Sacrificial compassion

We are called to provide life and hope to others, but it comes at a cost to ourselves.

We are called to provide life and hope to others, but it comes at a cost to ourselves.

Romans 5:6-8 – “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Messiah died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person ​– ​though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.”

There is no greater example of compassion than the ultimate sacrifice God provided for those who refused to believe in him whole heartedly: his own Son. The Jews had rejected God as their king because they wanted an earthly king. They then rejected their earthly king and replaced him with the idolatry of the nations and political ambition. They then looked forward with a hope for a Messiah, and yet rejected him when he arrived because he did not match their expectations.

The Jewish nation was sinful because they had neglected the worship of the true God and had replaced it with their own unattainable system of rules and regulations far above anything God ever imagined for them. Though as a nation they claimed to be righteous and holy, they were in fact impious, ungodly, wicked sinners. That is what the word ungodly means in the verse above: “Messiah died for the ungodly.” Yeshua had come proclaiming the kingdom of God, and they rejected both him and his message. There is nothing more ungodly than rejecting the Word of God which was present in the very person of Messiah Yeshua.

Yet, in remarkable and unheard of obedience, Messiah willingly allowed himself to be mercilessly crucified on their behalf. They refused to die to themselves, so he died for them. He had become their rightful king and ultimate Lord, and they rejected his authority which had come straight from the living God, choosing instead to have him killed.

I don’t know what possible personal infraction you could have suffered that could take precedence over the injustices suffered by Messiah. Yet even through all of that unjustified criticism and rejection, he exemplified the deepest compassion for his own people, those who were like lost sheep, scattered amidst a depraved world. And in so doing, he opened the door for anyone else who desires to come to the God of the universe, as well. If they could have peace with God through faith in him, then so can we. Anyone who places their faith in the Messiah of God is likewise received with gladness and rejoicing in the presence of God.

A sacrificial compassion will be exemplified in similar ways: one must die to oneself in order to provide life and hope to others. As his children through faith, this is who we are, and what we are called to do.


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.

Demonstrating sacrificial faith in God

When we reserve retribution to God, we will be honoring him, and he will be attentive to our call.

When we reserve retribution to God, we will be honoring him, and he will be attentive to our call.

Psalm 4:3-5 – “But know that Yahweh has set apart the faithful for himself; Yahweh hears when I call to him. When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in Yahweh.”

This psalm highlights that those who exhibit faith in God have been set apart for himself. With this being set apart comes a responsibility to maintain that trust in God. The believer demonstrates trust in God when they do not allow themselves to take action against personal injustice, but to meditate or ponder the situation in a quiet place such as the bed, and to remain silent.

In this version, the psalm says, “when you are disturbed, do not sin…” The meaning of being disturbed actually broadens to describe when someone becomes angry, or disquieted, or so worked up over some injustice that they begin to shake and become frustrated. When this happens, they are not to not follow through with the outworking of that frustration, but to think it through in that quiet place.

Instead, the psalmist says to have a two-pronged response: to offer right sacrifices and to put one’s trust in Yahweh. What is a correct sacrificial response for believers today?

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

Hebrews 13:16 – “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

The admonition for believers today is to offer ourselves as ongoing sacrifices, and to not neglect others as we seek to serve God. These are the sacrificial things we need to meditate about and consider as we remain silent on our beds.

Yeshua’s conversation with a scribe brought a similar understanding to him, when he repeated back to the Master his understanding of the whole purpose of man: to love God and to love others.

Mark 12:32-34 – “Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Yeshua saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”

If we truly offer these “right sacrifices” and maintain our trust that Yahweh will work the situation through in his timing, we will be honoring God and he will be attentive to our call. If we choose to maintain our trust in Yahweh in this way, we can be encouraged through the reassuring words of the apostle Paul:

Romans 8:28 – “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”


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.

Acceptance by God has always been by faith

The principles of Torah are eternal.

Leviticus 4:27, 29-31 – “Now if any of the common people sins unintentionally by violating one of Yahweh’s commands, does what is prohibited, and incurs guilt, … “He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. “Then the priest is to take some of its blood with his finger and apply it to the horns of the altar of burnt offering. He is to pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. … The priest is to burn it on the altar as a pleasing aroma to Yahweh. In this way the priest will make atonement on his behalf, and he will be forgiven.”

