Pleasing God through holy prayer

We should simply be obedient to his plain will for us.

As the apostle Paul provides Timothy instruction on correct doctrine and appropriate conduct within the congregation, he begins to focus on the various groups within the assembly: men, women, widows, and slaves, along with the roles of overseers and deacons.

But first and foremost is the admonition to prayer; praying specifically for leaders and officials so that the message of the kingdom can be spread through the peaceful lives of obedient believers.

1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. … I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands apart from anger or quarreling…

While violence was common in that generation and persecution was ever present, the kingdom message had been historically spreading through the persecutions and scatterings of the believers, even the persecution brought on by Paul himself prior to his conversion.

Acts 8:3-4 – “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

However, as Paul’s missionary efforts throughout the empire were coming to fruition in the waning years of his life, he encourages prayer for peaceful and dignified existence to exhibit the wonderful salvation of God to all.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “This [praying for leaders and peace and harmony] is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I can’t think of a more timely and appropriate lesson that we could learn from the Bible at this time in history. Our country and our world is becoming more fractured and oppositional with each passing week and month. If believers, instead of chastising administrations and leaders would instead join together and pray for them, “lifting up holy hands apart from anger and quarreling,” we may see real change towards peace and harmony. God’s desire of people experiencing salvation and coming to the knowledge of the truth could become much more of a reality than we are currently seeing.

Out of all of the actions we as believers can take in influencing this world, praying for leaders and for peace and unity is something that only we can do. If we believe we have been set apart as God’s people, then, as his children, we have the right and responsibility to petition him for this to come to pass. This is not an opportunity for us to lift up our preferred candidate over others, but a chance to ask for God’s involvement and enlightening of all those in authority, that they would make decisions that honor him and not just try to influence the polling statistics.

If this is something that pleases God, then we should simply be obedient to his plain and hopeful will for us, and the obligation that he has laid out for believers. If we consider ourselves holy and set apart, then it is time for us to act like it.


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

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

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

The challenging discipline of obedient giving

Yeshua takes being nice to another level.

Core of the Bible podcast #57 – The challenging discipline of obedient giving

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how the principles of giving that are outlined throughout God’s word provide opportunities for believers to exhibit the love of God in practical and effective ways that can soften even our enemies.

Yeshua said it this way:

Luke 6:34-35 – “And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”

In a former essay, we have looked at the importance of being kind to our enemies, those who may act in adversarial ways towards us. But in this passage lies another aspect of being compassionate that may get overlooked because of our general unfamiliarity with the culture that this teaching arises out of.

In today’s American culture, we typically view “alms” or giving to the needy as something that is a direct donation to their welfare, just giving whatever you have in your pocket or your wallet to someone who is begging on the street or in a public place. This was certainly one form of giving to those in need. However, this passage is speaking to a more involved and challenging type of giving.

As far as giving to beggars is concerned, this ideas stems primarily from a passage in Acts 3 where the Greek phrase was interpreted as giving alms or giving charity to a beggar at the temple.

Peter and John were confronted with one such individual as they approached the temple complex, a favorite place for those who sought for handouts.

Acts 3:2-3  – “A man who was lame from birth was being carried [to the temple]. He was placed each day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so that he could beg from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money.”

Clearly, the man did not have the ability to earn his own living through labor since he was unable to walk on his own, and his friends or family would carry him to the high-traffic area around the temple as a way of helping him to ask for donations to meet his needs. This was one type of alms-giving or beneficence. Those who would beg for handouts were those who had no other means of income: the lame or blind who could not work, widows and orphans (who had lost their husband/father as the provider). In the Hebraic culture, these were considered legitimate reasons for true charity, and helping and giving donations to these individuals is highly commended.

