Keeping the commands of God over our traditions and impulses

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of vigilance. Keeping the covenant and commands of God requires multi-faceted vigilance, as cultural influx that negates or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it has been since ancient times.

The Bible is filled with admonitions to keep the covenant or to keep the commands of God. We read about it so often that we may sometimes gloss over the significance of what it means to keep the words of God.

Psalm 119:57, 60, 63 – Yahweh is my portion; I promise to keep your words. … I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. … I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.

God had conveyed many specific directives to the ancient Israelites through Moses, including this necessity to keep his commands.

Exodus 19:5 – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples…”

In this passage, God made it clear that those who obey him by keeping his covenant would be his people. The word we translate as keep or to keep in English comes from the Hebrew root word shamar which at its most rudimentary level means to observe and watch. In its primary sense, it means to heed, pay attention to, or observe (in practice) the covenant and the commands of God. This is the generally accepted meaning when it is used.

However, it also means to guard, preserve, or protect. This is a huge concept in Hebrew thought as it relates to the commands of God. Based on passages like Exodus 19:5 that we just reviewed, both the ancient and modern Israelites have understood themselves to be the receivers of God’s wisdom above all other nations in the world. As such, it was their responsibility to preserve his words through oral traditions and written records. Thankfully for all believers today, it was due to this dutiful caretaking of God’s words that we even have a Bible today.

But over the centuries some of the caretakers of the written records had taken this instruction to the extreme by making additional traditions and rules which were intended to guard the Torah even further, to prevent people from violating the original commands. The original intent of creating these extra rules may have been sincere enough, but soon the traditions and rules became equivalent, or even superior to, the original command of Yahweh and they ended up elevating the man-made traditions above the word of God itself. By the days of Yeshua, there were so many rules and regulations about the rules and regulations of God that it had become a hot mess of traditions mixed over the top of the original commands of God.

According to rabbinical lore, the motivation behind these Jewish traditions and rules was to “build a fence” around the Torah by designating specific actions as a way of protecting people from violating the actual commands of God. This is known as halakha, or the way to walk. These are the religious rules, sometimes called the Oral Law, that rabbinical thinkers and teachers have provided over the centuries. Since approximately 200 A.D, these oral teachings have been summarily encapsulated in the body of Jewish literature known as the Talmud.

To be fair, Jewish thought distinguishes between explicit commands and those derived from rabbinical teaching in the Talmud. For example, the command to observe the Sabbath is explicit right in the text of Exodus:

Exodus 20:8-10 – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:  You are to labor six days and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must not do any work ​– ​you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates.”

As we can see, the command to observe the Sabbath clearly involves not doing any work on that day. But in Jewish practice, there is also a “fence” command that the rabbis have created to where even holding a tool is against the Torah. It does not say that in the scriptural text, but the logic is that if you are forbidden from holding a tool, you are less likely to accidentally break the command of not working on the Sabbath.

In orthodox circles, both the text of Torah and the principles of halakha in the Talmud are considered legally binding in matters of practice. This Sabbath command is only one example of thousands of added commands to the Torah that orthodox Jews were and are expected to observe. So it can be seen that the original “guarding” of God’s word, the keeping of the commands, had eventually become corrupted into a convoluted system of man-made traditions and rules, even by the days of Yeshua. In fact, Yeshua famously chastised the religious leaders of his day for this very thing:

Mark 7:8-13 – “…you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.” He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother;’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is to say, given to God;”‘ then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.”

In this example, rather than taking care of parents as Torah commands, the rabbinical halakha allowed that same potential care of mother and father to be considered an offering to God; a loophole to release people from taking care of their parents yet still appearing as pious and observant. These various interpretations of the commands led to many differing opinions and loopholes in the Torah that were (and still are) argued over and debated in the synagogues and among the people. Yeshua is recorded as exposing these fence commands as being too strict and derailing the original intent of the Torah in the first place.

However, in his own teaching and doctrine, Yeshua is recorded as having established his own type of halakha in regards to the Torah. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua speaks about at least two of the Ten Commandments (the explicit commands of God) and expresses a specific halakha for each.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the Gehenna of fire.

Matthew 5:27-28 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Here we can see how Yeshua takes the base, textual commands of Yahweh and defines a specific halakha or “fence” command for each. To avoid breaking the commandment against murder, one must control their anger. To avoid adultery, one must control their attention and desires. But notice the difference between the halakha of the Jewish authorities and Yeshua: the Jews focused on specific actions to prevent breaking the commands; Yeshua focused on specific attitudes of the heart from which would flow the correct actions and the true keeping of the Torah commands. Rather than constantly having to remember a bunch of man-made rules to avoid breaking the Torah, Yeshua taught that a right heart will by default keep Yahweh’s commands perfectly.

This is the good news of the New Covenant theology of Yeshua and the Kingdom of God! It is the fulfillment of the aspirations of all of the old prophets who foretold that Israel would receive a new heart that would be obedient to the Torah.

Jeremiah 31:33 – For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Yahweh: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The New Covenant is based on the Spirit of God dwelling among his people and causing their hearts to be changed to follow his Torah because it will be internalized, “written on their hearts.” With their hearts made righteous, his people would then by default accomplish his will and be the light to the nations that they have always been destined to be. This is why Yeshua told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” to see the Kingdom of God; an act of creation as decisive and real as physical birth. Those who receive the teaching of Yeshua and the commands of God are re-created into new beings with new hearts that produce new actions, actions that honor God and keep his Word.

