The kingdom of God’s provision

A continual heavenly focus will guide our actions to doing what’s right, and our needs will be met.

Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

A continual heavenly focus will guide our actions to doing what’s right, and our needs will be met.

This teaching of Yeshua was intended as an encouragement to keep one’s focus on the kingdom of God first and foremost above all worldly concerns, and the worldly concerns would take care of themselves. Which worldly cares? Specifically the items he mentioned previously.

Matthew 6:31 – “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?'”

Having enough food to eat has been a constant struggle throughout history, and in Yeshua’s day was no exception. People had to depend on their own efforts or the efforts of their farming neighbors, the weather, and the political stability of their region to ensure they would have food to eat.

To have enough to drink or to have appropriate clothing for whatever season was at hand were equally ongoing concerns, especially for the lowest classes of people. There were no local clothing stores, and even drinking water was dependent on the condition of local communal wells.

These were real and legitimate concerns that could become all consuming. Knowing where the next meal was coming from, if one would have enough water or clothing to wear were a source of constant anxiety for the majority of the people. This created a work ethic that demanded constant attention to finding and attaining these needs.

In our modern industrialized societies we are so blessed with the common availability of these things that we take them for granted, as if they are some sort of inherent right. Yet, we still abuse this privilege by being consumed with seeking the best food, the highest quality drinks and the most trendy clothing and latest fashions. If you are not convinced of this, just scroll through your social media feed.

As an antidote to this worldly focus, Yeshua states that if one prioritizes God’s kingdom above these things, these things will be provided anyway without all of the stress and striving after them. That is the context of his teaching.

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

There will always be some concern that can draw our attention away from the things of God to where that concern becomes all-consuming. But Yeshua’s “kingdom first” ideal is the overriding principle that should guide our thoughts. By replacing our anxiety over worldly needs (or exaggerations of those needs) with a dedicated and committed focus on God’s kingdom and the righteous actions that result from that focus, we can be free from this endless striving. Those things begin to pale in comparison within the more expansive and eternal perspective of the kingdom of God.

Of course we all need to eat and drink and have appropriate clothing, but when those things consume our waking thoughts above doing what’s right according to God’s standards, then our lives are out of balance. This is another way of stating that it is more important to God for us to act in right ways than the basic living of life itself. If this is not how we view our faith, then our lives are out of balance. This heavenly focus must guide all of our decisions, not just the religious ideals we hold. The promise of Yeshua is that enacting the principles of the kingdom in our daily lives will ensure that our physical needs (not necessarily our desires, but our needs) are met, as well.

Likewise, he set the example for us to follow. If Yeshua believed in this principle enough to put the kingdom of God first in all of his life and teaching, then as his followers, we also should do so.


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 righteousness that originates in the heart

Living by faith in Messiah produces the obedience that God desires.

Living by faith in Messiah produces the obedience that God desires.

In writing to the Roman congregation, the apostle Paul conveys his frustration over the refusal of the majority of his own people, the Jews, to believe in Yeshua as the promised Messiah. They were instead clinging desperately to rules and regulations, not to the law of God exclusively, but to a law they invented around the the law of God. The rules and regulations they came up with had to be followed exactingly or the individual was not considered to be righteous.

Romans 10:2-3 – I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.

Paul brings his argument to its pinnacle by stating the centrality of faith in Yeshua is the ultimate goal of the true law of God, and if they were truly attempting to be obedient to God, they would have accepted the life and example of the Messiah.

Romans 10:4 – For Messiah is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

The Helps word study of the Discovery Bible clarifies the meaning of this Greek word translated as “end” in this verse.

“télos (a neuter noun) – properly, consummation (the end-goal, purpose), such as closure with all its results. [This root (tel-) means “reaching the end (aim).” It is well-illustrated with the old pirate’s telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).]”

The perspective that Paul appears to be arguing for is that Messiah is not the end (or abolishing) of the law, for then he would be contradicting Yeshua directly.

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

No, Paul seems to be conveying that Messiah is the end-goal or consummating purpose of the law; Yeshua’s life, his teaching, and his self-sacrificial example are showing us what the fulfillment of the law is all about.