In regard to the man at the temple, Albert Barnes writes the following:

“The man had been always lame; he was obliged to be carried; and he was well known to the Jews. … his friends laid him there daily. He would therefore be well known to those who were in the habit of entering the temple. Among the ancients there were no hospitals for the sick, and no alms-houses for the poor. The poor were dependent, therefore, on the Charity of those who were in better circumstances. It became an important matter for them to be placed where they would see many people. Hence, it was customary to place them at the gates of rich men as illustrated in Luke 16:19-20 –

“There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. “But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate.”

Barnes: and they also sat by the highway to beg where many persons would pass, such as Mark 10:46 –

“They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.”

Also John 9:1, 8-9 –

“As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. … [After Yeshua healed him] his neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit begging? Some said, “He’s the one.” Others were saying, “No, but he looks like him.” He kept saying, “I’m the one.”

Barnes continues: “The entrance to the temple would be a favorable place for begging; for: great multitudes were accustomed to enter there; and, when going up for the purposes of religion, they would be more inclined to give alms than at other times; and especially was this true of the Pharisees, who were particularly desirous of publicity in bestowing charity. It is recorded by Martial (i. 112) that the custom prevailed among the Romans of placing the poor by the gates of the temples; and the custom was also observed a long time in the Christian churches.”

All types of giving are highly recommended in the Bible, as we know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving freely is a required dynamic within the economy of the kingdom of God.

However, in the middle Eastern culture of the Bible, giving of alms was actually more than just providing pocket change to beggars; in its wider sense in the New Testament writings it means any act of compassionate giving.

Acts 9:36  There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.

Acts 10:1-2  There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

Acts 24:17  “After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people.

While compassion is encouraged throughout the Bible, we should understand it is based on the eternal instruction of God throughout the Torah. God has always encouraged his people to be generous, and we will look at some of those ways as we dive deeper into the topic of giving.

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Since banks as we know them today did not exist in Bible times, there were only a few means for someone who had fallen on hard times to extricate themselves from dire financial circumstances.

Sometimes, individuals would be sold as servants of others in an effort to pay off debt or to help their families. This was a form of indentured servitude, a commitment to the benefactor to recoup their investment. This was widely practiced and is mentioned in several passages of the Bible in Exodus and Deuteronomy. (Unfortunately, it is usually misunderstood as the brutal, savage chattel slavery that we typically associate with that word).

However, these types of bond-servants were provided many rights for fair treatment under the gracious instruction of Torah, and many times had benefitted so much from their service to their masters that they desired to remain with their benefactor’s family even after their term of service had expired. To illustrate this, there was a process provided for in the Torah to identify those who had chosen to become servants for life by piercing their ear.

Deuteronomy 15:16-17  – “But if your slave says to you, ‘I don’t want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you, take an awl and pierce through his ear into the door, and he will become your slave for life…”

An additional measure of relief in the Torah for those who had become deep in dept was instituted in the release of all debts every seven years which is also described in Deuteronomy 15:9. In this way, no one would be able to get so far in over their heads financially that they couldn’t receive a fresh start.

But for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys that, by far, the most common way of helping others was the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – “If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.”

This was a commendable deed on behalf of the giver, and a prompt repayment would be an indication of the honor of the one who had received the help. Those receiving charity were more likely to sense that trust is being established, and their self-worth is raised through this trust.

This process has more to do with the receiver than the giver. If someone encountered an individual in need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay the loan back whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance. Many times, people will struggle to accept outright handouts because of their pride. They don’t want to be made to feel they are unable to do meet their needs on their own. This is actually an emotionally good and healthy response for anyone who is otherwise able to provide for themselves but may have just fallen on hard times; it happens. A great measure of trust has been placed in them and they are more likely to be inclined to repay as a way of thanking their benefactor and demonstrating they are worthy of trust; a coveted value, indeed.

Unfortunately, as loans were given to those in need, sometimes those who were less honorable would gladly take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends. This is presented to us in the biblical texts and from other writings of that era.