The other definition of keeping as it relates to the covenant and commandments is to watch. Watching implies an alertness, being aware of surroundings, looking for any holes in the perimeter defenses to maintain the security of what is being guarded. This is the level of vigilance necessary to make sure that what God has provided is not being diminished by outside influence.

This is probably the most under utilized aspect within the concept of keeping the covenant and commands. Cultural influx of worldly ideals is and has been the biggest adversary to the people of God over the centuries. Living in an environment with a constant stream of values that negate or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it always has been. Unfortunately, with our Western worldview, the current efforts of God’s people to prop up defenses for God’s Word is many times based on arguments regarding literal interpretations of biblical events rather than standing firm on the text with literary defenses. In discussions today, we waste time trying to set historical dates and evidences for things like Noah’s flood or the age of the earth which only cause further debate and strife, both within and without the kingdom.

If we would instead recognize and defend the literary nature of the Bible and recognize the intent of the stories and what they are trying to teach rather than when they physically occurred, we would go much further in honoring God’s purpose in having an eternal record of those things. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I don’t believe those events occurred within history, it’s just that the biblical record is not a newspaper account that can be completely catalogued and charted in the realm of scientific study; it has never been intended to be such a record as that. And when believers attempt to become scientific about the Biblical accounts of various things that were never intended to be viewed in that fashion, they end up dishonoring the very One they are intending to honor, much like the Pharisaical leaders of Yeshua’s day.

We have to remember that the ancient Hebrew mindset was more symbolic and figurative than literal when it came to relating their events and history. Because of this, we must exercise care in our determination of historical events, common phrases that were used for familiar items and processes for them, and spiritual experiences that conveyed God’s truth in symbolic fashion. Just like the Pharisees of old, we can become so consumed with the minutiae of the letter of the Word that we miss the spiritual meaning of what it actually means.

There are also different emphases when it comes to being vigilant and watching as related in the teachings of Yeshua and his disciples. Some of the watching involves care in what type of teaching you expose yourself to:

Mark 8:15 – And [Yeshua] cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

This would indicate a measure of discernment that would be needed in the information being received both from religious and political authorities. Another type of watching comes from vigilance with our own actions, to ensure we are not carried away by worldly desires.

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

2 John 1:8 – Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Another type of watching involves the care of God’s leaders among his people, to be diligent in ensuring that those who have been given into their care are properly provided for so that the people can effectively serve God.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In our practice of watching carefully over God’s Word, ourselves, and each other, we must ensure that our vigilance in keeping his Word centers on honoring God, not on our personal theories about God or our personal traditions beyond what the text really says. The stories and message of the Bible are all meant to express the reality of God’s Kingdom, and his faithfulness with his people, reassuring us that God is the Creator of all and that he always does what he says. If this is the case, and we are to be his children, then we should also always do what we say so we can honor  and represent him faithfully in all things.

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been. As we remain faithful to the intent and the spirit of his word, not just the letter of the law or loyalty to our religious traditions, we can guarantee a fulfilling future for our descendants whom God will draw to himself and his Kingdom in ages to come.


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

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

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

The Kingdom law of restitution and generosity

A heart of covetousness can lead to a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom of God. Within God’s Kingdom, the law of God provides the guide for all behaviors that God expects of his people. One of the primary boundaries of God’s law concerns security of individual belongings where stealing is prohibited. Interestingly, God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. Those who violate the law must give abundantly or they must give themselves.

The commandment as it was stated by God from Sinai in Exodus 20:15 is simple and direct: “You shall not steal.” As we look at this topic today, I feel I need to restate the perspective I have of the Ten Commandments. Far from being done away, the Ten Commandments form what I consider to be the founding charter of the Kingdom of God. These are the basic yet comprehensive rules that God has established for those participating in his Kingdom for all time.

This Kingdom pattern was exemplified by the ancient Israelites being removed abruptly from the nation of their residence into the wilderness of a harsh desert environment. In this new environment, they required rules to function as a society. Certainly, since this was an act of God drawing a people to himself, these rules would need to set them apart from all other nations with higher standards than their counterparts. This new nation was designed to be a godly society founded on godly principles.

Within this new society, theft was expressly declared as forbidden. When theft is tolerated, then societal security begins to degrade and personal property can be violated at any time. Looked at from this perspective, the right to private and personal ownership is sort of “baked in” to the Kingdom of God. By definition, theft is the taking of something that belongs to someone else. Therefore, if stealing is wrong then there is an underlying premise that God respects his people owning things, whether animals for farming, houses for living in, or fields for growing food. Private ownership is necessary for the stability and growth of the community because people who own things produce a need for those things to be produced and maintained. This feedback loop then generates an economic engine of production and service capable of growing active, vital communities. Theft interrupts that cycle and creates a deficit of trust and security within a community requiring some sort of accountability for those who don’t respect the rights of others.

Within the entire Biblical narrative, theft is never looked upon as a positive characteristic. To be a thief is to knowingly take something from someone else, usually associated with violent acts or even murder.

