Bringing faith to completion through perseverance

The trial and proof of your faith are one and the same.

James 1:2-4, 12 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. … Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

According to the first verse in this epistle, James is writing to the twelve tribes of Israel in the Dispersion. These are the scattered Israelites who were the descendants of those who had been taken captive during the Assyrian and Babylonian campaigns to overthrow Israel roughly six hundred years previous. Some of them had attempted to maintain their Hebraic identity, but most had been assimilated into the cultures of the nations to which they were taken. James is writing to them as a believer in the Messiah; this is a call to return to the faith of their fathers with the fulfillment of the restoration of Israel through faith in Messiah.

In living among the pagan nations, they experienced many trials in attempting to live as Hebrew believers in the one true God. James addresses this as the primary issue they faced, but he does so in a way to encourage them that these trials actually demonstrate the truth of their faith. Though their faith was being tested, it was also being proven. The word for testing also serves to illustrate the proof of that faith. As they remained vigilant and steadfast in their faith, the quality of their faith was being proven to those around them.

This steadfastness of faith is a term derived from the original Greek which means “to remain under.” It is sometimes translated as endurance or perseverance. It illustrates that their faith was being proven as they remained under the pressure of the trial.

This is a similar characteristic that the apostle Paul mentions in his letter to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

James takes this endurance a step further by saying that the endurance or perseverance during trials provides a completeness to one’s faith; it’s as if the faith is lacking something until it actually undergoes a trial to see if it is genuine. In doing so, one receives the crown of life, the reward of the victor through conquest. In the culture of the day, the wreath or crown was only awarded to the athlete who endured through the contest of strength and overcame the adversity by persevering above all others. However, in the spiritual contest of the new believers in Messiah, their reward was life itself, not just a wreath to adorn their heads.

We today are in a similar situation as those scattered Israelite descendants of long ago. We have echoes of a spiritual heritage that has become enmeshed with the culture around us. Yet, through the same faith in Messiah, we are tasked with demonstrating a perseverance in that faith which results in a continuation of that same life that has been provided throughout the intervening millennia, “the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”


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 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.

The realization of trust in the brevity of this life

Having a realistic trust in God can help our long-term human anxiety.

Psalm 39:4-7, 12 – “Yahweh, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely every man stands as a mere breath! Surely man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing are they in turmoil; man heaps up, and knows not who will gather! And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. … Hear my prayer, O Yahweh, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am your passing guest, a sojourner, like all my fathers.”

Whether we care to admit it or not, all of life is about expectations. We expect that we will live through the day, that life will go on as usual tomorrow, and that we will reach a ripe old age. However, those expectations have a way of being unmet from time to time. Sometimes, people go about their day with the typical expectation, only to meet with a tragic accident of some sort. And while the sun continues to come up each day, the environment in which we live may change drastically in an instant, like an earthquake, tsunami, volcano, or violent storm. We don’t always reach that ripe old age that we expect to live to.

In fact, if one pauses at any length to consider these types of things, it’s a wonder that more people don’t place their trust in God. Even the godly man represented in the psalm above recognizes that life is fleeting, his days are as “handbreadths,” and that life is just as brief as a “breath” or as incorporeal as a “shadow.” The godly person, even in the consideration of these realities, still recognizes that God is worthy of trust, perhaps even more so. Because so much of this existence is beyond our control, it really becomes a rational proposition to consider the reality and provision of God throughout our lives.

After jotting down some of my own ideas, I briefly reviewed a group of online articles providing a whole list of things we have no control over in this life:

  • where or when we are born
  • who our parents are
  • financial status of family we are born into
  • our looks, height, skin color
  • the weather (or natural events)
  • the passing of time (inclusive of the future or the past)
  • other people’s opinions
  • some diseases
  • when/how other people die
  • when/how we die

One list even humorously included cats as something we cannot control. As a cat owner, I can attest to this.

