God’s historical resume of faithfulness

God has demonstrated himself as being faithful and completely trustworthy through his actions with Israel.

Today we will be exploring the topic of trust, and how God has demonstrated himself as being faithful and completely trustworthy through his actions with Israel as revealed in the Bible. The story of Israel is a story about God’s faithfulness. He has demonstrated himself as worthy of trust because whatever he has committed to his people has come to pass. Time and time again he has proven himself as fulfilling what he has promised, whether in blessing or in judgment. In essence, the Bible story of Israel is a type of historical resume that God has provided us.

From a quick online search of definitions, we find that a resume can be defined as “a formal document that provides an overview of your professional qualifications, including your relevant work experience, skills, education, and notable accomplishments.” Now let me quickly add that it certainly isn’t necessary for God to provide us all of that information, since, well, he’s God and can do whatever he wants. It’s not as if he is encouraging us to hire him to be our God from among the choices of other gods that are out there. But isn’t that kind of how we look at this information contained in the Bible? We evaluate it critically against the claims of other beliefs and religious systems out there to see if it is a reasonable system of faith.

Since God certainly has nothing to prove, and yet we still need some sort of understanding of who he is, how does the Bible stack up as a demonstration of God’s “skills and notable accomplishments”?

Well, if we review the story of Israel as related in the Bible books, we find a consistent narrative that has a logical beginning, middle, and ending that has been borne out in time. We can see that there is a flow and a lasting evidence to how God has worked with the nation of Israel within history to help us understand who he is.

The story of Israel begins most notably with the events in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as related in the book of Genesis. After Abraham leaves the Ur of the Chaldees to go to a special place in which God is calling him, his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, carry the story forward to the twelve sons of Jacob. In the course of time, they needed to temporarily leave the area that God had called them to due to severe famine. However, God had promised that they would be returning in fulfillment of what he had promised them.

Genesis 28:15 – “Look, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

In this vision that Jacob experiences, God recounts the promises made to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. He promised that they would receive the land, that his descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth, and that all the tribes of the earth would be blessed through him and his descendants.

Genesis 28:13-14  – “I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. “Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”

Of course, the story reveals that in traveling to Egypt for salvation from the famine, they became a numerous people that began to be a threat to the Egyptians, so they were forced into slavery. God then sent Moses to deliver them, and separate them to himself as his own people.

After the events of the Exodus and the receiving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, they are relegated to the wilderness in preparation for returning to the land that God had promised them.

As Moses and Aaron pass from the scene, God raises up Joshua to be their leader in purging the land from its pagan atrocities so the land can prosper under the auspices of the torah of God.

Deuteronomy 9:5  – “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, in order to fulfill the promise he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

After the battle campaigns, we find that everything had come to pass just as God had promised. On his deathbed, Joshua recounts God’s faithfulness:

Joshua 23:14 – “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and soul that not one of the good promises Yahweh your God made to you has failed. Everything was fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed.”

So we can see, at least as far as Joshua was concerned, God had demonstrated himself worthy of faith based on everything that he had promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


In reviewing God’s resume in relation to the Israelites, we find another historical aspect that has been borne out in time, and still exists to this day. Just prior to the nation entering and taking the land of Canaan, God had set some pretty strict covenantal standards in place. You may recall the blessings and the curses that were pronounced upon them if they were to keep the conditions of the covenant, or if they were to fail in doing so.

Deuteronomy 28:1, 15, 63-65  – “Now if you faithfully obey Yahweh your God and are careful to follow all his commands I am giving you today, Yahweh your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. … “But if you do not obey Yahweh your God by carefully following all his commands and statutes I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overtake you:  … “Just as Yahweh was glad to cause you to prosper and to multiply you, so he will also be glad to cause you to perish and to destroy you. You will be ripped out of the land you are entering to possess. “Then Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will worship other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. You will find no peace among those nations, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot. There Yahweh will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and a despondent spirit.”

Again, we find that both of these examples, the blessings and the curses, have come to pass in the life of the nation.

As they demonstrated faithfulness and maintained worship of the one true God, the nation rose to power in the ancient world, coming to a pinnacle in the lives of David and Solomon. At that time, Israel was not only bountiful within the borders of its own land, but David had also won the peace of surrounding nations who became subservient to Israel, from Egypt all the way to the Euphrates river. This was a monumental territory that was a fulfillment of all that God had promised to Abraham.

Genesis 15:18  – “On that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, “I give this land to your offspring, from the brook of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River…”

Solomon lived to enjoy the fulfillment of that promise.

1 Kings 4:21  – “Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines and as far as the border of Egypt. They offered tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.”

Sadly, Solomon also lived to see the beginning of the curses of the covenant fall upon the nation, as he himself was the catalyst of events that would lead to the removal of Israel from their territory that God had promised them.

1 Kings 11:4, 6  – “When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to Yahweh his God, as his father David had been. … Solomon did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not remain loyal to Yahweh.”

In his later years, his heart went after foreign women and their gods. He began to compromise with the religions of the surrounding nations, and due to his unfaithfulness he triggered the activation of the covenant curses, beginning with his own son.

