The kingdom for all

Paul shared the message of Yeshua with everyone.

Acts 28:23-24, 28, 30-31 – After arranging a day with him [Paul], many [Jews] came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Yeshua from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe. … “Therefore, let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the nations; they will listen.” … Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Yeshua, the Anointed One, with all boldness and without hindrance.

At the end of the narrative about the life and ministry of Paul, we find him in Rome awaiting to be brought before Caesar to stand for the charges that the Jews in Judea had brought before Agrippa. However, in these closing comments we gain some far-reaching insights on what Paul was teaching: the kingdom of God, Yeshua as the Anointed One of God, and the salvation that was now being sent to the nations besides just the Hebraic Jews.

The kingdom of God continued to be the main theme of Paul’s teaching. Yeshua, as the Anointed One of God, had come to announce the fulfillment of the kingdom through personal and national repentance, instructing them of being born from above and living the torah from the heart and not just by the rote traditions of the Jewish elite and their oral law. This was the salvation that Yeshua brought: salvation from the effects of sin and disobedience to God, and the freedom to serve God from the heart. Since it primarily applied to them, the Jews had been the initial recipients of this message, and Paul continued that emphasis by preaching “first to the Jew, then to the Hellene,” (Romans 1:16; 2:9-10). The Hellenes, of course, were the Jews who had adopted the Greek culture and were absorbed within the nations.

Paul recognized through the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 6:9-10), that some of the Jews would accept the message, but that many would reject it.

Acts 28:25-27 – Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘Go to these people and say: You will always be listening, but never understanding; and you will always be looking, but never perceiving. For the hearts of these people have grown callous, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.'”

This rejection of the message by the Hebraic Jews would then allow the the tribes of Joseph and Ephraim, Jews who had been scattered during the Diaspora who had now become the Hellenes, an opportunity to receive the good news of faith in Yeshua and receive the kingdom of God by faith in him. This was the reuniting of the ten tribes with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as also prophesied in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 37:15-17 – Yahweh’s word came again to me, saying, “You, son of man, take one stick, and write on it, ‘For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions.’ Then take another stick, and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.’ Then join them for yourself to one another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.

In the process of the Hellenistic Jews being reunited with their brothers in fulfillment of prophecy and coming to the knowledge of the truth by faith, others of the nations, true Gentiles who feared the God of the Bible, would also be provided the opportunity to receive the kingdom message and the salvation from the effects of sin.

In this way, the story of Yeshua as the Anointed One of God, bringing the good news of the kingdom of God, would be spread to all. The salvation offered to the Jews and the Hellenes would now be, and forever remain, an open door for all to come to the God of the Bible.

Revelation 22:17 – Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come! ” Let anyone who hears, say, “Come! ” Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life freely.


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 the Good Samaritan teaches us about inheriting eternal life

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Core of the Bible podcast #43 – How the Good Samaritan teaches us about inheriting eternal life

Today we will be exploring the topic of compassion. In order to review this topic of compassion, I’m going to take a familiar section of Scripture, the story Yeshua told of the Good Samaritan, and break it down in a unique way, starting at the end and working back towards the beginning. I think it’s important to focus not only on compassion as Yeshua defines it, but on the motivation behind our compassion for others.

So let’s begin with how Yeshua, in story form, expresses what true compassion looks like:

Yeshua took up this question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. … But when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he said, ‘and on my return I will repay you for any additional expense.’

Luke 10:30, 33-35

This famous passage is Yeshua’s definition of having compassion on one’s neighbor. True compassion is not just having a feeling of sympathy, but it is a sympathetic feeling that takes action. The Samaritan did some field first-aid, used his own transportation and brought him to a place where he could rest and recover with on-site care. The Samaritan was moved by compassion so strong that he was willing to interrupt his life to assist someone else, even if that someone was a stranger to him. Therefore, biblical compassion according to Yeshua looks outward to others who are in need, beyond the comfort of one’s own personal situation or condition and says, “What can I do to help?”

Well, with that basic understanding, let’s begin our study of this passage at the conclusion to see how that objective is where Yeshua wants this questioner to arrive.

Luke 10:36-37 – “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Yeshua told him, “Go and do the same.”

