How we can sanctify ourselves for God’s use in any situation

When we refine ourselves in God’s Word, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him.

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or sanctification, and how our ongoing commitment to God’s word distinguishes us beyond just participating in God’s Kingdom in ways that are more beneficial for God’s overall purposes.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Holiness is about being sanctified or set apart for God’s specific purposes. In the example that Paul uses here with Timothy, there is also an ongoing refinement that is similar to recognizing the differences between ordinary plates for everyday use and fine china that would be used for special occasions. There is a cleansing or refining process that he mentions: “those who make themselves clean.”

So, let’s take a closer look at this process of sanctification or being set apart. Sanctification is clearly a process that God performs by calling people to himself but is also partly a process that we are responsible for, as well, as we walk in the way that he has called us to.

To help break this down a little further, I’d like to focus on these two aspects in separate sections; the first part of the equation is God’s calling and setting apart his own for himself. The second part is how we continue that process of sanctification as we live out our lives within the Kingdom.

I believe this first part can best be illustrated by reviewing a parable of Yeshua in which he outlines this process of God calling a people to himself. Now, the context of Yeshua’s parable appears to have been given in the house of one of the Pharisees, who had invited many individuals to a banquet at his home.

Luke 14:1 – “One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely.”

When Yeshua then sees how those who were invited chose the best seats, he taught them with a parable on humility.

Luke 14:7 – “He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves.”

This parable is summarized in the following verses:

Luke 14:10-11 – “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So this lesson in humility spurred on a further conversation, as he then received a question from one of those at the table:

Luke 14:15 – “When one of those who reclined at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!'”

At this point, Yeshua spoke to the group in another parable, the parable of the wedding banquet. It appears to have been one of the central teachings of Yeshua as it is also recorded in a parallel passage in Matthew 22. Here is Matthew’s version regarding who is called.

Matthew 22:1-3 – “Once more Yeshua spoke to them in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to summon [call] those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come.'”

This parable, which as we shall see is also a prophecy, neatly outlines the institution of the Kingdom of God at Messiah’s coming. Those who were invited to the banquet were the Jews, and yet most of them refused to recognize him as their Messiah.

Matthew 22:4-6 – “Again, he sent out other servants and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: See, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.”

This illustrates the period of persecution that was unleashed upon the believers in the first century. Yeshua had warned the religious leaders that they would do these horrendous things, and he also had prepared his followers that this will be done to them.

Matthew 23:34 – “This is why I am sending you [religious leaders] prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.”

Matthew 24:9 – “Then they will hand you [you followers of mine] over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.”

So this parable can be shown to be more than just an illustration of a spiritual truth, but of a coming outworking of God’s purposes, as well. In a declaration of finality, Yeshua then explains the response of the king to those who had refused his call.

Matthew 22:7 – “The king was enraged, and he sent out his troops, killed those murderers, and burned down their city.”

This was the same prophetic foresight that Yeshua predicted in another context.

Luke 21:20 – “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near.”

This actually did occur within that generation, as the city of Jerusalem was burned down and the temple was destroyed, just as Yeshua had predicted.

Now the completion of the parable is summarized succinctly by Luke in his gospel:

Luke 14:21-24 – “…Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’ ” ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’ Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ “

This was an indication that the call of God had to be extended to the Jews first, but when they refused to come, the call or invitation then went out to whomsoever would come.

Peter had proclaimed this same message to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Acts 3:13, 15, 25-26 – “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Yeshua, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him. … You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. … You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Paul reiterated this principle that was also used on his missionary journeys prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. He would visit a city and first present the kingdom message to the Jews, and then to a wider audience, whoever would listen.

Acts 13:45-48 – “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what Yahweh has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles to bring salvation to the end of the earth.”‘ When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honored the word of Yahweh, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Paul also taught the universality of the gospel of the Kingdom message to the Roman congregation.

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

The call or invitation of God was to become universal once the Jews had had an opportunity to respond first; if they rejected it, God would reach out to whoever would listen and believe. In the grandest sense, this opportunity of the Jews to respond to God’s mercy was demonstrated to have been completed once the destruction of Jerusalem had occurred. From that point on, all who would then hear with “ears to hear” would then be invited and called into the Kingdom.

In a moment, we will look more closely at how this calling is worked out in the life of a believer once they have responded favorably to God’s invitation.

So with the completion of the call of God going out specifically to his people of that day and age, the Jews, God’s call then moves into a universal sphere of all who will listen to the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom. This is why Paul and the early believers were so anxious to ensure as many as people as possible could hear and understand the gospel message.

Romans 10:14-15 – “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Once a person has responded to the call of God, God then sets them apart, or sanctifies them by placing them within the body of believers who make up the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:10 – “God has made us what we are. He has created us in Messiah Yeshua to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.”

According to Paul, believers are “created in Messiah Yeshua.” This demonstrates how one becomes initially set apart by believing in Messiah; when that occurs, there is a “new creation” that takes place.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Messiah from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

One becomes born again or born from above, and a new life in a new environment begins. The old worldly perspective no longer applies; all things are made new for the believer.

Additionally, one cannot be a believer without being “in him.” One can say they believe in God and be attached to any religious expression in the world, but one cannot be a believer in the God of the Bible without believing in Yeshua as the Messiah, the one sent by God to free people from bondage to sin.

Okay, now, so far, I realize we have traveled a lot of Scriptural miles today and covered some far-ranging concepts in the process, but let’s return back to the starting point of Paul’s original illustration of dishes and bowls in the large house.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Paul tells Timothy that “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds…” The “large house” can be viewed as the Kingdom of God. Paul is not here discussing the condition of the world at large, but the conditions that exist among God’s own people. At this point, God has sanctified and set apart those who have responded to his call, as we have seen, and the large house can be viewed as where all the activity of the Kingdom takes place.

But now, Paul begins to make a distinction between that which is everyday from that which is special, and he intimates it is a process initiated by the believer by saying, “those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes…”

Not to belabor the illustration, but there appear to be distinctions of sanctification among believers as well. This is not outside the bounds of Scriptural precedent, either.