Upon his death, Solomon’s son Rehoboam inherited the kingdom and infuriated the people with his obstinance. As a result, Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon, rebelled and began to rule over ten of the tribes, leaving Judah and Benjamin to Rehoboam. A civil war was to commence that would never be physically healed.

Over the next several hundred years, the country would degrade further into idolatry and rebellion against God, until the ten tribes were finally overpowered by Assyria and removed from the land. Less than two centuries later, Babylon would rise to power and remove Judah and Benjamin from the land. The prophecy that Moses had given to their forefathers came to pass in horrifying reality.

Deuteronomy 28:63-64  – “…You will be ripped out of the land you are entering to possess. Then Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will worship other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.”

Assyria invaded in 721 BC and Babylon in 586 BC. The Israelites were indeed “scattered among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other.” Even when the Jews in Babylon were allowed to return to Jerusalem 70 years later, many of them chose to remain in Babylon. The ten northern tribes that had been taken by the Assyrians were so widely spread and co-mingled with the nations that they also never fully returned.

Once again, the truth of God and his faithfulness to his word were demonstrated with Israel. Yet there remained a significant and enduring promise that was still to come to pass.


Long after the physical blessings and curses of the covenant had come to pass, there was still a work that God had committed would happen. Beyond the physical promises of a land and numerous people stood God’s promise to the forefathers of Israel that all the families or tribes of the earth would be blessed through their descendants. God had brought a small remnant of his people back to the land to ensure that the final stage of his drama with Israel could still be fulfilled.

One of the other major prophecies that God had declared to Moses was that of a prophet who was to come, who would faithfully speak God’s words within his generation.

Deuteronomy 18:18-19  – “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name.”

Additionally, God had yet to fulfill a prior prophetic commitment that he had made to Abraham.

Genesis 18:18  – “Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.”

The good news of the Bible is that God fulfilled these promises in the person of Yeshua. As God’s Son, the anointed One, he spoke the words of the Father to his generation of brothers and was appointed the judge who was to hold them accountable to the truth of God’s torah.

John 12:49  – “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a command to say everything I have said.”

John 8:16  – “And if I do judge, my judgment is true, because it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.”

Additionally, as a true descendant of Abraham’s lineage, he fulfilled every promise and prophecy for the nation, and became the springboard of faith to the rest of the world.

Genesis 21:12  – But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed about the boy and about your slave. Whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her, because your seed will be traced through Isaac…

Galatians 3:28-29 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”

Just as Isaac was a miraculous son of promise, so Yeshua was a miraculous son of promise. We see the fulfillment of these promises made to Abraham and to Israel through Moses that came to pass in the days of Yeshua. The early believers recognized these promises being fulfilled, and came to faith in Messiah.

Additionally, in recognition of these fulfillments, the apostle Paul reached out to the Israelites everywhere who were still scattered among the nations with the hopes that they would be restored to the one true God, and that as lost sheep they would be restored to the fold. Many did return to the faith of God, thereby fulfilling the torah by becoming a faithful remnant through whom God would reach out to all nations. In the process of these lost and scattered Israelites coming to faith in Messiah, many others of the nations did so also, demonstrating how all nations would be blessed through him.

Every faithful life needs a narrative, otherwise the Bible merely becomes a collection of stories and platitudes. The Bible stands as God’s resume of faithfulness, a narrative corroborated through the annals of history. Through this brief recounting of God’s faithfulness with the nation of Israel, we can see how God has provided us a resume of his accomplishments within the history of his people. We know historically that they were brought dramatically out of Egypt, how they flourished in the land that God had promised them, and yet were ultimately scattered among all nations, even down to this day.  We see through these inner workings that God has done all things in wisdom by caring for his people, yet holding them accountable to their covenant. All of this was so that his glory would be made known to the whole world, and that all nations would be able to recognize him for who he is.

Like Paul, we can hold all of this in amazement when we realize the intricate care and detail in how God works all things to his own glory:

Romans 11:33, 36  – “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways!  … For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”

The promises that were made to Abraham and Moses were recognized by the earliest believers in Messiah as coming to fulfillment in Yeshua. They have continued to come to pass up to our day, multiplying believers in the one true God and blessing all of the tribes within each generation of the earth into the future. As we honor God by trusting in him and his Messiah, we demonstrate we are participating in the ongoing consummation of his faithfulness to all people.


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

The rebellious way of righteousness

Living faithfully according to God’s instruction at all times.

Psalm 26:1-3 – Vindicate me, Yahweh, because I have lived with integrity and have trusted in Yahweh without wavering. Test me, Yahweh, and try me; examine my heart and mind. For your faithful love guides me, and I live by your truth.

This psalm is attributed to David, and when reading it, it seems as if David is almost lifting himself up in God’s eyes, saying, “look how good I am, Yahweh.”
In a sense, he is. He is conveying how his conscience is clear before God, and because this is the case, he is requesting that God vindicate him or judge righteously in his favor against those who would come against him.

Psalm 26:9-10 – Do not destroy me along with sinners, or my life along with men of bloodshed in whose hands are evil schemes and whose right hands are filled with bribes.

This is brought out more vividly in another psalm of David where he declares his innocence, and then pleas for God’s protection due to his own faithfulness and virtue.

