The kingdom of humility and wisdom

Humility can be likened to an empty cup, ready to be filled. As the saying goes, “The more you know, the more you learn what you don’t know.”

Core of the Bible podcast #23- The kingdom of humility and wisdom

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of the Kingdom of God, and how the individuals making up this ever-expanding kingdom have hearts of humility and are filled with wisdom.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

A paraphrase to expand on the meaning of this passage conveys that to have an empty spirit, ready to receive and obey the slightest instruction, you will be blessed as the kingdom of heaven is yours.

To be poor in spirit is to remain humble amidst an abundance of wisdom and provision. It is a recognition of personal lack in the face of great resources. As the sayings go, “The more you learn, the less you understand,” or, “The more you know, the more you learn what you don’t know.” It is an acceptance of this spiritual type of destitution as a foundation for understanding.

To illustrate this, the Rev. Joseph Benson in his 19th century commentary, conveys the following.

By this expression, “the poor in spirit,” [some] understand [this to mean] those who bear a state of poverty and want with a disposition of quiet and cheerful submission to the divine will; and [others] interpret it of those who are ready to part with their possessions for charitable uses. But it seems much more probable that the truly humble are intended, or those who are sensible of their spiritual poverty, of their ignorance and sinfulness, their guilt, depravity, and weakness, their frailty and mortality; and who, therefore, whatever their outward situation in life may be, however affluent and exalted, think meanly of themselves, and neither desire the praise of men, nor covet high things in the world, but are content with the lot God assigns them, however low and poor. These are happy, because their humility renders them teachable, submissive, resigned, patient, contented, and cheerful in all estates; and it enables them to receive prosperity or adversity, health or sickness, ease or pain, life or death, with an equal mind. Whatever is allotted them … they consider as a grace or favour. They are happy, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven — The present, inward kingdom, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, as well as the eternal kingdom, if they endure to the end. The knowledge which they have of themselves, and their humiliation of soul before God, prepare them for the reception of Christ, to dwell and reign in their hearts, and all the other blessings of the gospel; the blessings both of grace and glory.

Benson concludes by quoting from the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 66:1-2 Thus says Yahweh, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what kind of house will you build to me? and what place shall be my rest? For all these things has my hand made, and [so] all these things came to be,” says Yahweh: “but to this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.

Let’s look a little more closely at some of those descriptions.

To be of a contrite spirit is to be smitten or afflicted in spirit. This is a very strange way of describing a heart that is ready and yearning for God. One English dictionary describes contrite in the following way:

“Someone who feels remorse or guilt is contrite and in addition to feeling sorry, part of the definition includes wanting to atone for having done something wrong.”

Based on this type of understanding, it makes sense to describe a remorseful individual as someone who has had their heart smitten.

It appears that God is saying he is able to teach individuals who recognize their own humble standing before him, the God of the universe. The passage in Isaiah 66 is speaking of individuals who tremble at God’s word. To tremble at God’s word is to have a recognition and acceptance of his authority. If an individual recognizes that God is the ultimate authority and has concrete standards, then one has a perspective of either abiding by or defying those standards.  When an individual realizes their actions have transgressed the requirements of God, and they are truly remorseful about those transgressions, then they can be said to have their hearts or spirits smitten, and they become willing vessels, open to correction and training by the Spirit of God through his word. This is the type of individual who, according to Yeshua, is blessed, and who is a participant in the kingdom of God.

To be poor in spirit is also to be humble. In the Hebrew Scriptures, a word to describe this condition is shaphal, meaning depressed, as in, lower than other things, not depressed emotionally. This condition of lowliness is illustrated as something God honors. By that reckoning, humility should be a primary characteristic of all of God’s people.

Let’s take a look at how consistent this idea of humility and lowliness is throughout God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 8:14  “be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

2 Samuel 22:28 You rescue an oppressed people, but your eyes are set against the proud — you humble them.

Job 5:8-11: “”But as for me, I would seek God. I would commit my cause to God, who does great things that can’t be fathomed, marvelous things without number; who gives rain on the earth, and sends waters on the fields; so that he sets up on high those who are low, those who mourn are exalted to safety.”