For example, the Levites were all priests, but the sons of Aaron held specific duties within the overall priesthood. In another example, Yeshua had twelve disciples, but we find Peter, James, and John as a kind of “inner circle” of the disciples, whom Paul semi-sarcastically refers to as “pillars of the faith.”

Galatians 2:9 – “When James, Peter, and John ​– ​those recognized as pillars ​– ​acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

So once we are made pure by the act of God sanctifying us, we have a need to remain pure because of our ongoing association with the world and its influences. The psalmist also ponders this idea of keeping one’s way pure.

Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

In an overall sense, God has set us apart by drawing us to faith in Messiah so that we may do the good things he has prepared for us to do, according to his word. But by continuing to sharpen our obedience to God’s word, we also distinguish ourselves from those in God’s household who are content to remain simply with their sanctification from the world.

In Paul’s example, these are the plates used for ordinary purposes, for the basics of eating and drinking, for the rough and tumble of everyday existence. These are the plates and bowls that have chips and cracks, that have rough edges, blemishes and marks from use. They are serviceable in the uses they are designed for, but they all carry evidence of that use, and are not as likely to be used for special occasions.

By contrast, the gold and silver plates and cups are those which would be used for specific events that are noteworthy: the holiday gatherings with friends and family, or the formal dinners with respected individuals and guests. Paul is implying that, apart from God’s sanctification from the rest of the world, believers can “cleanse themselves” further from rough, ordinary use into something that is more useful to God in special ways. But this has to be an intentional purpose on their part, something that is chosen to do by disciplining themselves in his word to create and maintain the luster and polish required of the fine china.

This is not to be a point of disagreement or schism within the body as if some are “more spiritual” than others, but only a distinction of growth, learning, and application. After all, an acorn is not yet an oak tree, but it contains within it every aspect of the mighty oak. Small seedlings may have sprouted, but they have not yet achieved the heights of the mature oak tree. In this sense, all of us “former acorns” are in various stages of our spiritual development within the Kingdom of God, and we need to support and encourage one another along the way, so that every believer grows to their fullest potential in the time given to us.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

The context of the passage with the dishes, plates, and cups helps us frame a reference for this concept of living worthy of the calling, as Paul had just mentioned it to Timothy a few verses earlier.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.”

This is the same principle that he goes into further detail with the believers in Ephesus, encouraging them to make intentional choices and effort in living the new life, as he puts it, in the “putting on of the new man” or the new self.

Ephesians 4:17-24 – “Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”

The making of the effort to present ourselves unashamedly to God demonstrates our willingness to manifest the great gifts that God has given us. Of course, God can use any vessel for his purpose, fine china or regular plates, but the fine china is designed for the most special of occasions to bear the finest foods. If this is the case, why shouldn’t we seek to improve the opportunities for God to use us by setting ourselves apart in ways that allow him to use us in any situation that he sees fit?

Let me hasten to add this is not in any way a justification for some who would try to intentionally set themselves above others just for the purpose of being considered better or more valuable to God than other believers. If this is the case, then Yeshua’s parable on humility has lost its footing. Instead, we should seek to continually sanctify ourselves not for our glory but for God’s. In this way, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him and provide him the greatest amount of “special dishes” to use as he sets the banquet wide for any and all to come to him.

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

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No longer common or unclean

What did Peter really learn from his vision in Acts 10?

Core of the Bible podcast #81 – No longer common or unclean

What did Peter really learn from his vision in Acts 10?

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance, and how, when we receive instruction from God, we must be faithful in keeping it at all costs and without hesitation. Along the way, we will investigate the meaning of what was considered a common thing, and what was considered unclean. These designations were critical to the Hebraic understanding of how they were expected to interact with others in the world.

Acts 10:10-14 – [Peter] became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

This story of Peter’s vision is typically used as a way of teaching that God was declaring all foods “clean” or acceptable to eat. However, looking more closely at the context and outcome, we can learn more about its true meaning, along with some aspects of vigilance in our walk with God.

During Peter’s vision, when he heard a voice commanding him to kill and eat any of the animals in the vision, Peter immediately responded with: “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

The response from the voice was: “What God has cleansed, do not call common.” After three repeated occurrences, the sheet and the animals were taken back up into heaven.

Now, what’s interesting to note here is that in the original text, two different Greek words are used to describe the status of the animals. Peter says that he never had eaten anything common (koinou) nor had he eaten anything ritually unclean (akatharton). Now there is wisdom in understanding the difference between that which is common and that which is unclean, so let’s take a look at how these topics were covered throughout the Tanakh, or Old Testament.

Leviticus 10:10-11 – “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean, and teach the Israelites all the statutes that Yahweh has given to them through Moses.”

Here we find the importance in distinguishing between four Hebrew words describing four different conditions: qodesh (holy), chol (common), tame (unclean), and tahor (clean or pure).

So is this designation of holy/common, clean/unclean just a repetition of the same two qualities or is it describing four different categories? Let’s look at some other example verses to see if we can gain clarity.

Before there were ever any official commandments at Sinai, we see that there was a recognition of clean (tahor) and unclean (tame) animals:

Genesis 7:1-2 – “Then Yahweh said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate…'”

So the first mention of tahor/clean is in regard to animals, distinguishing those that are clean from those that are not tahor.

We next move to the wilderness after Israel came out of Egypt and learn the distinctions that were set down within the written Torah conveyed to them in the desert.

Leviticus 11:46-47 – This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.

So, clean/tahor and unclean/tame animals are here defined in God’s Torah.

Now as we look to define that which is holy versus that which is common, we can look at some passages from the writings of the Prophets, starting with Ezekiel. In Ezekiel’s vision of the temple and its surroundings, he conveys how some areas of the temple complex were distinguished from others.

Ezekiel 42:20 – He measured the temple complex on all four sides. It had a wall all around it … to separate the holy [qodesh] from the common [chol].

Here there is no mention of clean and unclean, just how a wall separated the holy and common areas. The one area of the temple complex was holy, restricted only to priests and God’s people, and the other area was common, available to anyone else. A similar example of this is brought out in the land allotments that Ezekiel conveyed from his vision.