Proverbs 1:10-11, 13-16 – My son, if sinners entice you, don’t be persuaded.  If they say ​– ​”Come with us! Let’s set an ambush and kill someone. Let’s attack some innocent person just for fun!  … “We’ll find all kinds of valuable property and fill our houses with plunder.  “Throw in your lot with us, and we’ll all share the loot” —  my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path,  because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood.

Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

The thief upsets the system of civilized conduct because they feel that the same rules that govern others do not apply to them. Whatever their justification is for taking something that belongs to someone else is to consider their reason more important than obeying the command to not steal and the rights of others to enjoy their own possessions. Theft is dangerous because it mocks the integrity of civil order in any society, and must be punished in order to maintain the economic integrity and security of the community.

However, interestingly, the torah or instruction of God reveals that theft is not punishable by death. Instead, a thief must face a fate that very well could be worse than death for them: they must pay restitution.

  • Exodus 22:1 – “When a man steals an ox or a sheep and butchers it or sells it, he must repay five cattle for the ox or four sheep for the sheep.
  • Exodus 22:7 – “When a man gives his neighbor valuables or goods to keep, but they are stolen from that person’s house, the thief, if caught, must repay double.
  • Exodus 22:3 – “… A thief must make full restitution. If he is unable, he is to be sold because of his theft.

At a minimum, they were to pay double what they stole (if the goods are recovered). But if what had been stolen had been sold or, in the case of a stolen animal, killed, then they were to pay up to four or five times the amount. If they were unable to pay, then they were to be sold into forced servitude to pay off the debt.

So it turns out that God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. They were to give abundantly out of their own possessions, or they were to be forced to give of themselves through servitude.

With the principles regarding theft clearly outlined in God’s law, it makes sense that those principles would also carry over into God’s spiritual Kingdom. However, not stealing and respecting the rights of others is only half of the equation that God wants us to practice. While the letter of the law required forced giving for those making restitution, the spirit of the law encourages us to be voluntarily giving from the heart at all times.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.

So, with this foundational understanding of property rights and appropriate behavior of his people, God, through Yeshua, has the ability to take this principle to the next level, and he does so through teachings regarding giving.

Yeshua taught that he did not come to abolish the law; in fact he upheld it at all times and fulfilled it in all he said and did. He was known for repeating the commands, including the law against stealing.

  • Matthew 19: 18 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 
  • Mark 10:19 “You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.”
  • Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.”

Yeshua also taught that not only should believers not steal, they should be generous.

  • Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matthew 10:8 – Freely you received, freely give.
  • 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.”

On the one hand, Yeshua upholds the law, yet on the other, he elevates it. For example, he takes the command against adultery and elevates it to the avoidance of even thinking promiscuously. He takes the command against murder and elevates it to the avoidance of even being angry. In a similar sense, to address the issue of covetousness in the life of a wealthy young inquirer, Yeshua also mentions a similar “restitution of generosity” for covetousness, which makes sense, since extreme coveting can also lead to theft.

Matthew 19: 18-22 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The young man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments. What else do I need to do?” Yeshua said to him, “If you want to be perfect, sell what you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he owned a lot of property.

In this sad instance of the man who was not willing to pay the price of following Yeshua, we see a bit of ourselves. How have we coveted the things of this world and the luxuries we have attained to where they keep us from exhibiting the generosity we should be providing to others? A heart of covetousness actually leads to a kind of stealing from God, a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.  According to Yeshua, this is the perfection that God seeks: not just not stealing, but giving and following his Messiah.

The spiritual Kingdom of God cannot be guided merely by restrictions against natural bad behaviors through the letter of the law only. If that were the case, the Kingdom would be made up of those who are really good at not doing anything wrong, but who also never do anything good for others. No, for the Kingdom to be eternal and growing to fill the earth as prophesied, it has to also produce the positive influence of God’s spirit and desire in the hearts of those who belong to him. This is how it can be a lasting influence in the world for all time.

In a similar way to the teaching of Yeshua, the apostle Paul taught that the solution for breaking any of the commandments, including stealing, was to demonstrate love to others.

Romans 13:9 – The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Paul also taught that those who practiced stealing should earn an honest living, not just for their own benefit, but so that they would have an opportunity to bless others with what they earn.

Ephesians 4:28 – Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Finally, let’s review one of the most dramatic examples of these principles in the life of Zacchaeus. He had become enthralled with the notoriety of the Messiah, and when Yeshua singled him out to be a host for him and his group, Zacchaeus was ecstatic with the recognition. While we don’t have the details of the entire process of his acceptance of Messiah, Yeshua made it clear that his renewed heart was genuine and he was no longer lost.

Luke 19:8-10 – But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

In recognizing the immeasurable grace and mercy of God’s salvation, Zacchaeus, in both the letter and spirit of the law, offers not only to pay back those whom he had extorted four times over as required in the law, but also to go above and beyond by giving away half of everything he had on behalf of the poor. By his actions, he demonstrated his heart of covetousness had been fully changed, and he was a new creation through faith in the Messiah.

Therefore, in keeping with the torah or instruction of God within his Kingdom, and as a follower of Yeshua, we should never secretly take anything that does not belong to us. Instead, we should always be willing to give generously of all resources that have been entrusted to us. And because the life he has given us is a debt we can never repay, the remainder of our existence should become an offering of voluntary servitude to the one who has provided us this immeasurable gift of life.