Job 10:16 “If I am proud, you hunt me like a lion and again display your miraculous power against me.

Psalm 138:6: “For though Yahweh is high, yet he looks after the lowly; but the proud, he knows from afar.”

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to Yahweh; be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:19: “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor, than to divide the plunder with the proud.”

Proverbs 18:12  Before his downfall a person’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 29:23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but one of lowly spirit gains honor.”

Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Ezekiel 17:24: “All the trees of the field shall know that I, Yahweh, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish; I, Yahweh, have spoken and have done it.”

In modern terms, this concept of lowliness might be conveyed by saying an individual is an empty cup, ready to be filled. The cup, in its “poor” state, lacks the liquid with which it desires to be filled. However, recognizing that it is empty, it is willing to receive with joy the liquid wisdom as it is poured out.

By contrast, a cup that is already full of its own liquid cannot receive any further instruction, since it is already full. This individual has no room for growth or further revelation.

Yeshua confronted the leaders of his day because they were so full of their own teaching and doctrine, they had overshot the commands of God and had created their own un-keepable system of rules and regulations.

Mark 7:6-7, 9: “He answered them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ … He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”

An individual’s heart or soul that is full of something else cannot receive what God originally intended for it. In the extreme sense, Yeshua even confronted his own disciple Peter when Peter was introducing his own agenda into God‘s purpose and plan. This was in the context of Yeshua explaining to the disciples his impending crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

Mark 8: 32-33 Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But he [Yeshua], turning around, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you have in mind not the things of God, but the things of men.””

Injecting one’s own intent upon God‘s will and purpose is so objectionable to Yeshua that he labels it with the most egregious of titles: that of the satan or the ultimate adversarial position. Once an individual is consumed with their own passion and desire above that which God intends, their life has essentially moved to an adversarial position against the things of God. If that is the case, then that individual is no longer inside the kingdom, which is why Yeshua could confidently say within a parable to those tradition-filled Jewish leaders:

Luke 13:27-28 – …’I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from me, all you evildoers! ‘ “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.

Certainly, we don’t want to place ourselves in that position, so we need to be mindful of that possibility while yet remaining firm upon the truth and power of God. To that end, believers have been provided a wealth of resources and strength through the Spirit of God and his Word so they can always know the right things to do.

For example, the apostle Paul writes about his duty to ensure that the word of God was available to God’s people among the nations.

Colossians 1:25 “I have become [the servant of the assembly], according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known…”

John also conveys how this combination of their written instruction along with the anointing of God’s Spirit within the believers provided the ability to know the truth and overcome adversity and false teaching.

1 John 2:14, 20  I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the one who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one. … But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

Paul also conveys this same understanding about the ability of believers to understand spiritual things.

1 Corinthians 2:10-12: “But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God.”

If we, then, are seeking to follow in the footsteps of these early believers by remaining faithful to God’s Word and by seeking to be filled with his Spirit, we should have the same abilities to understand the truth and overcome adversity and falsehood.

To be poor in spirit is to keep your cup empty. This way, as we remain humble and teachable, we can then have plenty of room to receive whatever wisdom and instruction God is willing to pour into us. And in this fashion, the kingdom will continue to grow for his purpose and glory, and not our own.

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

Covering over offenses is required

We act like our Father when we forgive others.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the primary word used for acts of forgiveness involves the word kephar. This word is typically translated as “atonement,” and generally conveys the idea of “a covering over.”

Yeshua encourages us to forgive so that we may be forgiven.

“”For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Matthew 6:14

When we truly and sincerely forgive others, we are in fact covering over whatever the offense against us was so that it can no longer be seen or recalled to mind. This canceling of the offense is what allows relationships to continue.

By contrast, when we do not forgive, whatever the offense was remains a visible obstacle between two individuals and impedes any fruitful relationship.

