Keeping God’s Word before us at all times

Believers should be so imbued with God’s Word that it causes them to act with the integrity of his commandments as a reflex.

Today we will be looking at one of the seven core Bible principles: integrity. Reviewing the information today I hope to show how believers should be so imbued with God’s Word that it causes us to act with the integrity of his commandments as a reflex.

Deuteronomy 6:18, 25 – Do what is right and good in Yahweh’s sight, so all will go well with you. … For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands Yahweh our God has given us.

As Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter the land of Canaan, he encouraged them to continually be reminded of doing what is good and right so that they would be sure to follow all of the commands of God’s law. If they were to do what was right from the heart, that is how they would be sure to be following all of God’s commands and they would be considered righteous.

In the same way, Yeshua taught that believers should demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands.

Matthew 5:20 – “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

What Yeshua was teaching the audience of his day was nothing new. God had continually put before the Israelites that the integrity of the actions they were to pursue and the decisions they made should have been coming should have been coming from a genuine place in their hearts, not just outward compliance. Moses had urged this of the Hebrew community over a millennia earlier:

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 – Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart

In order to continue this focus in their culture Moses had provided them a specific set of instructions or a template that they could implement in the lives of their communities. Over the years, the Israelites would form many traditions around his original template.  Ultimately, this was by design to help them to maintain a continuous recognition of the commands of God.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9 – and you shall teach [these words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.

One of the primary methods used by Hebrew believers over the years to accomplish this doing of the commands stems from the ongoing recitation of the Shema and the practices associated with it. What is the Shema? As outlined from a popular Jewish website, this process has become a daily declaration of their faith.

Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) (“Hear, O Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is the centerpiece of the morning and evening prayer services, encapsulating the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.” In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41. Its recitation twice daily (morning and evening) is a biblical commandment. In addition, we recite it just before retiring for the night, as well as in the Kedushah [set-apart] service on Shabbat. Indeed, this succinct statement has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah [closing of the gates] prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth.” – – What is the Shema

So let’s take a closer look at the principal section of the Shema that we reviewed a few moments ago in Deuteronomy 6.

First, Moses states the purpose of this instruction in the opening verse: “These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart…” This is his over-arching objective in the instruction he is about to reveal: to have the words that God commands on their hearts, not just in their minds. When God’s Word is on the heart of the believer, then all of the actions that stem from that foundation will be correctly motivated and acted upon.

Moses then proceeds to explain how to imbue the entire community with the richness of God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 6:7 – “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Notice the progression he outlines here. First be sure the children are taught the truth of God’s Word. If they are not exposed to the Word of God on a regular basis, they will likely form their own opinions based on the corrupted cultures around them and they will potentially fall away from the one, true God to a belief system of the popular culture or one of their own making.

“You shall teach them to your children…” The Hebrew phrasing in this passage could be literally rendered as, “You shall diligently sharpen your children.” The imagery is that children need to be constantly honed in the things of God in order to be a useful implement to God throughout their lives, much like a sharp knife is much more useful than a dull one. This is a process, not a program. It is something they must be exposed to on a regular basis through the course of their lives.

Moses continues, “You shall talk of them…” The commands of God are something that should be a topic of discussion as situations are encountered each day, whether at home or out and about in the community, or traveling on an extended journey. How do God’s commands apply to what the children are experiencing, or the family situation that is at hand? What better way to demonstrate the truth of God’s Word than to live it out in our daily, practical experiences? But in order for believing parents to do so, they must also be imbued with God’s Word. Adults must take the time to understand how God’s Word applies in their lives as parents so they can faithfully share that wisdom with their children.

Moses says to talk about the commands of God “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road.”  This constant focus on God’s commands would show that his Word is being implemented within the daily fabric of the family, not only at home but when running errands or traveling. When children see that the God’s Word is a vital part of the parents’ lives at all times and in every place, they are more likely to be receptive to it themselves seeing that it has universal application.

He says to also be sure to review it “when you lie down and when you get up.” This is where Judaism derives the principle that the Shema should be recited twice daily: in the evening (when you lay down) and in the morning (when you get up).