There is a book called the Wisdom of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, a writing from around 150-200 BC that was included in the Septuagint, or the Greek version of the Scriptures.  This version of the Bible was widely known and referenced in the time of Yeshua and the disciples. In this book is a passage that explains this concept of private loans in a little more detail, some of the blessings of following the commandment of Moses from Torah, and also some of the downfalls of providing loans to others.

It begins with the blessings of obedience to the command of Torah:

Sirach 29

[1] He that shows mercy will lend to his neighbor, and he that strengthens him with his hand keeps the commandments.

[2] Lend to your neighbor in the time of his need; and in turn, repay your neighbor promptly.

[3] Confirm your word and keep faith with him, and on every occasion you will find what you need.

Here we can see how the idea of giving of loans and prompt repayment are both the qualities that are designed to reinforce the community and provide for ongoing needs. However, the text also speaks of the negative side of giving when someone lends with the best of intentions but the receiver is not willing to repay.

[4] Many persons regard a loan as a windfall, and cause trouble to those who help them.

[5] A man will kiss another’s hands until he gets a loan, and will lower his voice in speaking of his neighbor’s money; but at the time for repayment he will delay, and will pay in words of unconcern, and will find fault with the time.

[6] If the lender exert pressure, he will hardly get back half, and will regard that as a windfall. If he does not, the borrower has robbed him of his money, and he has needlessly made him his enemy; he will repay him with curses and reproaches, and instead of glory will repay him with dishonor.

[7] Because of such wickedness, therefore, many have refused to lend; they have been afraid of being defrauded needlessly.

This same negative perception of being taken advantage of is prevalent today and actually prevents people from being generous with those in need; no one wants to be taken advantage of. However, the text encourages faithfulness to the Torah command regardless of the outcome.

[8] Nevertheless, be patient with a man in humble circumstances, and do not make him wait for your alms.

[9] Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty.

[10] Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.

[11] Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold.

[12] Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all affliction;

[13] more than a mighty shield and more than a heavy spear, it will fight on your behalf against your enemy.

This is the same type of instruction that Yeshua provides in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-21  – “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 5:42  – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

What Yeshua is encouraging in both of these passages is a type of universal generosity toward those in need. If we are to give out of pocket, give cheerfully. If we are to lend, then we should lend without any hope of repayment; if we are repaid, then that is to be considered a bonus.

—–

Now we may understand and be willing to help friends and relatives who can’t help themselves, and lend to those who have fallen on hard times. But here is where this principle really gets challenging: according to Yeshua, the faithful disciple should also be willing to lend to their enemies, not just friends and acquaintances.

Remember our starting passage from Luke 6?

Luke 6:34-35 – “And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”

This is a drastic diversion even from the cultural practice of the day, and highlights the extent of compassion believers should be willing to demonstrate at all times. It is one thing to forgive a friend or acquaintance of a debt, but to lend in the same fashion to an adversary? This would be a truly unorthodox and radical admonition to his followers. It is such a revolutionary and profound concept that it still shakes us to the core to this day, two thousand years later. True compassion is like that; it is profound, challenging, and requires real commitment and, many times, heart-wrenching, white-knuckled, gut-twisting sacrifice. This is the type of genuine life transformation believers are called to.

But in reality, if you, out of obedience to Yeshua and the Word, are extending generosity toward an adversary, are they really still an enemy? Don’t enemies need to be adversarial toward each other? If you, as a believer, are not acting in a reflexive way toward someone who is adversarial toward you, are the two of you really enemies? Isn’t it more likely that if only one is acting in an adversarial fashion but the other is extending an olive branch that this is not a description of two enemies, but only one? In this type of challenging obedience, adversarial overtones can be dissipated by the removal of escalation through the extension of friendship and value without obligation.

Are you up to the challenge of what it really means to be a follower of the Messiah and demonstrate true compassion? Hopefully, having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving as we have looked at today can make us more responsible givers. In outwardly loaning to those who have need, we can allow them dignity. Inwardly considering these helper loans as outright donations, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future. If we are giving advantage to those around us, even our enemies, then they cannot take advantage.

