Keeping the commands of God over our traditions and impulses

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of vigilance. Keeping the covenant and commands of God requires multi-faceted vigilance, as cultural influx that negates or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it has been since ancient times.

The Bible is filled with admonitions to keep the covenant or to keep the commands of God. We read about it so often that we may sometimes gloss over the significance of what it means to keep the words of God.

Psalm 119:57, 60, 63 – Yahweh is my portion; I promise to keep your words. … I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. … I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.

God had conveyed many specific directives to the ancient Israelites through Moses, including this necessity to keep his commands.

Exodus 19:5 – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples…”

In this passage, God made it clear that those who obey him by keeping his covenant would be his people. The word we translate as keep or to keep in English comes from the Hebrew root word shamar which at its most rudimentary level means to observe and watch. In its primary sense, it means to heed, pay attention to, or observe (in practice) the covenant and the commands of God. This is the generally accepted meaning when it is used.

However, it also means to guard, preserve, or protect. This is a huge concept in Hebrew thought as it relates to the commands of God. Based on passages like Exodus 19:5 that we just reviewed, both the ancient and modern Israelites have understood themselves to be the receivers of God’s wisdom above all other nations in the world. As such, it was their responsibility to preserve his words through oral traditions and written records. Thankfully for all believers today, it was due to this dutiful caretaking of God’s words that we even have a Bible today.

But over the centuries some of the caretakers of the written records had taken this instruction to the extreme by making additional traditions and rules which were intended to guard the Torah even further, to prevent people from violating the original commands. The original intent of creating these extra rules may have been sincere enough, but soon the traditions and rules became equivalent, or even superior to, the original command of Yahweh and they ended up elevating the man-made traditions above the word of God itself. By the days of Yeshua, there were so many rules and regulations about the rules and regulations of God that it had become a hot mess of traditions mixed over the top of the original commands of God.

According to rabbinical lore, the motivation behind these Jewish traditions and rules was to “build a fence” around the Torah by designating specific actions as a way of protecting people from violating the actual commands of God. This is known as halakha, or the way to walk. These are the religious rules, sometimes called the Oral Law, that rabbinical thinkers and teachers have provided over the centuries. Since approximately 200 A.D, these oral teachings have been summarily encapsulated in the body of Jewish literature known as the Talmud.

To be fair, Jewish thought distinguishes between explicit commands and those derived from rabbinical teaching in the Talmud. For example, the command to observe the Sabbath is explicit right in the text of Exodus:

Exodus 20:8-10 – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:  You are to labor six days and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must not do any work ​– ​you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates.”

As we can see, the command to observe the Sabbath clearly involves not doing any work on that day. But in Jewish practice, there is also a “fence” command that the rabbis have created to where even holding a tool is against the Torah. It does not say that in the scriptural text, but the logic is that if you are forbidden from holding a tool, you are less likely to accidentally break the command of not working on the Sabbath.

In orthodox circles, both the text of Torah and the principles of halakha in the Talmud are considered legally binding in matters of practice. This Sabbath command is only one example of thousands of added commands to the Torah that orthodox Jews were and are expected to observe. So it can be seen that the original “guarding” of God’s word, the keeping of the commands, had eventually become corrupted into a convoluted system of man-made traditions and rules, even by the days of Yeshua. In fact, Yeshua famously chastised the religious leaders of his day for this very thing:

Mark 7:8-13 – “…you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.” He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother;’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is to say, given to God;”‘ then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.”

In this example, rather than taking care of parents as Torah commands, the rabbinical halakha allowed that same potential care of mother and father to be considered an offering to God; a loophole to release people from taking care of their parents yet still appearing as pious and observant. These various interpretations of the commands led to many differing opinions and loopholes in the Torah that were (and still are) argued over and debated in the synagogues and among the people. Yeshua is recorded as exposing these fence commands as being too strict and derailing the original intent of the Torah in the first place.

However, in his own teaching and doctrine, Yeshua is recorded as having established his own type of halakha in regards to the Torah. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua speaks about at least two of the Ten Commandments (the explicit commands of God) and expresses a specific halakha for each.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the Gehenna of fire.

Matthew 5:27-28 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Here we can see how Yeshua takes the base, textual commands of Yahweh and defines a specific halakha or “fence” command for each. To avoid breaking the commandment against murder, one must control their anger. To avoid adultery, one must control their attention and desires. But notice the difference between the halakha of the Jewish authorities and Yeshua: the Jews focused on specific actions to prevent breaking the commands; Yeshua focused on specific attitudes of the heart from which would flow the correct actions and the true keeping of the Torah commands. Rather than constantly having to remember a bunch of man-made rules to avoid breaking the Torah, Yeshua taught that a right heart will by default keep Yahweh’s commands perfectly.

This is the good news of the New Covenant theology of Yeshua and the Kingdom of God! It is the fulfillment of the aspirations of all of the old prophets who foretold that Israel would receive a new heart that would be obedient to the Torah.

Jeremiah 31:33 – For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Yahweh: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The New Covenant is based on the Spirit of God dwelling among his people and causing their hearts to be changed to follow his Torah because it will be internalized, “written on their hearts.” With their hearts made righteous, his people would then by default accomplish his will and be the light to the nations that they have always been destined to be. This is why Yeshua told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” to see the Kingdom of God; an act of creation as decisive and real as physical birth. Those who receive the teaching of Yeshua and the commands of God are re-created into new beings with new hearts that produce new actions, actions that honor God and keep his Word.