Ezekiel 48:13-15 – And alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites shall have an allotment …They shall not sell or exchange any of it. They shall not alienate this choice portion of the land, for it is holy to Yahweh. “The remainder … shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open country. In the midst of it shall be the city…

Here, part of the land is holy or qodesh for specific use by the priests, and the other part for use by the rest of the city is common or chol.

So from these passages, we can learn that the distinction between holy and common appears to be one of purpose: that which is holy is set apart for a specific use by priests or God’s people only and that which is common is for everyday use by anyone. By contrast, that which is clean or unclean appears to be inherent in the thing itself, for example, those animals which were approved for eating versus those which were not approved for eating, likely due to the risk of contracting illness or disease.

Now here is a really interesting contrast brought out in the book of Haggai when he was asking the priests to give a ruling in a matter of holiness versus uncleanness, a contrast spanning both groups:

Haggai 2:12-14 – “If a man is carrying consecrated [holy/qodesh] meat in the fold of his garment, and it touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does [that food] become holy? ” The priests answered, “No.”  Then Haggai asked, “If someone unclean [tame] by contact with a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled? ” The priests answered, “It becomes defiled.”  Then Haggai replied, “So is this people, and so is this nation before me — this is Yahweh’s declaration. And so is every work of their hands; even what they offer there is defiled.”

Haggai is here using this example to show the priests how they were not accomplishing their God-given purpose of being a light of holiness to the world; instead, they had become so corrupt they had become unclean and were defiling everything they touched.

So here we have a cross comparison of these two categories: holy-common and clean-unclean. When we sift through all of this information, we can begin to see how this description helps us understand the categories a little better. From Haggai’s example, it is determined that something that is holy can’t make something holy just by contacting it; like Ezekiel, he is confirming the holiness is in the purpose of the thing, not its physical qualities. By contrast, something that is unclean CAN defile something else; once the unclean thing touches something, it also becomes unclean.

So how does all this apply to Peter’s vision and our discussion at hand? Well, we need to remember through this discussion that common means “for common use, that which is not set apart as holy.” And in Peter’s vision, God claims to have cleansed that which is considered common (i.e., the non-Jews who seek after him).

In a moment, we will explore this cleansing process as it was understood by the traditional Jews of the day, and why it is so significant to this discussion.

In Yeshua’s and Peter’s day, something that may have been considered “common” was a term that had come into use within the lexicon of the Pharisees and their fastidious over-compensation in matters that were not clearly marked out in Torah.

For example, in Mark 7, some of these practices are described:

Mark 7:1-3 – The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around [Yeshua]. They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with common — that is, unwashed — hands [right here we have the distinction clarified for us within the narrative: common=unwashed]. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders [Note: this is not a Torah instruction, but a tradition of the elders].

So, with the koinos meaning of common defined as “unwashed” for us here in Mark, we can then see how this applies in the vision that Peter had in Acts 10.

Acts 10:15 – Again, a second time, the voice said to him, “What God has cleansed, do not call common.”

This shows that God had cleansed that which, through their tradition, was considered common or unwashed. In that time, non-Jews were looked upon as common, like dirty hands that needed to be washed. The traditional Jewish thinking was that they were to be avoided because through contact with their unwashed condition they thought they would become contaminated, as well. However, we know from the passage in Haggai that holiness has to do with purpose and has nothing whatsoever to do with physical contact. Besides, Peter’s vision said that God had cleansed those “dirty hands” when they came to him in faith, and they were therefore no longer to be considered separate from the believing congregation.

This is the exact meaning that Peter pulled from the vision when he met with Cornelius and his group.

Acts 10:28 – Peter said to them, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner [again, this is based on tradition, not Torah], but God has shown me that I must not call any PERSON common or unclean.”

Peter had taken away from the vision, not that all FOODS were now clean, but that all MEN who earnestly were striving after God were to be considered on an even par with the Jewish believers.

Acts 10:34-35 – Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the PERSON who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Peter had taken the real meaning of the vision to mean that God was breaking down the barriers between men of different nations, and that the door of faith in Messiah would be opened to all who were willing to come. This was even confirmed to be the correct interpretation as the foreign men were visibly affected by receiving the Spirit of God (10:44-45).

It is impressive to see how Peter had maintained his ritual purity throughout his life. He claims to have strictly followed the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 without fail. In his day and age, there were many opportunities to eat the wrong foods, due to the foods that were sold in the common marketplaces. Peter demonstrates that he was always vigilant to ensure he never violated the commands of God by eating foods outside of the restrictions of Torah. This, in itself, should be an indication that the vision was not about clean and unclean foods, but about something else, something God was beginning to do among all nations.

Additionally, Peter intimated that he had not only kept the dietary commands of the Torah, but of the religious tradition, as well. This would imply he also did not associate with non-Jews, since they were considered koinos or common by Jewish tradition. We know this is the case because the apostle Paul had to confront Peter when he had held to this traditional Jewish thinking among the believers in Antioch.

Galatians 2:11-13 – “But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

While there are no time markers in the text, it would make sense that this argument between Paul and Peter occurred prior to Peter’s vision, and that after that vision, he was well-grounded in the in the understanding of the purpose of the Kingdom, and how God would not show favoritism to anyone but was accepting all who would come to him through faith in Messiah. But regardless of the timing of this event, as the growing Messianic movement spread, it was inevitable that non-Jews would be mixing with Jewish believers and there would need to be a recognition of equality among all people.

The apostle Paul confirms this also in several of his epistles, how God was growing the Kingdom with many different nationalities and statuses within the strata of society:

Romans 10:11-13 – “For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved.”

Galatians 3:28 – “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.”

Colossians 3:11 – “In Messiah there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Messiah is all and in all.”