God is honored when we honor and respect him in all things, including how we manage our finances and our relationships with others. By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are his children by operating by the same principles he provides to us.


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

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

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

Set apart for obedience to God’s will

The culmination of the biblical imagery is fulfilled in Messiah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Continual confession is best for the soul

We need to respond to the prodding of God within our hearts.

Psalm 32:1-2 – How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is a person whom Yahweh does not charge with iniquity and in whose spirit is no deceit!

This psalm carries an important message that may be lost upon us in our current day and age. As believers in Messiah, we may freely (and maybe a bit too freely) acknowledge that we recognize the blessedness of one whose sins are forgiven. However, in our ongoing walk of faith we many times tend to overlook an important step that was responsible for bringing us to this point in the first place: confession.

Psalm 32:3-4 – When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat.

An unconfessed life is one that can feel like a burden, where issues arise that continually assault our sensibilities and make us feel as if we have no bearing or foundation. The psalmist here uses the language of God’s hand being “heavy” on him, to where his strength evaporates. It’s as if no matter what we try to do, the wrong results come of all of our actions. Everything we intend for good ends up going sideways.

Psalm 32:5 – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

The turnaround (literally) comes when we become honest about our rebellious hearts toward God. When we finally reach a point where the struggle has become so exhausting that we simply cannot go on under the burden of resisting God’s prodding within our hearts.

When it comes to confession, we tend to think that when we initially came to Messiah, we acknowledged our sinful lives and confessed our wayward actions before him. But God’s word encourages us to not only confess our sin when coming to him, but on a regular basis as part of an ongoing, healthy and sin-free relationship.

The apostle John writes:

1 John 1:6 – If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.

The psalm says that the person who is truly joyful is the one whom not only is forgiven, but “in whose spirit is no deceit.” How many multitudes of believers have fallen into the trap of false security because of an initial repentance when coming to the faith, and yet stumble in their walk because of ongoing unconfessed sin before God? John says when we do that, we are walking in darkness, not in the light; “we are lying, and not practicing the truth.”

Psalm 32:6 – Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately. When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him.

We should pray to him immediately and constantly when we slip. The longer wrong actions and wrong intentions remain, the further “under his hand” we place ourselves. We begin to drown in the floodwaters that inevitably surround us.

Psalm 32:7 – You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

Instead, a life of constant repentance is one that is without sin, not because sin never occurs, but because it is constantly being purged in the ongoing vital relationship between the individual and their Creator. Then, deliverance, joy, and light become the living environment of the faithful confessor.

1 John 1:7-9 – If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

To live cleansed from all unrighteousness is to acknowledge before God our faults when they occur, as they occur. In this way, we can walk in unburdened fellowship with other believers, and in a living and vital lifestyle of obedience before God.

While confession may be good for the soul, ongoing confession is even better.


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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

We can’t successfully obey God if we don’t trust him

Trusting in God is the root of obedience to his Word.

Deuteronomy 9:23 – When Yahweh sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, “Go up and possess the land which I have given you;” then you rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh your God, and you didn’t believe him, nor listen to his voice.

As national Israel was preparing to enter the land of Canaan, Moses was recounting to them their history over the last 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. This was to put them in the correct mindset so they could be fully prepared to take the land that God is providing to them.

One of the negative occurrences that he recounted was a stark reminder to them to be faithful and obedient to God’s commands. When they had rebelled against God’s original command to take the land, they were routed by the local tribes and suffered heavy losses. Additionally, this act of disobedience was the primary cause of their wandering in the wilderness for forty years. God had to make sure all of the unfaithful among them died off before they could have another opportunity to successfully overcome and possess the land.

Moses stated this process of rebellion as a simple fact: they had rebelled against the word of Yahweh (literally, the mouth of Yahweh) because they did not trust him; therefore, they did not listen or obey him. Rebellion is fostered by not trusting God or his Word, and therefore no obedience to that Word can be had.