In our modern view of the Torah, we typically are taught to look at the sacrifices offered according to the methods that God instructed as being works designed to bring forgiveness; as if the offerer is doing some kind of work to gain their “salvation,” or their right-standing with God. We then paint with a broad brush the entire Torah and say, “See, the whole system was a system of works that God abhors, since there is nothing we can do to become righteous with God on our own.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, why would God abhor the very system he himself put in place for the Israelites to follow? The reason the system had validity was because God designed and commanded it.

The whole system was not a system of works for personal righteousness (even though that is what it had become over time). It was a system designed to bring the offerer before God in faith that the sacrifice they were bringing would be accepted by him. To bring a sacrifice according to Torah was to approach God in faith of being forgiven.

Through all of the sacrifices and offerings prescribed by Torah, there had to be an element of faith that the offerer brought with their sacrifice, otherwise, there would be no point to the sacrifice. If the offerer did not believe that they would be forgiven of their offense against God after following the prescribed method, then there would be no need to do so at all. The sacrifice or offering meant nothing without faith.

Through this process, God was attempting to teach the Israelites (and now, the rest of the world) that every action according to Torah is an act of faith, and it is only on the basis of faith that God would accept anyone.

Paul even taught that faith was the very basis of what maintained the structure of the Torah.

Romans 3:31 – Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

If the ancient Israelites were to bring a sacrifice without faith, God would not accept it. If they performed the rituals of the annual festivals without faith, God would not be pleased. Inspired by the Spirit of God, the prophet Amos condemned the nation for these very things.

Amos 5:12, 21-22 – For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. [You] oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates. … I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.

The reason God would not accept them was not because they were following Torah commandments, but because the people were only doing them for “religious” reasons, not because they actually had faith in Yahweh. They would offer these sacrifices and celebrate the feasts and then turn right around and worship the idols of Molech and Remphan and take advantage of their countrymen, denying them the justice due them. This demonstrated that their hearts were far from God, and they were not operating within the parameter of Torah in faith. The actual practices of Torah themselves, the sacrifices and offerings, did not have magical abilities to wipe away sinfulness of those who were not interested in bringing them in the first place; their hearts had to be right in order for the sacrifices to become effective.

The writer of Hebrews alludes to this same principle at the height of his epistle to the early believers in Messiah:

Hebrews 10:4, 26-27 – For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. … For if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.

Whether the sacrifice was an animal or a grain offering or the symbolic sacrifice of the Messiah himself, they would only become effective when offered or accepted in faith with hearts that were sincere before God. Someone today who claims to believe in Yeshua within the congregation of believers and yet lives like every other non-believer the rest of the week is not a person of faith and does not stand forgiven of their sins. This is the same eternal principle of Torah for all time, and will never change.

We must always approach God in faith, with hearts that are truly repentant and sincere for God to restore us. Thankfully for believers today, the animal sacrifices of Torah are no longer necessary since all of the priestly rites and temple rituals have been fulfilled once for all in the symbolic offering of Messiah.

Hebrews 10:10 – By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua Messiah once for all time.

We can now boldly approach God according to Torah, now through Messiah, but only with humility and true faith.

Hebrews 4:16 – Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.


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.

Humble service in a kingdom without icon

God simply desires our sincere honoring of him every day by the outworking of our practical faith among the rest of his Creation.

Core of the Bible podcast #58 – Humble service in a kingdom without icon

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom, and how the Kingdom of God should not have any type of iconography or attempt to represent God through any physical location or facility. All of these detract from the simple essence of who he is in Spirit and truth. Idolatry is the most represented affront to the majesty of God and his Kingdom throughout the entire Bible.

Right after God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt and told them he wanted them to be representatives of his kingdom as priests, he then gave them the Ten Commandments. One of the primary commandments was against idolatry.

Exodus 20:4-5 – “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them…”

Yeshua confirmed that God abhors idolatry, and further revealed how God desires spiritual worship based on the truth, not some physical representation of him.

John 4:23-24 – “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

If I were to paraphrase these two passages, it might sound something like this:

Have nothing to do with tangible representations of any god, including the one true God. Worship the Father (Yahweh) alone, and in spirit and in truth only.