As an aside, notice how the day is reckoned in Hebraic culture: first there is evening, then there is morning. We get a glimpse here of how sunset begins the day and the morning begins the second half of the day. In our Western culture, we might have stated it as “talk about God’s Word every morning, noon, and night.” But for ancient Hebrews, a total day is halved between darkness first, and light second. This mirrors the Creation narrative:

Genesis 1:2-3, 5 – Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. … God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was an evening [listed first], and there was a morning: one day.

Ancient cosmology aside, the focus of Moses’ command is to indeed have a constant attention to God’s Word throughout the totality of every day. If the Israelites were to do so, the commands of God would always be the constant focus of his people, acting on it from the heart in all they do.

The next section of the Shema illustrates another picture of the constancy of the Word within the hearts of the believing community.

Deuteronomy 6:8 – “Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.”

Now from this one sentence has come a Jewish tradition that was practiced up through the days of Yeshua and is still practiced by Jews today: the wearing of tefillin or phylacteries. From the website of the Jewish Virtual Library, we gain the following definition of tefillin:

“Tefillin are two small black boxes with black straps attached to them; Jewish men are required to place one box on their head and tie the other one on their arm each weekday morning… The Pharisees … took the text literally; the words of the Torah are to be inscribed on a scroll and placed directly between one’s eyes and on one’s arm.”

However, with the entire section of this instruction from Moses beginning with “these words shall be in your heart,” the command has also been understood to be figurative, in the sense that every thought (between the eyes) and every action (of the hands) should be prompted from the commands of God. The Jewish Virtual Library article also points out how various Jewish groups have had this type of interpretation over the years.

“Certain Jewish groups — including probably the Sadducees, and definitely the medieval Karaites — understood the last verse to be figurative; it means only that one should always be preoccupied with words of Torah, as if they were in front of one’s eyes.”

In my view, I believe that is the intent of Moses’ instruction, seeing how the primary emphasis is not on any outward show but on ensuring that the words of God are in the hearts of the believer. I think this is illustrated most clearly by seeing how this phrasing of signs and symbols on the hand and between the eyes is used in another section of Scripture where Moses is explaining about the annual practice of observing the week of Unleavened Bread at Passover.

Exodus 13:6-10 – “For seven days you must eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there is to be a festival to Yahweh. “Unleavened bread is to be eaten for those seven days. Nothing leavened may be found among you, and no yeast may be found among you in all your territory. On that day explain to your son, ‘This is because of what Yahweh did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that Yahweh’s instruction may be in your mouth; for Yahweh brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand. Keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.”

Notice how the practice of observing the week of unleavened bread was to be a sign on the hand (in practice) and a reminder on the forehead (in the mind). It was established as an annual object lesson to remind the ongoing Israelite descendants of the significance of the flight from Egypt. By keeping this command in a physical way, the believing community would be bringing to remembrance, as a memorial, the event that formed them into a nation of God’s own people.

Well, so far we have looked at the commands of Moses and how some Jewish traditions have sprung up around those commands. In a moment, as we continue to look at other commands and traditions, it is my hope that we can glean an understanding of the importance of keeping God’s Word at the foremost of our thoughts and actions every day.

Having reviewed some of Moses instruction in Deuteronomy, we now switch gears for a moment to review a secondary passage of the Shema that Israel recites each day from the book of Numbers.

Numbers 15:37-41 – Yahweh said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all Yahweh’s commands and obey them and not prostitute yourselves by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh your God.”

So, a secondary practice that has arisen out of the texts of the Shema passages is the wearing of tassels on one’s garments. The tassels were to be reminders to be diligent in following all of God’s commands. There is nothing in this command that suggests it is a figurative type of imagery, but by all accounts it appears to be the literal description of a specific practice. When worn on one’s own clothing, the tassels were to be a personal reminder to keep God’s commands throughout every daily situation. Seeing others wearing the tassels would also bring to remembrance the diligence needed in keeping God’s commands.

But over the years, as the practice grew within the leadership of the community, it had become corrupted as well. The tassels had become the equivalent of a religious status symbol, and, as with all social trends, it began to be abused. People began to change the appearance of their tassels to appear more righteous than others by lengthening them beyond what the typical tassel might be. Between this and the practice of wearing tefillin as mentioned previously, these things led to a pious hypocrisy of the religious leaders that Yeshua ultimately called them out on. But note: Yeshua didn’t condemn the Jewish leaders for the wearing of tefillin or tassels, but he did confront them because those things had become status symbols depending on how large the scripture boxes were, or how long their tassels had become. The outward show had replaced the inward meaning, and this opened them up to pride and hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:2-7 – “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.'”