The same is true today. When people do not trust God, they do not believe in his Word and they are not likely to obey his commands. Trusting in God is the root of obedience to his Word.

In Hebrew, listening to God is the same thing as obeying him. When one listens to God, obedience is the result. Many of us today may hear what God is saying, but we don’t actually listen to him and take it to heart; if we did, we would obey him.

Mark 4:23 – “If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen.”

Yeshua made this statement over and over to the people of his generation. But in doing so, he also knew many of them would not believe, and therefore would not hear and obey in repentance.

Matthew 13:15 – For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back — and I would heal them.

Not hearing God is a condition of a callous heart. The heart, as the source and wellspring of life, is surrounded by bitter thoughts and emotions against God that thicken its defenses. The individual then becomes deaf and blind to the pleas of God.

But Yeshua encourages his disciples. They are the believers, the listeners and doers of the words of God.

Matthew 13:16 – Blessed are your eyes because they do see, and your ears because they do hear.

James also illustrates this contrast between believers who are doers and those who only hear without truly listening.

James 1:22-25 – But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works ​– ​this person will be blessed in what he does.

Those who believe in him are the ones who can obediently carry out his Word to their generation just as the disciples did. The Word of God was spread throughout the Roman Empire to the limits of the known world within a forty year span of time, and all with no printing, no transportation, and no internet. They simply believed God and and followed his Messiah, sharing the good news of the kingdom of God in faithful obedience.

John 10:27 – “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.

Trust in God leads to hearing the Messiah and obediently following him. If we have not been as obedient as we should be, perhaps we need to reevaluate where we are placing our trust. Once realigned with the proper heavenly perspective and trust in God, we can then bear fruit for him and successfully accomplish his purposes on the earth.


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

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

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

Purity of heart through the Word of God

If we are to remain holy and blameless, we need to remain steadfast in the faith which has been handed down to this generation.

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Purity of heart is what sets believers apart, what makes them holy. Purity and blamelessness are characteristics of a life that has been changed and influenced by the power of God’s presence and his Word.

Ephesians 5:25-27 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the congregation and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the congregation to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.

Psalm 24:3-6 – Who may ascend the mountain of Yahweh? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from Yahweh, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who inquire of him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Seeking the face of the God of Jacob and inquiring of his Word; these are the characteristics of the congregation of the Messiah, the ekklesia, or the assembly of called-out ones. The congregation of the Messiah was the example for all those who would come to faith through their testimony and witness. They were set apart through the Word of God, and through the sacrificial example of the Messiah.

Colossians 1:21-23 – Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him ​– ​ if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.

If we are to remain holy and blameless, we need to remain steadfast in the faith which has been handed down to this generation. God’s Word is maligned in the marketplace of ideas in which we live, but its timeless truths stand forever. Just as the apostle Paul became a servant of the good news of God, we also demonstrate its power when we live obediently by its dictates, when we show the world that we are inherently different through the Word that has changed our hearts. Our loving actions toward one another are the distinction that can illustrate the truth of God’s Word to a world in desperate need of stability and hope.

Philippians 2:14-16 – Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life…


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

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

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

The sermon of the kingdom

The kingdom of God on earth is evidenced through the humble obedience of heart-believers

In the gospel of Matthew, one of the most significant passages of the Bible is related in chapters 5-7: the Sermon on the Mount. It is also echoed in Luke 6:20-49. Within these verses, Yeshua is teaching his disciples and followers about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven; what it encompasses, who is included in it, and how one conducts oneself within it.

This passage is what I’ve come to call the core of the Bible message. It is the root of all balanced biblical understanding. Once one understands that Yeshua’s purpose was to define and firmly establish the kingdom of God upon the earth, the rest of the Bible falls into place.

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

According to Yeshua, the kingdom of God belongs to those who are humble and who are constantly doing what is right regardless of personal cost. To be humble and obedient to God’s standards at all times should be the goal of every believer.