The other definition of keeping as it relates to the covenant and commandments is to watch. Watching implies an alertness, being aware of surroundings, looking for any holes in the perimeter defenses to maintain the security of what is being guarded. This is the level of vigilance necessary to make sure that what God has provided is not being diminished by outside influence.

This is probably the most under utilized aspect within the concept of keeping the covenant and commands. Cultural influx of worldly ideals is and has been the biggest adversary to the people of God over the centuries. Living in an environment with a constant stream of values that negate or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it always has been. Unfortunately, with our Western worldview, the current efforts of God’s people to prop up defenses for God’s Word is many times based on arguments regarding literal interpretations of biblical events rather than standing firm on the text with literary defenses. In discussions today, we waste time trying to set historical dates and evidences for things like Noah’s flood or the age of the earth which only cause further debate and strife, both within and without the kingdom.

If we would instead recognize and defend the literary nature of the Bible and recognize the intent of the stories and what they are trying to teach rather than when they physically occurred, we would go much further in honoring God’s purpose in having an eternal record of those things. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I don’t believe those events occurred within history, it’s just that the biblical record is not a newspaper account that can be completely catalogued and charted in the realm of scientific study; it has never been intended to be such a record as that. And when believers attempt to become scientific about the Biblical accounts of various things that were never intended to be viewed in that fashion, they end up dishonoring the very One they are intending to honor, much like the Pharisaical leaders of Yeshua’s day.

We have to remember that the ancient Hebrew mindset was more symbolic and figurative than literal when it came to relating their events and history. Because of this, we must exercise care in our determination of historical events, common phrases that were used for familiar items and processes for them, and spiritual experiences that conveyed God’s truth in symbolic fashion. Just like the Pharisees of old, we can become so consumed with the minutiae of the letter of the Word that we miss the spiritual meaning of what it actually means.

There are also different emphases when it comes to being vigilant and watching as related in the teachings of Yeshua and his disciples. Some of the watching involves care in what type of teaching you expose yourself to:

Mark 8:15 – And [Yeshua] cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

This would indicate a measure of discernment that would be needed in the information being received both from religious and political authorities. Another type of watching comes from vigilance with our own actions, to ensure we are not carried away by worldly desires.

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

2 John 1:8 – Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Another type of watching involves the care of God’s leaders among his people, to be diligent in ensuring that those who have been given into their care are properly provided for so that the people can effectively serve God.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In our practice of watching carefully over God’s Word, ourselves, and each other, we must ensure that our vigilance in keeping his Word centers on honoring God, not on our personal theories about God or our personal traditions beyond what the text really says. The stories and message of the Bible are all meant to express the reality of God’s Kingdom, and his faithfulness with his people, reassuring us that God is the Creator of all and that he always does what he says. If this is the case, and we are to be his children, then we should also always do what we say so we can honor  and represent him faithfully in all things.

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been. As we remain faithful to the intent and the spirit of his word, not just the letter of the law or loyalty to our religious traditions, we can guarantee a fulfilling future for our descendants whom God will draw to himself and his Kingdom in ages to come.


If you enjoy these articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Becoming compassionate givers

By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are God’s children.

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how God is honored when we respect him in all things, including how we demonstrate that compassion to others through obedient and intentional generosity.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.

The concept of giving to those in need is evident all through the biblical writings. Traditionally, this has come down to us through the ages as the giving of “alms.” Alms is a word that is not used much in modern English these days, but it is interesting to note a little about the history of the word.

It’s definition is typically along the lines of “charitable relief of the poor,” especially as a religious duty, or “that which is given to relieve the poor or needy.” It comes from the old English word aelmesse, which was based on a Latin version of the Greek term eleemosyne, meaning mercy, pity, or compassion as exhibited in charitable giving. This Greek phrase is used in Bible passages describing the charitable obligation to help others. For example:

Matthew 6:1-4 – “Be careful not to practice your charitable giving in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, “so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Acts 3:1-3 – One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to ask for charitable giving from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked to receive a charitable gift.

But the term in its wider usage really means any act of compassionate giving across a spectrum of generous actions. For example, it can mean kind actions towards others.

Acts 9:36 – There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and charitable helping of the poor.

Acts 10:1-2 – There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

It can also mean charitable offerings for the purposes of God’s people.

Acts 24:17 – After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people…

However when it comes to giving to those in need as mentioned in our passage in Deuteronomy 15, the idea of helping the poor is depicted as lending to them, not outright giving. Why is it important to understand this distinction?

Well, it has more to do with the receiver than the giver. Many times, people will struggle to accept outright handouts because of their pride. They don’t want to be made to feel they are unable to meet their needs on their own. This is actually an emotionally good and healthy response for anyone who is otherwise able to provide for themselves but may have just fallen on hard times; it happens. When encountering someone who is need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay back what was lent to them whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance.

In ancient Israel, those who would beg for charitable handouts were typically those who had no other means of income: the lame or blind who could not work, widows and orphans (who had lost their husband/father as the provider). In the Hebraic culture, these were considered legitimate reasons for true charity, and helping and giving donations to these individuals was commanded by God and highly commended within their social culture.

Deuteronomy 26:12 – “When you have finished paying all the tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you are to give it to the Levites, resident aliens, fatherless children and widows, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

Zechariah 7:9-10 – “This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

Notice, foreigners or resident aliens were also included in this social order, as they would suffer from having the status of immigrants, and were typically afforded only the most menial of jobs in that ancient society.

However, for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet.

Exodus 22:25 – “If you lend silver to my people, to the poor person among you, you must not be like a creditor to him; you must not charge him interest.