Romans 10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

And when we believe the message of the Messiah with our hearts, we then are also living in fulfillment of the law and attain righteousness that God desires: a righteousness that is by faith because it is truly in our hearts and not just a list of rote commands that we follow because that is what we think we are supposed to do.

The law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, doesn’t need endless lists of human commands around them to help us keep them. No, when the heart desires to truly keep God’s commands, it causes us to be obedient regardless if we are told to by humans or not.

The Jewish practice of creating hundreds of laws around the law of God, while intended to create more obedience, actually only served to obfuscate the righteous commands of God, and ended up creating a greater burden for the people and they could never get out from underneath it, even to this day.

The clarity that Yeshua brought is that the true place of faith resides in the heart obedience to the truth of God’s revelation, not the outward show of following the endless rules of men. Paul built on this by saying that believing in the life, teaching, and sacrificial example of Messiah as Lord (the guiding principle in our lives) should lead us also to a life of heart-obedience to the plain law of God. This is where righteousness, the concept of acceptable conduct before God, originates: in the heart, not in showy actions that one is only following because they think they are supposed to. When Yeshua is Lord of our lives, we can truly live according to God’s Word from the heart. This is the end-goal and the consummation of the law 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 coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The surpassing righteousness of love

The truly righteous actions can’t be legislated.

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

Many of the scribes and the Pharisees were famous for abiding by the letter of the law in scrutinizing detail, yet they were guilty of disobeying the spirit of it.

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

They had become examples of legalistic rule-following; outwardly appearing to obey the law when in their hearts they were just as wicked as the vilest law-breakers whom they would condemn. Yeshua continually called them out for their hypocrisy, and this is what enraged them against him.

For Yeshua, outward actions should stem from the sincerity of the heart; it is not possible to make the heart right just by conducting some outward ritual. This is why it is impossible to legislate morality; it must be something that springs from a place of inward purity, not just outward conformity.

Not every Pharisee or scribe was wicked, and many ultimately came to faith in Messiah among the early believers, albeit struggling to understand how the law would apply to believers in Messiah, as is demonstrated in Acts 15. However, for Yeshua, of primary concern was regenerative work of God’s Spirit on the heart.

John 3:6-8 – “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. “The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

When the heart is right, the actions will be right. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees can only be surpassed when the actions that conform to the Word of God are sincere with no agenda or motivation for self-aggrandizement.

1 John 3:14, 16 – We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love remains in death. … This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

If our true motivation is love for others, not just rule following to make ourselves look good, then we can be confident that we are doing the right thing for the right reasons. When the Spirit of God is present in our lives, we can’t help but do things that benefit others, because God is love. And only when we act in truly loving ways towards others is when our righteousness surpasses that of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. We can then see the kingdom, and others can see the kingdom in us. It is then that the kingdom of God is manifest in our lives.


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 wisdom of God that guides believers

Staying close to God should cause us to exhibit his characteristics.

The Bible has many different genres of writings: historical (like the books of Kings, Chronicles, gospels, Acts), general instruction (epistles of Paul), wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus) and prophecy and apocalypse. Whether one includes the apocryphal books of Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus in the canon, the concept of a personification of Wisdom in a female character is represented in the wisdom literature, sometimes referred to as Lady Wisdom.

The inception of this character is revealed in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 8:22-23 – “Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his way, before his works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began.”

In the poetic style of the Hebrew, Wisdom is represented as imbued within the very foundation of the Creation itself, guiding and working alongside Yahweh as the reality of this physical universe was created. From this, many Christians have come to see this passage as literally speaking to a pre-incarnate Yeshua as co-Creator with Yahweh God. It is clear that in this passage wisdom is represented as an attribute of God himself, however, I would align this as a figurative representation more closely with his Spirit than a pre-incarnate Yeshua.

As such, the godly aspects of wisdom are said to be desirous for learning, long life, and righteousness. Because of this, believers should demonstrate the same characteristics that are learned by remaining close to the Wisdom of God.

Proverbs 8:6-9 – “Listen, for I speak of noble things, and what my lips say is right. For my mouth tells the truth, and wickedness is detestable to my lips. All the words from my mouth are righteous; none of them are deceptive or perverse. All of them are clear to the perceptive, and right to those who discover knowledge.”

