True holiness is God’s presence through his Word in our hearts

Those who live and abide by God’s precepts are doing so because it makes up the very essence of who they are.

Core of the Bible podcast #75 – True holiness is God’s presence through his Word in our hearts

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how those who live and abide by God’s precepts are doing so because it makes up the very essence of who they are. These ongoing actions of obedience cause believers to be holy and set apart from all others.

We begin in Jeremiah 46:28 – Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, for I am with you,” says Yahweh.

The one thing that set ancient Israel apart from their neighboring tribes and countries was that their God was present with them. While other kingdoms and countries had their gods, their idols, and their temples, Israel actually had the very presence of the God of the universe with them. God allowed himself to be physically present somehow within their Mishkan, the tabernacle, or the portable sanctuary that traveled with them. His presence resided in that Most Holy Place, by all accounts hovering above and within the ark of the covenant which contained the tablets of the Ten Words, or what we call the Ten Commandments.

This covenant, these Ten Words, are what separated Israel from their neighbors. This is what made them holy. They had been instructed to abide by the actual commands of God, written with his own finger, etched eternally into stone.

A Jewish site called Chabad which explains various aspects of the Hasidic Jewish traditions, conveys what happened at Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

“Of the 613 biblical commandments, G‑d selected these ten commandments for special attention. He directly communicated them to the Jews without using Moses as an intermediary, and inscribed them on the tablets which were placed in the Holy Ark within the Holy of Holies. It is evident that although all the mitzvot [commands] are vital, the five carved into the first tablet were chosen because they form the basis of our relationship with the Creator, while the latter five serve as the foundation of our relationship with fellow people.” What happened at Matan Torah?

Even according to their own teachings, to Jews the Ten Commandments form the basis of all of the rest of the instruction of God. This ironically echoes the teaching of Messiah where he also relates the importance of the most important commandments:

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.”

Since the first five of the Ten Commandments apply to the Creator, and the second five apply to our fellow people, we see how the teaching of Yeshua validates obedience to the Ten Commandments.

Now, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai was not a private event that would simply be related thousands of years after the fact. There was no fanciful prophetic vision or private revelation; these words had been conveyed to the entire assembly of Israel at once as God himself spoke these words from Sinai. Everyone heard his voice, everyone felt the weight of his presence and struggled with the fear, real fear, at hearing the resounding and penetrating voice of God. Scripture tells us:

Exodus 19:16 – On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled.

Hebrews 12:19-21 – For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”

Even to this day, Jews recount the awful dread at the unique event that had overtaken that vast community of wilderness dwellers. From the Jewish News of Northern California, an article discusses what happened when God spoke at Sinai:

“For example, the rabbis have said that each of the commandments was said simultaneously in 70 languages and that the Torah was written with black fire on white fire. Another midrash [traditional legend] suggests that each individual heard revelation differently, according to their capacity, just as the manna tasted different to different people.” When God spoke at Sinai

Sefaria, a Jewish site that presents and evaluates the Hebrew text of the Tanakh conveys the following in an article titled “What really happened at Sinai?”:

“What did they see? The Torah was given through seven voices. And the people saw the Master of the Universe revealed in every one of these voices. That’s the meaning of the verse ‘All the people saw the the voices.’ (Exodus 20:15) These voices were accompanied by sparks of fire and flashes of lightening that were in the shape of the letters of the ten commandments. They saw the fiery word pouring out from the mouth of the Almighty and watched as they were inscribed on the stone tablets, as it says, ‘The voice of God inscribes flames of fire’ (Ps 29:4). And when the people actually saw The-One-Who-Speaks-the-World-into-Being, they fainted away. Some say that their spirits left their bodies, while others say that they entered a prophetic trance. These visions brought them to trembling and shaking and a blackout of the senses.” (Midrash Exodus Rabbah) What really happened at Sinai?

Once again going back to the previous Chabad article on the Matan Torah:

“This was no simple handing over of a book of lore; G‑d gave us His Divine laws for us to study and follow. This was a transitional moment in our history—a moment known as Matan Torah (the Giving of the Torah.) No longer were we merely the descendants of a great man named Abraham, or simply a Middle-Eastern people known as the Israelites. We had now become G‑d’s people, chosen to learn His Torah and keep its laws. It’s a moment we celebrate every year on the festival of Shavuot.”

Israel was born of revelation of God himself, a revelation of his expectations of conduct that were conveyed to an entire people at once. To Christians, the term “the Revelation” references the last book of the Bible, where the risen and glorified Yeshua reveals an outline of the outworking of the Day of the Lord, the culmination of the age. To Jews, the Revelation always references Sinai, where Yahweh revealed himself to the entire nation at once. It is THE watershed event in all of Jewish tradition and their sacred history, and rightly so. This revelation of God is what set them apart as holy and distinct from all other nations. The ten commandments born of this Revelation of Yahweh were placed into the heart of their most sacred place (the ark of the covenant) and they carried them within this central sanctuary throughout their wilderness journeys and into the land promised to them.

So, if this revelation of God is so central to the history of God’s people, it makes sense that it would also still be central to the ongoing history of God’s people today.


To this day, what sets God’s people apart is this same covenant, the Ten Words. There is no equal among the religious communities of the world.

The illustration for believers today comes through what is pictured in the wilderness journeys of Israel: just as God resided in that Most Holy Place within and above the ark of this covenant, God’s very presence resides within these Ten Words, the Ten Commandments. Just as the Ten Commandments were placed into the “heart” of the tabernacle within the ark of the covenant, God’s commands are placed in the heart of every believer through the renewal of the holy Spirit. As we seek to fulfill these commands placed in our heart, then we are truly following in the footsteps of our Lord, the Messiah Yeshua.