Yet in spite of all of these things beyond our control, we still go through life believing we are the masters of our own destiny, that we can do whatever we want whenever we want to do it. That’s not always possible, as some of the items above will attest to. And when we encounter those types of things we may not be able to do when we have the attitude that we should be able to, it can create bitterness, personal strife, and envy.

Yet, if we choose instead to trust God for the things we have no control over, we can learn to adopt the attitude of the psalmist: to consider ourselves as “passing guests” in God’s creation, “sojourners” like all of the previous generations who have gone on before us. Understanding that God is ultimately in control allows us to trust him for the things that we realize are beyond our control, and for him to provide what we need at the right time he sees fit.

Romans 8:28 – We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

This doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us as believers is good, but that in the grand scheme of this brief life, as long as we continue to trust him, God has our best interest at heart no matter what comes our way. Sometimes he even creates unforeseen opportunities or provides us unprecedented skills to meet whatever immediate need may arise. Realizing these aspects of God’s involvement in his creation should free us up from unnecessary worry over things we have no control over to be more productive in what we can accomplish for the kingdom of God when we trust fully in him.


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.

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.

Bringing to life our highest purpose

We will not grow fruit for God if we are not performing the purpose for which we have been created in him.

1 John 3:16-18 – This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him ​– ​how does God’s love reside in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.

Messiah’s example should motivate us to think about and act on the needs of individuals in our community. The highest gift one can give to another is to lay down one’s life, symbolically or literally. This is the life-principle we are called to as followers of Messiah, and this is the example we should set for everyone around us. When we aid people in need at the sacrifice of our own comfort and resources, we are laying down our life, i.e., putting our own selfish needs aside to meet the needs of others. This is the essence of Yeshua’s appeal for compassion and kindness from his disciples.

Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

When we are obedient in this fashion, we open ourselves up to the same mercy to be shown to us by God and others.

Acts 9:36-41 – In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity. About that time she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him who urged him, “Don’t delay in coming with us.” Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her stand up. He called the saints and widows and presented her alive.

When this woman died, she was recognized for her deeds of kindness, producing and distributing clothing to those in need. Mercy was shown to her because of her merciful actions towards others.

Matthew 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

The aim of salt, according to Yeshua’s metaphor, is to fulfill a purpose; otherwise, it would be thrown aside as useless. We will not grow fruit for God if we are not performing the purpose for which we have been created in him, and we risk being thrown aside as idle vessels while he seeks others to work through.

We should not only declare that we believe in Messiah; instead, we should follow his example of laying down his life to aid others with whatever skills and abilities God has bestowed upon us.

1 John 3:18 – Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.


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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

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

Guarding the source of life

The Proverbs provide a template for guarding our hearts against wickedness.

Vigilance in the believer’s life takes intentional thought and effort, which is why it is likely so rarely witnessed. GK Chesterton is quoted as saying “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.

“Keeping” of one’s heart means to guard, watch and observe. The word for vigilance implies confinement and custody as if imprisoned with a posted guard.

In the Bible, the heart has extreme value; it is the inmost person, the repository of all influence and insight. According to Solomon throughout his Proverbs, the qualities surrounding the heart demonstrate why it is so important to guard and watch over it.

  • 2:2 the heart can be pointed to understanding
  • 3:1 the heart keeps commandments
  • 3:3 instruction is written on the heart
  • 3:5 the heart is the root of trust in Yahweh
  • 4:4 the heart holds onto instruction
  • 6:21 instruction is to be bound and tied to the heart
  • 7:3 instruction can be engraved there
  • 23:12 the heart is the place of discipline
  • 23:15 the heart is the place of wisdom
  • 23:17 the heart can envy sin
  • 23:19 the heart can be directed
  • 23:26 the heart can be given (submitted to truth)
  • 24:17 it is the place of secretive emotion
  • 27:23 the heart is the source of attention

With the centrality and potential influence of the heart in all of these things, it is little wonder that the heart is something to be guarded, confined, and watched over with all vigilance. 4:23 sums up the essence of the heart when it says, “from it flow the springs of life.”