Ultimately, vigilance in our walk before God comes in many forms, whether our own personal commitment to holiness, or our obedience to the things that God may reveal to us along the way. Peter exemplifies for us a measure of personal vigilance that we can learn from and follow in our own lives. He held tightly to the understanding of Judaism and maintained those traditions faithfully, believing that he was honoring God in doing so. Yet, when God revealed something radical within his current worldview, he was still willing to follow this new understanding wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

When we receive instruction from God, whether through his word or through personal insight, we also must be faithful in keeping it at all costs and without hesitation.

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

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Out of the Kingdom

God removes from his Kingdom all that prohibits the light of truth and righteousness from shining.

God removes from his Kingdom all that prohibits the light of truth and righteousness from shining.

Yeshua had taught that the religious leaders of his day were so corrupt that God had no choice but to remove them. His Kingdom had suffered violence from those who tried to make their own traditions and rules equal to his Torah. Therefore, Yeshua warned them that they would lose the very thing they were trying so hard to hold on to by their own schemes.

Matthew 21:43, 45 – “‘Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit.’ … When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew he was speaking about them.”

Yeshua spared no mercies in confronting the leaders with the reality of how this was to be accomplished.

Matthew 13:40 – “‘Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.'”

The end of that corrupt age was upon them, and a new age was about to be inaugurated: an age of righteousness and peace that had been predicted for centuries. But first, those who were standing in the way had to be removed for this to take place.

Matthew 13:41 – “‘The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom all snares and those guilty of lawlessness.'”

Those things that were snares, traps, or hindrances (as many different versions translate the Greek word skandalon) were things that related to the concerns of men, not the concerns of God. These were things that distracted people from the true purpose of God, as Peter found out when he tried to insert his own agenda into the outworking of God’s plan with Messiah.

Matthew 16:21-23 – From then on Yeshua began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to you! ” Yeshua turned and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a snare [skandalon] to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”

Additionally, those guilty of lawlessness were, ironically, the scribes and Pharisees themselves. This pronouncement came directly from Yeshua in a long list of offenses they had committed against the righteous standards of God.

Matthew 23:27-28 – “‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.'”

The destiny of those who were corrupting the remnant, the true believers, those who sided with Messiah, was to be burned.

Matthew 13:42 – “‘They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

This was the imagery Yeshua used to describe the destruction of Jerusalem; it was burned with fire and completely destroyed when it fell to the Roman army in 70 AD. Based on this historical reality, we can see how the prophecy of Yeshua came to pass within a generation, as he had predicted. All of those who were guilty of the snares of man-made concerns and lawlessness due to their hypocrisy were eliminated in the destruction of the beloved city.

It was only after that cleansing that the fullness of the Kingdom could be realized, as those who had believed in Messiah could fully live according to the righteous standards of Yahweh from the heart.

Matthew 13:43 – “‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Let anyone who has ears listen.'”

That was God’s plan all along, that the hearts of those who would seek him would be obedient to his Word, his Torah. When that happened, his enemies (those lawless who set snares of men) were removed from the Kingdom and then the remnant, the true believers who were pure of heart, could let their lights shine.

Matthew 5:14-16 – “‘You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.'”

The city on the hill is the New Jerusalem, Zion, the righteous Kingdom of God, and it cannot be hidden. To this day it shines with the brightness of all those who are obedient to Yahweh, serving him from the heart and no longer by just the letter of the law, but by the Spirit.

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

The regathering of the tribes resulting in a unified faith

Vigilance and resoluteness of purpose defined the early congregations.

Vigilance and resoluteness of purpose defined the early congregations.

During the first century, the dynamic of the gospel of the kingdom being spread across the known world was one of irregular, but steady growth. One of those stages which took this growth to the next level is when the message began being shared even with those outside the accepted Jewish faith. This group of outsiders consisted of Hellenists.

Acts 11:19-21: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Messiah. The hand of Yahweh was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to Yahweh.”

Scholars have several opinions about who these Hellenists were. As they are mentioned in the Bible, many times the context determines who is being discussed. Were they former Jews who had assimilated into the surrounding Greek culture, or were they just the pagan Greeks who had never known the Bible, commonly referred to as Gentiles?

The weight of history, at least the history of Christianity, has fallen on the side of these people being Gentiles, explaining why so many non-Jewish believers have populated the “Church” over the millennia. However, a strong case exists for these Hellenists being descendants of the Jews who had been scattered during the Diaspora (the captivities of Assyria and Babylon) and who had over time assimilated into the regional cultures. This makes sense of passages which speak of God bringing all of the former tribes back together into his everlasting kingdom.

One of the most famous and descriptive of these passages is the prophecy of “two sticks” in Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel 37:19-27 – “tell them, ‘This is what Yahweh GOD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel associated with him, and put them together with the stick of Judah. I will make them into a single stick so that they become one in my hand.’ “When the sticks you have written on are in your hand and in full view of the people, “tell them, ‘This is what Yahweh GOD says: I am going to take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them into their own land. “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them. They will no longer be two nations and will no longer be divided into two kingdoms. “They will not defile themselves anymore with their idols, their abhorrent things, and all their transgressions. I will save them from all their apostasies by which they sinned, and I will cleanse them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God. “My servant David will be king over them, and there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow my ordinances, and keep my statutes and obey them. ” ‘They will live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They will live in it forever with their children and grandchildren, and my servant David will be their prince forever. “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be a permanent covenant with them. I will establish and multiply them and will set my sanctuary among them forever. “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

The apostle Paul even quotes this passage directly when speaking of believers as the temple of God:

2 Corinthians 6:16 – And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.

This also explains why the “missionary” emphasis was so strong during the first century, since it was imperative the message of the kingdom was spread as far as possible to include all of the former tribes.

Regardless of the specific spiritual intent of these missionary journeys, the ultimate goal was that everyone, Jew, Hellenistic former Jews, and Gentiles would come to Messiah. Once involved in a local congregation, they were all encouraged to respect their differences but to maintain a vigilant unity in Messiah.

Acts 11:22-24: “News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to Yahweh.”

