You become like what you worship

This principle applies to people of all nations.

Within the revelation provided to the apostle John, we get a glimpse of a scene in heaven with the saints extolling the majesty and holiness of the one true God.

Revelation 15:2-4 – And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed.”

In this scene, those who had been brought through the trials of the tribulation predicted by Messiah now stand before the throne of God, worshiping him. They describe him as the one who alone is holy because of his “amazing deeds” and “judgments” which had been revealed.

The outworking of these judgments within the Revelation are a demonstration of God’s holiness, his set-apartness from all other gods. He alone could rightfully carry out the actions that are represented there because it had all come to pass due to the failure of his people to honor him.

There is a principle revealed throughout the Bible that ties the holiness of believers to their worship of the one true God. Just like the saying that relates “you are what you eat,” the biblical principle is “you become like the one you worship.”

1 Kings 11:2 – “Of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, You shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods…”

The apostle John admonishes his audience to reject the false gods of this world.

1 John 2:16 – For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

If we worship the false gods of this world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, we will become consumed with them in our daily lives. This is why the Bible in so many different ways condemns these things, from the Ten Commandments through the Sermon on the Mount. This is why this song in Revelation can be titled “the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.”

However, if we worship the one true God, since he is holy and set apart, we become holy and set apart. This is not only the result of our worship, but is a commandment which becomes a statement of fact of the reality of our lives:

Leviticus 20:26 – And you shall be holy unto me: for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.

Romans 11:16 – For if the first-fruit is holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Our holiness is a derived holiness from God, it is not something we manufacture or invent within ourselves as if it were some sort of way that we could make up to try to please him. Our holiness becomes evident only when we produce fruit in keeping with his commandments because we are single-mindedly focused on pleasing him. Our devotion to him drives the holiness in our lives.

And the holiness in our lives drives the nations to worship him, also. As they see the separateness of our lives that are devoted to him, they learn of his deeds that he has performed on behalf of his people. We can then say with the saints in heaven, “Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?”

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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.

Becoming a vessel of honor

All believers are charged with purging worldliness from our lives.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honor, and some unto dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, set apart, suitable for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work.”

Here in Paul’s instructions to Timothy, he shares an illustration to highlight for Timothy how he should fashion his routine behavior. He uses the example of different types of utensils or cups in a wealthy household as being made of different materials for different purposes. Those made of gold and silver would be used for special occasions of honor. Those made of wood and clay were for more common use. Through this illustration, Paul encourages Timothy to “purge himself from these.” What are “these” that Timothy is to purge himself from?

In the context of the passage, there are several different negative qualities that are mentioned. In v. 4, Paul says, “No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer.” This intimates how believers should be set apart from participating in the mundane events that others get caught up in on a regular basis.

To make this point more apparent, Paul narrows the definition of what Timothy is to avoid as “quarreling over words.” Strong’s definition clarifies this as “to wrangle about trifling and empty matters.” In v. 16 Paul pulls even finer clarity on the concept by encouraging Timothy to “[a]void worldly and empty speech, since those who engage in it will produce even more godlessness…” The worldly aspect of this type of speech is defined in the Greek as being related to a threshold that one steps over, as a common entrance that is trodden under foot without care or concern. Anyone can cross that threshold into worldly speculation over the latest controversies. And when one does so, it produces only more irreverence for the things of God, more impiety and godlessness. For our generation, think of the latest social media trending topics, or political controversy du jour.

This is a consistent theme with Paul, as in his first letter to Timothy he had used the same type of language in his instruction there: “But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths,” (1 Timothy 4:7).

To counter all of this empty and worldly speculative nonsense, Paul says in that place, “Rather, train yourself in godliness.” Here in his second letter, he expands on what this training in godliness is by saying, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth,” (v. 15).