Leviticus 25:35-37 – “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. “Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you. “You are not to lend him your silver with interest or sell him your food for profit.

In our passage above, God, through Moses, is urging that the Israelites would open their hearts to those who were poor, and lend freely. This was a necessary urging from him because many times people would take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends.

In a moment, we will look at how all of this background was built upon by Yeshua in his teachings of giving and loaning to those in need. As is typical, Yeshua not only reinforces these principles of Torah, but then elevates them to new levels of generosity that is to be expected within the kingdom of God.

As we move into the New Testament writings and the teaching of Yeshua, we find that some of the familiar passages where Yeshua is teaching on generosity have even more meaning when he relates how believers should be viewing acts of giving and loaning to others. For example:

Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Notice the emphasis on not turning away from those who would seek to borrow.

Luke 6:35 – “But love [even] your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Now, here is where we begin to see God’s true heart of compassion for those in need. Yeshua teaches that even if our intent is to genuinely help others by providing them a loan of some sort, he says if you are doing so, don’t expect anything in return. This echoes the instruction of Moses in not expecting to receive interest on the loan, and takes it to the next level of not even expecting to be repaid at all.

This is a radical upgrade to the principle of generosity that the Jewish culture of his day would have been familiar with from the previous passages of Torah. Just as Yeshua upgraded the command against adultery to not even looking at a woman with lustful intent, Yeshua here upgrades the command to not charge interest to not being concerned about being repaid at all!

This is an indication of how Yeshua continued to uphold Torah yet demonstrate its true intent when operating from the heart, not just the written command. It’s as if he was saying, “You think you are upholding Torah by not charging interest, but if you really want to uphold Torah, don’t even expect to be repaid.”

To take it even further, this wasn’t just a command for fellow Israelites, but it was to be applied towards enemies, as well! In the economy of the Kingdom of God, there was to be no more social distinctions between foreigners and natives, men and women, slaves and free. Paul illustrates this in the context of describing the equality of those who were demonstrating faith in Messiah.

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.

Even though we are off on a bit of a tangent, this sense of equality before God in Messiah is the glue that held the remnant assemblies together through the persecution they endured from their fellow Jews and from the oppression of the Romans. Having a united stance in the face of adversity can overcome all odds.

Back to to the topic at hand of generosity that Yeshua taught, if believers were to loan money with the idea of not expecting anything at all in return, they would be operating in the true spirit of generosity that God desires. This accomplishes two purposes: it maintains the dignity of the receiver and it removes any chance of hard feelings for not being repaid in the future. If anyone was to “loan” to someone in need, that loan should be treated as a donation and any repayment as a bonus. All types of giving are highly recommended in the Bible, as we know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving freely is a required dynamic within the economy of the kingdom of God.

Additionally, God has proclaimed that those who demonstrate generosity and compassion toward others will receive generosity and blessing in return.

Psalm 41:1-2 – Happy is one who is considerate of the poor; Yahweh will save him in a day of adversity.  Yahweh will keep him and preserve him; he will be blessed in the land. You will not give him over to the desire of his enemies.

Proverbs 19:17 – Kindness to the poor is a loan to Yahweh, and he will give a reward to the lender.

Psalm 112:4-5 – Light shines in the darkness for the upright. He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.  Good will come to the one who lends generously and conducts his business fairly.

Having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving can make us more responsible givers. In outwardly loaning to those who have need, we can allow them dignity. Inwardly considering these helper-loans as outright donations or charitable giving, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future.

God is honored when we honor and respect him in all things, including how we manage our finances and our relationships with others. By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are his children by operating with the same compassionate principles he provides to us.


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

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

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

God dwells among his separated people

Paul’s admonition is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit.

Core of the Bible podcast #89 – God dwells among his separated people

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or separation from uncleanness, and how Paul reminded the early believers how they were not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained. In doing so, God promised to dwell among his own sons and daughters.

  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Paul’s admonition here is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit. This, he says, is working toward complete holiness; that is, with holiness as the fulfillment or the end goal of this cleansing.

However, the motivation for this goal comes from some promises he has just mentioned. Since this is the first verse of chapter seven in our Bibles, this must mean he mentioned some promises at the end of chapter six. What promises is he referring to?

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

These are, indeed, amazing promises:

  • that God would dwell among them
  • that he would be their God, and they his people
  • that he would welcome them
  • that he would be a Father to them, and they would be as sons and daughters

But all of these wonderful promises are contingent on this cleansing of defilement of body and spirit, involving a setting apart of some sort. Let’s review the passage in full to see the context:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says Yahweh. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says Yahweh Almighty.”

So we can see the promises that God would dwell among them and they would be sons and daughters hinges on the condition that they separate themselves from all uncleanness of the idolatry of those who do not believe.

I know this passage has classically been used for the purpose of warning believers to not marry non-believers, and while that is certainly a valid recommendation, that is not the context of this passage; marriage is nowhere in Paul’s sights here.

The real message is that separation from non-believers is required in any type of joint-effort where a compromise of God’s principles would become involved. Believers are not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained.

Two of the primary challenges believers faced in Paul’s day included the practice of eating food in a temple of a local deity, and by eating food purchased in the marketplace that had been previously offered to an idol. In that time, a fellowship meal in an idol’s temple was the ancient approximation of what we might today consider going out to eat in a restaurant. It was also a challenge for Jews to purchase meat in the market, not knowing if the food had already been in an idol’s temple prior to being offered for sale in the local market. These were such serious issues that Paul devotes a whole chapter (chapter 8) in his first letter to the Corinthians to these practices.