So the conclusion is that Yeshua says that this practice exhibited by the Good Samaritan is one that is to be copied and practiced. By saying, “Go and do the same,” Yeshua is commissioning this man, and by extension believers everywhere, to follow the example of the teaching of this story. We should all exhibit compassion in action to others when it is within our ability to do so.

Continuing to work our way backwards through this passage of the Good Samaritan, we see that the story itself was prompted from a discussion of the Law. An expert in the Law had come to Yeshua to find out more about how Yeshua viewed the totality of the Law. In response, Yeshua first asks his opinion about it.

Luke 10:26-28  – “What is written in the law? ” [Yeshua] asked him. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

“You’ve answered correctly,” he told him.

Yeshua had also on other occasions verified that these two commandments were the most essential part of all of God’s Torah, his Word.

Matthew 22:35-40 – And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? “

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and most important command.

“The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Here, we see that the centrality of the two greatest commandments is key to Yeshua’s understanding of the entirety of the Law. To love your neighbor as yourself is a primary facet of belief; in fact, a sincere and true belief in the God of the Bible will result in love for others. Therefore, the primary motivation behind loving others ultimately stems from a deep, all-encompassing love for God. To “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” should be the desire of every believer.

To love him from the heart means it’s not just a rote belief, like a belief that maybe one’s family or parents have, but one that comes personally from a place of deep desire and personal longing.

To love God with all the soul is to recognize that the complex of emotional and moral understanding is in alignment with his standards and his will.

To love him with all of the mind is that the rational balance of all personal longing and moral understanding are worked out in practical ways of thinking and imagination. All of the being is wrapped up in seeking to understand God’s workings in this world and to align oneself as much as possible with this reality and worldview.

Only when one is imbued with this sense of love for God will one have the appropriate motivation to help others as needed.  Then, loving others becomes simple and achievable, because the motivation and the perspective align with accomplishing all of God’s desires.

Luke 10:31-33 – “A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion.”

To make a finer point, Yeshua mentions that the religious people in the story, the priest and the Levite (who was of the Jewish tribe of priestly helpers) were too preoccupied with their own righteous indignation to provide any help. The stranger on the side of the road could have been anyone, possibly unclean. By contrast, the Samaritan, someone hated by the religious Jews, was ultimately the one to provide the necessary help to the person who had been attacked. He was the one who demonstrated that he truly loved God, and that he had the proper motivation for the task at hand.

Here’s an interesting thought: To the Jewish mind in that day, having a Samaritan as the hero of a story on morality would have been a detestable outcome, in a similar way as having a member of an opposing political party be the hero might affect us today. There was a diametrical opposition to doctrinal ideals between the two.

Even Yeshua understood that, in general, the Samaritans held incorrect doctrinal beliefs. We know this from an exchange Yeshua has with a Samaritan woman over proper worship. The Samaritan woman kept pressing Yeshua over his unusual discussion they were having at the well of Jacob, which culminated in a discussion of the appropriate place to worship.

John 4:20-22 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”   Jesus told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.

Yet, even with a recognition of the reality of these types of doctrinal difference between the Samaritans and the Jews, Yeshua makes a Samaritan out to be the hero of the story that he is telling to a religious Jew about what true compassion looks like. What does that say about Yeshua? Is he validating that doctrine just doesn’t matter, as long as one is sincere in what one believes? No, not really.

The largest difference between the Samaritans and the Jews was over the canon of Scripture at the time. The Samaritans believed that only the first five books of the Bible by Moses were inspired; there were no more inspired writings beyond those. The Jews of the day, including Yeshua, believed all of the Psalms, Prophets, and other historical writings that are now included in our Old Testament were inspired writings as well.

We can understand more about this exchange by considering that the woman doesn’t apparently have any depth of commitment to her Samaritan doctrinal beliefs about the books of Moses; she is merely parroting the disagreements of others. How can we know? Well, Yeshua revealed she had a hidden record of insecurity and disobedience to the very Law that Samaritans claimed was inspired. He prophetically revealed that she had multiple husbands and was currently living with someone she was not married to. The practical outworking of her beliefs were evidenced in her actions. Her practices weren’t acceptable even by Mosaic standards.