Psalm 17:3, 8-14 – You have tested my heart; you have examined me at night. You have tried me and found nothing evil; I have determined that my mouth will not sin. … Protect me as the pupil of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who treat me violently, my deadly enemies who surround me. They are uncaring; their mouths speak
arrogantly. They advance against me; now they surround me. They are determined to throw me to the ground. They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush. Rise up, Yahweh! Confront him; bring him down. With your sword, save me from the wicked. With your hand, Yahweh, save me from men, from men of the world whose portion is in this life…

While believers in Messiah are commanded by Yeshua to have pure hearts (Matthew 5:8) and walk in the light and not in the darkness of this world (John 8:12) these cherished qualities are by no means insulation from all wickedness in the world.

Consider the plight of Job, a man who was considered righteous before God.

Job 1:1 – There was a man in the country of Uz named Job. He was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil.

And yet disaster upon disaster came upon him. One of his companions, Eliphaz, even related this confidence as Job’s hope within himself:

Job 4:6 – Isn’t your piety your confidence, and the integrity of your life your hope?

The issue is not how righteous a person is, whether imagined or in reality, but in how faithful they are in the face of all adversity. David had a clear conscience before God, and yet was persecuted by Saul and the nations surrounding Israel. Job was a man of complete integrity and yet suffered so much trouble that his very name has become synonymous with the concept of adversity.

Yeshua himself suffered the highest injustice of all, and maintained, to the death, his focus on the higher purpose of God. All of these men persevered in their integrity and faithfulness, never losing hope in the God who would ultimately vindicate them, and he did.

We are expected to walk in pureness of heart and in the light of God’s instruction, yet we should never assume that because we do that we are then somehow immune from adversity in this life. Granted, the way of the righteous is ultimate design for those who bear God’s image in this world. And yet due to the wayward passions of those around us, we can expect that this way of righteousness will be resisted and pushed back on.

2 Timothy 3:12 – In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

This reality should not dissuade the believer from doing what’s right at all times but should only establish and encourage this conduct in the face of it. We must rebel against the wickedness of this world by living faithfully according to God’s instruction at all times and in all situations. This behavior then becomes the rebellious way of righteousness.


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.

The true blessing of mercy and compassion

There is a reciprocal and regenerative nature to being generous and compassionate.

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

When Yeshua taught that the merciful shall be blessed, the term he used for mercy was exemplified in a parable he was to tell later on in the book of Matthew. It is known variously as the parable of the unforgiving or unmerciful servant. I won’t recount the entire passage here, but it is found in Matthew 18:21-35. In brief, it explains how, after receiving forgiveness of a large debt from his master, a servant then goes out and begins demanding repayment of others who owed him small amounts of money. When his master finds out, he brings him back and scolds him for being unmerciful.

Matthew 18:32-33 – “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. “Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ‘

This word for mercy is the same word Yeshua used in Matthew 5 regarding those who are blessed. It implies that one who is demonstrating mercy has a right to perform a measure of judgment on someone and yet refrains due to a granting or bestowing of favor.

In context, the whole parable was told in answer to Peter’s question of how many times must he forgive someone who repeatedly comes to him. In fact, Yeshua ends the parable with a lesson in forgiveness:

Matthew 18:35 – “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

From this we can see how closely this mercy and forgiveness are. When we forgive, it is because we are exercising mercy, that is, granting or bestowing favor on someone with whom we have a legitimate right to hold to account for something.

The broader lesson in Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 5 indicates that mercy begets mercy; there is a reciprocal and regenerative nature to being generous and compassionate. This is why the servant in the parable was ultimately held to account: he was not regenerating mercy after receiving mercy himself.

1 Peter 2:10 – Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The apostle Peter writes that as God’s people we have received mercy from God. The regenerative nature of mercy then demands that we show mercy to others, and when we do so, we will be blessed in reciprocation. This mercy can be demonstrated not only in forgiveness of others, but in acts of compassion toward those who cannot help themselves.

When we live in this way, we begin to generate ripples of mercy that flow outward from us into the lives of others, and we open ourselves to reciprocal acts of mercy from others and from God. This is the true blessing in being merciful and compassionate.


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.

The ancient practice of non-retaliation

If we recognize that only God is truly able to judge others, we relieve ourselves of that burden and responsibility.

Matthew 5:39 – “But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

While many people claim that Yeshua began a revolutionary concept of non-retaliation in his day, it was actually a godly principle from ancient times, evidenced by the narrative of Scripture.

1 Samuel 24:12-13 – “May Yahweh judge between me and you, and may Yahweh take vengeance on you for me, but my hand will never be against you. “As the old proverb says, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’ My hand will never be against you.

As David was confronted with the continuing persecution of Saul, he makes the commitment that he would never do Saul harm as Saul was attempting to do to him, since Saul is God’s anointed ruler. David fulfilled that commitment.

What I find fascinating from an historical perspective is that David quoted “an old proverb” regarding how wickedness in action stems from those who are wicked. As far as we know, this is not a quote from Moses or any biblical writer prior to David, but it was a quote that had become common enough to be routinely mentioned as proverbial within that culture. This idea of non-retaliation appears to be very ancient, indeed.

