measure of someone’s faith to serve their own greed. If one simply believes enough, they can have anything they desire.

However, in a 19th-century commentary on this passage from John Lightfoot, we find an interesting reference from the Talmudic literature of the Jews that may help to explain this unusual term:

The Jews used to set out those teachers among them, that were more eminent for the profoundness of their learning, or the splendor of their virtues, by such expressions as this: הוים  ﬠוקר הוא He is a rooter up of (or a remover) of mountains. “Rabbah Joseph is Sinai and Rabbah is a rooter up of mountains.” The gloss [or the interpretation is]: “They called Rabbah Joseph Sinai, because he was very skillful in clearing difficulties; and Rabbah Bar Nachmani, A rooter up of mountains, because he had a piercing judgment.”[1]

John Lightfoot. Commentary on the New Testament From The Talmud and Hebraica. Hendrickson Publishing. 1989. p. 283.

A modern commentary expands on this idea.

The Jews used to call their greatest teachers by the expression ‘removers of mountains.’ They would say for example that there was not in their days such a ‘rooter up of mountains’ as this teacher. He was so skilled that he could root up mountains. The expression was used to highlight the fact that the teacher had a profound insight into weighty or mountainous problems. Nobody could deal with those difficult problems. But this man could handle them. He was able to move these mountains as though they were small things.
We all had this kind of experience. One day, you wrestle with a particular issue, and it feels like you are facing a big mountain because you don’t know how to handle it. You just can’t move it out of your way. Every time you think about it, you find that you can’t cope with it. And then, you meet a very wise person. He understands your problem. He is able to help you. As he guides you, the problem you thought was so difficult suddenly becomes manageable. The obstacle, the mountain, has been removed.
Rabbi Rabbah bar Nachmani was a person like that. He was called ‘a rooter up of mountains’ in the Talmud ‘because he was exceedingly acute in subtle disputations.’ He had piercing judgment. The problems that people found insurmountable, this great rabbi could see right through it.
So this expression was applied to people who had deep spiritual insight.

Yves I-Bing Cheng, M.D., M.A., You will say to this mountain – Mt 17(14-21) (meetingwithchrist.com)

While the term may apply to those who have great spiritual insight and discernment, we need to keep the meaning of this metaphor within its proper context. Yeshua bases this whole notion of having great spiritual insight on a key principle: “Have faith in God,” (Mark 11:22).

As we review the language in that statement a little more closely, we see that it also carries several shades of meaning, as represented in various English translations:

  • Have faith from God
  • Have the faith of God
  • May the faith of God be in you

The qualifier is not stated in the Greek; typically when God is identified, the phrase is ho theos (the God). But when the qualifier ho is not there, as it is in this passage, it can also mean something along the lines of “godly faith” (the faith of God or from God) which some of these other versions bring out.

Having godly faith, even as small as a mustard seed, can provide a path through even the most difficult of problems. A godly faith is one that trusts that God ultimately has all things under his control, and that there will be a way through whatever challenge may be facing us.

Yeshua completes the thought by saying, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” (Mark 11:24). This isn’t a magic charm of faith to say that if we believe strongly enough, we can have whatever we want. Instead, armed with the metaphor of being “rooters of mountains,” believers always have the opportunity to trust God in finding a way through whatever barriers they may face. By committing all of our difficulties to God in prayer, we need to trust he has already provided the answers we need; we just need to open our spiritual understanding as “rooters of mountains” to see them.

The godly faith is one that trusts God for all things: our food, our drink, our clothing, as well as insights for a way through any challenges we may face. If this is the case, then what more can a person possibly need in this life that God has not already provided for us as believers?


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.

God is holiness

We may struggle within the confines our language to describe God, but this in no way limits who he really is.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 6:9 

This very famous verse of Scripture has been undergoing changes in recent English versions and translations. Some parallel editions try various renderings to try to convey the depth of this simple statement by Yeshua, such as:

  • Let your name be kept holy
  • Let your name be treated with reverence.
  • Let your name be honored as holy
  • help us to honor your name
  • may your holy name be honored

But far and away, the most common English rendering is “hallowed by your (or Thy) name.”

Hallowed is a word that has generally fallen out of use in English, unless we are speaking of hallowed ground (as a uniquely special place) or Halloween (a derivative of All Hallow’s Eve, meaning a day to honor Roman Catholic saints, or those individuals who were considered holy).

The American Heritage Dictionary defines hallowed as, “sanctified; consecrated; highly venerated; sacrosanct,” like the hallowed halls of a great university. To hallow is “to make or set apart as holy.”