When the object lessons we use to remind ourselves of God’s commands or to teach others about his Word become the primary focus of our practice, then we have lost sight of the spirit of God’s Word and we have succumbed to the idolatry of our traditions. This can be a slippery slope, which is why I believe God prefers simplicity from the heart. If a believer today wants to wear tassels as object lessons in the genuine spirit of the command of being reminded of the significance of God’s Word throughout the day, then I believe they should be free to do so. But if the wearing of tassels is only for attempting to appear more righteous than others, then the tassels have become idolatrous. It’s not necessarily the practice itself (excepting outright idolatry) but the motivation behind it that has any value.

Returning now to the Deuteronomy passage, the final admonition from Moses regarding the commands of God in this section was to, “write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.” Again, this constant and intentional placing of God’s Word where everyone in the household and where guests would pass on a regular basis would serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in providing his people with his instruction. God’s instruction only has meaning when hear it, see it, and know it. The repetition of talking about it in the house and when traveling, to wear the tassels and see them on others, and to touch the commands of God in the entering and leaving of the home all work together to keep the believing family knowing the one true God.

It’s been said that immersion in a foreign culture is the best way to learn another language. In a sense, the Kingdom of God is foreign to the cultures of this world, and it takes immersion for us to truly understand the scope and power of its presence here in the lives of believers.

The idea of being intentional about how we handle God’s Word is the key. In reality, as Yeshua illustrated, there is nothing wrong with using physical reminders as object lessons for the deeper spiritual significance. A problem only arises when those physical reminders and traditions become the objective that surpasses the underlying spiritual meaning.

The method Moses outlined of identifying what is most important in the Bible and reviewing it in an intentional way should be an example to us today. It demonstrates the tenacity required to imbue our culture with a recognition of an obedient life, an upright and righteous life, a life of true integrity.

How diligent are we in making sure the words of God are in our hearts so we can act on them without even thinking? Like physical reflexes, we should respond to our situations and conditions in ways that honor God because his instruction is thriving in our hearts. When situations arise that demand our obedience, we shouldn’t have to seek commentaries and biblical concordances; we should be so imbued with God’s Word through our daily practices that his Spirit can bring those insights to the forefront of our thinking (between the eyes), and therefore our actions (through our hands), whenever needed.

Moses’ method in his template for the family and the community involves a constant, daily, repetitious routine that would saturate the culture of the people with God’s Word. Some of the practices were to become symbolic object lessons that would keep God’s Word before them at all times. If we could find ways to incorporate this level of diligence in our daily routines for ourselves and within our families, we would not only be following the commandments as God outlined through Moses, but we would also be living lives of integrity that would be clearly and intentionally patterned on God’s Word.

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

The anointing that makes for a holy sacrifice

The Biblical pattern of anointing and sacrifice lays down a template for the spiritual life of believers today.

The Biblical pattern of anointing and sacrifice lays down a template for the spiritual life of believers today.

In the Bible, holiness, in the sense of something being set apart for God’s use, is a quality that was to have been instituted through a process of anointing. Anointing was the practice of rubbing, smearing, or pouring a substance on a thing or person to designate it as being set apart exclusively for God’s purposes. The most common method of anointing was with a type of oil or sacrificial blood, or both.

  • Exodus 30:25-29 – And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.
  • Exodus 29:21 – Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

The idea that things could be set apart as holy became an object lesson for the people of Israel. They would come to recognize that when God sets something apart, it was special and uniquely his and should not be tampered with. Anything touching the altar or consecrated article would become holy, that is, set apart for God’s purpose.

A famous example of this is when King David was attempting to transport the anointed and set apart articles of the tabernacle, including the ark of the covenant, up to Jerusalem for the new temple.

2 Samuel 6:5-7 – And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating beforeYahweh, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger ofYahweh was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.

As harsh as this may sound in a surface reading of this passage, Uzzah, with the best of intentions, attempted to keep the ark from falling off of the cart, but because he came in direct contact with something that was wholly set apart for God’s use, he died. In a sense, he became instantly holy, that is, he became set apart for God’s purpose by being wholly consumed by the anointed article.