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

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

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

613 ways to be holy

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

The details of the biblical commandments have been a source of study for millennia. Reading through the five books of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) covers a wide range of information, from God’s creation of all things, to early history of the Israelite people, to their wilderness journeys and preparation to enter the promised land.

Most significantly, an event is related to us where God revealed himself to the entire nation at once at Mount Sinai. It was here that the people heard the voice of God for themselves, and it is here that Moses received the details of God’s law. This law was to set them apart from all other nations on the earth because of its wisdom and practices.

  • Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – “Look, I have taught you statutes and ordinances as Yahweh my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to possess. “Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as Yahweh our God is to us whenever we call to him? “And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today?

This law was to be the distinguishing aspect of God’s people. There are laws that regulate all aspects of the life of an ancient Israelite. From food and sanitation, to marital and sexual relations, to priestly activities, to worship and sacrificial activities, to civil disputes and criminal punishments, and to war. A quick internet search on 613 commandments will provide the entire list, typically broken out into various categories as listed above.

What is interesting to note is that not all of the commandments apply to everyone, and some are only specific to certain activities at certain times of the year. Some apply only to women, and some apply only to priests.Some are focused only on the biblical holidays, others focus on conflicts that may only arise from time to time. Some are positive commands requiring action, others are prohibitions restricting behaviors. The more one looks at the overall collection of commands and prohibitions, it becomes apparent that not all of them applied to everyone equally at all times. However, there are general similarities and overarching principles that can be derived from reviewing all of them with regularity.

Most modern believers might say that, while that is all well and good, there is little need to focus our time and energy on this outdated law because it has been done away with and no longer applies. They might say that Messiah fulfilled all of the law so we don’t have to. But is that really true? Did Messiah fulfill all of the law so we don’t have to pay any attention to it?

  • Psalm 119:142 – Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law [torah] is true.
  • Psalm 119:89 – Yahweh, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.
  • Psalm 119:160 – The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever.
  • Isaiah 40:8- The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.

Even Yeshua mentioned the nature of God’s eternal instruction.

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

What we need to realize in our day is that Messiah did not abolish the law, but he did fulfill the law. Specifically, as the symbolic Lamb of God, he fulfilled everything related to the temple, sacrifices, and priestly worship, and they are no longer needed in earthly practice. This was evidenced by the destruction of the temple. However, as the beginning of the new creation, he elevated the law to its rightful place as a regulator of eternal spiritual principles. As his people, he expects us to also fulfill the law in his name.

  • Galatians 6:2 – Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Messiah.
  • James 2:8 – Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
  • 1 John 2:3-6 – This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. The one who says, “I have come to know him,” and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.

Even though we may not be temple priests and not all of us are women, not all of us are civil rulers and not all of us have families of our own, we are still governed by the principles of God’s eternal torah or law. We all, as part of God’s new creation and spiritual kingdom, are expected to abide by its principles as they apply in the various aspects of our lives.

When asked about the law, Yeshua stated it this way:

  • 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.”

In Yeshua’s teaching, all of the torah or law of God can be summed up in these two commands: love God and love your neighbor. These two commands are explained in more detail in the Ten Commandments; the first five apply to God and his authority and the second five apply to our relations with others. The Ten Commandments are the basis and foundation upon which all of the other commands in the law of Moses are based.

So, if everything in the 613 commands of the law makes God’s people holy and distinct, and everything in the law is explained in the Ten Commandments, and everything the Ten Commandments is, according to Yeshua, summarized in the Two Great Commandments, then how hard is it for us to be holy as God expects and for us to follow his eternal law today?


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

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

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

Standing for the truth of God’s word above the philosophies of men

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

  • Colossians 2:8 – Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.

This admonition from the apostle Paul strikes at the heart of the major conflict that the first century believers faced: the resistance of the orthodox Jews of their day who did not accept their Messiah. The Messiah-believing Jews were coming out from among the ranks of orthodox Judaism into what was considered a new sect. However, what was happening biblically was the remnant of true Israelites was being separated from the rest of unbelieving Judaism, even among those who had been dispersed, as had been prophesied.

  • Isaiah 10:20-22 – On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no longer depend on the one who struck them, but they will faithfully depend on the Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. Israel, even if your people were as numerous as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction has been decreed; justice overflows.
  • Isaiah 11:10-12 – On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people who survive ​– ​from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west. He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; he will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

This process required immense vigilance, determination, and faith in God. They were being persecuted (that is, hunted with intent to harm) by their very own brothers. They were being challenged in their faith on principles they had grown up believing, being taught in the synagogues throughout the areas where they lived. They were coming to see that many of the traditions and ideas that had been created by the religious elite were being cast away because they were not God’s design for his spiritual people.

Yeshua had railed against the religious leaders for their adherence to their traditions and philosophies above the both the clear and symbolic teachings of Scripture.

  • Matthew 15:3-6 – He [Yeshua] answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

Besides their hypocrisy and pride, Yeshua was calling them out on their observance to their own philosophical traditions that they held to above Scripture. They had created traditions around the teachings of Scripture, traditions that were contrary to the spirit and purpose of the law.