According to Yeshua, if we desire to have our offenses against God covered over and no longer remembered, then it is a requirement for us to do the same with those who have offended us. If we choose not to do so, then God is in no way obligated to forgive us our sins.

“But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:15

This is the type of personal accountability that is built into the message of the kingdom. Yeshua  explains that God is indeed a God of forgiveness, but only if we exhibit that same characteristic in our lives.

The children should act like the parents. In the same way, if we consider ourselves to be children of God, we should act like it.

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

Have faith in Yeshua, God’s faithful representative

Having faith in Yeshua means you are placing your faith in God.

“”Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”

John 14:1

This statement by Yeshua is a pivotal moment of clarity and intimacy with his disciples. In the waning hours of his life and ministry, he is pouring into his disciples some of his most profound teachings.

Repeatedly throughout this passage, Yeshua claims oneness in unity with his father, God. As God’s authoritative representative on earth, Yeshua is stating that he has fulfilled his mission and his representation of God to his people. Placing their faith in him is the same thing as placing faith and trust in God.

This can only be so because of the Hebrew concept of agency. As God‘s anointed representative, everything Yeshua teaches is exactly what God would teach if he were on the earth. This is why Yeshua has been historically been recognized as God. His representation of God is so perfect, the two become indistinguishable.

Yet, rather than prove his Godhood, this exactness of representation is the very thing that makes him the Messiah, the Anointed One. The whole reason that Yeshua should be believed is because he perfectly represented the heart and will of the Father to his people. Those who were to place their trust in Yeshua would thereby be placing their trust in God.

This concept of agency, which is so common and original to the ancient Hebrew culture understanding, has been minimized or lost through the ages of non-Hebrew Christianity. In its place has arisen the philosophical construct of a trinitarian God which flies in the face of the long established Hebrew concept of the unity and oneness of God, the only true God.

Yeshua was encouraging his disciples to believe in him, not because he was God, but because he had faithfully represented everything God wanted them to know. This is the type of trust and faith that God desires of us: by believing in his Messiah, we are believing in him. And by believing in him, we are considered his children.

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

God evaluates the heart, but our deeds broadcast what’s in there

The deeds reveal what is truly in the heart.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Yahweh weighs the hearts.

Proverbs 21:2

Most people in our Western culture who have any ideas about God will typically have the understanding that God knows everything about everybody, including internal thoughts. According to popular perception, the God of the Bible is all about judgment and motives.

This kind of understanding in Western culture is driven by the way God is depicted in the Bible, and Proverbs 21:2 is one of those that highlights that characteristic of God. A parallel passage in the Proverbs is consistent with this as well.

All a man’s ways are pure in his own eyes, but his motives are weighed out by the LORD.

Proverbs 16:2

But what is less recognized by the general population is the connection between the heart and actions. While most people are of the opinion that God is some sort of cosmic Santa Claus, just knowing good people from bad people, he really doesn’t have to go that far into an individual’s psyche to know what they think, because their actions bear out what’s in their heart.

For example, when Yeshua was confronting the Pharisees regarding their love of money and earthly wealth, he let them know how God’s perspective varied greatly from their own.

So He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is prized among men is detestable before God.

Luke 16:15

God (or anyone, for that matter) can know what’s in someone’s heart because of what they value. What the Pharisees prized (wealth) was detestable to God, especially in light of the fact that they were supposed to be the shepherds of his people. It’s not that God hates money, it’s just that he has revealed that when money is valued above one’s dedication to God, it has become an idol, and he detests idolatry in any form.

But the key takeaway was that their hearts were revealed by their actions.

If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,” does not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the One who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds?

Proverbs 24:12

Even back here in Proverbs, we can see how the weighing of hearts is connected to an evaluation of someone’s deeds. The deeds reveal what is truly in the heart. This is also evident in the prophecies of Jeremiah.

I, Yahweh, search minds and test hearts. I will reward each person for what he has done. I will reward him for the results of his actions.