A clean spring is an enviable source of fresh water in a culture of the desert. If the heart is the source of this type of refreshing and nourishing life, then all of the things mentioned in the context of the heart must be central to ensuring the righteous life experience: instruction, commands, discipline, wisdom, truth, focus, and trust in Yahweh.

Proverbs 25:26 – Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who falters or slips before the wicked.

The vigilance required in keeping the heart safe and pure is a safeguard against the wickedness that is encountered in this world. If one gives in to the destructive perversions around them, they have relinquished the safe-guarding of their heart. In that instance, their heart then becomes as a muddy spring or a polluted fountain, good for nothing but casting up mire and dirt. It no longer has the ability to refresh or nourish anyone or anything.

If we treat the commands and instruction of our heavenly Father as Solomon asked of his own son to follow his parents’ commands, we have a template for guarding our hearts against all wickedness we may encounter.

Proverbs 6:20-23 – My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life…


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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

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

The limitless resource of strength and life

God’s Word and his Spirit is the foundation of a believer’s integrity.

Psalm 1:1-3 – How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in Yahweh’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

At the opening of the book of Psalms is a description of the person of integrity, one who is not captivated and led astray by the sins of those around them. Notice: he does not abide by wicked advice or counsel, he does not take a stand in the way of sinners or dwell with those who arrogantly scorn others.

I have heard sermons illustrating the arc of being led astray by sin in this fashion: it begins by walking in bad advice, then standing with sinners, and finally sitting with those who mock others. Being led astray begins by walking, slows to standing, and ends with sitting among sinners. While it makes a good sermon and is not unhelpful, the underlying Hebrew is not quite that specific. The main focus is not to associate in casual ways with those who are rebellious against the things of God, or one will become like them and dwell among them.

By contrast, the person of integrity will avoid this downward spiral by a very simple and time-honored strategy: to delight in Yahweh’s torah or instruction and to constantly refer to and rely on the principles of God. To the person of integrity, God’s word is delightful, pleasant, and worthy of time and thoughtful study. The word in English is typically translated as meditate, but it also conveys ideas of musing, imagining, speaking and uttering God’s torah. This process is continual, day and night, thinking on, rehearsing and speaking about God’s instruction. This is the foundation of a believer’s integrity.

When one honor’s God’s instruction in this way, the psalmist likens them to a tree that is always vibrant, regardless of the harshness of the environment. If the weather is hot and dry, the tree continues to flourish and bear fruit just as if its roots were tapped into a nearby stream.

Yeshua also references this source of strength in similar terminology.

John 7:38-39 – The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit…

The believer in Messiah who is immersed in the instruction of God will be provided a resource to counter any adverse condition they may encounter. The depths of this resource are limitless, as it is the very Spirit of God himself. Not only will one avoid the snares of the ungodly, but they can also bear fruit in the most inhospitable environments. This is the path of the righteous, the person of integrity.

Proverbs 4:18-19 – The way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they don’t know what makes them stumble. But he path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday.

Having the light of the dawn carries hope that the night is almost over, but the righteous person is continually increasing in brightness as they draw from the limitless resource within them. Just as the sun is an inexhaustible source of light and heat, the Spirit of God is an inexhaustible source of wisdom, strength and life. This is the resource available to all believers.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ 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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

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

The contrast of holiness in a world of darkness

Our priorities are not the same priorities of the world around us.

Proverbs 29:27 – An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

This proverb highlights the condition and the role of the righteous on the earth: to be set apart as holy and distinct. If there is a distinction being made, then the differing factions will have diverse viewpoints. Yeshua himself illustrated this point as he described how his teaching was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Matthew 10:34-37 – Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Holiness by its very nature causes divergence of thoughts, opinions, and allegiances. One of the most notable features demonstrating the holiness of the teachings of Yeshua is that he was a polarizing figure; he was presenting ideas and concepts where people had to choose sides between options.

Matthew 12:30 – Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with me scatters.