If wisdom is an emanation of godly characteristics, then these qualities should be evident within the lives of believers, as well. Our speech should be based on noble things, speaking what is right at all times, always speaking the truth with righteousness without any deception. The things we say should constantly guide those who desire to know more about God and to help them discover more about him.

As believers in the one true God, we should always represent him honestly and knowledgeably. As an example of this, the apostle Paul’s admonition to Timothy was to ensure he was grounded in the truth, working hard to teach others what was right about God.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”

We also should work diligently and prayerfully to ensure we possess the wisdom that comes from God, speaking righteously and honestly about him at all times, so that we may faithfully guide others to also find the truth in him.


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

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

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

The integrity of all who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Those who are righteous can’t help but show it in their actions.

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

Yeshua taught that those who diligently seek after righteousness, doing what is right in the sight of God, will have their desire fulfilled. Longing for righteousness appears to be a characteristic that defines the integrity of believers and helps them grow.

Righteousness, that is, the constant capacity to act in right ways, is the ultimate goal for all people. Doing the right thing is the very definition of integrity.

Peter also taught that these right actions are the expectation that God has for all nations. He came to this realization through an angelic revelation regarding the state of the non-Jewish nations. Cornelius, a commander in the Roman army, was stationed in Judea. Cornelius had sent to Peter to have Peter come to his house based on an angelic visitation in prayer.

Acts 10:22 – [The messengers of Cornelius] said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you [Peter] to his house and to hear a message from you.”

In response to a vision presented in Acts 10:9-16, Peter complied and went to the home of Cornelius.

Acts 10:29-31 – [Peter asked him] “So may I ask why you sent for me? ” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in dazzling clothing stood before me “and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms have been remembered in God’s sight.

The fact that Cornelius was praying at three in the afternoon illustrates his devotion to the Hebrew God, since that was typically the time of the afternoon prayer and the sacrifice of the second lamb of the day at the temple. That he was praying to the Hebrew God meant he was a God-fearer: a non-Jewish believer who was not a formal convert to the Jewish religion but believed in their God. The alms he had provided to the Jews in Judea were financial loans and gifts designed to help those in need. According to Peter, these gifts were demonstrations of the righteousness of Cornelius.

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.”

What is the example Peter is basing this on? What standard is Peter using as the basis for those who fear God and do what is right are acceptable to him? Well, it is the example of the holy Spirit being poured out on the non-Jewish believers in that household.

Acts 10:44-45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on those of other nations.”

Cornelius was a man who a) feared God, and b) did what was right; that is, continually provided righteous sacrificial gifts of giving from the heart. Cornelius hungered and thirsted for righteousness, but he was not circumcised; he was not a Jewish convert. But Peter had learned that if someone fears God and does what is right, they are righteous in God’s sight, and God demonstrated this by an outward display of them being filled with his holy Spirit. By Yeshua’s definition, those individuals who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be filled, their thirst satisfied by God.

This corroborates with the apostle John who likewise stated with plain language the heart condition of true believers over those who only professed to be so.

1 John 3:6-10 – “Everyone who remains in him does not keep on sinning; everyone who sins has not seen him or known him. Children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not practice sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister.”

The message of the Bible is to live with integrity by fearing God and doing the right thing according to his Word. This is how we know we are truly God’s children, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, because that is who we are. And Yeshua promises that if our hunger and thirst are real, we shall be satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Revere God and protect and keep his commandments: for this is everything expected of mankind.


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 immense but achievable responsibility of believers

Being faithful requires constant, intentional commitment.

Philippians 2:12-13 – Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.

Many times this passage is reviewed by looking only at verse 12 regarding the working out of one’s own salvation, and stopping short of verse 13. But verse 13 is the engine behind the ignition key of verse 12, because Paul is conveying that the work that was being done was actually God working in them according to his good purpose.

This passage touches on the duality of the believer’s existence: seeking to be a conduit for the outworking of God in both principle and action. The way to accomplish this effectively, according to Paul, is to do this “with fear and trembling.” I have a sense that many believers today have either lost this sense or never been instructed in it in the first place. This fear and trembling is a principle which conveys that we need to be thoughtful and circumspect in our lives, considering the gravity and eternal impact of our actions upon ourselves, our families, and others.