Ironically, or perhaps because of David’s parenting influence, his son Solomon would become associated with thousands of proverbs. Likely influenced by that same godly motivation of his father, Solomon would ultimately pen the following proverb:

Proverbs 24:29 – Don’t say, “I’ll do to him what he did to me; I’ll repay the man for what he has done.”

This is a line of thinking carried all the way down to New Testament writers. Even beyond the life and teaching of Yeshua, the apostle Paul expands on this perspective that was modeled by his Lord and Master and the ancient forefathers.

Romans 12:17-19 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says Yahweh.

That vengeance belongs to God is a statement that is an echo of David’s words to Saul. If we recognize that only God is truly able to judge others, we relieve ourselves of that burden and responsibility, and allow him to do whatever is appropriate in regard to our situation. This takes a strong measure of faith on our part, as we may have an opportunity to “right” a wrong, or provide a retaliatory measure of what we would consider justice.

By staying our hand and allowing God to work, we may endure injustice for the moment but in the process God can be glorified. When others see that we are willing to suffer an injustice at the hands of others and yet not retaliate, we provide a strong witness to our faith that God is in control and that only he is the true judge.

When we choose to forego those opportunities and instead trust God for ultimate judgment, we also demonstrate our like-minded discipleship and faithfulness to our Lord and Messiah and can rightfully assume our place in a long line of historical and spiritual ancestors before us.


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

Now also on YouTube! 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.

The antidote against covetousness

We demonstrate God has our heart when we trust him by being sincerely generous with what he has given us.

Core of the Bible podcast #46 – The antidote against covetousness

Today we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to be vigilant in removing all unrighteous practices from our lives. In Luke 12, Yeshua cautions his followers to be mindful and vigilant that they are not to allow themselves to be overcome with covetousness. He stated it this way:

Luke 12:15 – He told the people, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having an abundance of material possessions.”

There are two main aspects to this verse, and I think there is value if we are to break it down and view these aspects separately.

In the first aspect, Yeshua focuses on the importance of alertness to the subtilty of greed. He says to “Be aware to keep yourselves from every kind of greed.” Let’s look at the meanings of some of the main words in the text to understand it a little more deeply.

What’s translated here as “be aware” conveys the idea of staring at something intently, or to clearly discern something. It is the idea of a guard in a watchtower scanning the horizon for any evidence of invaders. This takes full attention and careful observation. Greed and covetousness are concepts that can quickly overtake us if we are not keeping a watchful eye for their sometimes subtle influence.

To keep oneself from something implies a measure of  isolating oneself. It means being on guard to avoid bad influence, or with the idea of preserving that which is good. This involves intentional effort and in the context of believers, it involves obedience to the things of God.

Yeshua says believers are to exercise this kind of watchfulness and protection to avoid “all covetousness.” The word used for covetousness includes a host of negative characteristics such as greed and aggressive materialism, which we typically associate with covetousness. However, it also includes ideas of fraudulence, extortion, or desire for any kind of advantage. Essentially, this type of person usually will do just about anything to get what they want. All of these things fall into the covetousness category.

The Geneva Bible says: “By covetousness is meant that greedy desire to get, commonly causing hurt to other men.”

John Gill writes: “all sorts of covetousness, and every degree of it, which of all vices is to be avoided and guarded against, being the root of all evil; and as the Persic version renders it, is worse than all evil, and leads into it”

Matthew Poole expands on this idea further when he writes:

“The pleonexia, here translated covetousness or immoderate desire of having of this world’s goods, which discovers itself either by unrighteous acts in procuring, or uncharitable omissions for the keeping, of the things of this life. It is that filarguria, love of money, which the apostle determines to be the root of all evil. It is also discovered by a too much thoughtfulness [of] what we shall eat, drink, or put on, or by the too great meltings of our hearts into our bags of gold or silver. All these come under the notion of that covetousness which is here forbidden. In short, whatsoever it is that hindereth our contentment with the portion God giveth us upon our endeavours, though it amounts to no more than food and raiment, according to the apostle’s precept…”

He then wisely refers us to a familiar passage in Paul’s letter to Timothy, and also the book of Hebrews:

1 Timothy 6:6-10 – But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.

Now that we have defined what this covetousness is that we should constantly be on guard against, Yeshua then focuses on why this intense level of scrutiny is necessary. He then says, “Life is not about having an abundance of material possessions.”

According to Yeshua, life is not found in the abundance of ones material things. Having an abundance literally means to “superabound;” that is, to not only have enough to meet ones needs, but well beyond.

In the words of John Gill: “a man’s natural life cannot be prolonged by all the good things of the world he is possessed of; they cannot prevent diseases nor death; nor do the comfort and happiness of life, lie in these things; which are either not enjoyed by them, but kept for the hurt of the owners of them, or are intemperately used, or some way or other imbittered to them, so that they have no peace nor pleasure in them: and a man’s spiritual life is neither had nor advantaged hereby, and much less is eternal life to be acquired by any of these things; which a man may have, and be lost for ever, as the following parable shows.”

As Gill mentions, Yeshua then tells a parable to explain the pointlessness of the common perspective that most people have.

Luke 12:16-21 – Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. “He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? “I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. “Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared ​– ​whose will they be? ‘ “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

I think most of us instinctively know this to be true, but it doesn’t always stop us from desiring more, whether it is more things to possess or more power and authority or advantage over others.