This was not a new or novel concept; God’s servants and messengers have always presented polarizing options in the way of holiness. Moses and Joshua did so with the nation of Israel as they were preparing to enter the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 30:16-19 – “For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. “But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow in worship to other gods and serve them, “I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not prolong your days in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…

Joshua 24:14-15 – “Therefore, fear the LORD and worship him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship the LORD. “But if it doesn’t please you to worship the LORD, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship ​– ​the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.”

Holiness is in some ways, in the most profound ways, a very real burden for those who are acting in the way of the righteous, the derech ha-tzaddikim. This is the Way that holds to God’s standards above the standards of the culture and world in which we live. By abiding by his standards, we also become polarizing individuals within our family, friend, and work acquaintance circles.

However, as believers in Yeshua and followers of God’s commands, this is who we are. This is who we are meant to be. Our priorities are not the same priorities of the world around us. The burden of distinction we carry is one which has us die to ourselves, our own ambitions and desires, and to place before us the things of God instead. To others, this may appear to be a detestable path of death, when in reality this burden, our cross, is ultimately the path of life.

Matthew 10:38-39 – And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.


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

A faith that looks beyond what it can see

We are urged to not become overwhelmed with the condition and situation of the outward form of the natural body in this life.

2 Corinthians 5:7 – For we walk by faith, not by sight.

This impactful verse has morphed into a sound-bite of our Christian culture through the pervasive screen-saver and bumper-sticker mentality of this current generation. Bad teachers and charlatans alike have used this verse out of context to justify any number of invisible principles, promising future rewards which currently cannot be seen with the eyes. Promoters of the health and wealth gospel convey how God intends for all believers to be wealthy, even if they are currently in poverty. “Walk in the faith of your future wealth, not by the poverty of what you currently can see, and you will have it,” they falsely claim.

However, maintaining the actual context of this verse (2 Cor 3:5- 5:15), the apostle Paul conveyed this sentiment amidst a lengthy treatise on the believer’s ability and mindset in overcoming adversity and real-life persecution for their faith, not a depressed financial condition. This was an appropriate and necessary statement of encouragement based on the situations and conditions that the believers, especially the apostles, faced every day. In their ministry of growing the congregations and teaching the early believers in their new-found faith in Messiah, they were being persecuted, and by persecuted I mean they were hunted and pursued, most times in fear for their very lives.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 – We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.

The treasure they carried was the message of “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory” (4:6) conveyed through “the glory of the Messiah, who is the representation of God,” (4:4). Paul says, “we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us,” (4:7).

Just as the Messiah represented God, the apostles were representing to the congregations the truth of God’s glory and kingdom through his provision of the Messiah Yeshua. Even though their bodies were being debased and abused, Paul conveys that this was only a “momentary light affliction [which] is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory,” (4:17). “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh,” (4:11).

This is hardly the stuff of mere economic hardship.

Continuing his discourse, Paul begins an analogy of life in the present world contrasted with life in eternity which cannot be presently seen.

2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:1 – So we do not focus on what is seen [i.e., all of the bodily abuse and persecution they were enduring], but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.

This “earthly tent” is the outward form of the present physical body. This is not necessarily an invention of the apostle Paul, it was a description of the physical body that was prevalent in contemporaneous writings of the time.

Wisdom 9:13-17 For who can learn the counsel of God? Or who can discern what the Lord wills? For the reasoning of mortals is worthless, and our designs are likely to fail; for a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthy tent burdens the anxious mind. We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labor; but who has traced out what is in the heavens? Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy Spirit from on high?

These writings were included in the Septuagint Greek version of the Hebrew Bible in the apostle Paul’s day, and indicate that this idea of the physical body being likened to a tent was not unknown among Jewish thinkers of those times. Ironically, the passage also laments not being able to understand the wisdom and counsel of God unless God sent his holy Spirit, the very thing that Paul is making the case for regarding Messiah Yeshua in the Corinthian passage.

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 – Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.

The direction of Paul’s argument is building toward the distinction between the earthly visible body, this outward physical body, and the eternal, invisible life of the spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 – So we are always confident and know that while we are at home [that is, as in a familiar country] in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight [i.e., outward, visible form]. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home [that is, as in a familiar country] with the Lord.