Leviticus 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with a married woman ​– ​if he commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife ​– ​both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

Yeshua knew her heart. She was not really a follower of the one true God, but a follower of her own passions using a doctrinal smokescreen to obscure the real issues. His conversation with her was an attempt at drawing her and ultimately her villagers to an understanding of his Messiahship.

To Yeshua, doctrine clearly does matter, otherwise, he would not have disputed with the religious leaders of the day. But to him, even more important than doctrine is where the heart, soul, and mind are in the service of that doctrine. In Yeshua’s way of thinking, even if one only has the five books of Moses and has a deep devout recognition of God and also of loving their neighbor, they can be exemplified as doing what God desires. The practical outworking of this core belief is evidenced by its actions.

The early disciples understood this as well, since we have only to read the rest of the New Testament teachings to show how this conclusion was continued on in the messages to their congregations.

For example, the apostle James, whom many consider to be the brother of Yeshua, drills down even further into the practicality of true faith in the practice of compassion with others:

James 2:15-16 – Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?

Paul also was sure to bring this topic up in his guidance of the early Galatian congregation.

Galatians 6:2 – Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Messiah’s teachings.

Paul’s original wording here in his message to the believers in Galatia can be rendered within its Hebraic cultural context as, “In this manner you shall fulfill the torah of the Messiah.” This aspect of assisting others in need is considered by Paul to be the essence of Yeshua’s teaching, central to everything he stood for and practiced. We can see that Paul’s understanding of the centrality of this topic to Yeshua’s teaching, which is always in conformity with the Law, is indeed validated.

Okay, so we can see that the conclusion is to “go and do likewise” as the Samaritan did, and how doctrinal differences, while still important, can be placed on the back burner in light of the practical outworking of our love for God. But why even discuss this at all? What was it that began this discussion between Yeshua and this expert in the Law?

We can see that this whole discussion between the Law expert and Yeshua was prompted by this direct motivation:

Luke 10:25 – “Then an expert in the law stood up to test him…”

Notice first that the question being asked had an agenda behind it. Apparently this question about inheriting eternal life would force Yeshua to respond in a way that would potentially isolate some of the people from his teaching. If he answered in a way that consisted in some aspect other than the Law of God, he would isolate the very people he came to minister to: the lost sheep of Israel.

So, in a masterful move, Yeshua puts a pin his response while he reverses the question back on the Law expert himself:

Luke 10:26 – “What is written in the law? ” [Yeshua] asked him. “How do you read it?”

By having the man state what the “official” Jewish doctrine of how to attain eternal life should be, Yeshua would then be able to show how his own teaching in fact agrees with it.

Luke 10:27-28 – [The man] answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

“You’ve answered correctly,” [Yeshua] told him. “Do this and you will live.”

The man may have been stopped in his tracks for a moment when he saw that Yeshua was not contradicting the Jewish ideas of how to attain eternal life. According to Yeshua, loving God and loving one’s neighbor, when done sincerely and with the correct motives, results in eternal life.

Since the man’s previous goal of causing Yeshua to slip up had failed, he then asks a similarly loaded question of “who is my neighbor?” This may have been out of an attempt to still try to divide Yeshua’s audience over this question on how a neighbor is defined (a divisive topic at the time), or it may have been out of a sincere desire to know more, since the text says that he was wanting to “justify himself.”

Either way, this question was loaded in the sense that there were many Jewish debates of who was to be considered a neighbor. Was your neighbor just the person living next to you, or another member of your tribe, or only another member of the country and people of Israel? Did this “neighborliness” apply to non-Jewish people or members of other nations who were residing in the land, as well?

So to answer these questions, Yeshua then tells the story, which, as we have seen, extends neighborliness to even those who are not doctrinally aligned with you, and even if they are strangers. Loving actions overcome doctrinal differences.

So beyond the agenda of the law expert, what I find most interesting is the question that led into this whole discussion to begin with. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Some scholars think that the Hebrew concept of eternal life was one that was not introduced into the Jewish way of thinking until during or after the Babylonian captivity. However, in the Graeco-Roman environment of Yeshua’s day, it was a well-known and much discussed issue.