Now I believe a significant caution is necessary here in saying that many commentators and preachers will use this parable and teaching to admonish those who are rich, or those who are being prudent in regards to their income and assets, but is that the true meaning of what Yeshua is teaching us here? Is he trying to say it is better to be poor than to be rich?

Here are a few examples of how commentators will typically view the meaning of this parable of Yeshua regarding the man who built bigger barns for himself:

Albert Barnes: “The passage, then, means: Be not anxious about obtaining wealth, for, however much you may obtain, it will not prolong your life. “That” depends on the will of God, and it requires something besides wealth to make us ready to meet him.”

Hermann Olshausen says that there are two propositions blended together: “Life consists not in superfluity” (the true life), and “nothing spiritual can proceed from earthly possessions.”

Heinrich Ewald says: “If man has not from his external wealth in general what can be rightly called his life, he has it not, or rather he has it still less by the fact that this, his external wealth, increases by his appeasing his covetousness.”

Matthew Poole writes: “The poor are as merry, and many times more satisfied, more healthy, and at more ease, than those that have abundance. It is a golden sentence, which deserves to be engraven in every soul.”

These great commentators from the past are drawing out many useful and helpful maxims and ideals that we can truly benefit from. But as Luke is using this parable for a specific purpose, it would serve us well to determine what he is trying to emphasize in Yeshua’s teaching.

On the surface, this parable appears to teach that saving up for an uncertain future is to no avail, as we cannot have any certainty of the length of our lives. While this is certainly true, I believe the real essence of the parable, based on the teaching of Yeshua that it is meant to illustrate (that of the vigilance needed in avoiding greed) is summed up in the last sentence: “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Notice, it is not the storing up of the treasure that is the issue, but storing up treasure for oneself, that is, for one’s own ease and comfort, without being rich toward God.

And herein I believe is the real essence of what Yeshua is teaching us: the antidote for greed and selfish advantage is not necessarily being poor, but it is being rich toward God. This then begs the question, how can one be rich toward God? How are we to abound and exhibit wealth toward God?

In Luke’s telling of the story, here Yeshua goes right into the teaching of seeking first the kingdom and trusting God’s provision and not relying on our own. This is another indication of the intended meaning that I believe Luke is highlighting in this passage, and which he now has Yeshua illustrating from this complementary perspective of the kingdom.

Luke 12:22-34 – “Then he said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; or about the body, what you will wear. “For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. “Consider the ravens: They don’t sow or reap; they don’t have a storeroom or a barn; yet God feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than the birds? “Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? “If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest? “Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. “If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you ​– ​you of little faith? “Don’t strive for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. “For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

If one simply stores up treasure for oneself, the result can be as uncertain as the man in the parable experienced. He spent time, effort, and money to build bigger barns to hold all of the stuff he simply wanted to use for his own purposes. However, if one seeks first the kingdom, God’s provision will be sufficient, and those things that a person might have been storing up for themself can then be used to also help those who are in need. In this way, by being generous with those who are in need, according to Yeshua, people can store up true treasure, real treasure in heaven.

Luke 12:31, 33-34 – “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. … Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

A desire to have an abundance of wealth or material possessions is, for most people, a desire for security in life. Whether it’s financial savings plans, 401K retirement plans, or winning the lottery, we desire to have an assured future. If we know we have more than enough for the moment, then our ongoing provision is accounted for. Yeshua provides the reasoning behind why this should not be our primary focus in life.

First of all, we may work hard to save for our future, only to have our life end prematurely (from our perspective), and who would then be the recipient of everything we had worked so hard to attain? Was all that work and time spent collecting all of that wealth really the best use of our resources while we lived?

Additionally, it does not allow us to be rich towards God. If God blesses us, we should be faithful in using those material blessings to bless others, as he has done with us. This is how the child honors the Father and demonstrates their true spiritual lineage; by becoming like him.

Further, one more final and important point regarding our vigilance against covetousness in our lives, the apostle Paul provides a stern warning regarding covetousness to the believers in Colosse:

Colossians 3:5 – Put to death, therefore, whatever is worldly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Greed, the desire for more and more material things for personal security and satisfaction, is idolatry. This must be put to death, a term of finality; there is no middle ground. We need to be vigilant in removing all unrighteous practices from our lives, and idolatry is the primary indicator of rebellion against God. When we seek to trust our provision (which we can see) more than our Provider (whom we cannot see), then we have fallen prey to idolatry.

God promises to meet our needs, not our wants, but in so doing, he instructs us that we should demonstrate generosity with others out of respect for his care for us. If you really desire to have a godly abundance, then rather than being an idolater, be an abundant giver.

Luke 6:38 – “Give, and you will receive. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your pocket.”

This is not meant to teach us that we can get more earthly possessions for ourselves by giving to others, which is the basis of the prosperity gospel. But it is the representation that the large quantity that is placed in our account will be the heavenly treasure, the true wealth that only God can give. That is the wealth that will not ever be lost, as Yeshua taught: “an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

God wants our hearts, and when we trust him by being sincerely generous with what he has given us, rather than storing up everything for our own purposes, we will gain true wealth within his purpose for all eternity.


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.

The necessity of faith in having a good conscience

Sincerity before God provides confidence in actions.