Jeremiah 17:10

While God can certainly know what’s in our hearts, he typically does not need to look much further than our actions to know what resides there. Unless what we believe lines up with what he teaches us through his Word, our lives will likely bear out the errors of our own thinking, what we think is “right in our own eyes.” Integrity is ensuring that our hearts and our actions are working together to fulfill the righteous purposes and will of God.

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

Demonstrating vigilance in redeeming the time

The high calling of God in Yeshua requires vigilant behavior to demonstrate the validity of God’s message of the kingdom to the world.

Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

Paul is writing to the believers at Ephesus, cautioning them to be wary of all aspects of their lives “because the days are evil.” The corruption, idolatry and lawlessness of the day was infiltrating their ranks and causing some to fall away, or worse, to become deceivers among the brethren.

His antidote for this influx was to “redeem the time.” The word means literally to “rescue from loss.” We might say today that we need to make the best use of our time before it slips away. Once a day is gone, it has been “lost” and cannot be retrieved.

This is good advice for us today, as well. This is an act of vigilance, of remaining watchful of how we “walk”: the habitual things we say and do, the manners and customs of our lives. Others are watching and seeing if we are living consistently with what we say we believe.

In this passage in Ephesians 5, Paul provides direction in redeeming the time in several key areas of our conduct that we would also be wise to heed.

  1. 8-10 Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is well pleasing to the Lord.
    1. When we walk according to the ways of Yahweh, we are “proving” to others what God approves of. We are living out his Word in practical ways that demonstrate the validity of God’s wisdom even among this generation.
  2. 11-12 Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.
    1. Sanctification, that is, a setting apart, is the method of demonstrating that we cannot condone the unfruitful works of the flesh. While we cannot leave the world and society altogether, we do not have to participate in their lawless ways.
  3. 17 don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
    1. We can understand God’s will only be being regularly exposed to his Word. When we learn his heart for his own people and how he has participated in the history of his people over time, we begin to understand better how to apply those principles in real time, here and now.
  4. 18-19 be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
    1. If we are speaking and singing these things, this means our hearts are filled with the message of the Kingdom of God, because as Yeshua taught, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” or in this case, sings.
  5. 20 giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father;
    1. Gratitude is the surest way of remaining focused on the will of God. When we become ungrateful is when we take our eyes off of his kingdom and focus instead on ours to the exclusion of all else.
  6. 21 subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.
    1. Respecting the authority of Messiah is another way to say “fear of Christ.” If we are truly allowing him to be Lord of our lives, then our practices should follow his teaching, which is to love one another. To truly love someone is consider them as someone we subject ourselves to, putting their needs above our own. This is how we subject ourselves to one another.

By being vigilant with Paul’s admonitions, and by remaining faithful to the teachings of Yeshua, we can understand and demonstrate God’s will to our own generation.

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

The transformational power of salt in each generation

According to Yeshua, we are called to be as distinctive and useful as salt while on this earth, otherwise we really have no purpose.

Core of the Bible Podcast #22 – The transformational power of salt in each generation

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of compassion, and how Yeshua uses a metaphor of salt, drawing on its various qualities to show how believers can transform relationships in every generation.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” -Matthew 5:13

This is such a fascinating saying of Yeshua. It actually appears to be a standalone saying that is recorded for us in several other passages as well.

Mark 9:50 – “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty [again?] Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Luke 14:34-35 – “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

So, there are a couple of aspects for us to explore. First and foremost, Yeshua seems to be cautioning against losing a salty flavor, because then salt becomes useless, and is only good to be thrown out and walked upon. Secondly, he is encouraging the retention of saltiness because it provides a measure of peace.

Now, in today’s jargon, saltiness has a connotation of someone being abrasive or rude. So in order for us to have a better understanding about what  Yeshua was saying, it may be helpful for us to see how salt is used in the Bible.

Of course, one of the most famous examples has been Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt after disobeying the command to not look back at the judgment being poured out on the plain of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 19:24-26 – Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked [back,] and she became a pillar of salt.