Paul devotes so much focus on these topics because it was a primary social practice that was a restriction for the new believers in Messiah, as well. Avoiding idolatrous food was one of the main points that had come out of the first Jerusalem Council decision. You may recall how in Acts 15, a convening of various sects of Messiah believers was called to establish consistency on how the Torah was to be applied among the believing congregations. And out of that discussion and debate came the following summarized conclusions:

  • Acts 15:20 – Instead, we should write and tell them [that is, new believers in Messiah] to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.

This instruction from the Jerusalem Council highlights how Torah was still the guiding principle of the early believing communities. All of these restrictions that were reported out to the fledgling congregations of Messiah are based in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

  • Leviticus 19:4 – Do not turn to idols or make cast images of gods for yourselves; I am Yahweh your God.
  • Deuteronomy 6:14 – Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you…
  • Leviticus 18:26 – But you are to keep my statutes and ordinances. You must not commit any of these detestable [sexually immoral] acts ​– ​not the native or the alien who resides among you.
  • Leviticus 17:12 – Therefore I say to the Israelites: None of you and no alien who resides among you may eat blood.

The council had rightfully deferred to God’s Word to establish fellowship guidelines of the mixed congregations who had participants from varied traditions and backgrounds. These were necessary as part of the practices to allow for shared meals; they had to all be on the same page as far as acceptable meats and personal sanctification in relationships.

So, while the conclusions of the council were designed to allow for fellowship and create unity among believers, it also delineated the separation that was necessary for the promises of God to be fulfilled among them. They would need to be diligent in separating themselves from the accepted social norms in order to be united together in solidarity as God’s people.

In a moment, we will return to the instruction of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians explaining the importance of why believers should not be unequally yoked with non-believers. In doing so, I am hopeful we can learn some principles for application within our own lives and social situations in our current generation.


As Paul writes to the congregation in Corinth, he apparently feels compelled to provide a stark contrast between believers and non-believers as a way of shaking them out of a sense of complacency that they may have lapsed into regarding idolatry. Of course, ancient Greece was awash with all forms of varied idolatry, testified to this day by the literature of the time and the surviving architecture. To remind the believers of the severity of this command against idolatry, Paul, as he is known to do, quotes from several selections of Torah, or God’s instruction, to make his point:

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

  • Leviticus 26:11-12 – I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.
  • Ezekiel 37:27 – I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

2 Corinthians 6:17 – Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you.

  • Leviticus 7:21 – If you touch anything that is unclean (whether it is human defilement or an unclean animal or any other unclean, detestable thing) and then eat meat from a peace offering presented to Yahweh, you will be cut off from the community.
  • Isaiah 52:10-11 – Yahweh has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of Yahweh.

2 Corinthians 6:18 – And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Yahweh Almighty.

  • Isaiah 43:5-6 – “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west.  “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up! ‘ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back! ‘ Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth
  • Hosea 1:10 – Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And in the place where they were told: You are not my people, they will be called: Sons of the living God.

Paul pulls together principles rooted in the holiness of God. Avoiding ceremonial uncleanness is the model, the example, of how believers were to ensure they were continuing to pattern their lives after Messiah within their assemblies, and to demonstrate how they had become God’s sons and daughters. If they did so, God would be among them and he would regather them to himself.

Uncleanness practices outlined in Torah went beyond just what types of animals one was permitted to eat to other sanitary practices among the people of God, from bodily fluids to accidentally touching dead bodies. But the overarching principle of all of these commands was the same: separating oneself from these things was an act of holiness, which by its very definition means to be set apart.

Paul is using that same established Torah logic among the believers in Corinth to remind them of their unique position among their generation, and that they should not forfeit their standing with God on the accepted conventions and customs of the day. According to Yeshua’s admonition of Matthew 5:8, believers were to have a pure and blameless heart at all times.

  • Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Separation from all unclean practices was necessary to achieve this.

You may have noticed that none of the passages that Paul references in his instruction are direct quotes, but they have a common theme of the restoration of God’s people to himself. Isaiah 43 and Hosea 1 are great and pivotal prophecies describing the long-awaited migration of God’s people returning back to Jerusalem from among the nations.

As such, we can gain an even greater understanding of the separateness that Paul is speaking to. As these believers had been scattered throughout the nations in the past, they had become susceptible to the idolatrous practices of their various cultures. Paul is using these passages as a way of weaning them off of their cultural traditions and practices that were hindering their walk with Yahweh through their new-found faith in Messiah Yeshua. He is using these texts to remind them of their true purpose as God’s people, and God’s care and concern for them as his own children. If they were to forsake their idolatry, God would indeed live among them and be a Father to them.

But if this is how Paul is applying these texts, then we can also begin to see how these wonderful prophetic indicators were not necessarily meant to be about a literal migration back to Israel, but a spiritual one. God was indeed calling his people back to himself from among the nations, but they were not necessarily returning to physical Jerusalem, but instead to the prophetic Zion, the New Jerusalem.

If this was the principle in Paul’s day, then how much more does that same principle apply in our day? How can we apply this same principle of separation? What types of accepted conventions in social discourse today compromise the principles of God and his character according to his Word, his Torah? What activities demean and denigrate God’s glory, yet are considered “ok” by the rest of our society?

These are questions that we need to be able to answer within the context of our own social environments wherever we are. When we can take a serious look at how we are potentially compromising our faith within our social arenas, we can then open the door to further obedience to God’s Word.

With our eyes open and our hearts guided by the eternal Torah of God, we can begin to understand the types of things we are to avoid being “yoked” together (i.e., going along with) non-believers for the sake of fellowship. We cannot be united with non-believers in those things because they compromise God’s integrity and honor, and violate the sanctity not only of his Word, but of our united fellowship together as God’s people.