This is meant to teach us, not of the harshness of God, but of his set-apartness, his otherness that has real impact and lasting effect on our physical lives here. We can see from the physical examples of the articles of the tabernacle and temple that anything that is anointed and set apart as holy to Yahweh is to be taken very seriously.

Exodus 29:36-37 – and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.

Yeshua confirmed that anything placed on the altar was to become completely holy and set apart for God’s purpose.

Matthew 23:16-19 – “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold holy? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy?

The idea that anything which touched the altar specifically would become holy has to do with the idea that an offering that is on the altar is being used for its highest purpose, given in complete and full sacrifice to God.

In the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul, he touches on this aspect in the life of a believer.

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

If our living bodies are to be considered living sacrifices, and sacrifices that are on the altar are considered holy, then our lives become a holy offering to God. Following the logic of the narrative of Uzzah, if we touch the altar of sacrifice with our living body, we must die. Paul expresses the paradox of the believer in that we are constantly in a state of dying to ourselves when we willingly offer ourselves to God.

The apostle John, however, focuses on the living aspect about the anointing of God. His contention is that believers have been anointed by God with his holy Spirit for the purpose of understanding truth, and learning to live and abide in him.

1 John 2:20, 27 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. … But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie–just as it has taught you, abide in him.

This paradox of the life of the anointing and the sacrifice of holiness is a reality that we must understand if we are to truly serve Yahweh faithfully in obedience to Yeshua.

  • John 15:4-5 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
  • Matthew 10:38-39 – And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

We have been called to die to ourselves and live for him. This is the path of the anointing and the way of holiness.

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

A renewed heart will abide within the Kingdom law

The Ten Commandments are intended to be the guidance of our actions through the transforming of our hearts.

Core of the Bible podcast #86 – A renewed heart will abide within the Kingdom law

Today we will be looking at the topic of the kingdom, and how the commands of the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, are intended to be the guidance of our actions through the transforming of our hearts.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.”

Within the natural or physical kingdom of God of ancient Israel, it was necessary to establish rules and safeguards for the population. For a private individual to purposely take the life of another for personal reasons was forbidden, and an offense for which the natural judgment of capital punishment was necessitated for the good of the community.

However, Yeshua uses this basic tenet of the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, as a way of elevating the principle to include any intended act of unrighteous anger toward another. In one sense, just as some thought is necessary before an action, any act of murder begins with unrighteous anger towards another. By highlighting and restricting the offense of the emotion, the act will not be carried out. Therefore, to prevent murder, one must eliminate the unrighteous anger behind the action.

Stated another way, as Yeshua points out, the judgment that an individual could face by committing murder could equally be leveled by God against the emotion. The action starts there, so the ultimate judgment would apply there, as well.

This would have been a revolutionary way for Yeshua to be confronting the Jewish leaders with their own practices, and he knew it would have a condemning effect; that was the point. They were so focused on practicing the letter of the law that they were violating just about every intent of it.

For example, Yeshua confronted them many times on the hypocrisy of their actions, and how, as the recognized leaders within the wider Jewish community, they should have been setting the proper standards as leaders of integrity and faithfulness. Instead, they had become corrupted by their positions of authority, and mostly used their influence for personal agendas.

Matthew 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!”

In a parallel passage in the gospel of Luke, Yeshua continues his rant against the religious establishment.

Luke 11:46, 52 – Then he said: “Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, and yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers. … Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key to knowledge. You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were trying to go in.”

These are only excerpts from the denunciations that Yeshua levels against the leaders. However, these hypocritical actions highlighted by Yeshua can be summarized within one specific charge that he expresses by using two successive examples for repeated emphasis.

Matthew 23:25-28 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside of it may also become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

In the context of all that Yeshua condemned the leaders for, this primary condemnation has to do with the appearance on outside versus the reality on the inside. They had been focused on the outward cleanliness of the cup and dish, but the insides were still dirty. Tombs can look beautiful on the outside, but the reality on the inside is that they are full of corrupted bodies and bones. This is the same principle we have been exploring from his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5: 21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…”

According to Yeshua here, the true intent of the command not to murder is to reach to the emotion underlying the act. By condemning the inner emotion, the outward act is eliminated, and the command is enhanced. In essence, Yeshua is saying, “While everyone knows that murder subjects you to judgment, I tell you, in God’s eyes, the same applies to unchecked emotions. Therefore, do not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone.”