Later on, within the instructions of the sacrificial offerings, the grain offerings were commanded to be offered with salt as well.

Lev 2:13: “Every offering of your meal offering you shall season with salt; neither shall you allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meal offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.”

Also, salt is mentioned in the context of covenants with the idea that since salt acts as a preservative and therefore the covenant would have an everlasting nature to it.

Num 18:19: “All the wave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to Yahweh, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, as a portion forever: it is a covenant of salt forever before Yahweh to you and to your seed with you.””

Salt is also a means of causing fruitlessness, destroying the ability of an area to produce vegetation or grow anything.

Judges 9:45 – Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who [were] in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

Conversely, salt can restore that which is not useful by purifying it for safe and healthy use, as in the case of Elisha and a spring of water.

2 Kings 2:19-21 – Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought [it] to him. He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.'”

In the context of the Sermon on the Mount where we are taking our passage today, Yeshua is cautioning his hearers to not lose their saltiness, their distinctive nature and unique influence. The flow of this teaching moves immediately after this saying into the city on the hill parable.

Matthew 5:14-16  – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does [anyone] light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

The primary meaning of the salt reference in the context of the city on the hill is a reference of Yeshua to his own people for their unique place in the world. God had called Israel out of the nations to be distinctive, a people ruled only by him who would follow his ways as an example to the rest of the world. They were the physical forerunner of the prophetic Zion, the city on the hill that all nations would stream to to learn his ways.

Psalm 86:8-9  – There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name.

Isaiah 2:3 – And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Haggai 2:6-7  – “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. ‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.

Yeshua was reminding his hearers of their unique calling in the world, to not lose their distinctiveness amidst the corruption and evil of their day. They were to remember that they, as Israelites who were believing in God’s Messiah, were that city on the hill. Through their faithfulness and commitment to the Kingdom of God and his Messiah, God would ultimately reach out to all nations in compassion and hope.

Yeshua choosing the metaphor of salt was enlightening on many levels. Just like Lot’s wife and Abimelech overthrowing the city of Shechem, if they retained their saltiness, it would represent a measure of finality in judgment upon that rebellious generation. But the metaphor also recalls the seasoning of offerings, as many of them would be giving their lives in the persecution that was going to come upon them after his death. Finally, their saltiness would have a purifying effect among those whom he was calling, and would be a preservative of the peace and unity that God intends for all believers.

JUDGMENT

As salt is a type of judgment, the generation of Yeshua had filled up the measure of wickedness that God could tolerate, and they were about to be wiped out. This is the urgency contained in John the baptizer’s message to repent, and likewise Yeshua’s message of repentance.

Matthew 3:1-2  – Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17  – From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Yeshua spared no words of condemnation upon the corrupt leadership of his day.

Matthew 23:13 – “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

Luke 11:42 – “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every [kind of] garden herb, and [yet] disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

There are numerous other examples of this type of denunciation of the corrupt leadership; just type in the word “woe” into any Bible app to search many other instances where this is the case. The generation alive at the time of the ministry of Yeshua was under the pending condemnation of God, and he spent most of his time in public conveying the urgency and finality of the coming judgment upon them.

Matthew 12:41-42 – “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. “[The] Queen of [the] South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Luke 11:50-51  – so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house [of God;] yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’

Yeshua knew that the time was at hand and those who were unrepentant would not be spared. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all convey the urgency of that message of judgment.

Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

The fact that Messiah was raising up believers was as if he was sowing the salt of destruction among the corruption of that day. While this may not sound very compassionate, the fact that God was providing opportunities for the leaders to repent demonstrated that at the heart of judgment lies compassion in the admonition for repentance.

Each generation likewise needs to understand the judgments of God, and it is only with this type of salty compassion that believers can continue the transformation of the kingdoms of the world into the Kingdom of God.