Paul’s admonition is that when we do actively separate ourselves, when we cleanse ourselves from these things, then we are truly behaving like God’s sons and daughters, and only then will he be present among us. This is the fulfillment of those ancient promises that generations have looked forward to. When we take decisive actions to maintain our holiness out of godly respect and honoring of him, we demonstrate the validity of God’s Word and the kingdom of God becomes visible to others in our actions.


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

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

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

613 ways to be holy

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

The details of the biblical commandments have been a source of study for millennia. Reading through the five books of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) covers a wide range of information, from God’s creation of all things, to early history of the Israelite people, to their wilderness journeys and preparation to enter the promised land.

Most significantly, an event is related to us where God revealed himself to the entire nation at once at Mount Sinai. It was here that the people heard the voice of God for themselves, and it is here that Moses received the details of God’s law. This law was to set them apart from all other nations on the earth because of its wisdom and practices.

  • Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – “Look, I have taught you statutes and ordinances as Yahweh my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to possess. “Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as Yahweh our God is to us whenever we call to him? “And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today?

This law was to be the distinguishing aspect of God’s people. There are laws that regulate all aspects of the life of an ancient Israelite. From food and sanitation, to marital and sexual relations, to priestly activities, to worship and sacrificial activities, to civil disputes and criminal punishments, and to war. A quick internet search on 613 commandments will provide the entire list, typically broken out into various categories as listed above.

What is interesting to note is that not all of the commandments apply to everyone, and some are only specific to certain activities at certain times of the year. Some apply only to women, and some apply only to priests.Some are focused only on the biblical holidays, others focus on conflicts that may only arise from time to time. Some are positive commands requiring action, others are prohibitions restricting behaviors. The more one looks at the overall collection of commands and prohibitions, it becomes apparent that not all of them applied to everyone equally at all times. However, there are general similarities and overarching principles that can be derived from reviewing all of them with regularity.

Most modern believers might say that, while that is all well and good, there is little need to focus our time and energy on this outdated law because it has been done away with and no longer applies. They might say that Messiah fulfilled all of the law so we don’t have to. But is that really true? Did Messiah fulfill all of the law so we don’t have to pay any attention to it?

  • Psalm 119:142 – Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law [torah] is true.
  • Psalm 119:89 – Yahweh, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.
  • Psalm 119:160 – The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever.
  • Isaiah 40:8- The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.

Even Yeshua mentioned the nature of God’s eternal instruction.

  • Matthew 5:17-19 – “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

What we need to realize in our day is that Messiah did not abolish the law, but he did fulfill the law. Specifically, as the symbolic Lamb of God, he fulfilled everything related to the temple, sacrifices, and priestly worship, and they are no longer needed in earthly practice. This was evidenced by the destruction of the temple. However, as the beginning of the new creation, he elevated the law to its rightful place as a regulator of eternal spiritual principles. As his people, he expects us to also fulfill the law in his name.

  • Galatians 6:2 – Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Messiah.
  • James 2:8 – Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
  • 1 John 2:3-6 – This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. The one who says, “I have come to know him,” and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.

Even though we may not be temple priests and not all of us are women, not all of us are civil rulers and not all of us have families of our own, we are still governed by the principles of God’s eternal torah or law. We all, as part of God’s new creation and spiritual kingdom, are expected to abide by its principles as they apply in the various aspects of our lives.

When asked about the law, Yeshua stated it this way:

  • Matthew 22:35-40 – And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In Yeshua’s teaching, all of the torah or law of God can be summed up in these two commands: love God and love your neighbor. These two commands are explained in more detail in the Ten Commandments; the first five apply to God and his authority and the second five apply to our relations with others. The Ten Commandments are the basis and foundation upon which all of the other commands in the law of Moses are based.

So, if everything in the 613 commands of the law makes God’s people holy and distinct, and everything in the law is explained in the Ten Commandments, and everything the Ten Commandments is, according to Yeshua, summarized in the Two Great Commandments, then how hard is it for us to be holy as God expects and for us to follow his eternal law today?


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

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

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

Standing for the truth of God’s word above the philosophies of men

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

  • Colossians 2:8 – Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.

This admonition from the apostle Paul strikes at the heart of the major conflict that the first century believers faced: the resistance of the orthodox Jews of their day who did not accept their Messiah. The Messiah-believing Jews were coming out from among the ranks of orthodox Judaism into what was considered a new sect. However, what was happening biblically was the remnant of true Israelites was being separated from the rest of unbelieving Judaism, even among those who had been dispersed, as had been prophesied.

  • Isaiah 10:20-22 – On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no longer depend on the one who struck them, but they will faithfully depend on the Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. Israel, even if your people were as numerous as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction has been decreed; justice overflows.
  • Isaiah 11:10-12 – On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people who survive ​– ​from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west. He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; he will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

This process required immense vigilance, determination, and faith in God. They were being persecuted (that is, hunted with intent to harm) by their very own brothers. They were being challenged in their faith on principles they had grown up believing, being taught in the synagogues throughout the areas where they lived. They were coming to see that many of the traditions and ideas that had been created by the religious elite were being cast away because they were not God’s design for his spiritual people.

Yeshua had railed against the religious leaders for their adherence to their traditions and philosophies above the both the clear and symbolic teachings of Scripture.

  • Matthew 15:3-6 – He [Yeshua] answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

Besides their hypocrisy and pride, Yeshua was calling them out on their observance to their own philosophical traditions that they held to above Scripture. They had created traditions around the teachings of Scripture, traditions that were contrary to the spirit and purpose of the law.