While this teaching may have seemed revolutionary at the time, it would only have been so because of the leaders’ disregard of the full instruction of Torah or God’s Word on this matter. This principle was taught in the Psalms and Proverbs.

  • Psalm 37:8 – Cease from anger and abandon wrath; Do not get upset; it leads only to evildoing.
  • Proverbs 14:16-17 – A wise person is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool is easily angered and is careless. A quick-tempered person acts foolishly, and one who schemes is hated.

As the teachings of Yeshua were passed on to his disciples and the message of God’s kingdom spread, the disciples carried with them the teaching of God’s Word as exemplified by the teachings of Messiah. John captured this same principle in his first epistle.

  • 1 John 2:9, 11 – “The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. … But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
  • 1 John 3:15 – “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”
  • 1 John 4:20 – “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

John speaks to this issue by pointing to the consequences of inner hatred of others: darkness, murder, lying, not demonstrating love of God. These are all the negative aspects of a life that is lived with only an outward appearance of religiosity but not being sincerely lived from the heart motives underneath. This is what Yeshua condemned the Jewish leaders for, and what we stand condemned of if we also are hypocritical in our faith. The final result of these actions and motives is only judgment and death.

So far, we have looked at the judgment not only of actions but of the motives behind those actions. In a moment, we will look at the opposite of judgment and death, the life and blessings that can be the result of the renewed heart in the life of a believer.

If judgment is the result of the combination of the emotion and the action, then conversely, a blessing can be inferred from the inverse emotion and action combination. For example, if the command is to not murder or even be angry with anyone, and if we do the opposite by not being unrighteously angry with anyone at any time and instead safeguard the lives and interests of others, this will result in a blessing both for them and for us. The action flows from the intention and inner emotion, and when the inner intent is good, the actions will be good. This is how Yeshua taught that a tree (its inner goodness or badness) will be known (demonstrated) by its fruit (its actions).

Paul goes a little deeper into this process and provides the reasoning why inner bitterness should not be a part of the believer’s life.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Messiah.”

If we have truly been forgiven in Messiah, then our hearts should reflect that newness because of the recognition of God’s forgiveness in our lives. Paul refers to this characteristic as the “new man” or the “new self.”

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, they are a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
  • Ephesians 4:20-24 – “But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”
  • Colossians 3:8-10 – “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.”

When the inner desires and motive are captive to God’s will, it is then that the true intent of God’s commands will be fulfilled in our outward actions, resulting in blessing, not judgment. This was the whole goal of the new covenant of the kingdom that was spoken about by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

  • Jeremiah 31:33 – “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
  • Ezekiel 36:26-27 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.”

This new living heart of flesh has been God’s plan all along, and had only become corrupted into a heart of stone when the letter of the law was put above the spirit of it. The apostle Paul teaches this principle to the Corinthian congregation.

2 Corinthians 3:6 – “He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Paul then goes on to list the supremacy of the law of the spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:7-8 – “Now if the ministry that brought death, engraved in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory, which faded, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?”

The Ten Commandments were engraved by the finger of God in stone. In Paul’s line of reasoning throughout his epistles, the commands themselves, while holy and good, stir up within us the opposite intent by inciting us to the very thing they are intended to avoid.

Romans 7:10-13 – “The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.”

The violation of any of the commands results in a type of death. We cannot truly serve God through only the letter of the law; this is what the Pharisees and scribes were guilty of. We saw this earlier in the passage in Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”

They were so intent on being obedient to the physical law of tithing that they focused on the physical minutia and were oblivious to the larger intent behind those laws resulting in justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Instead of their obedience to the law resulting in life, their outward conformity without inward spiritual motivation resulted in only death.

Going back to Paul’s analogy with Moses and the Ten Commandments is that if the stone commandments were powerful enough to cause Moses’ face to physically shine with glory, albeit only temporarily, how much more will the application of the inner spiritual motives of those commands cause believers to shine even more gloriously for all eternity? This is the whole point of the law: to lead us to the new covenant of the kingdom in Messiah, in whom the fullness of the law through the Spirit of God, enabling those inner motives to truly conform to his will, is revealed. The law is not done away; as Paul writes, it is “holy and just and good.” But what I believe he is trying to convey is that the letter of the law, empty of the power of the Spirit of God, is what has faded away. In its place, through Messiah, is a renewed heart that is enabled to keep that same law through the empowerment of God’s Spirit. This is the message of Jeremiah and Ezekiel; this is the gospel of the kingdom!