OFFERINGS

Since salt was also to be used among the offerings of the sacrificial system, Yeshua was letting his hearers know that one of their purposes of transformation was also to be a seasoning of sacrifice for others. This would come to pass as many of the believers would perish in the persecutions of the first century. Here is a collection of verses about Yeshua warning his believers, and then those things coming to pass.

John 16:2  – “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.

Matthew 23:34  – “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,

uke 11:49  – “For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and [some] of them they will kill and [some] they will persecute,

Luke 21:12  – “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.

This aspect of sacrificial transformation was exhibited starkly in the martyrdom of Stephen after he had boldly confronted the leadership with the truth of God’s word.

Acts 7:51-53, 57-58 – “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and [yet] did not keep it.” … But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they [began] stoning [him;]

Acts 8:1  – And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Acts 11:19  – So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.

This type of persecution and sacrifice drove the apostle Paul to remind the believers of the underlying mission: the love of Messiah was to be the continual motivator in all distress, and a reminder even to their enemies.

Romans 8:35  – Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 12:14  – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:1 – Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship.

The love that had been shown to the believers was to be exhibited in the compassionate outflow of that love to others.

PURIFYING

Remembering back to the incident with Elisha at the well of water, we can discern that salt has a purifying aspect as well. In his letters to Timothy and to Titus, Paul reiterates this dynamic with each of them to be conveyed to their congregations

1 Timothy 4:12  – Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but [rather] in speech, conduct, love, faith [and] purity, show yourself an example of those who believe

Titus 2:6-8 – Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, [with] purity in doctrine, dignified, sound [in] speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Titus 2:11-14 – For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age … Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

The grace of God purifies God’s people for good deeds. This message is all through the Bible. believers are encouraged to be engaged with good actions and doing positive things for others.

Psalm 34:14  – Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Psalm 37:3 – Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper

2 Corinthians 9:8  – And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

1 Timothy 6:17-18 – Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share,

Hebrews 13:16  – Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

Yeshua even goes so far as to instruct us that it is not just enough for us to do good to our friends and family, but those who are adversarial to us, as well:

Luke 6:27  – But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

With all of these admonitions to be doing good things, the purification that takes place in the lives of believers should result in compassionate opportunities for service to enrich the lives of those around us.

PRESERVING

Finally, in Mark 9:50, Yeshua says to “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” We can see that salt also has an everlasting quality as a preservative that is related to peace. Just as the everlasting nature of covenant was illustrated with salt, the preserving nature of salt is that it would facilitate an everlasting peace.

John 16:33  – “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:6  – For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

Romans 12:18  – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Romans 14:19  – So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

Galatians 5:22  – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.

In reassuring the believers in Philippi, Paul relates an aspect of the Spirit of God in providing his people peace in the midst of anxious situations.

Philippians 4:6-7  – Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The outworking of this peace should then be evident within the lives of believers. Since salt is a preservative, we need to apply that preservative to the compassionate peace and unity that should be evident among the people of God.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep [i.e., preserve] the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

In summary, let’s review where we started within this teaching of Yeshua on the Sermon on the Mount.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” -Matthew 5:13

According to Yeshua, we are called to be as distinctive and useful as salt while on this earth, otherwise we really have no purpose. Drawing on this metaphor, an encounter with a believer should be a unique experience, one that carries a distinctive taste amidst a world of bland, personal opinion and selfish actions. As we have seen, salt can be an instrument of destruction, but also has properties of sacrifice and purification, along with qualities of preservation. These are the characteristics and influences that a believer should have on those around them. These stem from a godly and compassionate heart that wants to influence others for their good through this transformational nature of salt.

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

Walking in simple integrity

Being a faithful believer in the God of the Bible is a blessing, but also a large responsibility.

Everyone talks about how loyal and faithful he is, but just try to find someone who really is! A righteous man walks in simple integrity; happily guided are his children after him.

Proverbs 20:6-7

The wisdom of God is filled with admonitions of righteousness: doing what’s right according to his Word. In Hebrew culture, a tzaddik, a righteous one, is a person to be admired as an example to follow.