To be a believer in the Messiah carries with it a strong purpose which demands constancy and vigilance in intentional living. It means making choices for righteousness in situations that may not be the consideration of others who are not believers. Sometimes it means sacrificing elements of comfort or ease for the sake of others. Many times our time, energy, and resources will be spent for the sake of someone else.

All through this epistle, Paul is conveying the principles of this way of life to the Philippian believers.

For example, he touches on the principle of understanding what is right:

Philippians 1:9-11 – And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Messiah, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua Messiah to the glory and praise of God.

He also shares the responsibility they have in suffering for doing what’s right:

Philippians 1:29-30 – For it has been granted to you on Messiah’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.

These were real experiences based on real decisions that they had to make every day that played into their experiences as believers in Messiah.

Now while all of this may sound very heavy and burdensome, we can also be encouraged from their example, as Paul was convinced of God’s ability to bring all righteousness to pass. He encouraged them that once the work that was begun in them was underway, it would ultimately come to fulfillment.

Philippians 1:6 – I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Messiah Yeshua.

If Paul is to be believed, the “working out” of their salvation was indeed accomplished. They had proven faithful in what he had taught them regarding the faith once received for all the saints, as Jude calls it (Jude 1:3).

If we learn nothing else from the early believers in Messiah, the life of faith was one of constant struggle and commitment with real consequences. This required a whole level of commitment that I believe is rarely seen among modern believers today. It is up to us to demonstrate the same vigilance in outworking the principles of righteousness in this generation. And even if we don’t yet have a full understanding of all that God expects of us, we have this continuing encouragement from Paul as a guiding principle:

Philippians 3:16 – In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.


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.

Our integrity has real consequence

What we do is who we are.

Job 35:5-8 – Look at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds high above you. If you sin, how does it affect God? If you multiply your transgressions, what does it do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects a person like yourself, and your righteousness, a son of man.

One of the biggest cultural differences between Hebraic and Western thought has to do with worldview motivation. What I mean by this is that in Western thought, what one believes is what’s most important. In Hebraic thought, what one does is what’s most important. In fact, the biblical view is that what you believe is demonstrated by what you do. This is amply attested to by James in his famous passage:

James 2:17-18 – “In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works.”

In the story of Job, Elihu illustrates this for Job by pointing to the clouds, imagery which is employed throughout the Bible as representing the over-arching presence of God.

Deuteronomy 33:26 – “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your aid, the clouds in his majesty.”
Psalm 18:11 – “He made darkness his hiding place, dark storm clouds his canopy around him.”
Psalm 104:2-3 – “He wraps himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, laying the beams of his palace on the waters above, making the clouds his chariot, walking on the wings of the wind…”

Elihu establishes the idea that if Job thinks his righteous somehow affects God directly, or that wickedness of a person creates havoc in the realm where God exists, we misunderstand our sphere of influence. No, he argues, the clouds have no noticeable change due to our actions, good or bad. In like fashion, he states, God is unaffected by our specific actions. However, our actions, good or bad, righteous or wicked, do have an impact on others, and that is why we should be motivated to do what’s right.

This sounds a bit foreign to our Western sensibilities, since we are typically focused on believing what is right and rejecting what is wrong at all costs. This is certainly a significant aspect of our role: ensuring our doctrine is sound. However, what most times is lost in the culture shift between Hebraic and Western thought is the emphasis on our physical actions. These are many times downplayed at the expense of “right” beliefs.

The Bible tells a little bit different story, though. For example, Zacchaeus demonstrated the sincerity of his faith by what he did.

Luke 19:8-9 – “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Yeshua told him, because he too is a son of Abraham.”

Tabitha was recognized for the acts of kindness she performed in her life. The text doesn’t say what she believed, but what she did.

Acts 9:36 – “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity.”

Yeshua was righteous because he went about doing good, not just teaching what was good.

Acts 10:38 – “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.”

Those who are affected by our actions are the very ones whom God desires we be positive examples to. If we truly desire to have an impact in this world for God, and if we are seeking righteousness and integrity, then our lives should be examples to those around us who can benefit from our righteous actions. God doesn’t receive a direct benefit from our righteousness, but others do.

The one benefit God receives is that when we act in righteous ways, his Name is honored among the nations, and the Kingdom has more opportunity to continue to grow.