The apostle Paul in like fashion condemned the man-made restrictions and rules that had been added to the clear teaching and meaning of Scripture:

  • Colossians 2:23 – These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The true message of the kingdom was not more restrictions and rules by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of those things in Messiah and the advent of the spiritual kingdom adhering to the spirit of the law. The oral laws and traditions that had been added to the law of Moses were being shed as people began to understand Messiah’s teaching in light of the spiritual kingdom.

For example, physical circumcision had become a “badge of honor” among the Jews regardless of any spiritual or ethical practices. Paul preached that this was no longer necessary, but spiritual circumcision through a removal of the flesh through baptism was.

  • Colossians 2:11 – In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah…

Temple worship and practices were no longer needed, because the body of believers themselves had become the dwelling place of God, as taught by both Paul and Peter.

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah.

These were the types of teachings that continued to separate the remnant of Israel from the orthodox Judaism of the day.

We also have a responsibility to confront the false teachings, traditions, and philosophies that have grown up around the true faith of Messiah in the centuries since these brave and faithful forefathers stood their ground in the first century. Through our institutions, organizations, and denominations, we have created a new “oral law,” a set of trappings that continue to divide and separate God’s people. We have created holy days not listed in Scripture, constructed networks of churches around the dynamics of charismatic leaders and humanistic teachings, and built a theology of orthodoxy on the philosophies of men rather than the truth of Scripture.

We have strayed from the spiritual nature of the kingdom into the realm of trying to build a physical kingdom representation in our own image. We must return to the roots of biblical faith and the spiritual kingdom that Messiah established two millennia ago. We, like our spiritual forefathers, must remain vigilant in the face of those who, as the apostle Paul admonished, would seek to take us “captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.”

  • Colossians 3:23-24 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Messiah.

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

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

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

Following our God of compassion

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

Being a believer in the God of the Bible presents a primary challenge that has eluded the Body of Messiah over the centuries since he walked this earth: unity. Those who claim to believe in Messiah and abide within the dictates of the Bible have been marginalized in society, and yet splintered and at war with each other at times.

Our struggles among ourselves are typically centered on issues of doctrine: what is considered orthodoxy and what is considered heretical. This is nothing new, as the Bible is filled with examples of individuals and groups who have separated and fought with each other within the overall Hebraic worldview and the Judaic roots of our faith.

In the days of Yeshua and the early believers, there were many factions of the faith, notably between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judea. When Yeshua met the woman at the well, she stated one of those doctrinal differences evident at that time:

John 4:20 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Additionally, famous within the “orthodox” Judaism of the day, another difference was demonstrated by the beliefs of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The apostle Paul even used these differences in a ploy to defend himself before their tribunal.

Acts 23:6-8 – When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead! ” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.

Paul repeatedly urged for unity and oneness among the faithful congregations to who he wrote his epistles:

  • Ephesians 4:1-4 – Therefore I, the prisoner in Yahweh, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit ​– ​just as you were called to one hope at your calling ​– ​
  • Colossians 3:12-15 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as Yahweh has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.

So why is this so hard to achieve? How is it that those who claim to believe in Messiah are still so fractured and splintered among thousands of denominations today? I suggest it may have to do largely with a lack of compassion. In recently reading a section of Israel’s history, I was struck by one sentiment that was expressed by the writer of 2 Chronicles in relation to the following of the Torah.

2 Chronicles 30:16-20 – [The priests] stood at their prescribed posts, according to the law of Moses, the man of God. The priests splattered the blood received from the Levites, for there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves, and so the Levites were in charge of slaughtering the Passover lambs for every unclean person to consecrate the lambs to Yahweh. A large number of the people ​– ​many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun ​– ​were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Yahweh provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” So Yahweh heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

The people had failed to obey every little detail of the Torah in relation to the purification rite, but Hezekiah recognized that their hearts were in the right place, and they were acting with the best of intentions, so he interceded for them. And the text says that God heard that prayer and healed or reconciled the people to himself.

Perhaps if, like Hezekiah, we did less judgment and more intercession on behalf of those whose doctrine may not line up 100% with our own, we may provide more occasions for oneness and unity as believers in the one God of the Bible. This is due to the fact that intercession on behalf of others stems from a heart of compassion, and compassion and mercy are the defining characteristics of Yahweh himself.

Exodus 34:6 – Yahweh passed in front of [Moses] and proclaimed: Yahweh ​– ​Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

When we exhibit compassion towards all others, not just in the context of helping the downtrodden and poor of society but extending compassion towards others who believe in the Bible but still may not agree with us, we open up opportunities for communication and dialogue, dialogue that can enlighten and enrich. Perhaps we can ask God for hearts like Priscila and Aquila.

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 Yahweh; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Yeshua, 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.

Recognizing that Apollos’ heart was in the right place, Priscilla and Aquila were moved to openly discuss doctrine with Apollos to help him understand “the way of God more accurately.” Of course, we all may think we have the most accurate understanding of God’s word. But if we are truly humble and realize that none of us have all the answers, we should keep at least a small door open to improving our own understanding of God’s word “more accurately.” Perhaps, when we focus less on the letter of the law and more on the hearts that are truly seeking the God of the Bible, we may be more successful in attuning ourselves to that same passion and building bridges to unity in the process.


