Taking correction to heart

We must overcome a casual approach to godly living.

In the text of the New Testament, we find the apostle Paul had written to many different congregations of the early believers. In his writings to the congregation at Corinth, we have an example of a preliminary communication and a secondary, follow up letter, as well.

One of the things that becomes obvious is that the tone of the first letter expresses frustration over their apparent careless attitude and shallow understanding of message of the gospel of Messiah. Yet, the second letter delves into matters with more depth and a demonstration of their overall growth in their spiritual development.

This can be shown by how they were dealing with those who were conducting flagrant sin within the congregation. In his first letter, Paul had learned that one of their members was a man who was having a relationship with his step-mother.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2 – It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is intolerable even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been stricken with grief and have removed from your fellowship the man who did this?

This type of relationship was forbidden by Torah, and yet the congregation was not taking it seriously.

Leviticus 18:8 – ” ‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.

This was just one specific instance of their casual approach to maintaining their purity and abiding by the Torah, or instruction, of God. Yet, in the second letter, we find that the upbraiding they had received from Paul had actually caused them to regather their spiritual senses and become vigilant in their earnestness to be obedient and holy.

Proverbs 15:5 – Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; but whoever learns from correction is wise.

Paul, acting as their parent, had the difficult task of outlining correction for them. And yet this upbraiding had its desired effect; so much so, in fact, that he praises them for their taking his instruction to heart and following through in taking their faith more seriously. The Amplified Bible captures the sense of his parental pride:

2 Corinthians 7:11 – For [you can look back and] see what an earnestness and authentic concern this godly sorrow has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves [against charges that you tolerate sin], what indignation [at sin], what fear [of offending God], what longing [for righteousness and justice], what passion [to do what is right], what readiness to punish [those who sin and those who tolerate sin]! At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

From these insights, we can learn that sometimes we need to be confronted with our shortcomings so that we may understand what course corrections we may need to take. When we begin to take our favored status as believers in the one true God for granted, we can become lax in our conduct and our interactions with one another. We can become dismissive of the instruction of God and the high standards God has for his people. However, for those who are truly seeking God, being made aware of inadequacy will typically fuel a driving desire to become more diligent in our walk.

While the Bible teaches we are accountable to one another, the primary way that God reminds us of our present state is through his Spirit and his Word. By faithfully and prayerfully seeking to understand him more, he can provide the deepest level of guidance and correction through his Word. If we are wise, as the proverb says, it is up to us to demonstrate with all that we are and all that we do that we are learning from his correction. Our goal is to become more like him and to become earnestly vigilant in whatever he requires of us to become his representative people.


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

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

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

Acceptance by God has always been by faith

The principles of Torah are eternal.

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

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

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The challenging discipline of obedient giving

Yeshua takes being nice to another level.

Core of the Bible podcast #57 – The challenging discipline of obedient giving

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how the principles of giving that are outlined throughout God’s word provide opportunities for believers to exhibit the love of God in practical and effective ways that can soften even our enemies.

Yeshua said it this way:

Luke 6:34-35 – “And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”

In a former essay, we have looked at the importance of being kind to our enemies, those who may act in adversarial ways towards us. But in this passage lies another aspect of being compassionate that may get overlooked because of our general unfamiliarity with the culture that this teaching arises out of.

In today’s American culture, we typically view “alms” or giving to the needy as something that is a direct donation to their welfare, just giving whatever you have in your pocket or your wallet to someone who is begging on the street or in a public place. This was certainly one form of giving to those in need. However, this passage is speaking to a more involved and challenging type of giving.

As far as giving to beggars is concerned, this ideas stems primarily from a passage in Acts 3 where the Greek phrase was interpreted as giving alms or giving charity to a beggar at the temple.

Peter and John were confronted with one such individual as they approached the temple complex, a favorite place for those who sought for handouts.

Acts 3:2-3  – “A man who was lame from birth was being carried [to the temple]. He was placed each day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so that he could beg from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money.”

Clearly, the man did not have the ability to earn his own living through labor since he was unable to walk on his own, and his friends or family would carry him to the high-traffic area around the temple as a way of helping him to ask for donations to meet his needs. This was one type of alms-giving or beneficence. Those who would beg for handouts were 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 is highly commended.