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.

Living for good no matter what

Those who fear Yahweh will always do what’s right.

1 Peter 3:13 – “Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good?”

Peter explains to the believers he is writing to that those who are devoted to doing good at all times are, by the nature of their good actions, less likely to be persecuted for their faith. He strengthens this argument by quoting from David in Psalm 34.

Psalm 34:11-14 – “Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of Yahweh. Who is someone who desires life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Peter is quoting David’s description of someone who truly fears Yahweh. Their life will be a display of right speech, turning away from evil, and seeking and pursuing peace and doing good. The benefit, Peter argues by continuing David’s quote, is that those who act with integrity will be placing themselves under the watchful care of Yahweh.

Psalm 34:15-16 – “The eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help. The face of Yahweh is set against those who do what is evil, to remove all memory of them from the earth.”

However, Peter is not so naive as to assume that bad people won’t do bad things to good people; he is just emphasizing that suffering for righteousness and doing what is right can result in a blessing, as well.

1 Peter 3:14-15 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Messiah the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

All of this, in Peter’s line of thinking here, results in God being glorified; either through believers doing what is right, or suffering for doing what is right and still being able to defend the truth of their hope in the Kingdom of God.

Demonstrating a fear of Yahweh through living with integrity in all things therefore can bear fruit at all times; whether living in peace or suffering for righteousness’ sake. Our conduct should not be based on our circumstances but on our true spiritual character.


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 balance of true generosity

God reassures the faithful who truly help others.

Proverbs 11:25 – “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”

This verse highlights the biblical principle of reciprocity. To the ancient Jewish way of thinking, there is balance in the universe and God is just; therefore, righteous actions will be balanced with righteous rewards in this life. If we are compassionate and generous with others in need, we will be dealt with compassionately and with generosity in return.

Yeshua also taught this principle in several different ways and through various parables.

Matthew 13:23 – “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Matthew 19:29 – “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life.”
Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

The modern danger presented by this type of teaching is at the root of the prosperity gospel, where people are encouraged to give in order to get. If you want to get rich, give generously (to that specific ministry, of course) and God will abundantly bless you. This is a primary method in how false teachers rake in millions of dollars through their “ministries.” They prey on the covetousness of human nature, and through twisting of these passages they bilk innocent people of life savings and necessary subsistence, all in the name of God.

God hasn’t set this principle in place as a way of believers getting rich, but as a way of rewarding the righteous who faithfully provide for the needs of others. Those who look at this as some sort of God-ordained get-rich-quick scheme are simply lining the pockets of these purveyors of snake-oil.

Peter spares no words in denouncing these false teachers who were present even among the early believers:

2 Peter 2:1, 14, 18-19 – “…there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. … They have eyes full of adultery that never stop looking for sin. They seduce unstable people and have hearts trained in greed. Children under a curse! … For by uttering boastful, empty words, they seduce, with fleshly desires and debauchery, people who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”

Even though these people exist even to this day, we should not be dissuaded from following the true principle of reciprocity by faithfully helping those in need. It is not just the giving that is important, but who and what the giving is for. God wants to reassure us that when we take the time, energy, and resources to help others who are truly in need, something we are commanded to do all through his word, we will be abundantly blessed in return. This should allow us to give joyfully when we know that we are playing a vital part in helping out others who will deeply and meaningfully benefit from our generosity.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”


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.

Contextualizing the positive through the negative

Contrasts illustrate the truths of the Bible more clearly.

Core of the Bible podcast #59 – Contextualizing the positive through the negative

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how we can learn about God’s expectations for positive ethical behavior by looking at the results of bad ethical behavior.

Proverbs 11:3 – “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.”

The book of Proverbs provides a wealth of God’s wisdom in brief statements. The juxtaposition of positive and negative characteristics help to illustrate each other, causing them to stand out in bold relief to one another. When we understand the characteristics of the negative quality, we look to its opposite in order to understand the positive quality more fully. This is the beauty of the proverbs that contrast good and bad qualities.

In this verse, the integrity, the completeness or wholeness, of someone who is righteous or upright is contrasted with the twisted ways of those who are deceitful, or who act covertly in order to accomplish their own ways, even if it means overthrowing the actions of the righteous.