Here we see that diligent training in the word of truth is the counter to the empty and speculative nonsense that the world engages in on a daily basis. Paul is charging Timothy, as a mature believer who is responsible for leading others, to do his best to engage deeply with the word of truth. He encourages him to make himself a vessel of silver or gold that becomes set apart for God’s use because it is special or unique, and not simply something that is subject to common use like everyone else.

All of this is just another way that the apostle is encouraging Timothy to demonstrate holiness in his lifestyle, to be set apart from the commonality and ordinariness that so many others simply wallow in with little thought of anything that could be godly or redemptive. According to Paul, this is something that the believers must do for themselves, to be trained in the word of truth so thoroughly that there would be no need to be ashamed before the master.

In the same way, it is up to us to avoid becoming entangled in worldly affairs, wrangling over trifling, empty matters and silly myths. We are the ones entrusted with the word of truth, and it is up to us to separate ourselves in order to faithfully represent God’s word of truth to others, and so become the vessels of silver and gold that God can use in special ways for his unique and holy purposes.


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.

Holiness as defined by the world vs. the Bible

Which standards will we use?

In the Bible, believers are commanded to be holy, but in our current culture there are popular notions and definitions of what it means to be holy that may lead to some misguided understandings of how that quality applies specifically to believers.

Looking at some online dictionaries have provided some of these popular definitions of the word holy.

  1. Specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose, such as holy ground.

This definition implies that things or places can be designated as holy by some sanctioned religious authority. There have been holy objects throughout the history of Israel; namely, the tabernacle or temple and furnishings and many articles that were for exclusive use by the priests, including some of their garments. However, with the final destruction of the temple in AD 70, there no longer exists an earthly priesthood or any one place or object which is holier than any other.

John 4:21, 23 – Yeshua told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. … “But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him.

  1. Entitled to worship or veneration as or as if sacred: a holy relic.

This definition describes some things as being inherently holy and worthy of worship. Nowhere does the Bible condone the veneration of created objects. In fact, idolatry through worshiping objects was the primary downfall of the nation of Israel throughout their history.

Exodus 20:4-5 – Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them…

  1. Dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion: a holy man.

This is a pretty close approximation to a Biblical definition, as being holy means to be set apart for use exclusively by God. However, the Kingdom of God as defined in God’s Word is the only universal and eternal community of believers, not any one church or denomination. To be devoted to one church or denomination can lead to being bound to traditions of men over the Word of God.

Acts 5:27-29 – After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin, and the high priest asked, “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? … Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”

  1. Having a spiritually pure quality: morally and spiritually excellent; a holy love for others.

This is a good definition, but when used in a universal sense can be frustrated by differing standards of moral excellence. The standards of moral and spiritual excellence are defined by God in his Word, not by men. It is exemplified as having a pure and blameless heart according to the instruction of God by loving God and loving others as one would love oneself.

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Mark 12:30-31 – “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”

When we understand that being holy is not confined to a place or a thing but is the active response of a willing heart to the call and purpose of God according to his Word, we are more likely to be led by his Spirit than beholden to the dictates of men or their traditions. To be set apart by God for his purpose in this world then provides the pure motivation and selfless actions for the ongoing expansion of the timeless Kingdom of God throughout the world.


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.

Contemplating the majesty of God sets believers apart

Be holy, because he is holy.

Core of the Bible podcast #61 – Contemplating the majesty of God sets believers apart

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how our holiness or being set apart is derived from our contemplation of the One who is uniquely holy and set apart.

In Psalm 29, David provides a poetic allegory of a thunderstorm in order to consider the holiness and majesty of God.

Psalm 29:2 – “Give to Yahweh the glory his name deserves. Worship Yahweh in his holy splendor.”

Within this psalm is a description of God’s awe-inspiring power displayed in the majestic outworking of a tempest. He is extolled in the demonstration of the power of a mighty storm. In this psalm, David uses a repeated phrase which is typically translated as “the voice of Yahweh.”

Psalm 29:4  – “the voice of Yahweh in power, the voice of Yahweh in splendor.”