As Barnabas exhorted the believers in Antioch, he encouraged them all to remain faithful to Yahweh with “steadfast devotion.” This phrase speaks to the demonstrable nature of the early faith of the believing communities. The phrase in the original Greek can be translated as “resolute purpose” or “openness of heart.” It is a phrase that is also used in describing the “showbread,” the twelve loaves of bread that were continually placed before Yahweh in the temple. This bread was a reminder of how each of the twelve tribes of Israel was to recognize how they were to remain purposefully open and evident within the presence of God Almighty at all times.

To me, this is a poignant illustration of the work that God was doing among those first-century believers: calling all of the tribes, whether in scattered Jewish outposts or Hellenists, back to himself with the message of Messiah and the kingdom of God. Through their combined reunification, other “God-fearers” of the Gentiles would also be welcomed into the new movement that would grow to become a worldwide phenomenon, which continues to this day.

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

The eternal Kingdom ushered in by Messiah

Yeshua of Nazareth fulfilled the thousand-year-old prophecy of Nathan to King David.

Yeshua of Nazareth fulfilled the thousand-year-old prophecy of Nathan to King David.

The Kingdom of God had been prophesied throughout Israel’s history. Most notably, this was accomplished in a vision that was presented to David by the prophet Nathan, speaking of the succession of his royal line in perpetuity through his offspring. What is interesting about this passage is that it is not only applicable to David’s son Solomon, but it surpasses David’s immediate successor right down to the Messiah himself. This idea of the Messiah being David’s “son” was understood by the Hebrew people and has been a constant hope of every generation since.

We begin by learning this instruction was received by Nathan as a bona-fide vision and was then shared with David as authoritative instruction from God.

1 Chronicles 17:3, 15 – But that night the word of God came to Nathan … In accordance with all these words and all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

David had been pondering how there was no permanent temple for the God of Israel. The tabernacle, the Mishkan or tent that Moses had constructed during the wilderness journeys hundreds of years earlier, was still being used as the sanctuary of God. Because of this, David had desired to build a permanent house for God. Even though God ultimately allowed this to be accomplished by David’s son Solomon, God spoke to Nathan and explained how, instead of David building him a house, God was going to build up David’s “house” instead.

1 Chronicles 17:10-11 – Moreover I declare to you [David] that Yahweh will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.

This is one of the key Messianic indicators, that the Messiah would have to be a descendant, a “son” of David. We see in the New Testament writings how this was one of the titles assigned to Yeshua as he ministered throughout Israel, and especially upon his arrival in Jerusalem upon a donkey at the beginning of the Passover celebrations in his final days.

Matthew 21:9, 15 – Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! … When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that he did and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ” they were indignant.

Nathan mentioned that this individual, this “son” of David, would be the one to build a house for Yahweh, and his reign would be eternal.

1 Chronicles 17:12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.

Both the apostle John and the writer of Hebrews confirm that Yeshua fulfilled this role of establishing the house of God.

  • John 14:2 – “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.”
  • Hebrews 10:19-22 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Yeshua — ​ he has inaugurated for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is, through his flesh) ​– ​ and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

Nathan predicted that God would be a father to the Messiah.

1 Chronicles 17:13 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

  • Mark 9:2, 7 – After six days Yeshua took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transfigured in front of them, … A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him! “
  • Hebrews 5:5 – In the same way, Messiah did not exalt himself to become a high priest, but God who said to him, You are my Son; today I have become your Father…

The throne of Messiah was foreseen to be an eternal reign.

1 Chronicles 17: 13-14 – I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you [Saul], but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.

Daniel also prophesied about the eternal nature of Messiah’s kingdom.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

Peter confirmed the kingdom of Messiah is eternal:

2 Peter 1:10-11- Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Yeshua Messiah will be richly provided for you.

This son of David about whom Nathan prophesied was realized in the life and ministry of Yeshua of Nazareth. This is the gospel message of the entire New Testament repeated over and over! God’s kingdom had come and was to be an eternal kingdom from those days forward.

  • Matthew 4:17 – From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
  • Matthew 5:10 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
  • Matthew 10:7 – “As you go, proclaim: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’
  • Matthew 12:28 – “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

God had produced a royal lineage that was a thousand years old which culminated in the Messiah Yeshua. With his resurrection from the dead, the eternal kingdom was established that would reign over the kingdoms of the earth for all eternity.

Revelation 11:15 – … there were loud voices in heaven saying, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.

As believers in the God of Israel and his Messiah, we understand that the reign of God upon this earth is realized during our lifetimes as we abide by the principles he provided us, and that his eternal kingdom in the heavens is the hope of glory when this life is through.

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

The kingdom growing until it fills all

Believers in Messiah are part of a chain that is thousands of years old.

Believers in Messiah are part of a chain that is thousands of years old, and one that will continue until it fills the earth.

Luke 13:18-21 – He said, therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like, and what can I compare it to? It’s like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky nested in its branches.
Again he said, “What can I compare the kingdom of God to? It’s like leaven that a woman took and mixed into fifty pounds of flour until all of it was leavened.”

If we want to know what the Kingdom of God looks like, we need only to review the parables of Yeshua, since this is where he laid out definitions of the Kingdom for those who were willing to hear. Now, we know that we can’t necessarily just take a surface reading of the parables, because the parables were designed to allow those who wanted to hear the teaching to understand it, and those who were not willing to listen to not understand it.

Luke 8:9-10 – Then his disciples asked him, “What does this parable mean? ” So he said, “The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given for you to know, but to the rest it is in parables, so that ‘Looking they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'”

The parable of the mustard seed illustrates how the Kingdom would be something that starts extremely small and would grow until it was large enough to support a wildlife habitat. This would be a contrary understanding of the Kingdom to the Jewish ear of Yeshua’s day, because they had the understanding the Kingdom would come in triumphantly and God’s Messiah would rule over all kingdoms immediately, similar to many Christians’ expectation of Messiah’s return in our day.

However, we find Yeshua’s illustration perfectly described the actual working out of God’s Kingdom on the earth: it would start small (Yeshua and the twelve disciples), grow into a larger group (the first-century remnant of Israel), and then spread to become a tree large enough to support its own habitat (illustrated by all believers in Messiah up through our day).