In regard to the man at the temple, Albert Barnes writes the following:

“The man had been always lame; he was obliged to be carried; and he was well known to the Jews. … his friends laid him there daily. He would therefore be well known to those who were in the habit of entering the temple. Among the ancients there were no hospitals for the sick, and no alms-houses for the poor. The poor were dependent, therefore, on the Charity of those who were in better circumstances. It became an important matter for them to be placed where they would see many people. Hence, it was customary to place them at the gates of rich men as illustrated in Luke 16:19-20 –

“There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. “But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate.”

Barnes: and they also sat by the highway to beg where many persons would pass, such as Mark 10:46 –

“They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.”

Also John 9:1, 8-9 –

“As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. … [After Yeshua healed him] his neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit begging? Some said, “He’s the one.” Others were saying, “No, but he looks like him.” He kept saying, “I’m the one.”

Barnes continues: “The entrance to the temple would be a favorable place for begging; for: great multitudes were accustomed to enter there; and, when going up for the purposes of religion, they would be more inclined to give alms than at other times; and especially was this true of the Pharisees, who were particularly desirous of publicity in bestowing charity. It is recorded by Martial (i. 112) that the custom prevailed among the Romans of placing the poor by the gates of the temples; and the custom was also observed a long time in the Christian churches.”

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.

However, in the middle Eastern culture of the Bible, giving of alms was actually more than just providing pocket change to beggars; in its wider sense in the New Testament writings it means any act of compassionate giving.

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 helping 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.

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

While compassion is encouraged throughout the Bible, we should understand it is based on the eternal instruction of God throughout the Torah. God has always encouraged his people to be generous, and we will look at some of those ways as we dive deeper into the topic of giving.

—–

Since banks as we know them today did not exist in Bible times, there were only a few means for someone who had fallen on hard times to extricate themselves from dire financial circumstances.

Sometimes, individuals would be sold as servants of others in an effort to pay off debt or to help their families. This was a form of indentured servitude, a commitment to the benefactor to recoup their investment. This was widely practiced and is mentioned in several passages of the Bible in Exodus and Deuteronomy. (Unfortunately, it is usually misunderstood as the brutal, savage chattel slavery that we typically associate with that word).

However, these types of bond-servants were provided many rights for fair treatment under the gracious instruction of Torah, and many times had benefitted so much from their service to their masters that they desired to remain with their benefactor’s family even after their term of service had expired. To illustrate this, there was a process provided for in the Torah to identify those who had chosen to become servants for life by piercing their ear.

Deuteronomy 15:16-17  – “But if your slave says to you, ‘I don’t want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you, take an awl and pierce through his ear into the door, and he will become your slave for life…”

An additional measure of relief in the Torah for those who had become deep in dept was instituted in the release of all debts every seven years which is also described in Deuteronomy 15:9. In this way, no one would be able to get so far in over their heads financially that they couldn’t receive a fresh start.

But for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys that, by far, the most common way of helping others was the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet.

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.”

This was a commendable deed on behalf of the giver, and a prompt repayment would be an indication of the honor of the one who had received the help. Those receiving charity were more likely to sense that trust is being established, and their self-worth is raised through this trust.

This process has more to do with the receiver than the giver. If someone encountered an individual in need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay the loan back whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance. 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 do 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. A great measure of trust has been placed in them and they are more likely to be inclined to repay as a way of thanking their benefactor and demonstrating they are worthy of trust; a coveted value, indeed.

Unfortunately, as loans were given to those in need, sometimes those who were less honorable would gladly take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends. This is presented to us in the biblical texts and from other writings of that era.

There is a book called the Wisdom of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, a writing from around 150-200 BC that was included in the Septuagint, or the Greek version of the Scriptures.  This version of the Bible was widely known and referenced in the time of Yeshua and the disciples. In this book is a passage that explains this concept of private loans in a little more detail, some of the blessings of following the commandment of Moses from Torah, and also some of the downfalls of providing loans to others.

It begins with the blessings of obedience to the command of Torah:

Sirach 29

[1] He that shows mercy will lend to his neighbor, and he that strengthens him with his hand keeps the commandments.

[2] Lend to your neighbor in the time of his need; and in turn, repay your neighbor promptly.

[3] Confirm your word and keep faith with him, and on every occasion you will find what you need.