However, the word that is brought out in English as voice (the Hebrew word qol) can mean sound or noise, as well. Here’s an example from Exodus:

Exodus 19:16 – On the third day, when morning came, there was thunder [qol] and lightning, a thick cloud on the mountain, and a very loud trumpet sound [qol], so that all the people in the camp shuddered.

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible relates the following regarding the voice of Yahweh as used in this psalm:

“The voice of the Lord – The voice of Yahweh. There can be no doubt that the expression here, which is seven times repeated in the psalm, “the voice of Jehovah,” refers to thunder; and no one can fail to see the appropriateness of the expression. In heavy thunder it seems as if God spake. It comes from above. It fills us with awe. We know, indeed, that thunder as well as the other phenomena in the world, is produced by what are called “natural causes;” that there is no miracle in thunder; and that really God does not “speak” anymore in the thunder than he does in the sighing of the breeze or in the gurgling of the rivulet; but:

(a) He seems more impressively to speak to people in the thunder; and

(b) He may not improperly be regarded as speaking alike in the thunder, in the sighing of the breeze, and in the gurgling stream.

In each and all of these ways God is addressing men; in each and all there are lessons of great value conveyed, as if by His own voice, respecting His own existence and character.”

The idea that the voice of Yahweh described in this psalm is a thunderous sound has to do with its depiction throughout each of the various verses:

The voice of Yahweh breaks the cedars; Yahweh shatters the cedars of Lebanon.

The voice of Yahweh flashes flames of fire.

The voice of Yahweh shakes the wilderness; Yahweh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of Yahweh makes the deer give birth and strips the woodlands bare.

All of these things can be said to be the result of a powerful thunder and lightning storm: shattering of trees; flashing light and fire; shaking of the wilderness; stripping the woodlands bare. Making the deer give birth can imply that the frightened deer goes into labor, but it also implies that the thunderous voice of God rumbles through the deserted wilderness places where deer prefer to separate themselves when giving birth.

If you’ve ever been through a close violent thunderstorm, I’m sure you can recall how terrifyingly loud and unnerving the noise and commotion of the wind and rain can be. If you were in an open and unprotected area when experiencing a large storm, I’m certain you can recall how vulnerable and frail you may have felt. The Psalmist here is using this type of imagery as a way of illustrating the power and majesty of God, and how incredibly small and unshielded we are from the elements of this world; how much more does that apply to us spiritually.

Barnes concludes:

“In each and all of these ways God is addressing men; in each and all there are lessons of great value conveyed, as if by His own voice, respecting His own existence and character. Those which are addressed to us particularly in thunder, pertain to His power, His majesty, His greatness; to our own weakness, feebleness, dependence; to the ease with which He could take us away, and to the importance of being prepared to stand before such a God.”

To wander into the realm of God is to be vulnerable and exposed to the power and majesty of the One who is beyond all comprehension. If the power of a single storm on earth can instill fear into the stoutest of hearts, how much more the all-powerful presence of the Almighty God?


These things are not necessarily meant to say that God is purposefully causing these individual occurrences to happen; he certainly could if he chose to. But the emphasis in this psalm is that those wonders and powers of nature demonstrate how all-powerful God really is simply because he created them in the first place. Because of this, it is easy for people to get God mixed up with his Creation.

For example, pantheism says that God is in everything, and therefore everything is God. Wikipedia has a reasonable working definition of pantheism that states:

“Pantheism is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing, immanent God. All forms of reality may then be considered either modes of that Being, or identical with it. Some hold that pantheism is a non-religious philosophical position. To them, pantheism is the view that the Universe (in the sense of the totality of all existence) and God are identical.”

A common popular trope today is to assign “the universe” as an all-present, all-knowing force that influences the lives of people. This is typically used in kind of an ironic rather than serious fashion. However, there are some who believe that speaking something into the universe will bring an echo of meaning or direction back into their lives. Others believe when some notable event occurs, that the universe has pointed them in a direction or made a choice for them. Most people today engage with this type of thinking not realizing that this is really a form of pantheism.