Matthew 5:19-20 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

Those whose righteousness surpasses that of the religious leaders are to be the believers whose humble obedience to God’s commands stems from the heart, not from mere outward conformity to rules and regulations.

Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come. Your will be done…

It is to be these heart-believers who bring the kingdom of God to the earth. When God’s will is accomplished by the humble and obedient faithful, his kingdom is present.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Humble obedience from the heart comes with the privilege of God’s provision for the basic necessities of life. When God’s kingdom is first in the believer’s life, then stresses over the pressures of life that affect those around us fall into the background and fade away. Accomplishing the will of God brings peace.

Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is not made up of those who merely profess to believe, but of those whose profession is evidenced in the truth and power of their outward actions. Against all odds and opposition, even to death, true believers will stand for what’s right according to God’s will and purpose. They are rooted and deeply established within the word of God to recognize and act upon the principles that God expects of all people.

This is the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form: the kingdom of God on earth is evidenced through the humble obedience of heart-believers. This is how God’s will is accomplished on the earth until his kingdom grows to encompass all nations and people.


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

Faith in Messiah leads confidently to the one true God

True faith provides confidence, assurance, and freedom of access to God.

Ephesians 3:12 – In union with Messiah and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence.

The reference to God’s presence that the apostle Paul uses here is an allusion to the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, the compartment of the Tabernacle and Temple of God in which the ark of the covenant resided and God’s presence abode. It could only be accessed through the veil or curtain that separated it from the rest of the structure.

Access to this area was a privilege granted only to the High Priest, and that once a year on the Day of Atonement. He would enter to provide the blood sacrifice of the goat in obedience to the Word of God and in hopes of God’s forgiveness for the community of Israel for the year.

Paul is combining this imagery with union with Messiah through faith in him. This faith, Paul argues, is the catalyst that provides a strong confidence and freedom for believers to figuratively enter that sacred space without the need of any physical High Priest; faith in Messiah is equivalent to the action of a faithful High Priest.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews continues this line of reasoning in a long and dramatic build-up to the culmination of his reasoning in the tenth chapter.

Hebrews 10:19-20, 23 – We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Yeshua. He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. … Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.

And what is this promise that he provides to those who have faith in Messiah?

Hebrews 10:14-17 – With one sacrifice, then, he has made perfect forever those who are purified from sin. And the Holy Spirit also gives us his witness. First he says, “This is the covenant that I will make with them in the days to come, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts and write them on their minds.” And then he says, “I will not remember their sins and evil deeds any longer.”

The great promise is that torah obedience from the heart would be the natural operating principle of all believers, and sins and evil deeds would no longer be remembered. Forgiveness and the ability to accomplish God’s will is granted through confidence and faith in the Messiah. This is the vast reward, the promised blessing that believers have for their consistent and ongoing faith in Yeshua.

Hebrews 10:35-36 – Therefore do not cast from you your confident hope, for it will receive a vast reward. For you stand in need of patient endurance, so that, as the result of having done the will of God, you may receive the promised blessing.

The household of God is established solely on this faith in Messiah, the one through whom God had chosen to bring to a culmination all of the promises made to his people. The eternal blessing and ongoing promise for faith in him is forgiveness from past sin and being enabled to do the will of God from the heart.

1 Timothy 3:14-15 – … I have written so that you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the congregation of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
Hebrews 3:6 – the Messiah was faithful as the Son in charge of God’s household, and we are his household if we hold on to our confidence and the hope in which we rejoice.


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

The Spirit setting believers apart is holy

Holiness is as holiness does.

1 Peter 1:14-16 – As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

The audience to whom Peter is writing were the scattered Israelites throughout the Asian region who were the recipients of the missionary efforts of Paul and his coworkers in Messiah. In this passage, Peter is encouraging these believers to continue to evaluate their conduct in the light of the spiritual truths they have received through the good news of the Word of God that had been shared with them.