The secondary parable of the leaven carries the same message: the kingdom would start small like the small bit of leaven, but once mixed in with the rest of the dough would end up working its way throughout the entire batch until all of the dough had been affected by the leaven.

Both of these parable explain the same dynamic: the Kingdom starts small, but comes to grow throughout the entirety of the world. While not what the Jews of the day were expecting, it was, however, prophesied in the book of Daniel to do this very thing.

When Daniel was interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of an image made of gold, silver, bronze, and clay mixed with iron, Daniel explained that God had granted Nebuchadnezzar a vision of the future, and that each of these metals represented a kingdom, ending in what was to become the Roman Empire; the iron mixed with clay.

Daniel 2:34-35 – “As you were watching, a stone broke off without a hand touching it, struck the statue on its feet of iron and fired clay, and crushed them. Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

Daniel described that a stone struck the statue in its feet (which ended up occurring during the Roman empire through the message and teaching of Yeshua) and it became a mountain that filled the whole earth. This growth language is very similar to Yeshua’s parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. Daniel then provides a further explanation by saying to the king:

Daniel 2:43-45 – “You saw the iron mixed with clay ​– ​the peoples will mix with one another but will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with fired clay. In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever. You saw a stone break off from the mountain without a hand touching it, and it crushed the iron, bronze, fired clay, silver, and gold. The great God has told the king what will happen in the future. The dream is certain, and its interpretation reliable.”

The kingdom that God was to set up “in the days of those kings” was indeed the Kingdom of God, ushered in by Messiah, that would be eternal and bring all other kingdoms to an end. Even to this day, the branches continue to extend and the leaven continues to cause the dough to rise. It will not stop until it “fills the earth,” as Daniel predicted.

This is the kingdom we are privileged to be a part of, and one in which we can have a part in its continued expansion. As we live out its principles, we begin to influence those around us with its righteous standards and others can be drawn to Yahweh and his Messiah through our faithfulness. Our obedience to the principles of God’s Word, his Torah, is the catalyst, the leaven, that can cause hearts to forsake the kingdoms of this world and surrender to the Lordship of Messiah.

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

Striving after the passionate faithfulness of past generations

A constant pursuit of righteousness provides a context for our own personal and collective spiritual exodus.

Core of the Bible podcast #73 – Striving after the faithfulness of past generations

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how the passionate faithfulness of past generations during their exodus experiences can lead us to a life of integrity.  Striving after their constant pursuit of righteousness provides a context for our own personal and collective spiritual exodus in our generation.

Psalm 86:11 – Teach me your way, O Yahweh, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 143:10 – Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

The person of integrity is one who intently seeks to know the truth of God. They desire to walk in that way, to conform their lives to what God desires of them. They have made seeking God the passion of their life, hungering to know him more and to know the correct way. They will not rest until they have heard a word from God, until he has shown them the next steps on their path.

Yeshua taught:

Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

In one sense, this teaching of Yeshua is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.

Isaiah 49:8-12 – Thus says Yahweh: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. And I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up. Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.”

It is also a reference to the wanderings in the wilderness which Israel experienced, and how God provided for them. They neither hungered nor thirsted, they were protected from the scorching sun by the cloud that covered them, and he had pity on them and led them by springs of water. In a physical way, they were experiencing what would ultimately be fulfilled within the spiritual kingdom of God, when believers would “come from afar,” as Isaiah predicts, even “from the north and from the west.”

This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible, a theme of exodus. While we may recognize the word exodus as the name of the second book of Moses, the word itself was attached to the book as a descriptor of the main topic of the book.

Now, in the original Hebrew, the name of the book is not Exodus but Shemot, meaning “names.” The Hebrew convention of book naming was through using the first words of a book as its title, and the book of Exodus begins with a list of the names of the tribal leaders, the sons of Jacob, who went to Egypt.

Exodus 1:1 – “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household…”

But the name Exodus was assigned to the book in later years when the Greek and Latin manuscripts were produced. Exodus comes from a combination of the Greek prefix exo, meaning “out of,” and hodos, meaning “way;” it literally means “the way out.” While the names of the books are not necessarily inspired text, this is an apt description of the main topic of the book, the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and through the wilderness to the land that God promised them. This event is the pivotal event in the history of Israel and is recounted and referenced time and time again.

It is the very beginning of the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:2 – “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exod 20:2)

Other references include:

Numbers 20:14-16 – Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. And when we cried to Yahweh, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory.

Joshua 24:17 – for it is Yahweh our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed.

Psalm 78:13-16  – He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

Micah 6:3-4  – “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

As Stephen was making his defense before the Sanhedrin, he also provides a detailed retelling of these events to bolster his position of how God was the architect and overseer of the Exodus event:

Acts 7:35-36 – “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’–this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.

The apostle Paul also connects with Exodus imagery:

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 – For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Messiah.

This exodus event is when God proved himself as a protector and provider of his people. This is how the Israelites could be assured that Yahweh is the one true God. This is the essence of Hebraic thought, woven into all of their storytelling and tradition. It is the theme of the Passover recounted in the Haggadah, or the “Telling” of this story, to each generation, year after year. They have done this for thousands of years since the original events took place, because the story is so powerful and pervasive as a main theme in the Bible. If you’ve ever seen the movie, “The Prince of Egypt,” you have experienced the power of this Exodus narrative.

In a moment, we will take a look at how some of the New Testament writers drew from this well of the exodus story to illustrate the power of the gospel of the Kingdom and how a life of integrity is illustrated by the desire to come out of slavery and darkness into freedom and light.

Based on this consistent theme of the exodus story, we can see how the biblical writers drew from this resource time and again to provide spiritual application of the exodus story in other contexts. In these passages, this theme of providing a way out is constantly recycled; an exodus from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom.

John 8:34, 36 – Yeshua answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Titus 3:3-6  – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Yeshua Messiah our Savior…

Isaiah 9:2  –  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Isaiah 42:16  – And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.