To walk by faith and not by sight is to not become overwhelmed with the condition and situation of the outward form of the natural body, that which can be seen. The pinnacle of Paul’s discussion lies in walking by faith (that which is unseen but very real) in distinction with becoming distressed through the seen and known condition of the outward form of the body through all of its current persecutions and abuses.

This is the true hope that believers in Messiah share! Our faith can overcome all situations and obstacles that can be seen, because they are only temporary (4:18). Our faith reaches beyond these temporary things into eternity, even beyond the “tent” of this outward form that we currently have.


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

Choosing forgiveness and life over anger

Yeshua teaches that anger with a brother is liable to a judgment equivalent to that of murder. Why such a severe judgment on a natural emotion? And how does this reconcile with evidence of God’s anger with his own people?

Core of the Bible Podcast #21 – Choosing forgiveness and life over anger

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness can be a beacon of life that overcomes anger. But in order for us to understand about forgiveness overcoming anger, we will need to look a little closer at how the Bible represents anger in its various forms.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“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 hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22

Believers should not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone. According to Yeshua, the damage caused by emotional outbursts of anger is equivalent to taking the life of an individual. Anger breeds an environment of death.

For example, this principle of anger breeding an environment of death is exemplified by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in the time of Daniel.

Daniel 2:10-12 The Chaldeans answered the king, “No one on earth can make known what the king requests. Consequently, no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked anything like this of any magician, medium, or Chaldean. “What the king is asking is so difficult that no one can make it known to him except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.” Because of this, the king became violently angry and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Proverbs 29:22 An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered one increases rebellion.

Have you ever known a hot-tempered individual to be considered a level-headed peacemaker? Of course not. Anger is not the way of building bridges between dissenting opinions, but a way of squashing all opposition, or in aggressively attempting to sway others to a particular point of view or call to action to harm others.

In an Old Testament instance of this, a robbery by some rogue Israelite tribal members caused a conflict. A man named Micah went shouting and chasing after some of the men of the tribe of Dan after the Danites had stolen some of his belongings.

Judges 18:23-25 [Micah’s men] were shouting as they caught up with them [the Danites]. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?” “What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?'” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!” The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.”

This is typically the result of short-tempered individuals; further damage and harm ensues.

Another consideration regarding angry words is that what is said is an unfiltered version of what is really in a person’s heart. According to Yeshua, the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

If we are harboring anger towards another individual in our heart, there is a fair likelihood that anger will be expressed, and not in a pretty fashion.

It is for these reasons that Yeshua equates anger with murder; the damage done can have long-lasting consequences that may not have been fully intended. Once that damage is done, trying to restore that relationship can seem as daunting as trying to resuscitate an individual who has been murdered by your words.

The good news is, God is in the life-giving business. To overcome the error of “killing” someone with our anger, Yeshua encourages the opposite to anger: forgiveness. Now I know that, at first blush, forgiveness may not sound like anger’s opposite; perhaps something like peace might be more fitting. But when you boil it down to essentials, peace is really based on forgiveness. Forgiveness can heal breaches in trust or the wounds of anger and resentment. Forgiveness is a creator of peace. Where anger breeds death, forgiveness breeds life.

Let’s look at some illustrations of this. When Joab tried to convince David to receive his son Absalom back whom he had banished, Joab creates a ruse with a woman to appear before the king and plead for his intent. In the speech that Joab provided her, she reveals a truth about the nature of God and forgiveness.

2 Samuel 14:14 For we must die, and are as water spilled on the ground, which can’t be gathered up again; neither does God take away life, but devises means, that he who is banished not be an outcast from him.

In this speech, the opposite of taking away life is forgiveness and restoration. This is the same principle that the apostle Paul uses in conveying the new life that believers have in Messiah, because God has forgiven us.

Colossians 2:13 And you being dead in the trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…

You see, if we were dead in our rebellious state, then God made us alive through forgiving us. Forgiveness breeds life, and our very forgiven status in the estimation of God proves it. If you have received forgiveness from God and are experiencing new life in Messiah, you should very clearly understand this principle.