For whatever reason, humans love icons and iconography. We seek to identify everything with a symbolic representation of some sort, whether it is a brand logo, an app, or a digital navigation menu. In honesty, I must admit there is a certain logic to this mode of communication: it acts as a type of shorthand for a larger idea or concept that can be communicated quickly and simply.

In a similar way, throughout history civilizations have represented their concepts of their gods with a plethora of iconic representation, from statues to intricate carvings of various symbols to grandiose temples. The idolatry of the Bible, however, is generally concerned with the statues and carvings of the various gods that continually led Israel away from the one true God, Yahweh. Baal and Ashtoreth were two of the most notable “local” gods in the land of Canaan which threatened to lure Israel away from Yahweh.

Judges 3:7 – “The Israelites did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight; they forgot Yahweh their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs.”

Judges 10:6 – “Then the Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. They worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Aram, Sidon, and Moab, and the gods of the Ammonites and the Philistines. They abandoned Yahweh and did not worship him.”

The cultural power of these gods was so strong within the land of Canaan that the Israelites suffered with them throughout their history, in spite of dramatic showdowns with the likes of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:17-19 – “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, the one ruining Israel? ” He replied, “I have not ruined Israel, but you and your father’s family have, because you have abandoned Yahweh’s commands and followed the Baals. “Now summon all Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

After watching the false prophets attempt to provoke their gods to manifest themselves at their offering altars, God reveals himself at the simple invocation of Elijah to make himself known.

1 Kings 18:37-40 – “Answer me, Yahweh! Answer me so that this people will know that you, Yahweh, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “Yahweh, he is God! Yahweh, he is God! ” Then Elijah ordered them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let even one of them escape.” So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.”

The reason that God had even brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan in the first place was so that they would eradicate these false representations and the wicked practices, such as child sacrifice, that went along with them.

Deuteronomy 9:4-5 – “When Yahweh your God drives them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘Yahweh brought me in to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ Instead, Yahweh will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness. “You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, Yahweh your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness…”

This is how strongly God is opposed to false gods and the idolatrous worship that goes along with them.

Sometimes, during periods of reform and return to the worship of the one true God, the Israelite tribes were successful in removing the idols and false worship of the nations around them.

1 Samuel 7:4 – “So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtoreths and only worshiped Yahweh.”

1 Samuel 12:10 – “Then they cried out to Yahweh and said, ‘We have sinned, for we abandoned Yahweh and worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths. Now rescue us from the power of our enemies, and we will serve you.’

However, there are indications that even when the Israelites were doing what they were supposed to do in removing the false gods and idols, in typical fashion, they were still missing the true meaning of having Yahweh as their God, since they continually desired him to simply save them from the power of the their enemies, but not from the power of their own sinfulness.

Ultimately, the Kingdom of God was not to be just about an idyllic kingdom to be protected from its enemies, but to be a kingdom made up of individuals who were to practice “righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit,” (Romans 14:17).

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Additionally, the idolatry of Israel was not always focused on other gods, but on the one true God, just through some form of statue or representation of their own making.

Consider the golden calf incident. Most people think that the golden calf was a foreign god that the Israelites were worshiping, however, they made the golden calf in honor of Yahweh God and instituted a festival to him! The Israelites created it as a representation of the God who had brought them out of Egypt (Ex. 32:4), and also as a representation of the God who would go before them and conquer. They bowed down to it and danced around it.

Exodus 32:4-5 – “He [Aaron] took the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, “Israel, this is your god, who brought you up from the land of Egypt! ” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of it and made an announcement: “There will be a festival to Yahweh tomorrow.”

This shamed the magnificence of the one true God and Moses rightly and immediately destroyed it.

Consider the bronze snake that Moses had made in obedience to Yahweh’s command for healing of the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21).

Numbers 21:6-9 – Then Yahweh sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died. The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede with the LORD so that he will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.”

When Hezekiah became king, he ended up having to destroy it because it had become an object of worship in and of itself (2 Kings 18:4)

Consider the ephod or breastplate that Gideon made to represent the victories of the Israelites over the Midianites (Judges 8:22-27).

Judges 8:22, 24-27 – Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian.” … Then he said to them, “Let me make a request of you: Everyone give me an earring from his plunder.” Now the enemy had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites. They said, “We agree to give them.” So they spread out a cloak, and everyone threw an earring from his plunder on it. The weight of the gold earrings he requested was forty-three pounds of gold, in addition to the crescent ornaments and ear pendants, the purple garments on the kings of Midian, and the chains on the necks of their camels. Gideon made an ephod from all this and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. Then all Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his household.”