The apostle Paul in like fashion condemned the man-made restrictions and rules that had been added to the clear teaching and meaning of Scripture:

  • Colossians 2:23 – These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The true message of the kingdom was not more restrictions and rules by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of those things in Messiah and the advent of the spiritual kingdom adhering to the spirit of the law. The oral laws and traditions that had been added to the law of Moses were being shed as people began to understand Messiah’s teaching in light of the spiritual kingdom.

For example, physical circumcision had become a “badge of honor” among the Jews regardless of any spiritual or ethical practices. Paul preached that this was no longer necessary, but spiritual circumcision through a removal of the flesh through baptism was.

  • Colossians 2:11 – In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah…

Temple worship and practices were no longer needed, because the body of believers themselves had become the dwelling place of God, as taught by both Paul and Peter.

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah.

These were the types of teachings that continued to separate the remnant of Israel from the orthodox Judaism of the day.

We also have a responsibility to confront the false teachings, traditions, and philosophies that have grown up around the true faith of Messiah in the centuries since these brave and faithful forefathers stood their ground in the first century. Through our institutions, organizations, and denominations, we have created a new “oral law,” a set of trappings that continue to divide and separate God’s people. We have created holy days not listed in Scripture, constructed networks of churches around the dynamics of charismatic leaders and humanistic teachings, and built a theology of orthodoxy on the philosophies of men rather than the truth of Scripture.

We have strayed from the spiritual nature of the kingdom into the realm of trying to build a physical kingdom representation in our own image. We must return to the roots of biblical faith and the spiritual kingdom that Messiah established two millennia ago. We, like our spiritual forefathers, must remain vigilant in the face of those who, as the apostle Paul admonished, would seek to take us “captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.”

  • Colossians 3:23-24 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Messiah.

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

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

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

Consistently seeking the kingdom of God

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

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 the 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.

I love the brevity and directness of these few verses. In them, we learn that happiness for the believer is derived from the avoidance of certain practices and the diligent pursuit of something else. They also convey the results that can be expected when this advice is followed.

As believers we are to avoid:

  • walking in the advice of the wicked
  • standing in the pathway with sinners
  • sitting in the company of mockers

For each one of us, this may take different forms, whether it is our interactions with our work and social groups, or the company we keep online with friends and acquaintances. These typical behaviors, while popular choices in the current culture, are not fruitful at all for the believer.

Instead, we are to diligently pursue Yahweh’s instruction or torah, and meditate on it day and night. This should be the consistent focus of our daily lifestyle. If we do so, we can expect the following results:

  • We will be like a tree planted beside flowing streams (constantly nourished)
  • bearing its fruit in its season (being productive within the kingdom of God)
  • and whose leaf does not wither (remaining vibrant)
  • Whatever we do will prosper (based on the right knowledge of following God’s word)

According to the text, there is no downside for the believer to be thoroughly engaged with God’s word on a daily basis. All of these results are benefits not only for ourselves, but also for that of others who may be seeking to understand more about the God of the Bible. To bear fruit is to provide practical guidance and assistance to others who can be helped by our positive influence in their lives.

While there are many examples throughout the Bible, in Psalm 119 is most completely conveyed the attitude of someone who is desirous of God’s instruction, seeking whole-heartedly to follow his ways.

  • Psalm 119:14-16 – I rejoice in the way revealed by your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
  • Psalm 119:43-48 – Never take the word of truth from my mouth, for I hope in your judgments. I will always obey your instruction, forever and ever. I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts. I will speak of your decrees before kings and not be ashamed. I delight in your commands, which I love. I will lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and will meditate on your statutes.
  • Psalm 119:97 – How I love your instruction [torah]! It is my meditation all day long.

Yeshua spoke about it this way:

Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Meditating on God’s word involves reflection and musing over its meanings and implications providing insights into righteous ways. It involves study, but also a deep and intimate devotion, resulting in prayer and communion with God. It is not just about setting aside fifteen or thirty minutes or an hour a day, but about having a constant baseline of relying on the principles of God’s word throughout the day. In between and underneath our necessary functions as members of our society, we should always default to a godly perspective that can help guide our decisions and actions. The promise is that if we intentionally keep this mental focus, we will prosperous and fruitful for God, which ultimately honors him. And isn’t that the type of believer we should be?


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

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

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

A royal priesthood of integrity

A faithful tribe created the pattern of intercession, reverent peace, and knowledge to turn others from iniquity.

A faithful tribe created the pattern of intercession, reverent peace, and knowledge to turn others from iniquity.

Malachi 2:5-7 – “My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave these to him; it called for reverence, and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and integrity and turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of Yahweh of Armies.”

Out of all of the tribes of ancient Israel, the tribe of Levi was entrusted with the ministry of the priesthood. Moses and Aaron were Levites, and the high priesthood remained within the specific line of Aaron, while the remaining priestly duties were distributed amongst the rest of the Levites.

Many today who are believers in Messiah consider themselves to be a type of priesthood because of a very famous passage written by the apostle Peter.

1 Peter 2:9-10 – But you are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

As always, it’s important to maintain the context and audience relevance of a passage to better understand its meaning. In this case, this passage was written to a specific group (or groups) of people almost two thousand years ago. The people that Peter was writing to are listed as “those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Yeshua Messiah.”