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

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

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

Consistent compassion based on love for God

The heart of the Bible lies in the simplicity of its core message.

The heart of the Bible lies in the simplicity of its core message.

There are two great summaries in the Bible of the conduct that
God expects of mankind. To believers in Messiah, one of them comes to the surface of our thinking rather easily.

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 Yahweh 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.”

According to Yeshua, to love God and to love our neighbor is the summary of all of the Law and the Prophets. However, there is another summary in the Old Testament that was spoken to the nation of Israel during one of their most turbulent times in their history.

The second of the great summaries of conduct that God expects of people occurred just prior to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. A prophet by the name of Micah was tasked with lining out the sins of the nation as a witness against them of the impending judgment of God. The book of Micah is one long condemnation of their idolatrous and ungodly practices. Yet, even amidst the darkness of their actions, Micah provides a glimmer of insight: they ultimately knew the right thing to do but insisted on their own ways instead. He ironically presents their case as sarcastically asking, “What does God expect of us? Sacrifices of our animals or even the first born of our children?”

Micah 6:6-7 – What should I bring before Yahweh when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin?

To this foolish complaint, the prophet Micah provides the bedrock of God’s just judgment:

Micah 6:8 – Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is Yahweh requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah then states what they already knew but were choosing to ignore. They were simply to perform true justice, to seek after merciful interactions with one another, and to be humble in their godly walk. Is this not saying the same thing as “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself?”

Micah could say that God had shown them what was good and what Yahweh expected of them, because he already had during the time of Moses.

  • Deuteronomy 6:5 – “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
  • Deuteronomy 10:12 – “And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God ask of you except to fear Yahweh your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship Yahweh your God with all your heart and all your soul?
  • Leviticus 19:15 – “Do not act unjustly when deciding a case. Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly.
  • Deuteronomy 5:20-21 – “Do not give dishonest testimony against your neighbor. “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
  • Leviticus 19:18 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

When Yeshua stated the greatest commands, he was simply quoting Moses. This then, demonstrates how this simple principle of loving God and loving one’s neighbor is consistent throughout all of Torah: from Moses, to the Prophets, and into the New Testament with the teaching of Yeshua. This is the very basis, and the goal, of all biblical teaching.

If we are truly to love our neighbor, we must act in just ways, doing what is right by them according to God’s Word. We must also love them by demonstrating mercy when it is in our power to do so. And we must act in these ways with humility because of our respect and honor for God as we seek to walk in his ways.

1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.


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

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

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

God’s children are commandment keepers

Obedience to the King’s rule is fundamental in the kingdom.

Obedience to the King’s rule is fundamental in the kingdom.

In the past I have described the Ten Commandments, or the Ten Words, as the Charter of the Kingdom of God. This means that these commandments are the basic rules that God expects his people to follow.

In legal terms, a charter is “a grant made by the sovereign either to the whole people or to a portion of them, securing to them the enjoyment of certain rights.” To further explain, the legal dictionary explains: “A charter differs from a constitution in this, that the former is granted by the sovereign, while the latter is established by the people themselves : both are the fundamental law of the land.”

As I have stated many times before, I do not believe the Ten Commandments were just for the national people of Israel. They are the only words ever spoken directly by God to a whole mixed community of individuals at once, and they were carved into stone, the most durable of records, by the very finger of God himself. Based even on only these two criteria, there is no other document or record anywhere conveyed directly by God with those to whom he was intending to communicate.

Yeshua verified that he was not doing away with any commands of Torah:

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

To recognize the universality of this principle brings one to a more comprehensive understanding of God: his Word, his instruction, his Torah, is eternal. God’s people are those who understand and obey his words.

Further, there is not a single individual in the entire Bible who has ever been condemned for keeping the word of God, his Torah. There are, however, plenty of examples of those who were condemned for NOT keeping his Word:

  • Psalm 119:158 – I have seen the disloyal and feel disgust because they do not keep your word.
  • Nehemiah 1:7 – We have acted corruptly toward you and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances you gave your servant Moses.
  • Amos 2:4 – Yahweh says: I will not relent from punishing Judah for three crimes, even four, because they have rejected the instruction of Yahweh and have not kept his statutes. The lies that their ancestors followed have led them astray.
  • Malachi 3:7 – “Since the days of your fathers, you have turned from my statutes; you have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says Yahweh of Armies.

There are examples of those who were condemned for ADDING unnecessarily to his words by their traditions:

Mark 7:9, 13 – [Yeshua] also said to [the Pharisees and scribes], “You have a fine way of invalidating God’s command in order to set up your tradition! … “You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”

But no one ever is condemned for actually keeping and obeying his words; that’s what his obedient children are known for!

  • Psalm 119:57, 60, 63, 106 – Yahweh is my portion; I have promised to keep your words.  … I hurried, not hesitating to keep your commands.  … I am a friend to all who fear you, to those who keep your precepts.  … I have solemnly sworn to keep your righteous judgments.
  • John 8:29, 47, 55 – “The one who sent me [Yeshua] is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.” … “The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.” … “You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his word.
  • Philippians 2:8 – [Yeshua] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.

Those in the Kingdom of God are those who honor God by keeping his commands in humble obedience. The Ten Commandments or Ten Words were kept by Yeshua, and if we consider ourselves his followers, then we should be keeping them, too.