By contrast, in Hebrew thought, God is not equated with the Creation, but is evidenced in and through his Creation. He can do with it as he wills, using it to accomplish his purposes as he sees fit. For example, he can cause a flood or he can create a drought; he can make a storm appear out of nowhere or he can calm the storm.

But beyond just manipulating the natural order, the God of the Bible is not limited by his Creation; he can cause non-linear things (according to the parameters of our understanding of physics) to occur. He can cause the sun and moon to stand still for a whole day (Joshua 10), or the sun to appear to go backwards (2 Kings 20). He can create a dry path through the depths of a sea in one night (Exodus 14), or cause someone who has died to live again (1 Kings 17, Luke 7, John 11). These are things that go against the natural order of things, and therefore demonstrate that God’s nature is transcendent to this Creation; he is greater than just the sum totality of all of its parts.  Therefore the God of the Bible is greater and more powerful than whatever god is assigned to the pantheistic philosophy of the created universe.

To consider the vastness of God’s power and ability, one needs only to look beyond the created order of even this world. In some psalms attributed to David, he meditates on the expanse of the heavens and the heavenly bodies that are evident there. He explains how this universality of God’s handiwork is evident in all nations under the heavens.

Psalm 19:1-4 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge.  There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard.  Their message has gone out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Because this aspect of God’s nature is evident everywhere, David ponders man’s role in light of his transcendent nature.

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place,  what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?”

David’s conclusion is that viewing the vastness of God’s creation should cause us to be humbled in view of our limited existence and scope of influence.

Our modern astronomical telescopes have transformed how we look at the universe outside of the environs of the earth. We now have space telescopes that can image the farthest reaches of the visible universe. I am fascinated with these types of pictures, and I even have a computer wallpaper that is an image of a spiral galaxy. When I look at such an image depicting a self-contained galaxy with its millions of stars and planets, and knowing that the earth is only one tiny speck in our own galaxy, my mind is immediately humbled to whatever my personal circumstances might be, as this perspective reminds me of how small and finite my view of reality typically is.

In a similar way, when I come to the Bible and explore its depths, I am likewise placed in a position of humility when I consider the magnitude of spiritual revelation that God has provided us in his Word. That God has revealed himself as a being greater than the universe itself is boggling to the mind, and yet necessary for him to demonstrate who he is. His being is so high above all that exists, he is set apart from his Creation; yet he has chosen to maintain a dynamic and ongoing relationship with those whom he has created within that order of Creation that we call the universe.

Our own holiness, or separation from the world, is derived from our perspective and meditation of God as the Creator of all. In our current generation, amidst a people who have no recognition of any god, or who are self-absorbed in the creations of their own making, believers stand apart in our honoring of the one true God of the universe. In so doing, we ourselves become set apart.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

We must recognize that our holiness is derived from his holiness and majesty. If we lose sight of who he is, we become less set apart. Conversely, as we honor him and ascribe to him the glory that his name deserves, then we are elevated into a position of strength and purpose that rises far above our mundane existence.


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

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

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

The holiness of God’s people, then and now

God’s standards of holiness don’t change.

Leviticus 20:26 – You must be holy because I, Yahweh, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.

This admonition to holiness is set amidst the context of the practices of the nations of Canaan that Israel was displacing.

Leviticus 20:23 – “You must not follow the statutes of the nations I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and I abhorred them.

In the context of Leviticus 20, the “things” the nations were guilty of were the contaminations of idolatry (which included spiritism and child sacrifice), sexual immorality, and eating of unclean foods. Avoiding all of “these things” is what would set ancient Israel apart from the other nations; this is what would make them “holy.” This setting apart is the holiness that distinguished Israel as God’s people.