According to the Cambridge Bible commentary:

“Literally, taking the words in their Greek order, to the elect sojourners of the dispersion. The last word occurs in the New Testament in John 7:35 and James 1:1, and in the Apocrypha in 2 Ma 1:27. It was used as a collective term for the whole aggregate of Jews who, since the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, had been scattered in Asia and elsewhere.”

These were the descendants of Israelites who had been scattered throughout the known world 750 years earlier, when the Assyrians had taken the northern ten tribes captive and intermixed them among all of the people they ruled over at that time. We know this is the case based on Peter’s reference from the prophecy of Hosea. This prophecy of Hosea spoke about how God would reject his people for their disobedience, scatter them among the nations, but then again he would restore them and call them sons of God.

Hosea 1:9-10 – Then Yahweh said: Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And in the place where they were told: You are not my people, they will be called: Sons of the living God.

In the minds of the disciples, this prophesied restoration and reunification of the tribes was taking place before their eyes.

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.

This is why Peter could call those people a priesthood; they were the descendants of the Israelites who had stood at the foot of Mount Sinai 1500 years earlier.

Exodus 19:1, 5-6 – In the third month from the very day the Israelites left the land of Egypt, they came to the Sinai Wilderness. … “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, “and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.‘ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

All of the Israelites were not Levites, but the Levites were only representatives of the nation before God, just as the nation was representative of God before the rest of the world.

But this is not a condition of race or ancestry, but one of faith. There were non-Israelites also present at Mount Sinai who were included in that holy nation of the kingdom of priests.

Exodus 12:37-38 – The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand able-bodied men on foot, besides their families. A mixed crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds.

God was creating a new thing, a nation out of all nations that would be called to represent him in the world. It was made up of his people chosen out of all the nations. This is why this passage comes to have important meaning to believers in Messiah. Just like those ragged folk standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, God is now calling people from all nations to join the kingdom of God. This is made possible through faith in his Messiah, his representative king. Faith in the Messiah allows believers to participate in a type of priesthood, a representation of God to the rest of the world.

As such, we are commissioned just as Levi was to be a people of integrity. The same qualities that were evident in the ancient tribe of Levi as related by Malachi should be evident in us today.

  • He revered God and stood in awe of his name.
  • True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips.
  • He walked with God in peace and integrity and turned many from iniquity.
  • For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of Yahweh.

If we are to take our walk with Messiah seriously, we should consider that we represent all that God wants to convey to the world. We can intercede on behalf of others and provide true instruction to all people. Most importantly, we must walk in integrity and peace; this is how others will be turned from iniquity.


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

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

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

Following our God of compassion

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

Being a believer in the God of the Bible presents a primary challenge that has eluded the Body of Messiah over the centuries since he walked this earth: unity. Those who claim to believe in Messiah and abide within the dictates of the Bible have been marginalized in society, and yet splintered and at war with each other at times.

Our struggles among ourselves are typically centered on issues of doctrine: what is considered orthodoxy and what is considered heretical. This is nothing new, as the Bible is filled with examples of individuals and groups who have separated and fought with each other within the overall Hebraic worldview and the Judaic roots of our faith.

In the days of Yeshua and the early believers, there were many factions of the faith, notably between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judea. When Yeshua met the woman at the well, she stated one of those doctrinal differences evident at that time:

John 4:20 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Additionally, famous within the “orthodox” Judaism of the day, another difference was demonstrated by the beliefs of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The apostle Paul even used these differences in a ploy to defend himself before their tribunal.

Acts 23:6-8 – When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead! ” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.

Paul repeatedly urged for unity and oneness among the faithful congregations to who he wrote his epistles:

  • Ephesians 4:1-4 – Therefore I, the prisoner in Yahweh, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit ​– ​just as you were called to one hope at your calling ​– ​
  • Colossians 3:12-15 – 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 Yahweh has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.

So why is this so hard to achieve? How is it that those who claim to believe in Messiah are still so fractured and splintered among thousands of denominations today? I suggest it may have to do largely with a lack of compassion. In recently reading a section of Israel’s history, I was struck by one sentiment that was expressed by the writer of 2 Chronicles in relation to the following of the Torah.

2 Chronicles 30:16-20 – [The priests] stood at their prescribed posts, according to the law of Moses, the man of God. The priests splattered the blood received from the Levites, for there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves, and so the Levites were in charge of slaughtering the Passover lambs for every unclean person to consecrate the lambs to Yahweh. A large number of the people ​– ​many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun ​– ​were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Yahweh provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” So Yahweh heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

The people had failed to obey every little detail of the Torah in relation to the purification rite, but Hezekiah recognized that their hearts were in the right place, and they were acting with the best of intentions, so he interceded for them. And the text says that God heard that prayer and healed or reconciled the people to himself.

Perhaps if, like Hezekiah, we did less judgment and more intercession on behalf of those whose doctrine may not line up 100% with our own, we may provide more occasions for oneness and unity as believers in the one God of the Bible. This is due to the fact that intercession on behalf of others stems from a heart of compassion, and compassion and mercy are the defining characteristics of Yahweh himself.

Exodus 34:6 – Yahweh passed in front of [Moses] and proclaimed: Yahweh ​– ​Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

When we exhibit compassion towards all others, not just in the context of helping the downtrodden and poor of society but extending compassion towards others who believe in the Bible but still may not agree with us, we open up opportunities for communication and dialogue, dialogue that can enlighten and enrich. Perhaps we can ask God for hearts like Priscila and Aquila.