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.

The righteousness that originates in the heart

Living by faith in Messiah produces the obedience that God desires.

Living by faith in Messiah produces the obedience that God desires.

In writing to the Roman congregation, the apostle Paul conveys his frustration over the refusal of the majority of his own people, the Jews, to believe in Yeshua as the promised Messiah. They were instead clinging desperately to rules and regulations, not to the law of God exclusively, but to a law they invented around the the law of God. The rules and regulations they came up with had to be followed exactingly or the individual was not considered to be righteous.

Romans 10:2-3 – I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.

Paul brings his argument to its pinnacle by stating the centrality of faith in Yeshua is the ultimate goal of the true law of God, and if they were truly attempting to be obedient to God, they would have accepted the life and example of the Messiah.

Romans 10:4 – For Messiah is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

The Helps word study of the Discovery Bible clarifies the meaning of this Greek word translated as “end” in this verse.

“télos (a neuter noun) – properly, consummation (the end-goal, purpose), such as closure with all its results. [This root (tel-) means “reaching the end (aim).” It is well-illustrated with the old pirate’s telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).]”

The perspective that Paul appears to be arguing for is that Messiah is not the end (or abolishing) of the law, for then he would be contradicting Yeshua directly.

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

No, Paul seems to be conveying that Messiah is the end-goal or consummating purpose of the law; Yeshua’s life, his teaching, and his self-sacrificial example are showing us what the fulfillment of the law is all about.

Romans 10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

And when we believe the message of the Messiah with our hearts, we then are also living in fulfillment of the law and attain righteousness that God desires: a righteousness that is by faith because it is truly in our hearts and not just a list of rote commands that we follow because that is what we think we are supposed to do.

The law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, doesn’t need endless lists of human commands around them to help us keep them. No, when the heart desires to truly keep God’s commands, it causes us to be obedient regardless if we are told to by humans or not.

The Jewish practice of creating hundreds of laws around the law of God, while intended to create more obedience, actually only served to obfuscate the righteous commands of God, and ended up creating a greater burden for the people and they could never get out from underneath it, even to this day.

The clarity that Yeshua brought is that the true place of faith resides in the heart obedience to the truth of God’s revelation, not the outward show of following the endless rules of men. Paul built on this by saying that believing in the life, teaching, and sacrificial example of Messiah as Lord (the guiding principle in our lives) should lead us also to a life of heart-obedience to the plain law of God. This is where righteousness, the concept of acceptable conduct before God, originates: in the heart, not in showy actions that one is only following because they think they are supposed to. When Yeshua is Lord of our lives, we can truly live according to God’s Word from the heart. This is the end-goal and the consummation of the law of God.


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

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

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

Acceptance by God has always been by faith

The principles of Torah are eternal.

Leviticus 4:27, 29-31 – “Now if any of the common people sins unintentionally by violating one of Yahweh’s commands, does what is prohibited, and incurs guilt, … “He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. “Then the priest is to take some of its blood with his finger and apply it to the horns of the altar of burnt offering. He is to pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. … The priest is to burn it on the altar as a pleasing aroma to Yahweh. In this way the priest will make atonement on his behalf, and he will be forgiven.”

In our modern view of the Torah, we typically are taught to look at the sacrifices offered according to the methods that God instructed as being works designed to bring forgiveness; as if the offerer is doing some kind of work to gain their “salvation,” or their right-standing with God. We then paint with a broad brush the entire Torah and say, “See, the whole system was a system of works that God abhors, since there is nothing we can do to become righteous with God on our own.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, why would God abhor the very system he himself put in place for the Israelites to follow? The reason the system had validity was because God designed and commanded it.

The whole system was not a system of works for personal righteousness (even though that is what it had become over time). It was a system designed to bring the offerer before God in faith that the sacrifice they were bringing would be accepted by him. To bring a sacrifice according to Torah was to approach God in faith of being forgiven.

Through all of the sacrifices and offerings prescribed by Torah, there had to be an element of faith that the offerer brought with their sacrifice, otherwise, there would be no point to the sacrifice. If the offerer did not believe that they would be forgiven of their offense against God after following the prescribed method, then there would be no need to do so at all. The sacrifice or offering meant nothing without faith.

Through this process, God was attempting to teach the Israelites (and now, the rest of the world) that every action according to Torah is an act of faith, and it is only on the basis of faith that God would accept anyone.

Paul even taught that faith was the very basis of what maintained the structure of the Torah.

Romans 3:31 – Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

If the ancient Israelites were to bring a sacrifice without faith, God would not accept it. If they performed the rituals of the annual festivals without faith, God would not be pleased. Inspired by the Spirit of God, the prophet Amos condemned the nation for these very things.

Amos 5:12, 21-22 – For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. [You] oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates. … I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.

The reason God would not accept them was not because they were following Torah commandments, but because the people were only doing them for “religious” reasons, not because they actually had faith in Yahweh. They would offer these sacrifices and celebrate the feasts and then turn right around and worship the idols of Molech and Remphan and take advantage of their countrymen, denying them the justice due them. This demonstrated that their hearts were far from God, and they were not operating within the parameter of Torah in faith. The actual practices of Torah themselves, the sacrifices and offerings, did not have magical abilities to wipe away sinfulness of those who were not interested in bringing them in the first place; their hearts had to be right in order for the sacrifices to become effective.