Ephesians 5:8  – for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

1 Peter 2:9  – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

This exodus theme is representative of how God calls a person or people to himself, they seek him out and desire to follow him through wilderness experiences, and he provides for them along the way. In this way, the way out, it is represented as a life of integrity, of seeking after the one true God. As we have just seen, it is demonstrated over and over to teach us how to apply these simple principles in our own lives.

Unfortunately, we tend to complicate this powerful theme by over-religiousizing the Exodus text, to coin a phrase. We try so hard to discern the micro-application of tiny details and rules and regulations that were given to the Israelites during their wilderness journeys that we lose sight of the bigger picture of what God was doing with them holistically, as a people called out for his purpose. This is not in any way to diminish those rules or Torah of God, but to say that to truly understand how they should be applied, we need to see and understand the larger context of the biblical theme.

Additionally, throughout the biblical narrative, the ancestors or fathers are referenced as having experienced the intimacy with God through their own exodus journeys, an intimacy that was to be further carried on by each successive generation.

Genesis 48:15-16  – And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

1 Kings 3:14  – And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Even Paul refers to his faithful forbears:

Acts 24:14  – But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets…

This desire to do what is right and to follow the right paths that God has laid out are exemplified in the deepest expressions of the people of God. The Psalms are especially filled with this type of pleading to God for guidance, for pouring out praise to God and outwardly declaring a desire for righteousness in speech and in actions.

Psalm 5:1-3, 7-8 – Give ear to my words, O Yahweh; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Yahweh, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. … But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O Yahweh, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 12 – Make me to know your ways, O Yahweh; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. … Good and upright is Yahweh; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of Yahweh are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. … Who is the man who fears Yahweh? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.

Psalm 51:6, 10-12 – Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. … Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 119:24, 27-29 – Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. … Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!

As believers, we identify with the passionate expression of these principles of our faithful spiritual ancestors because we are ignited with the same Spirit. We desire to share in the exodus experience that they have given voice to over the centuries and millennia as these words were collected and compiled into our Bibles. The kindred longings and desires of our hearts beat in unison with those faithful who have gone before and expressed their deepest secrets which are immortalized among the pages of Scripture. The integrity that lived and breathed in them inspires us to learn of their ways and mimic their faithfulness.

Like the writer of Hebrews, we have the privileged opportunity to step back and view the entirety of the faithful ancestors who followed God and learn to copy their exemplary lives:

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before 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

The way of holiness is narrow

The path less traveled holds the greatest reward.

The path less traveled holds the greatest reward.

Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

In reviewing the overarching themes of Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount, many of the concepts overlap with one another and can be classified under several headings. This passage about the broad way and the narrow gate is one of those concepts.

I have typically placed this passage under the heading of vigilance, as one of the most outstanding features of this illustration is how difficult the entrance to the narrow gate is, and how persistent one must be to enter in that way. However, it is not only difficult, but narrow. This narrowness suggests a setting apart, a holiness, of those who seek to follow this way.

The Greek word used for narrow is only used in this one illustration of the way of life being a narrow door or gate. The secondary passage is a similar illustration Yeshua uses in the gospel of Luke.

Luke 13:23-25 – “Lord,” someone asked him, “are only a few people going to be saved? ” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’

Again, Yeshua relates to his hearers how the way is not only difficult (by saying it would be necessary to make every effort), but that it would also be a narrow door. To my way of thinking, this confirms that the way of holiness or being set apart will be evident only in those few (contrasted with the many) who would persist in seeking the things of God, i.e., the narrow way.

What interests me about connecting these two passages in this way with this similar illustration is that the Luke passage is contextually about Yeshua warning that generation that the time (in his day) was short. When judgment was to fall (in the destruction of Jerusalem forty years hence), the door to being rescued from that judgment would be shut. Those of that generation who had rejected the message and teaching of Messiah, seeing that, when it came to pass, Yeshua’s prediction was correct, would suffer the ruin and loss of all that they had believed in. Most of them would lose their lives in the destruction of the city.

In the Mark passage, Yeshua says the broad way that most would travel leads to destruction, meaning ruin or loss. Connecting these two passages in this way highlights the meaning of those who would follow the narrow way would be the holy or set apart remnant, those of Israel who did recognize Yeshua as the Messiah and who diligently and faithfully strove to enter at the narrow gate.

The good news is that this teaching still rings true in the more universal fashion in which it is typically viewed: that most people in the world continue on a wide path to ruin and loss due to their own oblivious lifestyles, while those who are diligently seeking out the things of God end up setting themselves apart by maintaining their focus and journey on the narrow path of holiness and faithfulness to God. This is who we are today, those of us who continue to place our faith in the Messiah. Through our vigilant and persistent following of him, through the narrow gate of Messiah, we have access to the place of safety and fellowship with God.

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

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Holiness based on fulfilled prophecy and promises

Believers today are participating in the ongoing Exodus of God’s people from the worldliness around them.

Believers today are participating in the ongoing Exodus of God’s people from the worldliness around them.

2 Corinthians 7:1 – So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Speaking to the congregation in Corinth, Paul encourages them to maintain their holiness or their separation from all impurity of flesh and spirit. He does this by quoting from some promises that are mentioned in the previous chapter.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18 – And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Yahweh Almighty.

Paul here appears to be quoting from a specific passage of Scripture, and yet when cross-referencing this passage with the rest of the Torah, we find it is actually a loose compilation of several promises that were provided to Israel at various stages of their history. However, when we view these passages together, an interesting picture begins to emerge.

  • Exodus 4:22 – “And you will say to Pharaoh: This is what Yahweh says: Israel is my firstborn son.
  • Exodus 29:45-46 – “I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. “And they will know that I am Yahweh their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am Yahweh their God.
  • Jeremiah 32:37-38 – “I will certainly gather them from all the lands where I have banished them in my anger, rage and intense wrath, and I will return them to this place and make them live in safety. “They will be my people, and I will be their God.
  • Isaiah 52:9-11 – Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For Yahweh has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. Yahweh has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of Yahweh.
  • Isaiah 43:5-6 – “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up! ‘ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back! ‘ Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth —

Each of these promises has to do with the deliverance of the nation and a regathering of God’s people. By quoting a variety of Torah passages, this seems to me to indicate that Paul was teaching that his missionary efforts throughout ancient Europe, Greece and Asia were designed to fulfill these promises: that God would bring his people together from wherever they had been scattered due to previous captivities among the nations. Because this great re-gathering was underway, they were to abstain from all unclean activities to remain pure and holy before God in the day of this great fulfillment of these prophecies.