In these few verses from the Proverbs, we learn a bit about human nature, and the benefits of being faithful to God. We can see how most people are typically busy extolling their own virtues, while those who live in uncomplicated sincerity provide positive examples for their own children after them.

Integrity is considered a form of simplicity in that it is also considered completeness. Something that is complete has no additional parts added to it; it is whole and unified, hence, simple. In Hebraic thought, Yahweh is considered simple in the uncomplicated sense since he is one: “Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This oneness or unity of God is a result of his completeness; there is nothing that could be added to his character or being that would somehow make him more God.

To walk in completeness is to live in such a way that mimics (in a positive way) the simplicity and righteousness of the character and being of God. Yeshua encourages believers to live in this very way when he famously says, “Be perfect (i.e., complete or whole}, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48).

The walk of the believer is their halachah, their manner of living. It is their customary course of action in any given situation. When those actions are based in simple integrity, they are creating positive examples for their children who can then be guided in the straight way behind them. This would be analogous to parents being likened to a snow plow clearing a road, and their children are in cars behind them following in the clear path through the snow that the parents have made. In doing so, the children are happy or blessed as the way has been made clear for them.

Being a faithful believer in the God of the Bible is a blessing, but also a large responsibility. As bearers of God’s image in this world, we should always be aware of how our actions influence others. Our goal should be to always live in such a way that God will be honored and further glory be brought to his Name by our righteous actions as we strive to continually live in simple integrity according to his Word.

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

The Kingdom of God is near

Did John mean the kingdom was already present, or soon to come?

“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.”

Mark 1:15

The words of John the baptizer rang in the ears of the first century Jews with a sense of impending urgency. The time was fulfilled; the kingdom of God was at hand! This reality was the motivation of John’s cry for repentance. If people were not serious about their torah obedience, they were to be left among those who would experience the coming judgment of God on the land.

This message of the nearness of the kingdom can be easy to misunderstand. Did John mean it was already present, or soon to come? The short answer is that both meanings are true; the kingdom was already unfolding and yet was going to be coming to pass as the judgment that would fall on them.

We can see this is the case as Yeshua continues this message in his ministry:

“Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off [in protest] against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.

Luke 10:8-12

He instructs the disciples to explain the nearness of the kingdom; to those who would receive their message, it was a message of comfort. However to those who were judged unworthy, it was a message of condemnation. It’s the same message: “the kingdom is near,” just with two completely different applications depending on how the message was to be received.

The message of the kingdom is a separator of individuals. To those who receive God’s kingship authority and turn away from disobedience to his Word, the message of the kingdom is a comfort and a blessing. But to those who reject the kingship of God and are unwilling to turn away from disobedience to his Word, the message of the kingdom is an annoyance and a burden; their judgment has come upon their own heads.

And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”

John 3:19-21

While this message still rings true for every generation, it was especially true for that first-century generation. Those who were to “come to the light,” as John mentions, demonstrated the grace and mercy of God among the remnant of his people. Yeshua says of these: “Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life,” (John 5:24). The crossing over had already happened; these individuals were not to come under the pending judgment of God’s people. However, upon those who were not willing to come into the light, it was as if the judgment had already come: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life,” (1 John 5:12).

The New Jerusalem of Revelation is symbolic of the Kingdom of God. Its purpose and glory is described there as being the home of the righteous, those who have received the message of the Kingdom of God.

But I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory. Its gates will never be shut at the end of the day, because there will be no night there. And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who practices an abomination or a lie, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Revelation 21:22-27

In like fashion to that exemplified group of Yeshua’s original audience, to each generation since that time the message of the kingdom is the same: “the light of the Kingdom of God is near.” Will we accept the kingship of Yahweh or not? Will we be obedient or not? Will we choose to enter its gates or not?

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

The trucker’s way of making peace

When we provide forgiveness, we give people room.

“How blessed are those who make peace, because it is they who will be called God’s children!