Due to these scattered congregations living among the foreign nations of the day, they were constantly challenged with the cultural idolatry of the peoples among whom they worked and lived. Many Israelites who were living among the nations had begun to adopt some of the idolatrous ways of the nations. This is why, for example, in many of his epistles the apostle Paul is correcting their views on food sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8) and special days they had begun keeping due the culture in which they were immersed (Galatians 4:8-10). In some cases, these believers had lived so long among their foreign nation that the family lines had grown away from the true God and had begun following the cultural deities instead.

In a similar vein as Paul’s urgings, Peter here is reminding them “not to be conformed to the desires of their former ignorance.” When the culture has a certain special calendar or social agenda, it is easiest to just go along with the flow of the societal norms than it is to refrain from participation. Peter was reminding them that the Spirit who has set them apart as a distinct people, the people of God, is the very Spirit of God himself. As God is set apart as holy and uniquely distinct from all other gods, so should they be holy and set apart in all they do. Their practices should not reflect conformity to the societal norms around them; instead, they should honor the one true God by remaining conformed to his standards, as revealed through the Word of God which they had accepted.

This set-apartness was to be primarily reflected in their love for one another. If they were not caring for one another’s needs deeply and sincerely, their faith may not be bearing the fruit it was designed to.

1 Peter1:22-23 – Seeing you have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth through the Spirit in sincere brotherly affection, love one another from the heart fervently: having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever.

Peter says their souls had been purified through obedience to the truth. This was accomplished through the Spirit which they had received. In obedience to this truth, they were to exemplify a deep and sincere brotherly affection from the heart.

These believers stand as a monument to us and to all believers through the ages. In many ways, our experience is similar to theirs: turning from idolatry and corrupt belief to belief in the one true God, yet living in a culture that remains committed to its own goals and agenda. However, as we purify our souls in obedience to the truth of the Word of God, we then set ourselves apart from the norms of this world.

We become holy and set apart, not because we are better than anyone else, but because the one who calls us to obedience is himself holy and set apart. His Spirit, dwelling within us, challenges us to to reject the careless attitude of our culture which views individuals as expendable statistics, and to truly and sincerely love one another from the heart.

If we have genuinely been born again, the incorruptible (never-dying) Word of God works through us to express its truths and to embrace the individuals of each generation, drawing them to himself through our faithful examples. This is the high calling of the obedient and set apart believer in Messiah. This is who we are, and who we should always strive to be.


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

The God of compassion has children of compassion

Those who claim to be a child of God should act like their Father.

Genesis 6:5-8 – Then Yahweh saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. So Yahweh was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then Yahweh said, “I will wipe out mankind whom I have created from the face of the land; mankind, and animals as well, and crawling things, and the birds of the sky. For I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh.

As bad as we may think that our societies are today, the generation of Noah’s day was far more corrupt. God had observed that all people had become wayward from the purity and simplicity of the original intent of his Creation. God had created man in his image to rule and reign as righteous representatives over his Creation. Yet, instead, people had chosen to use their gifts and abilities in the service of wickedness and evil.

In his justice and righteousness, God determines the elimination of wicked humans is necessary in order to stop the rampant disobedience and chaos from continuing as it had. However, in his compassion for obedience and righteousness, Noah finds favor in God’s eyes. God enacts a plan that allows his human representatives to continue on the earth, albeit through the family of one righteous and obedient man, Noah.

Throughout the Bible, we find God’s wrath and justice is constantly contrasted with his mercy, grace, and compassion. In fact, this is the very description God provides of himself as he reveals himself to Moses:

Exodus 33:18-19 – Then Moses said, “Please, let me see your glory.” He said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name ‘Yahweh’ before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Compassion is tied up within the very name or character of God. His presence and revelation of himself is in itself an act of grace and compassion that we may know him more, and learn of his righteous expectations for all mankind. For those of us considering ourselves as a child of God, then we should likewise have grace, mercy, and compassion embedded within every fiber of our being. This should be our demonstration to others that we are truly 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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.