While Gideon’s intent was to honor God, it became an object of worship itself and created corruption among the Israelites.

All of this is a form of syncretism, a blending of what is true about God with the falsehood of idolatry and foreign culture. This is the most dangerous type of idolatry because those who are engaged in it believe they are truly worshiping the one true God through it, yet they are demeaning everything he stands for.

To this day, iconic representation can be found throughout the world, some even becoming popular tourist destinations due to their magnificence.

As I have been reviewing current popular religious destinations, I have been a little shocked to find that many of the most well-attended religious sites are actually based on Christian lore, such as Fatima in Portugal where there were alleged visions of Mary, Lourdes in France, or any of the Roman Catholic sites within Rome. These locations are filled with idolatry of all sorts: images, statues, and various representations of Mary and other religious saints and figures.

There are also magnificent and extravagant temples throughout India and Asian countries with representations of various gods and goddesses and many well-meaning religious traditions.

However, in the Bible God warns us that although this may be typical and commonplace among our various cultures and religions, we are not to identify him in this sort of way. He is to be worshiped in spirit and truth only, not by some sort of symbolic representation. The wisdom in this instruction is that he knows that the thing that is created to represent him can then replace him in the minds of the worshipers.

Idols of other gods are an offense to him, because there are no other gods that have created all things, and ascribing power to something other than him is an insult to his sovereignty over his Creation.

Idols meant to represent him or aspects of his power are also offensive to him, because no one thing can represent his majesty and glory in all of Creation. Ultimately, as we have seen, he knows that the representative thing becomes the object of worship. Any created thing is not a thing to be worshiped, even if we believe it is representing the one true God. No one thing in all of Creation can represent him, and is therefore offensive to him.

What if I was to create an icon of my wife, and in order to honor her, I burnt incense to that statue every day, or got down on my knees and professed my love for her to the image? I don’t need an iconic representation of my wife to honor her; I just need to demonstrate my love to her every day in how I live my life by respecting her and caring for her.

In the same way, God doesn’t want to be worshiped through some shallow representation of a portion of his being; he wants to be recognized for the beneficent Creator that he is in all of his qualities and honored from the heart. Similar to the simplicity and sincerity that I would show my wife, God expects these plain and humble actions in my worship of him.

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Additionally, from a practical standpoint, I am extremely saddened by the idolatry present throughout the world for another significant reason: the sheer waste of resources that could be used to help people in real need.

If we were to total all of the money and resources that are sacrificed in the worship of these false idols and their traditions, I am convinced that hunger and poverty throughout the world could be eradicated many times over. I am convinced that resources spent on religious idolatrous enterprises in every culture, including Christianity, are consuming what is available for the ever-growing population of humanity.

Think of the largest religious festivals and the resources they consume: Hajj (Islam); Chinese New Year; Diwali (Hindu); Ramadan (Islam); Setsubun (Shinto); Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu); Navarati (Hindu). These all, while time-honored examples within each of these cultures, are from the biblical perspective considered idolatrous festivities to the gods of those religions.

Lest anyone think that we in American Christian culture are any less guilty of idolatry, simply consider the resources allotted to Easter, Halloween and most significantly, Christmas. According to statista.com, the financial value spent at Christmas is 843 BILLION dollars, and that is in the US alone! Easter has been in the 18 billion-dollar range, and Halloween has gone from 3 billion to 10 billion over the last 15 years. That totals 871 billion dollars spent annually on these idolatrous festivals in the US alone.

Now, a quick search of world-wide poverty initiatives brought me to borenproject.org, where they quote a Columbia University professor’s estimate of ending world poverty:

“In his book End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, provides one answer to the question “how much does it cost to end poverty?” He argues that poverty could be eliminated by the year 2025 thanks to “well-placed development aids”. Investment in local farms to boost capital and productivity, education for both children and adults, enhancing access to health services and leveraging renewable energy resources are the best ways to end poverty.

“So, how much does it cost to end poverty? Sachs, as one of the world’s leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty, stated that the cost to end poverty is $175 billion per year for 20 years.”