The reason that this perspective gets overlooked is because where these types of promises are mentioned, believers have always been looking for a physical restoration to the physical land. By Paul using this collection of quotations rather than a single reference is an example of how the gathering of God’s people was to be a spiritual event based on these principles. Israel came out of Egypt into a land of their own. Israel was brought back to their land after a captivity in Babylon. These examples that they were familiar with indicate a principle of a collective of all who were willing to come to the God of the Bible in spirit and in truth out of the worldliness around them. As Paul applied these passages and principles, this was an indication of the great Second Exodus, a mixed multitude leaving the idolatry of their various cultures by becoming holy and set apart for God’s use in his kingdom.

Because this was a spiritual calling and gathering of God’s people, the emphasis for believers to remain holy and set apart is just as valid and relevant in our modern culture as it was in the days of the Second Exodus of the New Testament. We too, as believers in Messiah, can be considered among the sons and daughters of the Almighty. Because of these great and precious prophetic examples and promises, we too should take to heart the admonition of Paul to those early believers:

2 Corinthians 7:1 – So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

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

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

The woman of noble character

Our collective resolve to pursue the goals of the kingdom demonstrates our character as God’s people.

Core of the Bible podcast #67 – The woman of noble character

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance, and how our collective resolve to pursue the goals of the kingdom demonstrates our character as God’s people.

If Proverbs 31 is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people, we can be encouraged to collectively attain its lofty ambitions.

The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs contains a famous passage providing the characteristics of a “noble” or “virtuous” woman. Many a wife has reviewed this passage with trepidation, as the ideal set forth in these verses can indeed be intimidating.

However, instead of describing the ideal woman and holding wives to an unreachable standard, this passage can be viewed from a different, and perhaps more attainable, perspective that aligns with the middle eastern propensity to couch word pictures and ideas in parabolic language. When viewed as a metaphor for the people of God, a whole new set of ideals come into focus.

Especially in the prophets, God has revealed himself as desiring his people as a husband desires the pure love of a faithful bride. However, he is bitterly disappointed when that love is not returned to him, but is instead wasted on the idolatry of the nations around them.

Hosea 6:4 – “’O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?’ asks Yahweh. ‘For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.'”

But he holds out the promise of renewed faithfulness and marital fidelity for the people of Zion.

Isaiah 62:4-5 – “Never again will [Jerusalem] be called ‘The Forsaken City’ or ‘The Desolate Land.’ Your new name will be ‘The City of God’s Delight’ and ‘The Bride of God,’ for Yahweh delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”

This theme is echoed all the way into the New Testament in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 21:2-3 – “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.'”

If this noble woman in Proverbs is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people as his metaphorical and prophetic bride, then it begins to make sense of the overall passage which lines out the expectations God has for his people, not just a list of unattainable objectives for wives.

One of the notable characteristics God expects of his people is the vigilance with which this woman watches over her family, that nothing is outside of her purview.

Proverbs 31:15, 18, 27 “She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. … She sees that her gain is good, and her lamp is not extinguished at night. … She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.”

This woman of the Proverbs carefully looks ahead to the needs of her family, identifying dangers ahead of time, like a watchman on the walls of a city. She works with diligence throughout the day and even into the night. She ensures her family is fed and cared for, and all of the servants have appropriate tasks for the work at hand.

The vigilance that she exhibits is contrasted with laziness, or more literally the eating of “the bread of idleness,” as one who sits idle, concerned only with their own appetite and nothing else. In today’s terminology, this individual might be labeled a deadbeat or a slacker. However, as we have the opportunity to view the passage in its entirety of what God expects of his people, we can then become aware that his goal for us is not to remain trapped in the idleness of our own selfish passions, but to be ever watchful, caring for the welfare of those of our “family.”

Proverbs 31:25 “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”

She is represented by both strength and dignity. If there are two words that I would long for how believers should be perceived in this day and age, it would be that we are strong and dignified. Yet, that is currently far from the case. Most non-believers, at least in America today, look on believers with a sense of scorn and derision for what has been labeled “backward thinking” and “antiquated morality.” Yet they are quick to forget that the antiquated morality of believers is the glue that has held Western society together for millennia. It is only in recent decades that it has become in danger of being expunged for the sake of the more politically correct, culturally-driven designations of tolerance and understanding regarding self-appointed marginalized groups.

In regards to this woman of Proverbs, it is also stated that she “laughs at the time to come.” This beautiful sentiment of being care-free from the challenges of this world is unfortunately woefully lacking among most believers today. Congregations instead fret unnecessarily over the divisive condition of the world, rather than seeing the larger picture of how God wants to use his people to modify the world for good, and to unify a people for himself. To laugh at the time to come means that we should become so impervious to the negative cycle of sensationalism in our social and media platforms that we can only see the good growing out of the increase of the kingdom in this world. We should be able to laugh at the time to come because we are prepared for any earthly eventuality, not in the sense of prepping for apocalyptic demise, but in relegating our physical life and belongings as expendable for the cause of God’s greater purpose. It is only when we begin to loosen our grip on material things that we can be freed up for the will of God to be accomplished in our lives, and with this freedom comes a sense of joy.

Therefore, when looked at as a list of objectives for individual wives, Proverbs 31 can be intimidating and unattainable. However, viewed as an ideal for all believers, a collective attainment of its lofty ambitions suddenly becomes more applicable and practical.

John Gill writes, “her price is far above rubies; showing …the esteem she is had in by him; who reckons her as his portion and inheritance; as preferable to the purest gold, and choicest silver; as his peculiar treasure; as his jewels, and more valuable than the most precious stones.” We would do well to imbue our lives with her character of vigilance for her family in respect and honor of the one who holds us in such high esteem as his very 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 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