1 Timothy 1:5 – Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

The idea of conscience is an interesting concept that can become a safeguard in our own journey of faith. The Greek underlying term can be translated literally as “co-perception,” this idea of some sort of conscious agreement within oneself to certain standards. It is this internal agreement which provides confidence of correctness in spiritual understanding.

2 Corinthians 1:12 – Indeed, this is our boast: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with godly sincerity and purity, not by human wisdom but by God’s grace.

According to Scripture, the conscience is not something completely constrained to human wisdom, but somehow sits as an arbiter of acceptability when it comes to matters of right action. It is appealed to as a standard, yet it is a standard that can be damaged or disregarded when not combined with faith in God.

Titus 1:15 – …to those who are defiled and nonbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled.
1 Timothy 1:19 – …[have] faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have shipwrecked their faith.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 – …some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of other gods; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

However, when nourished on biblical principles and combined with faith in God, the conscience can serve as a helper along the path of navigating right and wrong actions. Our goal should be to encourage righteous actions by maintaining clear, faith-filled consciences in the sight of God and men.

Hebrews 13:18 – Pray for us, for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything.
Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see 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! 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.

True compassion is not hypocritical

Our lives of faith should be based on genuine care and concern for others to meet their needs.

Matthew 6:2 – When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do–blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.

We live in an age where everything we do gets posted online, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat, our family moments, and where we spend our vacations. We have become so accustomed to “sharing” everything we do, that sometimes even our good acts of helping others get brought into the limelight of social media, as well.

Yeshua is very particular about ensuring that if we are helping others, we are doing so from a genuine concern for their welfare, not for the opportunity to appear to others as being generous. He states this privacy in an unusual way, saying that the left hand shouldn’t even know what the right hand is doing. This is a hyperbolic way of stating how the privacy of our acts of charity to others should be viewed.

When we do things for others expecting to get rewarded for it in some way, whether from our social group or from God, then the act loses its honest intent. Suddenly we are simply doing things for our own benefit, and not truly for the benefit of others. At its root, this is hypocrisy.

Yeshua had no kind words to say about hypocrisy:

Matthew 6:5 – “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.
Matthew 6:16 – “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.
Matthew 23:23 – “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

The apostle Peter, following his Messiah’s lead, includes hypocrisy in a list of evil behaviors that believers should be done with.

1 Peter 2:1 – So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.

Our lives of faith should be based on genuine care and concern for others to meet their needs, not out of a selfish desire to appear righteous to others. Be sure to always check motives when you are in a position to help someone else, and that you are doing so out of a sincere desire to love and help them in their distress, not to benefit yourself.


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.

Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments.

Core of the Bible podcast #45 – Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Today we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how maintaining one’s integrity and righteousness through severe persecution is a characteristic that God honors. One who faithfully endures is considered blessed by God.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 5:10 -Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments. In our day, the concept of persecution has been unfortunately trivialized into essentially any notion of being ridiculed or spoken out against. However, in biblical terms, the concept of persecution conveys the act of having to flee from those who are intent on injuring or even killing those who have opposing viewpoints. That’s a much different emphasis than we see today.

To illustrate this, the apostle Paul recounts to Timothy some of the persecution he endured during his missionary journeys:

2 Timothy 3:10-11 – But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.

Here he mentions three towns in which he specifically suffered persecution and suffering: Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Interestingly, we have these accounts preserved for us in the book of Acts, so let’s review them to get a better idea of how Paul views the topic of persecution.

Acts 13:43-46, 50 – After the synagogue [in Antioch] had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and urging them to continue in the grace of God. The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. … But the Jews incited the prominent God-fearing women and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district.

Here it doesn’t say what the specific persecution was except to say that Paul’s detractors rallied enough support to have him physically expelled from their district. He was essentially run out of town.

Iconium

Acts 14:1-2, 5-6 – In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue, as usual, and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. … When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat and stone them, they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside.

In this instance, Paul and those with him found out ahead of time of a plan that the Jews had rallied in a violent rush with anyone who would side with them to mistreat them (which literally means to exercise violence) and to stone them. Once again, they found out just in time and were forced out of town at the incitement of mob violence against them.

Lystra

Acts 14:8-12 – In Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth. He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet! ” And he jumped up and began to walk around. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form! ” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

They then began to preach to the crowds, denying that they were gods and that they were only men.

Acts 14:18-20 – Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them. Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium [the two towns which had expelled them], and when they won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. After the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Here in Lystra, we see his persecutors finally caught up with him and stoned him until they thought he was dead. Some commentators think Paul actually did die here and the disciples prayed and he was brought back to life, but the text doesn’t explicitly say so. Either way, he was left for dead which shows the violence of the stoning, and yet he miraculously recovered enough to get back up and make it to the next town.

Recounting these experiences with Timothy, he writes:

2 Timothy 3:12 – What persecutions I endured ​– ​and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

FB Meyer in his commentary on this passage writes:

“Christian piety cannot continue without persecution, because the world is hostile to the kingdom of God… “

And then he cites some of these passages as examples:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

Matthew 10:21-23 – “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. “You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.

So we see persecution was predicted by Messiah, and was to be expected by believers who were holding to the integrity of their righteousness and the gospel of the kingdom.