In consistent fashion, the holy Spirit of God led the first recorded council in Jerusalem to similar conclusions. As those among the nations were coming to faith in Messiah along with the scattered Jews and God-fearers in the synagogues, there were idolatrous practices being introduced into the community of believers, such as food offered to idols and cultural promiscuity. Paul and the other apostles deal with some of these issues in their epistles to various groups of believers. But the council, through the guidance of the holy Spirit, had issued a decisive template for the believing congregations to follow that was worded very similarly to the injunction of Moses to the ancient Israelites in remaining holy.

Acts 15:28-29 – “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision ​– ​and ours ​– ​not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements: “that you abstain from idolatrous offerings, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things. Farewell.”

As can be seen by these comparative texts, avoidance of practices associated with idolatry, sexual immorality and unclean foods have always been the earmarks of God’s people that set them apart from the other nations. Therefore, I believe these distinctions should in like fashion remain as the defining characteristics that demonstrate the holiness or set-apartness of God’s people even today.


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

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

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

The set apart fellowship of believers

It’s not where we meet but how we walk.

1 John 1:3 – “what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Yeshua the Anointed One.”

The apostle John makes it clear that the purpose of his epistle was to encourage faith in Yeshua and like-mindedness among those who would read and hear its message. He uses the word translated as fellowship four times in just this first chapter, so it must be important. Three times it is used in the context of having unity or like-mindedness with other believers, and once for unity of purpose with God.

We typically view fellowship as the common assembly of individuals in a congregation; the local fellowship of believers gathered together. But seeing how John uses the term here in these instances brings out this other aspect of meaning: unity of purpose and understanding.

The Greek word koinonia which is translated as fellowship can mean a shared contribution or participation (such as giving to the poor), or it can mean the specific share or portion that one has among a shared ideal (such as the sufferings or Messiah or the holy Spirit), or it can mean a shared unity around a common idea or purpose. This is the intent that John uses here in the opening verses of this epistle: the shared unity of purpose that believers have relating to a common understanding of God as the Father and Yeshua as the Anointed One of God.

This shared unity is what John is seeking to enjoin with those who were to hear the message of his epistle. Those who have a common understanding of God as a Father, of Yeshua as the Anointed Son of God, and who walk in the teachings of Yeshua have a common purpose; i.e., fellowship with one another. This does not mean that these believers have to all be in one location, just one mindset.

1 John 1:7 – If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This singular mindset is what creates the unity that allows believers to “walk in the light,” that is, to walk obediently according to the commands of God as communicated through the Anointed Yeshua. This is where our true fellowship lies, not just in a building once or twice a week. As we walk with God our purpose transcends any local assembly and we become participants in the set apart group known as the Kingdom of God in this world.


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.

Pleasing God through holy prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Remaining in the Way

The heritage of believers is a thread winding its way from Genesis to Messiah and beyond.

Core of the Bible podcast #54 – Remaining in the Way

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how the path of holiness, or the Way of holiness, is an intentional and purposeful path to walk.

Isaiah 35:8 – And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it—only those who walk in the Way—and fools will not stray onto it.

In the time that these words were written, what was called a highway was what we would consider today a well-trodden trail. Even thought it was little more than a wilderness trail, it was a definitive path that left no doubt as to the right way to go. Being on this trail brought with it a sense of confidence: all one had to do was to follow the trail to reach their destination.

The path of holiness is here called the Way. When one is on this path, one is separated from the rest of humanity that is choosing to follow its own way or its own desires.

Even today Jews are well acquainted with this Way of holiness that Isaiah spoke of. To them it is known as the Derech Hashem, the Way of the Lord, or the Way of Yahweh. Of course, no Jew would pronounce the name of God, so they have substituted instead the word Hashem which means the Name. The Derech Hashem is such a powerful metaphor, that Jewish literature abounds with this concept.