Here we can see how the idea of giving of loans and prompt repayment are both the qualities that are designed to reinforce the community and provide for ongoing needs. However, the text also speaks of the negative side of giving when someone lends with the best of intentions but the receiver is not willing to repay.

[4] Many persons regard a loan as a windfall, and cause trouble to those who help them.

[5] A man will kiss another’s hands until he gets a loan, and will lower his voice in speaking of his neighbor’s money; but at the time for repayment he will delay, and will pay in words of unconcern, and will find fault with the time.

[6] If the lender exert pressure, he will hardly get back half, and will regard that as a windfall. If he does not, the borrower has robbed him of his money, and he has needlessly made him his enemy; he will repay him with curses and reproaches, and instead of glory will repay him with dishonor.

[7] Because of such wickedness, therefore, many have refused to lend; they have been afraid of being defrauded needlessly.

This same negative perception of being taken advantage of is prevalent today and actually prevents people from being generous with those in need; no one wants to be taken advantage of. However, the text encourages faithfulness to the Torah command regardless of the outcome.

[8] Nevertheless, be patient with a man in humble circumstances, and do not make him wait for your alms.

[9] Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty.

[10] Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.

[11] Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold.

[12] Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all affliction;

[13] more than a mighty shield and more than a heavy spear, it will fight on your behalf against your enemy.

This is the same type of instruction that Yeshua provides in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-21  – “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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

What Yeshua is encouraging in both of these passages is a type of universal generosity toward those in need. If we are to give out of pocket, give cheerfully. If we are to lend, then we should lend without any hope of repayment; if we are repaid, then that is to be considered a bonus.

—–

Now we may understand and be willing to help friends and relatives who can’t help themselves, and lend to those who have fallen on hard times. But here is where this principle really gets challenging: according to Yeshua, the faithful disciple should also be willing to lend to their enemies, not just friends and acquaintances.

Remember our starting passage from Luke 6?

Luke 6:34-35 – “And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”

This is a drastic diversion even from the cultural practice of the day, and highlights the extent of compassion believers should be willing to demonstrate at all times. It is one thing to forgive a friend or acquaintance of a debt, but to lend in the same fashion to an adversary? This would be a truly unorthodox and radical admonition to his followers. It is such a revolutionary and profound concept that it still shakes us to the core to this day, two thousand years later. True compassion is like that; it is profound, challenging, and requires real commitment and, many times, heart-wrenching, white-knuckled, gut-twisting sacrifice. This is the type of genuine life transformation believers are called to.

But in reality, if you, out of obedience to Yeshua and the Word, are extending generosity toward an adversary, are they really still an enemy? Don’t enemies need to be adversarial toward each other? If you, as a believer, are not acting in a reflexive way toward someone who is adversarial toward you, are the two of you really enemies? Isn’t it more likely that if only one is acting in an adversarial fashion but the other is extending an olive branch that this is not a description of two enemies, but only one? In this type of challenging obedience, adversarial overtones can be dissipated by the removal of escalation through the extension of friendship and value without obligation.

Are you up to the challenge of what it really means to be a follower of the Messiah and demonstrate true compassion? Hopefully, having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving as we have looked at today 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, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future. If we are giving advantage to those around us, even our enemies, then they cannot take advantage.

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 by the same principles he provides to us.


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

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

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

Set apart for obedience to God’s will

The culmination of the biblical imagery is fulfilled in Messiah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Trust in God is the refuge of believers

We can stand firm on the proven foundation of biblical wisdom that has been handed down to us.

Psalm 31:2, 5, 6, 14, 19, 23-24 – Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly. Be a rock of refuge for me, a mountain fortress to save me.
5 Into your hand I entrust my spirit; you have redeemed me, Yahweh, God of truth.
6 You hate those who are devoted to worthless idols, but I trust in Yahweh.
14 But I trust in you, Yahweh; I say, “You are my God.”
19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge and trust in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
23 Love Yahweh, all his faithful ones. Yahweh protects the loyal, but fully repays the arrogant. 24 Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in Yahweh.

Psalm 31 is a psalm attributed to King David. If anyone knew about God being a refuge for those who trust in him, it would have been David. Hunted and pursued by Saul and his men, David was quite literally seeking refuge from danger every day.

1 Samuel 23:8, 14 – And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. … And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.