The Collins Dictionary says: “Hallowed is used to describe something that is respected and admired, usually because it is old, important, or has a good reputation.”

The Bible Dictionary has this definition: “Hallow. to render sacred, to consecrate ( Exodus 28:38; 29:1). This word is from the Saxon, and properly means ‘to make holy.’ The name of God is ‘hallowed,’ i.e., is reverenced as holy ( Matthew 6:9).”

However, it may be worth keeping or reviving that word hallowed in English as uniquely special to this quality and nature of God.

The word hallowed means, to render or pronounce holy. God’s name is essentially holy; and the meaning of this petition is, “Let thy name be celebrated, and venerated, and esteemed as holy everywhere, and receive of all men proper honours.” It is thus the expression of a wish or desire, on the part of the worshipper, that the name of God, or God himself, should be held everywhere in proper veneration.

Albert Barnes

“Hallowed” is not a word frequently used in the contemporary English language, and so it’s meaning is not immediately apparent. Hallowed means to consecrate, to be made set apart as holy. So when we pray “hallowed be thy name” we are asking that His name may be recognised as sacred. This flows out of the first line of the prayer “Our Father, who is in heaven”, who is distinct from us and lives in eternity. However, there is another element to this. The Good News Translation puts it this way “May your holy name be honored” (Matthew 6:9). For God’s name to be kept as revered on Earth, this will necessitate a response on our part. We can not fully pray this line unless our lives desire to reflect this wonderful holiness. Honouring God as holy will lead us into a closer walk with our Creator and the development of holiness in ourselves.

https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/commentary/hallowed_be_thy_name.html

“According to Hebrew notions, a name is inseparable from the person to whom it belongs, i.e. it is something of his essence. Therefore, in the case of the God, it is specially sacred.”

Alexander Souter

This Hebrew understanding, that the name of God is wrapped up in his character and his essence, conveys a deep sense of wonder and connectedness. This isn’t so much about what name we should label him with as much as it is about who he is. While we as believers strive to be holy, God IS holy; that’s not just what he is, but who he is. In like fashion, if we are to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:15), then it should also not just be what we become, but who we become.

If, as Yeshua suggests, this is the God whom we pray to every day, a Father who is in heaven, the Creator of the universe who is in his very essence and nature set apart from his Creation, then we should step lightly and respectfully in his courts. We should be ever mindful that this is the God who will be recognized by all and honored as he deserves when we faithfully abide by his precepts and his kingdom is indeed come over all the earth.


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.

Becoming firmly established in the instruction of God

We have the best examples to follow and learn from.

that we may no more be babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of the teaching, in the sleight of men, in craftiness, being deceived and led astray,

Ephesians 4:14

The apostle Paul is here conveying the vigilance required to stay on the right path of doctrine. No one who thinks deeply about their faith enjoys being tossed about by every wind of teaching. In Paul’s day, there were many voices that vied for the attention of those who were being drawn to Messiah; how much more in our day and age of instant information and self-publishing!

In his hopeful view of all believers ultimately reaching maturity in the Messiah (v. 13), he mentions the provision of God to help believers achieve this.

Ephesians 4:11-12 and He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some proclaimers of good news, and some shepherds and teachers, unto the perfecting of the saints, for a work of ministration, for a building up of the body of the Messiah,

These resources had been provided for the benefit of all of those in the body of Messiah. It was needful that those early believers had the ability to resist error; besides the physical dangers they collectively faced, the decisions they made and the records they kept would be the basis and constitution of the eternal kingdom.

Paul, Peter and John together stressed the importance of identifying correct doctrine:

2 Corinthians 11:3 and I fear, lest, as the serpent did beguile Eve in his subtilty, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that [is] in the Messiah;

Ephesians 6:11 put on the whole armour of God, for your being able to stand against the wiles of the devil,

2 Peter 3:17 You, then, beloved, knowing before, take heed, lest, together with the error of the impious being led away, you may fall from your own steadfastness,

1 John 4:6 we [apostles] are of God; he who is knowing God does hear us; he who is not of God, doth not hear us; from this we know the spirit of the truth, and the spirit of the error.

The apostles, prophets, proclaimers of the good news, and shepherds and teachers did prove faithful in their generation. We have their words today for us to base our doctrine on. By remaining vigilant in the word or instruction of God that has been handed to us, we can avoid the unnecessary doctrinal winds that toss us from place to place. When we do so, we can put down deep roots in the truth of their examples and lives, and continue to grow toward maturity in the Messiah in each generation.

Ephesians 4:13 until we may all come to the unity of the faith and of the recognition of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to a measure of stature of the fullness of the Messiah


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.