What is even more interesting to me is the answer that Yeshua gave to that question. One might expect him to say something like, “believe in me,” or “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” as he did in John’s gospel. But in this instance, he doesn’t say that. The expert in the Law had said the way to eternal life was to love the Lord your God with heart, soul, strength, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. To this, Yeshua simply answered, “You’ve answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

This is a telling answer. By doing this (loving God and loving your neighbor) you will live.

In today’s terms, we might have different answers to this question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If someone came to you today and asked that same question, how would you answer it?

Some answers might include ideas about circumcision (if you’re Jewish), or being baptized (if you’re Christian). It might involve some other ritual to become “worthy” of eternal life. Maybe it might be a discussion over which version of the Bible is the only way to eternal life, or which denomination or group is the sole source of life. Perhaps it would be some specific doctrine or set of beliefs about God according to a creed that would be required.

No, the answer is much simpler: Love God with heart, soul, strength and mind. And it means the God of the Bible, not just any god of one’s own choosing. We need to recognize that all of this discussion about eternal life is in the context of the one true God of the Bible, with individuals who were raised on the Hebrew Scriptures. It is these Scriptures that do not allow for any other gods to be recognized as legitimate, so it’s important to keep that perspective in place when we are talking about God. There is only one God, Yahweh, the Creator of all, who deserves the devotion of our whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.

And the second part of the answer is to love others, not just your fellow congregants or neighborhood residents, but even strangers if they are in need. Yeshua even goes so far as to include loving enemies!

Loving God and loving your neighbor is the gospel of the kingdom that Yeshua shared with us. Since he is the way the truth and the life, then loving God and loving your neighbor is what it means to believe in Yeshua. This is because everything he taught was in alignment with the entire message of the Bible.

To demonstrate this, here are some examples of this message throughout the pages of Scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Leviticus 19:18, 34 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.  … “You will regard the alien who resides with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.

Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Matthew 7:12 – In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40 Yeshua declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Romans 13:10 – Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:14 – The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 2:8 – If you really fulfill the royal law stated in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Loving of one’s neighbor through compassion is only half of the equation of fulfilling the torah of God. Loving one’s neighbor can only be truly carried out when one first fully loves Yahweh; heart, soul, strength, and mind. And doing both of these demonstrates you are a follower of Yeshua the Messiah, and that he is Lord of your life when you act in compassionate ways because of your love of Yahweh.

Loving God and compassionately loving all others; this is the core of the Bible message and the path to eternal life that Yeshua represented.

If this is the lens through which we should be viewing the life and ministry of Yeshua, then, as his followers, how much more should these same qualities be evident in our own lives? Well, we know the answer to this question because he told us:

“Go and do likewise.”


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.

Following the path, the Way of Life

The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest.

Core of the Bible podcast #41 – Following the path, the Way of Life

Today we will be exploring the topic of trust using one of the most widely familiar passages of the Bible.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in Yahweh with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you on pleasant paths.

The word for trust in this famous passage has shades of meaning which include confidence and boldness, running to a secure place for refuge, being free of care or worry, having a steadfast hope. All of these are different ways of representing the believer’s inner reliance on Yahweh.

It’s important to recognize that this is not an admonishment that we are to abandon all reason and understanding. We are simply not to have our own wisdom as the primary source of our planning and our actions. We must leave room for direction from God, maintaining a view to his kingdom and purpose in this life.

Pulpit commentary

“[The Hebrew word] signifies “to lean upon, rest upon,” just as man rests upon a spear for support. Its metaphorical use, to repose confidence in, is derived from the practice of kings who were accustomed to appear in public leaning on their friends and ministers…”

For example, Naaman, a foreign commander, after being healed of leprosy, requested forgiveness of Elisha the prophet.

2 Kings 5:18  – “However, in a particular matter may Yahweh pardon your servant: When my master, the king of Aram, goes into the temple of Rimmon to bow in worship while he is leaning on my arm, and I have to bow in the temple of Rimmon ​– ​when I bow in the temple of Rimmon, may Yahweh pardon your servant in this matter.”

Again, when Elisha pronounced a prophecy regarding the release of a siege famine from Samaria, the king’s aid was in disbelief.