Now, while all of this sounds very noble and worthy of our effort, we must also consider another aspect of anger that can be troubling if we haven’t previously considered it. What about instances when God is shown to have demonstrated anger? If God has gotten angry, why should he expect that we don’t get angry? Is he expecting that we have more emotional control than he does?

It’s a valid question and one that deserves a little further investigation. Here is an example, when Moses is arguing with God as to why he doesn’t feel that he is a good fit for this whole prophet thing that God is commanding him to do with Pharaoh.

Exodus 4:10-15 But Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the LORD became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do.

This is actually the first instance in the Bible where we see God getting angry, or at least the first representation of his anger. Here are some other examples to illustrate this further.

Numbers 11:1 The people were complaining in the ears of Yahweh. When Yahweh heard it, his anger burned; and Yahweh’s fire burned among them, and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

Numbers 11:4 The mixed multitude that was among them lusted exceedingly; and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now we have lost our appetite. There is nothing at all except this manna to look at.”… 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent; and Yahweh’s anger burned greatly; and Moses was displeased.

Numbers 12:1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 They said, “Has Yahweh indeed spoken only with Moses? Hasn’t he spoken also with us?” And Yahweh heard it. … 8 [Yahweh speaking] With him [Moses], I will speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in riddles; and he shall see Yahweh’s form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?” 9 Yahweh’s anger burned against them; and he departed.

Numbers 25:1 Israel stayed in Shittim; and the people began to play the prostitute with the daughters of Moab; 2 for they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. The people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Israel joined himself to Baal Peor, and Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel. 4 Yahweh said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up to Yahweh before the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahweh may turn away from Israel.”

Numbers 32:10 Yahweh’s anger burned in that day, and he swore, saying, 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me, 12 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, because they have followed Yahweh completely.’ 13 Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel, and he made them wander back and forth in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation who had done evil in Yahweh’s sight was consumed.

The language used in these passages reveals a few things. First, if we were to translate the phrase as it stands literally, it is a description of someone’s face becoming heated or burning to where their nostrils flare or they breathe heavily. Of course, this is a depiction of what we would call the emotion of anger. As this relates to God, it is as though the biblical writers are using the only words they have to describe the displeasure of God in these instances.

Does God have a face that actually gets hot, or nostrils that flare while he breathes heavily in frustration and anger? These would be what we would call anthropomorphisms: attributing human characteristics to God. This is simply because we, in our limited sense, cannot conceive of it in any other way, so we project onto God the characteristics we ourselves exhibit in similar situations.

Interestingly most of these occurrences are in the book of Numbers. So either the people were extra-rebellious or the writer of the book of Numbers chose to use that phrase repeatedly to express God’s displeasure.

Okay, but doesn’t the text still imply that God is getting angry? Of course, but we need to consider this: what is God getting angry about in each instance? Isn’t it basically disobedience to his revealed will?

Look at the examples again: Moses didn’t want to go to Pharaoh; the people were complaining about the provision of manna as a sole food source; Miriam and Aaron were rebelling against God’s choice of Moses; the people were submitting to idolatry instead of following God; the people rebelled against God’s plan to conquer the land of Canaan, etc.

God had every right to express anger because of disobedience to, or dissatisfaction with, his revealed will. This is a justifiable reason for his anger because, well, he is God, and his purpose and will is supreme.

In a similar way, when we get angry, it is typically because something isn’t happening according to our will; something isn’t going the way we want, or someone isn’t doing what we want them to do. However, the difference between our anger and God’s is that our understanding of a situation is limited by our own perceptions; God’s understanding is perfect and not limited in any way.

—–

When God is expressing anger at disobedience to his will he knows it is absolute and final because he knows all things about all people. When things don’t go our way, there may be a number of reasons why this is the case, and we can, and often do, easily assign the wrong motive or cause because of our limited perception. This causes us many times to be angry for the wrong reasons, whether due to emotional instability or incomplete information, but by then the damage is done.