Looking at only one year’s spend on religious idolatry, and in only the United States, this equals less than one-fourth of the combined financial impact of Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Now, if we were to estimate the costs of these other global religious festivities and their idolatrous practices, it is clear that the ability to raise up the quality of living and eradicate poverty around the entire world currently exists, if only we could have our eyes opened to the offerings still being made to idolatrous practices around the world.

This is why it is so important for people everywhere to understand the true nature of the Kingdom of God, and to recognize the simple and humble service he expects of his people, not extravagant displays like the pagans!

I believe it is clear we should also re-think some of our own practices in our believing congregations in light of this focus on idolatry. Beyond the seasonal holidays, there are plenty of idolatrous offerings occurring right here in American congregations, as well. How many times have people been admonished to “give sacrificially” to a building fund or to reach some financial goal for the congregation’s sound system or some other facility related function? We spend literally billions on parking lots, building improvements and maintenance, media systems and staffing to manage all of these facilities which remain mostly unused for most of any given week. These are real funds that could be better spent helping those in need while the congregation finds humbler means of gathering once or twice a week.

If this kind of commentary sounds jaded, then so be it. When I served as an intern pastor and also an elder over a number of years in small, local congregations, the amount of ministry time and resources wasted on building campaigns and maintenance was staggering to me. These tax-exempt corporations we have set up as ministry centers suffer from the same myopic budgeting that many secular businesses do. In essence, the facilities themselves have become idols for these congregations, idols that need constant attention and exorbitant resources. Instead, our facilities can be humble places of week-long ministry rather than just fancy audience arenas for a single isolated time each week.

I have heard time and time again that the description of an idol is simply “anything that comes between you and God.” However, from a biblical perspective, that is not really accurate at all. According to the Bible, an idol is an image or practice of some sort to which the powers of God or a god are ascribed, and therefore honor and sacrifice should be paid to it. It may be a figure, an institution or an ancient tradition. Idolatry of this sort in today’s day and age looks like this:

Candles, financial gifts, or food that is offered to statues of gods or supposed saints.

Costs to travel to religious sites for idolatrous religious festivals.

Thinking that by giving to the church building program or giving sacrificially to rescue the church budget is giving to God.

The financial debt and ruin incurred at Saturnalia in an effort to “decorate for the holidays” and to ensure no family’s “Christmas” gifts were overlooked.

These are examples of what modern idolatry looks like. Idols are real things created by people to somehow substitute or represent the one true God and their service to him, not just emotions or feelings that come between us and God. Emotional distractions are all legitimate ways we can be swayed away from God as well, don’t get me wrong. However, true idolatry is the participation in a physical event or honoring of traditional, physical icons in lieu of worshiping the one true God in spirit and in truth.

Yahweh, the God of the Bible, sets himself apart from all other gods by demanding we stop trying to represent him or his kingdom symbolically, whether through some type of iconography, grand facility, or through wasted resources on idolatrous traditions and practices. We can’t represent him fairly in those instances and, even if it is attempted, whatever we make becomes an object of corruption.

There are quite literally thousands of faith traditions throughout the world, even in regards to the God of the Bible. Whatever our personal faith tradition, we must find ways to combat the idolatry that is present through iconography, statues, and symbolic representation.

God simply desires our sincere honoring of him every day by the outworking of our practical faith among the rest of his Creation. This is what living in and for his kingdom should be.


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

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

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

Set apart for obedience to God’s will

The culmination of the biblical imagery is fulfilled in Messiah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Faithful love for those who need it most

Putting aside our self-righteousness to share the good news of the kingdom.

Matthew 9:10-13 – While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Yeshua and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? ” Now when he heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Clearly, Yeshua had a different view of those who were in need of hearing the good news of the kingdom, and who were also willing to listen. In his response, Yeshua tells the Pharisees to “go and learn what this means.” The “this” he speaks of here is a quote from Hosea 6.

Hosea 6:6 – For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

In this passage of Hosea, God is expressing his frustration with all of the tribes, and how their passion for him was only as a “morning mist” or “a dew that vanishes.” Their constant rebellion was only ritual-deep; whenever they transgressed, they assumed all they would have to do was to present the appropriate offering to get back into God’s good graces. Yet God says that what he truly desires is mercy (faithful love) and the knowledge of God over any sacrifices and offerings.