2 Kings 7:1-2 CSB – Elisha replied, “Hear the word of Yahweh! This is what Yahweh says: ‘About this time tomorrow at Samaria’s gate, six quarts of fine flour will sell for a half ounce of silver and twelve quarts of barley will sell for a half ounce of silver.’ ”  Then the captain, the king’s right-hand man (upon whose hand the king leaned), responded to the man of God, “Look, even if Yahweh were to make windows in heaven, could this really happen? ” Elisha announced, “You will in fact see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it.”

So we see the practice since ancient times was to have the king supported by a close aid, one who provided physical, moral and tactical support and advice. While trusted counsel is not a bad thing, it is this type of worldly wisdom that is contrasted with trusting in, that is leaning on, Yahweh.

Pulpit commentary

“The admonition does not mean that we are not to use our own understanding, i.e. form plans with discretion, and employ legitimate means in the pursuit of our ends; but that, when we use it, we are to depend upon God and his directing and overruling providence.”

Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthian congregation, writes;

1 Corinthians 2:12, 14 – Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. … But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.

There is a worldly type of wisdom that is helpful in worldly things, but if that is true then there is also a spiritual type of wisdom that is helpful (in fact, necessary) in judging spiritual things.

In Proverbs 3:5-6, the language used here of trusting in God that he will “direct you on pleasant paths” can be likened to a traveler who is trekking through a wilderness in fog. He uses his natural wisdom and understanding to find the path that will take him where he needs to go. However, once he is on the path, he places his confidence in the path that it will carry him to his destination, even though because of the fog he cannot see the full length of where the path is heading. When he is following the path, he is carefree from having to choose his own potentially hazardous way through the wilderness.

Our wisdom instructs us to find the path; the path is that in which we place our trust, since it has been provided by God. We have confidence the path that God provided will lead us to the destination God has in store for us. God promises the path will be smooth and pleasant compared to the directionless wilderness ways of our own choosing.

Job 12:13, 23-25 – Wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are his.  … He makes nations great, then destroys them; he enlarges nations, then leads them away.  He deprives the world’s leaders of reason, and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland.  They grope around in darkness without light; he makes them stagger like a drunkard.

The trackless wasteland is a place where no one wants to be. There is no direction, no indication of the right way, just sameness and harsh wilderness in each direction.

In a description of the Biblical wilderness over at www.environmentandsociety.org/, they describe it in these terms:

“The wilderness is a locale for intense experiences—of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness.

“Linguists will make the point that the Hebrews did not have an exact equivalent of the contemporary English word ‘wilderness.’ Nevertheless, the Hebrews evidently knew the experience of confronting the wild.”

The Bible is filled with imagery and examples of those who have wandered away from God; they have gone off the path he has provided. Being off the path is straying from God, and is an indication of not trusting in him with your whole heart. Here are some examples:

Psalm 119:176 – I wander like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commands.

Proverbs 10:17 – The one who follows instruction is on the path to life, but the one who rejects correction goes astray.

Proverbs 12:26 – A righteous person is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.

Proverbs 14:22 – Don’t those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.

Proverbs 21:16 – The person who strays from the way of prudence will come to rest in the assembly of the departed spirits.

Isaiah 53:6 – We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way…

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

When one has gone astray, they have left “the path to life,” (Prov 10:17), or “the way of prudence,” (Prov 21:16). Jeremiah says those who wander have forgotten “their resting place,” (Jer 50:6).

As believers, unfortunately it’s not uncommon for us to go astray, to forget who we are, where we are going, or where to find true rest within the will of God. We get caught up in our circumstances and distracted from our purpose. For non-believers, the picture is an even wider perspective where God is a distant or non-existent resource for guidance through life. All of us need to know and understand God’s ability to guide us where he would like us to go which can only happen when we keep our eyes on him and trust his direction with all of our heart.

—–

That this trust in God directs people in the way of life is a theme all through the Bible. This has been recognized by Jews throughout the centuries and is expressed in many different ways.

One of the most popular examples of this is brought forward from the mid-1700’s in Jewish literature. At that time, a respected rabbi by the name of Moshe Chaim Luzatto wrote a book entitled the Derech Hashem; the Way of God. In it, he details a spiritual perspective of life, God, and human responsibility from a deeply Jewish, mystical perspective. This book has become a Jewish classic, much like Pilgrim’s Progress might be to the Christian faith.