The writer of Hebrews alludes to this same principle at the height of his epistle to the early believers in Messiah:

Hebrews 10:4, 26-27 – For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. … For if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.

Whether the sacrifice was an animal or a grain offering or the symbolic sacrifice of the Messiah himself, they would only become effective when offered or accepted in faith with hearts that were sincere before God. Someone today who claims to believe in Yeshua within the congregation of believers and yet lives like every other non-believer the rest of the week is not a person of faith and does not stand forgiven of their sins. This is the same eternal principle of Torah for all time, and will never change.

We must always approach God in faith, with hearts that are truly repentant and sincere for God to restore us. Thankfully for believers today, the animal sacrifices of Torah are no longer necessary since all of the priestly rites and temple rituals have been fulfilled once for all in the symbolic offering of Messiah.

Hebrews 10:10 – By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua Messiah once for all time.

We can now boldly approach God according to Torah, now through Messiah, but only with humility and true faith.

Hebrews 4:16 – Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.


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.

Set apart for obedience to God’s will

The culmination of the biblical imagery is fulfilled in Messiah.

Hebrews 10:4-10 – For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Therefore when he comes into the world, he says, ‘You didn’t desire sacrifice and offering, but you prepared a body for me. You had no pleasure in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of me) to do your will, O God.’ Previously saying, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you didn’t desire, neither had pleasure in them’ (those which are offered according to the law), then he has said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He takes away the first, that he may establish the second, by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

While most believers look to the book of Romans as the most theologically dense writing of the New Testament, in actuality, I believe the book of Hebrews provides the most depth of theology, and also provides us the perspective of how the early believers, who were all Jewish, viewed the work and ministry of Yeshua.

The book never names its author; many think it is Paul, some think it may have been Timothy. The individual carries many of the same long phrases and characteristic nuances of Paul. Regardless, throughout the book, a well-planned and graduated argument is laid out for the meaning and purpose of what Messiah came to do.

By chapter ten, the book is reaching a crescendo of thought and focuses on the work of Messiah contrasted with the sacrifices of the priests according to the law of Moses. Almost all commentators focus on Yeshua’s blood sacrifice against the animal sacrifices of the priests. But is that the true comparison or contrast being laid out here? I don’t believe so, and here is why.

First, it is established that animal sacrifices don’t take away sin. This was not a new concept to biblical thought, since Psalm 40 is then quoted to demonstrate this. The problem begins with the representation of Psalm 40 in this passage of Hebrews and it being mis-quoted (in our modern Bibles) in this passage where it says “you prepared a body for me.” If we actually go back to the text in the Psalms, we see that it reads:

Psalm 40:6-8 “Sacrifice and offering you didn’t desire. You have opened my ears. You have not required burnt offering and sin offering. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come. It is written about me in the book in the scroll. I delight to do your will, my God. Yes, your law is within my heart.’”

So the original text does not include a body being prepared for Messiah, but that his ears were opened. Opened to what? “Your law is within my heart.” Yes, the Messiah exemplified receptiveness to the law which is equated with the obedience of “delighting to do God’s will.”

The writer of Hebrews then states the crux of his argument: “He takes away the first (i.e., the animal sacrifices) that he may establish the second (the doing of God’s will in obedience from the heart). That is the contrast of thought in this passage, NOT the animal sacrifices vs. the sacrifice of Yeshua. The thought is concluded by saying “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua once for all.”

You see, Yeshua offered his body in obedience to God’s will, and THAT is the characteristic that sets believers apart: when we, in like fashion as our Lord and Messiah, are obedient to God’s will from the heart. THAT is the “second” (the doing of God’s will from the heart) that is being contrasted with the “first” (animal sacrifices).

This is what sanctifies or sets believers apart from the rest of the world. We have received God’s eternal torah or instruction written in our heart, and we are willing to obey it to the death, if needed. That is how Yeshua’s death “sanctifies” believers; he provided the ultimate example for us to follow.

The blood of the new covenant is not the physical sacrifice of a man in Judea two thousand years ago for some spiritual “blood debt,” because the writer tells us plainly that physical blood cannot take away any sins, and this was known throughout biblical history. But what the blood represents is what is important: this blood is the life of an individual who was willing to pay the ultimate price in obedience to his God. The “first” has been fulfilled with the “second.”

The Bible plainly teaches that the blood carries the life of the individual, which is why it is forbidden to eat or drink blood.

Leviticus 17:11 – ” For the life of the flesh is in the blood. I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.”

The blood makes atonement by reason of the life not the death. This was the symbolic significance that God was attempting to teach his people to understand with every animal sacrifice. It was not the death of the animal that was the point, but the representative life that was being forfeited on behalf of another.

This passage in Hebrews is the culmination of all of those spiritual lessons that had led up this point; the law is the “schoolmaster that leads to Messiah,” (Galatians 3:24). This is the contrast that illustrates what the whole New Testament points to. This man Yeshua is who believers are called to follow; this is who we are called to imitate. This is the new covenant of having our “ears opened” to the instruction of God, and being willing to follow him wherever he leads, even to the ultimate act of giving our life on behalf of others, if needed.


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