Matthew 5:9

Being a believer in Messiah carries many different challenges and exercises with which we are tested and tried every day. Yeshua desires his followers to be beacons of peace and forgiveness with those around them, so as to provide every opportunity for others to see the uniqueness of God, and us as his representatives in this world.

Being a peacemaker is one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging, of all aspects of the believer’s life. With all of the constant static and swirling, chaotic mass of right and wrong that confronts us in every interaction with others, Yeshua calls us to be messengers of peace. An illustration from driving in traffic may provide an analogy for us to consider.

Let’s assume that a three lane highway has a merging on-ramp with other cars that are seeking to join the main highway traffic. Where the ramp intersects with the freeway is the merging point of both lanes of traffic. Both lines of vehicles have come from different directions and yet are looking to become aligned into a single unified flow of traffic. In order to accomplish this, cars on the entrance ramp need to match their speed to that of the main highway in order to seamlessly merge in between the other cars. However, when traffic has slowed to a crawl, the merging happens less seamlessly, and tempers can flare when on-ramp vehicles begin forcing their way into the existing traffic on the main highway.

What I have noticed is that long-haul truckers that are involved in these types of congested traffic merges have adopted an interesting strategy. Because their rigs are less able to provide instantaneous stop-and-start accuracy with the cars around them, they typically choose to go at a very slow, but steady speed. This allows for large gaps in the traffic to form ahead of them, and the smaller cars around them have much more room to change lanes and join the flow of traffic on the main highway.

In effect, these truckers are acting like the “peacemakers” of the merge; their slow, constant speed provides additional room for cars to zip in and out of the lane ahead of them while they continue slowly and cautiously through the frenzy of lane changing and merging around them. This can be an analogy for us when we are considering our interactions with those in our lives.

If we look at the course of our day as the highway, then the people who come and go in our lives throughout our day are merging with us for a while and then exiting off our path or highway onto their other destinations. If we adopt the trucker strategy and allow them the additional “room” to merge and exit, we can find that our lives are much less stressful. We are not having to constantly hit the brakes or accelerate to accommodate their entrance and exits. We can still move toward our destination, albeit a little more slowly than we may have hoped, as we encounter this inevitable “traffic” in our journey each day.

This trucker strategy of giving people room is one of the most practical ways to keep peace.

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

Living out the wisdom of God

The best demonstration of faith is in living out the wisdom of God.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

While Paul is here speaking about the writings that we would today call the Old Testament, in truth for believers today, the collective apostolic writings of the New Testament would also be included within the torah, or instruction of God. Paul’s admonition is that our learning should be based on this instruction of God. These writings have been designed for instructing us in wisdom. From this wisdom stems steadfastness, constancy, and cheerful endurance. This wisdom provides hope, expectation, or confidence.

For the first century believers, their hope was that they would be protected and spared through the rampant persecution of the Jews against their sect. Their hope was in the soon and coming judgment upon the wickedness of that generation that was to be poured out in the impending war with Rome. The writings of their forefathers were being fulfilled before their eyes, and they could draw encouragement and comfort to help them endure the troubling times they were living through. In like fashion today, we can also draw hope and encouragement through the writings of our spiritual forefathers in the Bible that have been handed down to us through the centuries.

Additionally, Paul’s admonition is that, based on the wisdom of the writings, we should be building one another up, not segregating ourselves further from one another.

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. … May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:2, 5-6

Believers today have been entrusted with the most valuable commodity there is in a world of falsified news and social unrest: the truth of God’s instruction. If we lived like we really believed that, like we really trusted in the God of the Bible, the world would, for better or worse, take notice. The results would be dependent on how steadfast we would remain; to be tested if we could endure their onslaught with the cheerful endurance of our spiritual forefathers.

If we would, as Paul envisions, “join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the impact on this generation could have similar effects that the faithful of that generation had, effects which are still resonating with believers down to our day thousands of years later.

Our faithful handling of God’s word is magnified when we actually live out what we say we believe. The best demonstration of faith is in living out the wisdom of God.

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