Yeshua tells the Pharisees to “go and learn what this means.” They were just as guilty of the shallow, ritual-deep commitment to Yahweh, when he really desired them to share their knowledge of God and faithful love and mercy with those who were in need of it most.

True compassion or mercy is in sharing with those who have nothing for themselves, whether worldly goods or spiritual sophistication. The message of the kingdom of God is not for an elite population only but for all people everywhere. True compassion and mercy is in providing the thirsty the water they are looking for, the food they are hungry for, and the peace that they so desperately long for.

I believe the example of Yeshua cautions us from focusing so strongly on our personal righteousness before God that we exclude the very individuals he is wanting us to reach for 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! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Bringing to life our highest purpose

We will not grow fruit for God if we are not performing the purpose for which we have been created in him.

1 John 3:16-18 – 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 anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him ​– ​how does God’s love reside in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.

Messiah’s example should motivate us to think about and act on the needs of individuals in our community. The highest gift one can give to another is to lay down one’s life, symbolically or literally. This is the life-principle we are called to as followers of Messiah, and this is the example we should set for everyone around us. When we aid people in need at the sacrifice of our own comfort and resources, we are laying down our life, i.e., putting our own selfish needs aside to meet the needs of others. This is the essence of Yeshua’s appeal for compassion and kindness from his disciples.

Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

When we are obedient in this fashion, we open ourselves up to the same mercy to be shown to us by God and others.

Acts 9:36-41 – In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity. About that time she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him who urged him, “Don’t delay in coming with us.” Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her stand up. He called the saints and widows and presented her alive.

When this woman died, she was recognized for her deeds of kindness, producing and distributing clothing to those in need. Mercy was shown to her because of her merciful actions towards others.

Matthew 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

The aim of salt, according to Yeshua’s metaphor, is to fulfill a purpose; otherwise, it would be thrown aside as useless. We will not grow fruit for God if we are not performing the purpose for which we have been created in him, and we risk being thrown aside as idle vessels while he seeks others to work through.

We should not only declare that we believe in Messiah; instead, we should follow his example of laying down his life to aid others with whatever skills and abilities God has bestowed upon us.

1 John 3:18 – Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.


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

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

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

Purity of heart through the Word of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The narrow way of effort and personal sacrifice

Avoiding the wide way that leads to destruction requires intentional actions.

Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

When Yeshua is speaking about the way to life, he in no way signifies ease and complacency. Instead, he mentions the difficulty with which this way is attained, and the relatively small number of people who remain determined enough to find it.

All of this implies that whatever the general crowd is believing about the way of God is very likely not the correct way, because the way to life is constricted and compressed. It is a difficult, narrow way that takes perseverance, determination, and sacrifice to locate and to maintain.

If this concept sounds foreign to us today, it would indicate we have strayed from the truth of God’s word. We have wandered onto the wide path of destruction because it is an easier way. It is a shallow and wide plain that most people travel because it does not take as much effort to navigate, and there is a like-minded camaraderie with others who also want the way to be easy and are anxious to be with others. It is a way requiring no personal risk, the path of least resistance, a mentality of safety in numbers.

Additionally, as much as this may be a foreign concept today, it was equally foreign to Yeshua’s original audience. The path of the religious leadership was the wide way, and most people accepted the rules and regulations that had been added to the simple law of God. However, Yeshua continually railed against the hypocrisy and insincerity of the religious establishment, pointing people to a kingdom where God was their Father, and they were accountable for their own relationship with him. But with that accountability came responsibility, responsibility to really do what’s right at all times, and not just go through the motions of religious man-made dogma. Doing what’s right is hard; it takes intentional thought and effort and personal sacrifice. That is why so few people actually commit to the narrow and restricted way.

However, the vigilant are those who remain alert to their surroundings and are always searching for the specific details of what’s right in God’s eyes, details that can get lost in the blur of activity each day. They are the ones who are constantly on the lookout for the narrow and difficult way in all of their actions, and are willing to put in the effort and sacrifice to stay focused on God’s purpose. Because this is their direction and where they find meaning, they are emboldened with the sense of personal connection and identification with Yeshua and the Father. Yeshua says the narrow way is the way of life, and that life is its own reward.


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

The transformational power of salt in each generation

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

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

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

Yeshua stated it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDGMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OFFERINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PURIFYING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRESERVING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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