Yet in this psalm, David, in his typical poetic fashion, likens the physical refuges he had found in the caves and strongholds in the wilderness to trusting in Yahweh. The trust, faith, and hope in Yahweh itself becomes a haven of protection against the designs of detractors.

In verse 19, David says there is abundant goodness stored up for those who trust God in the sight of others. Imagine what a blessing we can be to others as our solid trust and faith in Yahweh stands firm against the swirling doubts and shifting opinions of this generation in everything from social identity to political ideals. God’s people can stand firm on the proven foundation of biblical wisdom that has been handed down to us.

Psalm 119:97-100 – Oh how I love your Torah! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

When we can learn to let go of the cyclical patterns of conjecture by consensus and fully place our hope and trust in Yahweh, we enter that refuge, that stronghold fortress which cannot be assailed by the shifting opinions of our culture. We will then be able to say with David: “Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in Yahweh.”


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.

Moses’ practical steps for community faithfulness

Vigilance requires constant focus.

Deuteronomy 11:16 – “Keep careful guard that you are not enticed to turn aside, serve, and bow in worship to other gods.”

As the nation of Israel was nearing the end of its wilderness journeys, Moses cautioned them to ensure they remain faithful to all that they have received, so they could have success in their new homeland. He cautioned them against the primary sin of the idolatry of the nations that were inhabiting the land.

As a method of remaining faithful, Moses provided an outline of some practical steps to ensure that they were guarding their souls and protecting their little ones so the next generation would not forget what they have experienced, and how God desired them to act in righteousness amidst the idolatry of their surroundings.

In Hebrew practice even to this day, Jews all over the world recite these several passages as a daily statement of faith, known as the Shema.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. “Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”

There are other passages included in the Shema recitation, however, if we break apart this passage we may gain some understanding for maintaining our own faithfulness as well.

“Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This is a prerequisite to any form of diligent faithfulness. The sole motivation for believers should not be a hope of future reward, but simple and sincere love of Yahweh that consumes every aspect of our being.

“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” When we memorize portions of Scripture, we gain the ability to recall in an instant an appropriate instruction that can assist us throughout the trials of each day.

Psalm 119:9-11 – How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.

“Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” To instill our biblical values in our children, we need to repeat them to our children in a variety of ways. When we are sitting in our house or walking or driving along the road with them, we should be drawing out spiritual understanding from these life experiences. Evening and morning prayers are valuable to model for them so they can learn how to pray and recite important passages as they grow.

“Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.” This practice is viewed literally by most orthodox Jews by physically tying phylacteries, scripture boxes, to their arms and heads. However, in other contexts where this same type of language is used, it can be taken metaphorically to represent that the hands should always be about the work of the kingdom, and the mind (between the eyes) should always be focused on God’s commands.

Finally, Moses commands them to, “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” This is the practice of affixing a mezuzah, a small scripture box, to the door frame of the home, and also ensuring that each city or village entrance identifies the commands of God in a visible statement. These visible reminders at the point of entrance provide touchpoints amidst the daily travels.

These practices, while intended primarily for the Israelites as they were about to be moving into a new form of living in the land of Canaan, still provide relevance for us today. God’s instruction, his torah, should be such a practical focus of our lives each day that we cannot stray from God’s commands. These types of practices provide physical reminders to us and help our children navigate the mazes of temptation and spiritual distractions of their generation, as well. Through memorization, recitation, and practical obedience, we can be continually reminded to stay focused on God’s purpose and be better prepared to successfully pass the faith to the next generation.


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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

We can only be truly compassionate when we are humble

We need eyes to see what God sees.

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, loving as brothers, and be compassionate and humble…

As Peter is summarizing his exhortations for the congregations he is writing to, he echoes a theme which is represented in the prophet Micah.

Micah 6:8 – People, he has told each of you what is good and what it is Yahweh requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

This is such a powerful admonition that even today, a local congregation near where I live has adopted this verse as their mission statement represented simply in their name: “6:8.”

This same simple principle is stated by Yeshua when he was asked what the greatest commandment is.

Matthew 22:37-40 – 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.”

The entirety of God’s torah, his instruction, rests within the simplicity of these statements. What is captured in the writings of Micah and Peter, and more subtly in the statement of Yeshua, is a key element that makes this all-encompassing directive possible: humility.