We do well to keep in mind that the physical kingdom of ancient Israel was the template, the basis, for the universal and spiritual kingdom of God. As such, the principles in place then, such as the command not to murder, are still in force in the universal kingdom.

However, through the instruction of Yeshua within the gospel of the kingdom, he highlighted how they are enhanced further. This was the meaning and the promise of the law being placed on the heart of the believer within the universal kingdom. If the heart has been renewed, then no law will be violated. In effect, if all of the actions come from a renewed heart of righteousness, then the law will be kept perfectly.

This is the goal that Yeshua came to express. This was the intent of the gospel of the kingdom, and why it was considered good news! As believers, we have been freed from the condemnation and death of the natural law without the Spirit, because the law placed on our heart and empowered by the Spirit ensures we are acting with true motives and abiding within the instruction of God for all time.

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.

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Faith in God is a righteous act

Righteousness is not a complicated theological ideal.

We hear much in Christian circles today speaking of righteousness as a state which one has achieved or been placed into through the completed work of Messiah. There is a distinction between the state of the righteous and the state of the unrighteous. This righteous state, they say, is available only through faith in Messiah.

…righteousness is the God-given quality imputed to man upon believing in Christ., “What is Righteousness?”

Righteousness is the state of moral perfection required by God to enter heaven…believers receive righteousness from Christ. This doctrine is called imputation. Christ’s perfect righteousness is applied to imperfect humans., “Righteousness”

While partially true, this lofty theological ideal does not convey the essential root of Paul’s argument in Romans 4, as he speaks about the righteousness of Abraham.

Romans 4:3-5 – For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…

To Paul, faith in God is in itself an act of righteousness. Abraham simply believed God, and this was counted by God as a righteous act. This was controversial to the Jewish ear because they understood righteousness was demonstrated only by being obedient to the law; and technically they were not mistaken.

Deuteronomy 6:25 – “Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

If someone dutifully followed the law, according to Moses, God considered them righteous. They were then doing righteous things because they were following God’s instruction. By doing righteous things, they demonstrate that they are righteous. This is not an incorrect understanding.

However, where the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day went off the rails was by becoming proud in their hearts; they considered themselves so obedient to the letter of the law that they were better than others who did not follow the law as closely as they thought they were doing. However, Yeshua knew their hearts were not right, even though they were technically doing “right” things. This is what led to the hypocrisy that Yeshua denounces.

Matthew 23:23 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.

What Paul was trying to convey was that believing God (and by extension, his servant, Messiah Yeshua) was in and of itself an act of righteousness equal to or better than all of the deeds of the law combined. Faith in God was the sum and goal of the law; to generate a heartfelt and sincere trust in God in all things. To Paul, this belief that what God was saying (through Messiah) was true constituted an act of righteousness that was “apart” from the law of Moses (that is, it was not a command in itself), but it was still evidenced within the Tanakh, or the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament.

Romans 3:21 – But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets.

There was no law in the Torah of Moses that said simply “believe God.” Instead, the Israelites were commanded to have no other gods before him, to make no images, not to defame his reputation; all of these base commandments are predicated on a belief in God; faith in God must be assumed for these laws to make any sense.

Abraham exhibited faith by simply believing what God said; it had nothing to do what he did or did not do according to some instruction; he merely believed that God was trustworthy. Paul’s argument is that Abraham’s simple expression of faith in God was the supreme act of righteousness. This act of righteousness had nothing to do with any law, it was a genuine and unadorned, honest response of the heart toward God.

This is the response that God desires of all people everywhere; not to grudgingly follow some list of commands to get to heaven, but to honestly from the heart desire to follow him in all things.

Yeshua courts us to believe in him, as he represented the one true God in all things.

John 14:1 – “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

This godly faith in Messiah, Paul says, is demonstrated by all who believe.

Romans 3:22 – The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…

Righteousness is not a complicated theological ideal. It is simply believing God from the heart demonstrated by believing his Messiah.

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

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