In the early 1700’s, a well-known rabbi by the name of Moshe Chayim Luzzatto penned a compilation of ideas as a type of systematic theology known as the Way of God, or the Derech Hashem. This has become a classic book in Jewish literature, much like Pilgrim’s Progress might be to Christians today. The Derech Hashem covers the nature of God, the nature of man, prophecy, the purpose and role of man and how one should conduct themself as a faithful Jew. This book also goes into detail regarding many man-made Jewish traditions and superstitious practices, some originating from the studies of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. However, it is nonetheless a compelling and vital insight into Jewish thought and tradition and how they came about.

Now reviewing this concept in the Bible, the Way is well-attested throughout, from the earliest beginnings in Genesis all the way through the NT writings. The Way of Yahweh is variously described as the way to the tree of life, the way of wisdom, the way of righteousness, and sometimes simply the Way.

Genesis 3:23-24 – So Yahweh God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.

Exodus 18:19-20 – “Now listen to me [Jethro speaking to Moses]; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to him. “Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them in the way they must walk to live and what they must do.

Exodus 32:7-8 – Yahweh spoke to Moses: “Go down at once! For your people you brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly. “They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them; they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, ‘Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ “

Deuteronomy 13:4-5 – “You must follow Yahweh your God and fear him. You must keep his commands and listen to him; you must worship him and remain faithful to him. “That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way Yahweh your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.

Job 28:23 – But God understands the way to wisdom, and he knows its location.

Psalm 25:8-9 – Yahweh is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Proverbs 2:20 – So follow the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the righteous.

Isaiah 48:17 – This is what Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says: I am Yahweh your God, who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you in the way you should go.

Isaiah 40:3 – A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of Yahweh [derech Yahweh] in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert

This famous verse, of course, is where the charting of the way of God crosses over into the NT writings, and one which we will follow more closely in just a moment.


As we began to explore, the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” was John the baptizer’s own evaluation of himself and his ministry in the wilderness when he was questioned by the Jewish officials from Jerusalem.

John 1:22-23 – “Who are you, then? ” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself? ” He [John] said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of Yahweh ​– ​just as Isaiah the prophet said.”

The ministry of John the baptizer had also been foretold by the prophet Malachi, one of the last prophets to speak to the Jews of second temple Judaism.

Malachi 3:1 – “See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in ​– ​see, he is coming,” says Yahweh of Armies.

The way was to be cleared, and this was John’s role: to warn and compel, to condemn and to provide deliverance to those who would be obedient to this Way. Therefore, Yeshua himself had also become to be identified with this Way that John had spoken of.

Matthew 22:15-16 – Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap him by what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You don’t care what anyone thinks nor do you show partiality.”

Even beyond the ministry of Yeshua and early in its growth among the Jewish believers of the first century, the believers in Messiah were identified with this growing sect of Judaism which became known as the Way. This was more likely conveyed as an ironic reference that was used of their detractors as a way of suggesting that these believers felt their way was the only true way to God. This could be similar to how we might use air quotes today around a phrase to mock someone’s pompous statement about themself. “Those believers of Yeshua who are part of ‘the Way’ think they have the true understanding of God’s Word.”

The true irony is that these believers actually were the continuation of the Way, the Derech Hashem, that had threaded itself all throughout the Scriptures, as we have seen. Their belief in the Messiah was the catalyst that caused the Remnant people of God to be separated for God’s purpose and ultimately spared from the judgment that was about to fall upon Jerusalem and the whole Judaic system of religious elitism and traditionalism.

That these early believers were called members of the Way is well documented throughout the book of Acts.

Acts 9:1-2 – Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Acts 18:24-25 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Yeshua, although he knew only John’s baptism.

Acts 19:9, 23 – But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. … About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.

Acts 24:14, 22 – “But I admit this to you: I worship the God of my ancestors according to the Way, which they call a sect, believing everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets. … Since Felix was well informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.”

So it can be seen that these early believers were being identified with this concept of the Way. To be honest, and maybe this is just me, I think it is a more meaningful moniker than the name “Christian” would be, since it demonstrates the continuity of the faith that has come down to us through the millennia since God originally called Abraham.