Albert Barnes

Paul takes occasion from the reference to his own persecutions, to say that his case was not unique. It was the common lot of all who endeavored to serve their Redeemer faithfully; and Timothy himself, therefore, must not hope to escape from it. The apostle had a particular reference, doubtless, to his own times; but he has put his remark into the most general form, as applicable to all periods. It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians – who live as the Saviour did – and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.

This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage on account of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution. Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Saviour did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship. These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution. It follows from this:

(1) that they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.

(2) they who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted. Yet,

(3) if we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Matthew 5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.

(4) let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.

Matthew 10:38-39 – “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.


In denouncing the corruption of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua foretold the horrendous actions they would perform on the “prophets, wise men, and scribes” that would be sent to continue to warn them of their wickedness:

Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation. – Matthew 23:34-36

He also warned his followers that they would experience these things in standing for the truth of his words:

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. – Luke 21:12

History bears out that this is exactly what happened, and believers were hunted and rooted out of synagogues for believing in Messiah. They were scourged, stoned, imprisoned, and killed for maintaining the integrity of their faith. These actions, according to the teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, means they were blessed by God for maintaining their integrity and righteousness in the face of the most intense persecution, and they were then inheritors of the kingdom of God.

Some of you may be familiar with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a work that was produced in the middle ages detailing the gruesome torture that many professing Protestants suffered at the hands of the Catholic Inquisitors in England and Scotland at that time. As shocking as some of the descriptions of the methods of torture are, it is even more sobering to consider how these practitioners could possibly be so exceedingly cruel to other humans.

This is a far cry from those today who claim persecution because of receiving negative comments on social media, or having others simply disagree with their views and call them names. While maintaining our integrity is still just as valuable in those situations, to claim those mere inconveniences as persecution is dishonoring our spiritual forebears who quite literally put their lives and the lives of their family members, their very daily existence, at risk because of their views of Messiah.

In that first century, we see that early believers suffered many risks to life and dangers, some of which are detailed for us within the pages of Scripture itself. Here are a few examples.

Peter and John put in prison

Acts 4:1-3 – While they [Peter and John] were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, because they were annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua the resurrection of the dead. So they seized them and took them into custody until the next day since it was already evening.

Acts 5:17-21, 25-26, 28-29, 40-41 – Then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with him, who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life.” Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

… Someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. … “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. … After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Yeshua and released them. Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.

Stephen

After denouncing the Jewish council of their hard-heartedness toward the truth of God, the account states that the disciple Stephen was literally stoned to death.

Acts 7:55-60 – Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God. He said, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! ” They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he called out: “Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit! ” He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Then in the following chapter, we read:

Acts 8:1-3 – Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the congregation in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him. Saul, however, was ravaging the congregation. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.

Acts 12:1-3 – About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the congregation, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

So far we have prison, flogging, and stoning to death, disciples being chased out of their homes, and execution. The record goes on to list other mob actions, imprisonments and trials. In fact, there is almost no chapter in the book of Acts where some type of persecution is NOT taking place. This is a sobering thought and to my way of thinking, one that is not emphasized enough in contemporary Bible teaching.

Paul and his companions lived out this very mantra he related to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 – …all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

It may seem overwhelming and slightly depressing to recognize that persecution should be considered routine for the believer. However, it needs to be noted that many positive events resulted due to the persecutions they endured. The disciples were noted as joining in prayer, being filled with the Spirit, creating unity and having a positive witness. There was spreading of the gospel, people coming to Messiah, and larger witnesses to the ruling authorities of the power of God. When they were persecuted, the disciples continued to preach and to witness to others.

But in the eyes of God, the persecution was to be expected, and it’s still ok today when it happens. It had happened to the faithful who had preceded the disciples, as outlined in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:35-39 – Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised…

If it was only together with the believers in Messiah that these saints received their inheritance, then how much more can we be motivated to withstand the resistance we face today? Light and darkness cannot coexist in the same space, so it’s not unreasonable to conclude that those who don’t want to be exposed will tend to resist. Remember the words of Yeshua that I shared earlier:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

While there are areas of the world where legitimate persecution for the kingdom still exists, we can be truly thankful to God that in free societies our voices can be heard, and our lives are not daily in jeopardy for believing in, and sharing the light of, his Messiah.

This should motivate us all the more to demonstrate integrity by maintaining the truth of our faith in all of our words and actions, and in our relationships and interactions with those around us. Doing so can result in many of the positive aspects of those persecutions, the unity, witness to others and expansion of the kingdom coming to pass in each and every generation.


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

Trusting God above the stubborn idolatry of our own hearts

Those who trust in Yahweh become a refreshment and a resource for others, continuing to produce fruit when no other fruit is to be found.

Jeremiah 17:5-6 – This is what Yahweh says: Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind. He makes human flesh his strength, and his heart turns from Yahweh. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives.

This judgment from God described by Jeremiah is being leveled against Judah in the context of their continual unfaithfulness with idolatry.