However, he was not the first to coin the term, the Way of God, or the Way as being the path of life. We can go to the teachings of Yeshua and find this same type of “path of life” imagery present.

Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

We have reviewed these verses in detail in a previous episode, but in summary Yeshua is conveying that this narrow way to life is a cramped and difficult passageway, surrounded by obstacles; it takes determination, effort, and persistence to find one’s way through.

Ellicott in his commentary writes:

“The meaning of the parable here lies on the surface. The way and the gate are alike the way of obedience and holiness, and the gate is to be reached not without pain and effort; but only through it can we enter into the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. A deeper significance is, however, suggested even by our Lord’s own teaching. He Himself is the “way” (John 14:6), or with a slight variation of the imagery, He is the “door,” or gate, by which His sheep enter into the fold (John 10:7). Only we must remember that His being thus the “way” and the “gate” does not mean that we can find, in union with Him, a substitute for holiness, but indicates simply how we are to attain to it.”

To break this down a little further, let’s look more closely at these other references that Yeshua makes to the Way.

John 14:4-6 – “You know the way to where I am going.”  “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way? ”  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Interestingly, Yeshua didn’t point Thomas and the disciples to an expected place like the Temple or Jerusalem as a further place of learning, but claimed that he himself is the Way. He specifically said that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” This would be a hugely conceited statement were it not true. The exclusiveness of Yeshua’s teaching is here revealed with no apology from the Master himself. Whatever this Way is, it is represented solely by his life, his practice, and his teaching, all of which make up who he is. This is why Yeshua is so central to Christian thought and practice, because he has placed himself there on purpose. The life of Messiah is one that is to be followed and imitated; this is how one stays in the Way of God.

In Yeshua’s other reference to exclusiveness, he relates that he is the gate or the door to the sheep pen.

John 10:6-9 – Jesus gave them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.  Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

In rapid-fire succession, the context of this passage reveals that Yeshua was likening his life and ministry to practices surrounding the tending and herding sheep. On the one hand, he relates that he is the gate, or the single entry point into the sheep pen, but on the other hand that he is also the good shepherd, the one who cares so deeply for his sheep that he is willing to lay his life down for them to protect them, if necessary. Through these examples, Yeshua is conveying the supremacy of his own teaching over the “thieves and robbers,” (i.e., false teachers) who had come before him, as well as his unique position as being the only one qualified to effectively protect the sheep with his own life.

That Yeshua is conveying the true Way of God was a concept that was picked up by his disciples and considered a summary of distinguishing their belief in Messiah from the broader context of popular first-century Judaism. The Way or the Way of God was an ancient title for the true spiritual understanding of the kingdom, mentioned several times in the book of Acts.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Acts 19:8-10, 22-23 – … But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he [Paul] withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. … After sending to Macedonia two of those who assisted him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself [Paul] stayed in Asia for a while.  About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.

We find that this term, the Way of God, or the Way, was simply becoming shorthand for the teaching about Messiah and the kingdom of God. Paul even uses this terminology in his defense before Felix when he was accused of the Jewish leaders of leading a rebellion.

Acts 24:14, 22 – But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets… Since Felix was well informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.”

The Way was considered a sect within Judaism at that time, the way of worshiping the God of the Bible in truth according to all of Torah. Paul saw no conflict in this understanding, and struggled to convey this over-arching unity of purpose to his fellow countrymen, along with his detractors.

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.”

So we can see from this brief review that the Way of God consisted of faith in Messiah Yeshua, the law and the prophets, righteousness and self-control as disciplines, and the warning of impending judgment on those who would not believe.  These are all aspects of the Yeshua’s life and teaching; hence he is the Way.

Coming full circle to our verse in Proverbs 3:5-6 today, we can see that leaning solely on our own understanding can lead us astray. When we place our trust in Yahweh, we are thereby placing our faith in the law and the prophets, the practices of righteousness and self control, and the teachings of Yeshua as his Messiah. The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest. Though the narrow way may be restricted and difficult, in the end it is considered a pleasant path to the alternative of striving through the “trackless waste” of the wilderness without God. However, when we choose to acknowledge him “in all our ways,” we demonstrate we are trusting in him with all of our heart, and he will lead us instead in that pleasant Way, the Way of the Messiah, the Way of God.

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