Acts 18:24-26 – 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 Yahweh; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Yeshua, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Recognizing that Apollos’ heart was in the right place, Priscilla and Aquila were moved to openly discuss doctrine with Apollos to help him understand “the way of God more accurately.” Of course, we all may think we have the most accurate understanding of God’s word. But if we are truly humble and realize that none of us have all the answers, we should keep at least a small door open to improving our own understanding of God’s word “more accurately.” Perhaps, when we focus less on the letter of the law and more on the hearts that are truly seeking the God of the Bible, we may be more successful in attuning ourselves to that same passion and building bridges to unity in the process.


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

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

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

Loving the unlovable

Believers already hold the key to overcoming worldly strife.

Believers already hold the key to overcoming worldly strife.

As believers, we know that the commandment we have been charged with is simply to love. It sounds so simple, and yet when we consider the state of the world and the social environment in which we live, we see what appear to be unlovable people everywhere. There is rumor and inuendo prevalent through personal social media, criticism and outright vitriol promoted in the legacy media, all of which spills over into division and strife among our friends and family groups.

Many believers feel this is an indication of how things are getting worse and worse, and we just need to hold on until Messiah returns. However, this is nothing new. Even in Yeshua’s day, the wicked state of the population even in that time could be characterized in a similar fashion. Paul elucidates the characteristics evident even within that generation.

Romans 1:29-31 – …They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

How can we love people such as this? Aren’t these the people that God will destroy in vengeance? Perhaps we need to step back and broaden our understanding a bit and recognize how that type of mentality plays out.

Consider how Paul believed that the Torah command to love one’s neighbor was effective even amidst that wicked generation.

  • Galatians 5:13-14 – For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Romans 13:8-10 – Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

These encouragements, of course, were equally based on and supported by the teaching of Messiah.

Matthew 22:37-40 – And he said to him, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

But besides this clear teaching of Yeshua, Paul’s admonition to love others struck at a deeper place in the hearts of his hearers. He simply confronted them with their own histories of past disobedience.

Titus 3:2-3 – to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Paul includes himself in this characterization of “malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” If we can likewise arrive at this place of naked recognition in our own lives, we can begin to find the compassion for others who seem at first glance to be unlovable. We ourselves have been in that dark place, and yet God somehow saw past that rebellious and disobedient exterior to demonstrate his own love for us.

And this leads to the corresponding method of our own love for others: to love the unlovable, we need to view them, not with the eyes of our flesh, but through the eyes of God’s compassion. It is the most difficult thing any of us can hope to accomplish, at least in our own strength. However, relying on his Spirit for our strength, we can take steps toward compassionate actions that would be beyond our own strength or willingness to do so.

Galatians 5:16, 22-25 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.


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

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

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

Bonding ourselves to God through compassionate generosity

When we help those in need, it is as if we are binding ourselves together with God himself.

It is well documented within the word that God desires that those who have ability should lend to those in need.

  • Psalm 37:25-26: “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread. All day long he deals graciously, and lends. His [the righteous one’s] offspring is blessed.”
  • Psalm 112:4-5: “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright, gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals graciously and lends. He will maintain his cause in judgment.”

Notice that in both instances the encouragement is to lend, not to give away. The word comes from the Hebrew root lavah, which means to be joined or twisted together, implying an obligation of a borrower still being joined to the lender until the money is repaid. This idea stems from the Torah command to be committed to assisting those who have either fallen on hard times or who could just use some assistance.

Leviticus 25:35 – “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you.”

In the foregoing psalms, the concept of lending to those in need leads to blessings and positive outcomes for those who lend to others. In the proverbs, a fine example of this type of lending provides us further insight into why it is that these blessings and favorable outcomes occur.

Proverbs 19:17: “He who has pity on the poor lends to Yahweh; he will reward him.”

Once again, the word for lend here comes from the root lavah. The idea being conveyed with the intent of the original words seems to be that those who extend kindness to the poor are in actuality lending to, that is joining together with, Yahweh himself. Now, it is Yahweh who is then joined together with the lender, which ensures that the lender is “rewarded” (defined more accurately as “made whole.”) It’s as if God is guaranteeing the lender will be made whole in some way, even if the human recipient never repays the kindness bestowed. Based on this type of logic, when we are faithfully and sacrificially helping those in need, it is as if we are binding ourselves together with God himself in a sacred bond that remains in place until it is completed.

This should give a whole different meaning and emphasis to our generosity in helping others. When we provide help in this fashion, we are not only compassionately assisting our fellow human who may need some additional support, but we are working in harmony with the principles of the Creator of the universe who is intertwined in the transaction. He remains committed to ensuring we are made whole in some sense that can result in (according to the psalms) blessing, maintaining of our purpose, and light in the darkness. There is no “giving to get” something in return, but rather lending freely to others with a sense of communing in a relational way with God. Our generosity leads to others’ needs being met and we can then be blessed in ways that can only be understood as coming from the gracious hand of a loving God. When we provide for others from the heart, we are opening ourselves for an opportunity to be twisted together with God within his purpose. The outcome is up to him, but will always be something that we would qualify as a blessing or desirable outcome, even if it isn’t what we might expect. It shows up in ways that can only be defined as a life illuminated by the blessing of God. All of Psalm 112 defines what that looks like.

Psalm 112:1-10 – Praise Yahweh! How joyful are those who fear Yahweh and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed. They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever. Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust Yahweh to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.

Will the compassionate person of generosity experience all of these blessings? Perhaps, perhaps not; perhaps others not listed here. That’s not the point. The point is that when we are obedient to God’s word from the heart because we believe it is the right thing to do, he is faithful to honor that genuine obedience in any way he chooses; that’s his prerogative, because we have bound ourselves together with him.


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

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