Jeremiah 16:10-13 – “When you tell these people all these things, they will say to you, ‘Why has Yahweh declared all this terrible disaster against us? What is our iniquity? What is our sin that we have committed against Yahweh our God? ‘ “Then you will answer them, ‘Because your fathers abandoned me ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration ​– ​and followed other gods, served them, and bowed in worship to them. Indeed, they abandoned me and did not keep my instruction. “You did more evil than your fathers. Look, each one of you was following the stubbornness of his evil heart, not obeying me. “So I will hurl you from this land into a land that you and your fathers are not familiar with. There you will worship other gods both day and night, for I will not grant you grace.’

Jeremiah tells them “each one of you was following the stubbornness of his evil heart, not obeying [Yahweh].” At its core, this is what idolatry is. What I find interesting in this passage is that this stubbornness of the evil heart is extended to “the person who trusts in mankind. He makes human flesh his strength, and his heart turns from Yahweh,” (v. 5-6). Idolatry is not always just the worship of false gods, but false humans.

Ancient literature surrounding the Bible conveys that the root of idolatry began when people began “honoring” images of humans and human leaders, not just pagan gods (Wisdom of Solomon 14:12-31). All of this blended together over time to become a mash-up of deities and exalted humans which people began to trust more than the true God of the universe.

This gross idolatry of Judah is an example for us today. People may say, “We don’t worship idols today,” yet, how we look to our leaders and how much we trust them to solve the world’s problems can easily become idolatrous for us. This may be even more prevalent now than in the time of ancient Judah, as exposure to these idols assault us through the availability of 24/7 online media. In the stubbornness of our evil hearts, just like ancient Judah, we choose to trust in mankind, “turning our hearts from Yahweh.”

However, the relief in all of this is contained within the blessing contained within Jeremiah’s stern admonitions and curse against the idolatry of the day. The curse against stubbornness of idolatry is contrasted with the blessing of trusting in Yahweh.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – The person who trusts in Yahweh, whose confidence indeed is Yahweh, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.

Notice the blessings that come with truly trusting in Yahweh, and not the stubbornness of our evil hearts by looking to false gods and humans. There is no fear or worry of future calamity, the source of nourishment remains strong, even when all else may be drying up around us. Those who trust in Yahweh become a refreshment and a resource for others, continuing to produce fruit when no other fruit is to be found.

Yeshua encouraged his listeners to place their trust in Yahweh by believing in him.

John 12:44, 49 – Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in me believes not in me, but in him who sent me. … “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a command to say everything I have said.

If we can trust in Yahweh by trusting in the words of Yeshua, then we have our renewed objectives away from the idolatry that can so easily consume us. When we remove our stubborn focus off of the kingdoms of men and place it on the kingdom of God, we can rest confidently and without concern in the care of the Almighty.

Matthew 6:33-34 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


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

Now also on YouTube! 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.

Being clothed with the Spirit of God

Our being set apart by God is not only for our benefit, but so that others can see how God’s standards are possible to live out in this life.

In overcoming the sins of the flesh, the apostle Paul made use of an interesting term in order to describe what this process was like. To his way of thinking, the believer’s life was to be clothed with the Messiah, as if the righteous example and deeds of the Messiah were something to be put on, like you might put on a robe or suit of armor.

Romans 13:12-14 – The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Yeshua Messiah, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.

This thinking is likely the result of Yeshua’s teaching of the empowerment of the holy Spirit. In this respect, the empowerment of the Spirit of God was something that occurred to the individual from outside of themselves; it was bestowed upon them from God.

Luke 24:49 – “And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

This event, of course, was the day of Pentecost that first early summer after Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection. Yeshua describes it as being clothed with power from on high (that is, from God). We see this event being described in the book of Acts:

Acts 2:1-4 – When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.

Paul captures this same imagery and uses it to describe the believers’ unity they have because of this operation of God in their lives.

Galatians 3:26-28 – for through faith you are all sons of God in Messiah Yeshua. For those of you who were baptized into Messiah have been clothed with Messiah. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.

This operation of God has set them apart in holiness. They are now a collective of individuals who have specific purpose in growing the Kingdom of God. But they can only do this as they continue to walk in this holiness, this set-apartness.

So Paul then takes this imagery of being clothed with power from on high and carries the metaphor into the practical aspects of overcoming sin in their lives.

Ephesians 4:20-24 – But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new man, created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

He encourages the believers to rely on that empowerment they have received as the tool by which their lives will be changed.

Ephesians 6:10-11 – Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.

Colossians 3:9-10, 12-14 – Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with its practices and have put on the new, the one being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. … Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all these is the love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

These qualities and practices he is urging them to “put on” are the qualities and practices evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

Romans 8:5, 12-14 – For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. … So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.

The full context of Romans 8:1-17 is all about living by the empowering of God’s Spirit to overcome the sinful practices that have separated them from God. When they do so, Paul says, they demonstrate they are truly God’s children. God’s children walk in holiness or set-apartness because they are yielding obediently to God’s leading and they are empowered by God to do so.

In a similar way, when we learn to rely on God’s Spirit to overcome the sinful works of the flesh, we demonstrate that we are God’s children to a world that needs to know him. Our being set apart by God is not only for our benefit, but so that others can see how God’s standards are possible to live out in this life. Those who are compelled by our walk of obedience can then also experience this work in their lives and are then empowered to influence others. In this way, each generation carries forward the heritage of faith in Messiah until it ultimately fills the earth.


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