Many Bible versions will list this negative quality as “perverseness.” While this is not technically incorrect, the word “perverse” tends to have a different connotation in our modern vernacular. Relating the underlying Hebrew word as “crooked” brings out some of the meaning of the original: the idea of twisting or distortion of something by acting covertly in an intentional manner. This is an apt description of how someone who is treacherous would act in order to accomplish their own ends. In the end, it destroys them.

This brings out an interesting facet of what the Bible teaches: the consequences of one’s own actions. While we may come to the Bible to learn about eternal answers to questions we may have, I believe that many times we tend to skip over the simpler, obvious teaching because we are looking for deeper or more significant meaning in a passage. It may also be that we don’t have a complete recognition of the cultural underpinnings of these ancient writings, which is one of the reasons I find exploring this type of literature so fascinating.

For example, in Psalm 35, David implores God to come to his aid and defend him against his enemies.

Psalm 35:1-8 – Oppose my opponents, Yahweh; fight those who fight me.  Take your shields ​– ​large and small — and come to my aid.  Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers, and assure me: “I am your deliverance.”  Let those who intend to take my life be disgraced and humiliated; let those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed.  Let them be like chaff in the wind, with the angel of Yahweh driving them away.  Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of Yahweh pursuing them.  They hid their net for me without cause; they dug a pit for me without cause.  Let ruin come on him unexpectedly, and let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it ​– ​to his ruin.”

This is what is known as an “imprecatory” psalm, one in which the writer calls down curses or imprecations on their enemy. These writings have confounded Christians over the years because we in our modern days try to read back into these passages the teachings of doing good to enemies for their good, not calling down God’s wrath upon them. Therefore, this type of writing seems out of place with the overall purpose and plan of God in desiring us to overcome evil with good.

However, it is helpful to understand that what may appear to be a psalm or prayer of vindictiveness is more likely a statement of allowing the natural consequences of their enemies actions to fall upon them. This is very typical in the writings of that time.

In ancient Jewish thinking, since God is just, the Creation itself is imbued with a mechanism of justice. Sometimes the forces of nature are blended with concepts of angels or messengers of God. In this psalm we see David asking God to “take your shields…and come to my aid,” and asking that the “angel of Yahweh” pursue his enemies. To our Western way of thinking, these concepts appear to be spiritual forces that David is requesting God to provide to protect him and to rout his enemies. However, these are more likely literary expressions as to how it would appear to his enemies when the consequences of their actions were to fall upon themselves. David is simply asking God for those consequences to come to fruition.

Some other instances where this type of literary design is seen include other representative psalms:

Psalm 104:1, 4 – “My soul, bless Yahweh! Yahweh my God, you are very great; you are clothed with majesty and splendor. … and making the winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”

Psalm 148:8 – “lightning and hail, snow and cloud, stormy wind that executes his command…”

In one of Elihu’s responses to Job, he also mentions the will of God being accomplished through the natural elements:

Job 37:11-13 – “He saturates clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. They swirl about, turning round and round at his direction, accomplishing everything he commands them over the surface of the inhabited world. He causes this to happen for punishment, for his land, or for his faithful love.”

These examples merely illustrate how that, to the ancient way of thinking in middle Eastern culture, the will and purpose of God blended seamlessly with the natural elements, and one served only to highlight and magnify the other.

Psalm 8:1, 3-4 – “Yahweh, our Lord, how magnificent is your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with your majesty. … When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?”

Additionally, besides the proverbs, there are other examples of how the wickedness of the wicked comes back to them in time. In one of Bildad’s responses to Job:

Job 18:5, 7-8, 21 – Yes, the light of the wicked is extinguished; the flame of his fire does not glow.  … His powerful stride is shortened, and his own schemes trip him up.  For his own feet lead him into a net, and he strays into its mesh.  … Indeed, such is the dwelling of the unjust man, and this is the place of the one who does not know God.

Here Bildad explains it as a common understanding that the wickedness of the wicked leads themselves to ruin.

Another example is this additional psalm of David:

Psalm 9:15-16 – The nations have fallen into the pit they made; their foot is caught in the net they have concealed.  Yahweh has made himself known; he has executed justice, snaring the wicked by the work of their hands.