One of the most compelling reasons that believers became associated with this Way is that Yeshua, in no uncertain terms, promoted himself (that is, his teaching and his life) as the only Way to God the Father.

John 14:3-6 – “If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. “You know the way to where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way? ” Yeshua told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This exclusivity of the Way of the Messiah has been troubling to those from other faiths over the millennia, and is flat-out unnerving to the modern society where it is thought that “all paths lead to God.” Today it is sincerity to one’s own personal beliefs that is considered the only reasonable understanding of spirituality. However, this type of feral universalism is the very thing that the entire message of the Bible, not just this statement of Yeshua, rallies against.

Isaiah 45:5-6 – “I am Yahweh, and there is no other; there is no God but me. I will strengthen you, though you do not know me, “so that all may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is no one but me. I am Yahweh, and there is no other.

Nehemiah 9:6 – You, Yahweh, are the only God. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and all the stars of heaven worship you.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 – For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth ​– ​as there are many “gods” and many “lords” ​– ​ yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Yeshua Messiah. All things are through him, and we exist through him.

Ephesians 4:4-6 – There is one body and one Spirit ​– ​just as you were called to one hope at your calling ​– ​ one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Messiah Yeshua,

All throughout the Bible there is only one God, and all others are to be rejected. Therefore it makes perfect sense that there would be only one logical path that the Anointed One of that God, the Messiah, would direct us toward. Understanding this concept is one of the over-arching themes within the narrative of the Bible, and a reality that allows the kingdom of God to come alive within each generation since that time. Every believer in the Messiah is a demonstration that the kingdom of the one God is continuing to expand over time, with the goal that it will be fully realized among all the nations of the world.


Now that we have charted a brief history and context for the phrase “the Way” through the Old Testament, the ministries of John and Yeshua, and the early believers, let’s review the original verse in Isaiah that started us down this road once again to hopefully draw out some helpful conclusions for application.

Isaiah 35:8 – And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it—only those who walk in the Way—and fools will not stray onto it.

We have seen how historically this Way of Holiness has played out through faithful believers all through biblical history. But Isaiah focuses here on the holiness of this Way, the fact that it is set apart from all other ways that might also be out there.

The teaching of Messiah on the Narrow Way echoes this statement of Isaiah.

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

Once again, Yeshua defines the exclusivity of this Way, which points to its set-apartness from the routine paths and highways of the world. Those who travel this path are uniquely set apart for a specific purpose, the purpose of God in establishing his kingdom in this world.

Depending on which version of the Bible you may read, the last part of the verse in Isaiah 35:8 where it says “fools will not stray onto it” can be viewed in a couple of meaningful ways. In some versions, like the Berean Study Bible I have quoted here, it gives the impressions that the fool will not accidentally stray onto it. This would imply that the Way is intentional; one chooses to be on it and does not fall upon it by whim or chance. Psalm 25, as we have seen, states that one has to be shown, taught, or guided to the right Way, and does not stumble upon it on their own or by their own wisdom.

Psalm 25:8-9 – “Yahweh is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

This implies that being on the path is not something that we can take credit for ourselves, as if by our own volition, wisdom, and cunning we have somehow figured out the meaning of life.

There are also English versions of Isaiah 35:8 that provide a different shade of meaning to “fools will not stray onto it.” These renderings will say something along the lines of “even a fool will not stray from it.” This provides a different sense of meaning that the Way is so clearly defined that even if one is foolish they have the ability to remain on the path. This is also echoed in the teachings of Yeshua where he states that one can only enter the kingdom in the simplicity and humility of a child.

Matthew 18:3-4 – “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child ​– ​this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

If even a child can be shown the Way and be considered great within the kingdom, this carries the idea that once we are on that path, we have all the ability needed to remain faithfully traveling its length for the duration of our lives here on earth.