When we can operate in true humility, we are freed to accomplish the purpose of God with others. When we remove our typical focus on ourselves, we can become his hands to reach out in love to others. This is how true compassion is manifested.

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

In our vain and vacuous culture today, we are so accustomed to looking out for ourselves that this central biblical concept seems almost foreign. We are so focused on trying to gain prestige, honor, self-improvement, visibility, followers, and influence that we have no time or energy left for God and the purpose of his kingdom.

Expanding on the exhortation of Micah, Alexander MacLaren comments:

Some people would say that this summary of the divine requirements is defective, because there is nothing in it about a man’s duty to himself, which is as much a duty as his duty to his fellows, or his duty to God. But there is a good deal of my duty to myself crowded into that one word, ‘humbly.’ For I suppose we might almost say that the basis of all our obligations to our own selves lies in this, that we shall take the right view-that is, the lowly view-of ourselves.

Peter would agree as he encourages the believers to do that very thing.

1 Peter 5:5 – … All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

If we are not hearing from God and wondering why he appears to be absent from our individual lives and our current society, it is likely because he is resisting us. The passage Peter is alluding to here is from Proverbs 3:34, which says, “He scorns the scornful but gives grace to the humble.” God is scorning us due to our collective and individual pride. Our pride is in the way, distancing us from him.

God desires us to exercise his compassion to others but this can only come about when we become humble, or in biblical phraseology: lowly of mind. When we think less frequently about ourselves and more about the needs of others, we demonstrate our likeness to our Father who is compassionate and merciful with us.

Psalm 103:13 – As a father has compassion on his children, so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear him.

Humility sheds the scales from our eyes and allows us to see clearly the needs of those around us. The world that God would have us reach for him comes into view and yearns for our help. Only through humility can we truly exhibit God’s love to others, and in so doing, bring glory to his Name and reputation.


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.

Lawbreakers cannot inherit the kingdom

To say that one is a believer is simple; doing God’s will is the real indication of belief.

Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name? ‘ “
Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers! ‘

Many believers who meditate on their purpose will be challenged with discerning what the will of God is for their life. We sometimes tend to think of things in big chunks of ideals like: should I get married? Should I take that job? Where should I live?

Well, the Bible is neither a magic 8-ball nor some sort of fortune cookie for personal prophecy about the future. The will of God is much less abstract and much more attainable, if we will only take the Word of God at face value.

We get a very strong indication of the approved lifestyle of the inhabitants of the kingdom in the verses above. Yeshua is saying that those who are in the kingdom will be demonstrating they are doing God’s will. Those who are not in the kingdom would be those who are “lawbreakers.” Some other versions might translate the Greek word anomia as “those who practice lawlessness.” The word literally means “against the law.” As it relates to the context of this overall passage of the Sermon on the Mount, those who are outside the kingdom of God are those who disobey the law of God.

This is a callback to the beginning of the Sermon where Yeshua pronounces the following:

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.

Those who “break the least of the commands” are lawbreakers, and, hence, outside the kingdom of God. You see, the will of God is the law, the torah, of God. It’s his instruction that has been provided to mankind for the purpose of, well, instructing us on what is proper and right. It is not up for debate, as it is permanent and everlasting.

Psalm 119:89 – Your word is forever, Yahweh; it is firmly established in heaven.

The will of God is his Word; God does not say anything that is not his will. Therefore, if we are abiding by the everlasting Word of God, we are doing his will and are set apart within the kingdom of God.

Look at some of these wonderful verses that illustrate this principle:

Mark 3:35 – “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Romans 8:27 – And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Spirit of God will only intercede according to God’s Word (his law, his torah) because it is his will.

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Paul encourages believers to have their minds renewed as something that is opposite of being conformed to the age. The Word of God is always opposed to the morality and reasoning of the age apart from him.

1 John 2:17 – And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

Again, John contrasts the will of God with the world and its lusts. Once again, the Word of God which is forever is contrasted with the lusts of the world which pass away with every generation.

To say that one is a believer in the Lord Yeshua is simple enough to do, but Yeshua says it takes more than that to inherit the kingdom of God. One must not only claim Yeshua is Lord, but must do the law, the torah, the instruction of God; the principles of the kingdom. It is the doing of his Word that allows God to be magnified in each generation, as his ways are demonstrated as righteous.

Matthew 5:19 – “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands [i.e., is a lawbreaker] 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.


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.