So in this instance, is God causing this “snaring of the wicked” to happen directly or only indirectly as being the architect of consequential just recompense? We also see a hint in this passage that through this natural consequence of their own actions, Yahweh has “made himself known.”

In a psalm attributed to Asaph, we see a similar representation.

Psalm 73:11-12, 16-19 – The wicked say, “How can God know? Does the Most High know everything? ”  Look at them ​– ​the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth.  … When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless  until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.  Indeed, you put them in slippery places; you make them fall into ruin.  How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors.

According to Asaph, until he “entered God’s sanctuary,” or came to understand the spiritual reality behind the natural events, it appeared unfair that the wicked lived in relative ease while he, attempting to be righteous had the sense in v. 13 that he had “purified his heart and washed his hands in innocence for nothing,” being “punished every morning” and “afflicted all day long,” (v. 14). But once he took God’s perspective on the wicked, he realized the relative ease with which they were living was really a slippery path to destruction if they were not to repent from their ways.

The biblical idea that God has created the universe to act in a certain fashion, or to react to our actions in a certain fashion, is itself a slippery slope of sorts, as it can lead one to a form of fatalism or consequentialism. Fatalism is the belief that all events are predetermined or inevitable, therefore, people have no ability to influence the outcome of their lives. Consequentialism regards all actions as justifiable as long as the consequences are favorable; i.e., the ends justify the means.

However, what the Bible actually describes is a system of justice based on the consequences of actions also known as “reaping what you sow.” In this view, people still are influencing their circumstances, so it is not fatalism. People are also held accountable for the “rightness” of their actions, so it is not strict consequentialism. In the Bible, people do receive the consequences of their actions, but they also have the ability to change their actions from negative and hurtful to positive and ultimately self-sacrificial. If fatalism were true, there would be no calls to repentance, and if consequentialism were true, there would be no accountability for doing bad things as long as the immediate result was good. No, the Bible teaches that God desires people to do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do, even if the immediate consequences are unfavorable for us. But the Bible also warns us if we continue to do the wrong things, even with the best of intentions, the end result will be bad.

It is from these ethical theories of men that God desires to free us. When we act at all times with integrity, we can avoid those twin traps of fatalism and consequentialism and we can stand assured before God that our actions are based on the truth of his Word and not just our assessment of our own circumstances.

Going back to our anchor verse for today:

Proverbs 11:3 – The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

We can see here that the righteous or upright can be guided in the correct way to walk by recognizing the opposite of the crooked, twisting, covert ways of the treacherous. Here are some other similar examples from these contrasting proverbs:

Proverbs 11:5-6 – The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness. 

Proverbs 11:6 – The righteousness of the upright rescues them, but the treacherous are trapped by their own desires.

Proverbs 11:18 – The wicked person earns an empty wage, but the one who sows righteousness, a true reward.

Proverbs 13:6- Righteousness guards people of integrity, but wickedness undermines the sinner. 

Proverbs 13:20 -The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.

Rather than seeking to define our own ethical behavior, God has defined it for us. In these types of proverbs, the contrast between the right way and the wrong way is the method of highlighting the differences and end results that God desires us to recognize in these alternative paths. The righteous are guarded or protected by their righteousness; it clears a path for them when the way is unsure or blocked with obstacles. It rescues them and provides them an eternal reward. The wicked will lie and cheat, they are trapped by their own desires; they will be undermined by their own sinfulness which provides only an empty wage, and will ultimately cause their own downfall.

Which path seems more compelling to follow? When viewed in its larger context and cultural setting, I believe this becomes self-evident. This is why this type of contrasting teaching throughout the proverbs is such a powerful method of conveying truth.

Contrasted with the “crookedness” of the wicked, there is no covert or hidden agenda with a righteous person; what they say, they will do. They are known as a “straight shooter,” someone who can be trusted because they are faithful and loyal. Everything is open and above-board in dealing with a righteous person, and you will always know where you stand.

In Matthew 5:33-37, Yeshua encourages believers to exhibit these characteristics in all of their outward relations: “Be a person of your word, not requiring any oath to substantiate your actions. Simply say yes or no, and do what you say.” When we act in this way, we can honor God and magnify the positive characteristics and ethical characteristics that are displayed, and contrasted, in his Word.


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