In either view, the Way is something that is distinct from where the rest of the world travels. As we have seen, this Way has a long and winding legacy through the faithful believers of the distant past, right down to our present day belief in the true God of the Bible through his Messiah, Yeshua. Being on this Way of holiness means that one is traveling within a way of life that is intentionally set apart for God’s purposes, and this Way can keep even our foolish inclinations in check.


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

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

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

The Torah of God done away?

Many of the same aspects still exist to this day among his people.

Ancient Israel had the privilege of being set apart from all other nations by a very significant factor, the Torah, or instruction, of God.

Deuteronomy 4:7-8: “For what great nation is there, that has a god so near to them, as Yahweh our God is whenever we call on him? What great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you today?”

In the 20th chapter of Leviticus, Moses is continuing to present specifics of God’s instruction to the people. In the midst of laws on sexual purity, food purity, and spiritual purity, God relates why these restrictions were significant.

Leviticus 20:26: “You shall be holy to me; for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

These purity laws, recognized as the wisdom of God, would be the things that set God’s people apart from the other nations.

Today, most believers consider these laws “done away,” and that believers in Messiah are no longer are required to follow them. But by doing so, they are removing the very thing that makes them holy, or set apart, from the surrounding nations.

Additionally, I find it odd that if you go to almost any traditional Christian congregation today, you will find that even if they maintain that the law was “done away,” their congregational culture is still based on some of these same conservative imperatives of sexual purity, healthy eating, and spiritual purity.

Things like purity rings are endorsed for teens and singles, along with encouraging couples to maintain the sanctity of their marriages. Divorce is still to be avoided through various types of marriage counseling. Many congregations also promote food and healthy eating programs, whether vegetarian, vegan, or other similar dietary plans. And these same congregations would also maintain that believers should avoid any involvement in the occult. It would seem that even when men attempt to define godly behavior, it typically includes these same types of restrictions that God provided in his Torah 3,300 years ago.

So remind me again why these things are considered done away?


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.

Meditating deeply on God’s word sets believers apart

Holiness is not accomplished in 30-second or one-minute devotions.

Joshua 1:8 – “This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”

In our current age of instant information we many times are guilty of seeking to understand God on our own limited terms, not his. Browsing recently through a bookstore I noticed a title that was called the One Minute Bible. I had the sense that this was oddly irreverant; I mean, what can we really learn about God in one minute? Then to my dismay was a title a few shelves away called the Thirty Second Bible. Thirty seconds, really?

Those who would be set apart for the purposes of God must meditate deeply on the things of God. This is not a thirty-second or one-minute proposition by any means. A believer’s life is a lifetime of deep consideration and thoughtful contemplation. What sets believers apart is an ongoing desire to be in God’s word, to understand it, and to apply it in all situations.

Psalm 1:1-3 – “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in Yahweh’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

God’s torah, his instruction, sets believers apart by its very nature. Yeshua mentioned that the words of the Father that he had faithfully represented to his disciples helped them recognize who he was.

John 17:7-8, 17 – “Now they know that everything you have given is from you, “because I have given them the words you gave me. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from you. They have believed that you sent me. … “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

The truth of God’s word sets believers apart from the rest of the world. This is not being set apart to become the world’s judges, but to plead with them for the sanctity of God’s word and encourage others to come to him by leading with righteous example.

Meditating deeply on God’s word includes the idea of groaning and muttering, as one who ponders the depths of truth, reciting to oneself the concepts and ideals under consideration. I liken this to the apostle Paul’s description of one who is praying within the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:26-27 – “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

A meditative life in the word is one in which the deep groanings of God percolate to the surface in times of trial and weakness. In strength, the groanings of God illustrate a consuming passion for God’s torah, helping us maintain a righteous life amidst the darkness of each generation.

These are indications of being set apart, of being truly holy. We would shun ideas of one-minute or thirty-second encounters with God and strive to be in his presence always. In holiness, we could join with the psalmist when he writes:

Psalm 84:2, 4 – “I long and yearn for the courts of Yahweh; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. … How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually.”


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.