This is why God has a right to command us to not get angry with others, not because we are supposed to somehow be more in control of our emotions than he is. It is simply because we are rarely angry for the correct reason, in the right amount, with the right individual. God’s perception and perspective is always perfect and justified. Our perceptions skew reality to our own misunderstandings of a particular situation. Anger is usually a demonstration of our own unfiltered, and typically unjustified, opinion. Therefore, God commands us to provide grace for the things we don’t know and for the situations we may not have full knowledge of.

For example, a popular story by Valerie Cox called The Cookie Thief illustrates this point rather well.

A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop. She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene. So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half. He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude! She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate. She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes. If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

For the woman in the story, her struggle was internal, and yet she still felt awful about her misconception over the whole incident. However, when we actually lash out at others, we reveal the weakness of our own character. Raw emotion can cause division because it is typically not based on the truth, but only on a perception of what one believes to be true. The reality of a situation may be significantly different.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.

Even though God may be completely justified in his anger, he still does not rush in emotionally frantic because someone disobeyed his will.  In proclaiming his character to Moses, he relates how his anger, although justifiable, is still not instantaneous:

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

Even though Israel time after time rejected God and chose their own ways, God was slow to anger, as Nehemiah relates.

Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers behaved proudly, hardened their neck, didn’t listen to your commandments, 17 and refused to obey. They weren’t mindful of your wonders that you did among them, but hardened their neck, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage. But you are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and didn’t forsake them.

Numbers 14:18 “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.

God’s anger and his justice are tied at the hip. We saw this in all those passages in Numbers where God is described as being angry. The results of that anger were typically a measure of justice or discipline.

When the people complained about only having manna to eat, a fire burned in the outskirts of the camp, consuming them. When Miriam complained about God only speaking through Moses, she was disciplined with temporary leprosy. When the Israelites succumbed to idolatry, their leaders were hanged. When the people refused to take the land he had given them, he forced them to wander in the desert for forty years.

When he is meting out deserved punishment, his justice can appear as anger. But when the truth of a situation is known from his perspective, it can be recognized as being a natural outworking of consequences based on unfaithful actions.

If God, who knows all things about all people at all times, is considered slow to anger, should we not then also take even longer to become angry, knowing that we are extremely limited in our understanding of others and their motives? This is why Yeshua cautions us against judging others, because our standards are likely unjust, and God will then be justified in using our own standards against us.

If anger fosters death, then as we have seen, forgiveness fosters life. What anger kills, forgiveness resuscitates. Angry words designed to hurt are rendered powerless through the life generated by forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Meting out forgiveness seventy-seven times in one day is an obvious hyperbolic emphasis by Yeshua to illustrate that the stores of forgiveness available to us are bountiful enough to outlast and overcome any personal infraction.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,

Anger is a real emotion that conveys real intensity of thought and principle to bear in a situation. Anger itself is a creation of God. But the caution for us is if we are choosing to express anger, we are to do so without sin. That is a very fine line, and one that is not typically identified or heeded in a heated passionate outburst.

Even if we are justifiably angry, we are encouraged to resolve that conflict before the start of a new day. There should not be bitterness and unresolved conflict over days, weeks, months, or God forbid, years. I have seen that level of unrelenting anger in my own experiences growing up, and nothing good ever came of that level of unforgiveness and anger over past situations. If we are to be justifiably angry, it should not last longer than a day. Beyond that, we are entering into a realm of ongoing conflict, rebellion, and death.

Numbers 14:18 “Yahweh is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion.

If we are to mimic our heavenly Father in all things, then we should likewise be slow to anger, but abounding in faithful love and forgiveness. This is the root of life that can overcome the state of death present in our petty anger and hostility.

Life can always overcome death. Choose life.

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Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that when we express anger, we are treading in areas of potential death and destruction in the lives of others. Although we may feel justified, we are rarely angry at the right time, in the right amount, and with the right individual. Instead, we should choose to foster life and restoration through forgiveness. This is the true path to being the peacemaker that Yeshua enjoins us to be.