Matthew 5:17-19 – “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

According to Yeshua, the Kingdom of Heaven is populated by those who abide by the commandments of God. This is the everlasting covenant that remains forever. Most people don’t realize that the Ten Commandments ARE this everlasting covenant, therefore it can never go away.

Exodus 34:28 – Moses was there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights; he did not eat food or drink water. He wrote the Ten Commandments, the words of the covenant, on the tablets.

Deuteronomy 4:13 – “He declared his covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which he wrote on two stone tablets.

This is why they were written in stone, by the very finger of God himself. In what other way could God ever illustrate the importance and everlasting nature of these commands?

By contrast, the “new” covenant ushered in through the ministry, life, and death of Yeshua is a martyr’s covenant. It is a covenant of dying to self so that the words of the everlasting covenant, the Ten Commandments, can actually be lived through us in this life.

The apostle Paul writes about it this way

Romans 6:6-7,11-12 – “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin … So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Messiah Yeshua. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.”

Through faith in Messiah, this everlasting covenant is placed in the hearts of those who would receive them, those who are called by his Name and who live and abide by its precepts because it makes up the very essence of who they are.

Jeremiah 31:33 – “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says Yahweh. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Through faith in Yeshua, the holy Spirit of God resides within believers to cause them to abide by the universal principles of God’s commands. This is related by the apostle John:

1 John 3:7-9 – “Children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.”

This is a difficult passage for most Christians, because they are taught all people are sinners due to a fallen nature and they can never escape the clutches of sinfulness until after physical death. But the Bible doesn’t teach this. In fact, John says that “everyone who has been born of God does not sin.” This type of language causes Christians to stumble; however, it is not meant in the absolute sense, but in the practical sense. Why do believers not sin, according to John? Because, having died to themselves, the commands of God that have been placed in their hearts can be truly lived out. He describes it as “his seed [that is, God’s seed] remains in him.” As Proverbs tells us:

Proverbs 4:23 – Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

The heart is the seat of all emotion and the wellspring of actions, so if the heart is good, the actions are good. If the seed is good, the tree is good. And as Yeshua said, if the tree is good, the fruit is good.

Matthew 12:33 – “Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”

Therefore, as believers abide by the commands of God placed in their heart through the holy Spirit within them, they do not sin, because sin, by definition, is the breaking of God’s commands, or his law.

1 John 3:4 – “Everyone who commits sin practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”

However, if, as God spoke through Jeremiah when he said, “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts,” then the passage in 1 John makes sense because it says, “whoever has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.”

God has not done away with this old covenant, the Ten Commandments. In fact, according to Jeremiah and Yeshua, the commandments of God are the very heart of the new covenant in Messiah.

Here’s something else to consider: Paul wrote that the faith of the early Messiah believers depended on the fact of the resurrection of Messiah.

1 Corinthians 15:17, 19 – And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. … If we have put our hope in Messiah for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

The resurrection of Yeshua was the validation of everything he taught and lived; that is why it has such priceless value to believers today. And, just as the Ten Commandments were revealed to a large group of people, the resurrected Messiah was also revealed to multiples of individuals, eyewitness who could be consulted by those living at that time, as Paul relates:

1 Corinthians 15:5-8 – … he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.”

So, if the resurrection never happened, Paul reasons, then our faith is in vain. In like fashion I would add that if the Ten Commandments have been done away with, then all faith is worthless, because those words are the very heart of the eternal covenant. The Ten Commandments are the central foundation of the Kingdom of God that Yeshua ushered in, both in this life and beyond. To be set apart for the purpose of God is to be obedient to him and his ways, here on earth now and into eternity.

This is holiness, being set apart for the purposes of God. He is present within the words of his covenant, and as the covenanted words are in our heart, he is present within us. God is present: this sets us apart; this makes us whole. This holiness through obedience to his words in our heart is the very essence of his kingdom on the earth.


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

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

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

Thirsty in a waterless land

The deep thirst of the soul is satisfied only in the holiness and majesty of God.

Psalm 63:1 – “A Psalm by David, when he was in the desert of Judah.
God, you are my God. I will earnestly seek you. My soul thirsts for you.
My flesh longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.”

This title attributed to this psalm says it was written by David while he was in the wilderness or desert of Judah. The metaphor of thirsting after God in a dry land where there is no water becomes a powerful reality in the context of actually experiencing a parched desert experience.

Alexander MacLaren expands on this idea:

“…there is no more appalling desert than that in which he wandered as an exile. It is a land of arid mountains without a blade of verdure, blazing in their ghastly whiteness under the fierce sunshine, and with gaunt ravines in which there are no pools or streams, and therefore no sweet sound of running waters, no shadow, no songs of birds, but all is hot, dusty, glaring, pitiless; and men and beasts faint, and loll out their tongues, and die for want of water. And, says the Psalmist, such is life, if due regard be had to the deepest wants of a soul, notwithstanding all the abundant supplies which are spread in such rich and loving luxuriance around us-we are thirsty men in a waterless land.”

As I live in the American culture today, I can attest that what is available for our consumption indeed points to this as a waterless land. All that which seeks to influence us is nothing but briers and thorns, brambles of contention and doubt. And yet we thirst; we crave for that which David describes as the sanctuary or the holiness of God.

Psalm 63:2-5 – So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. My lips will glorify you because your faithful love is better than life. So I will bless you as long as I live; at your name, I will lift up my hands. You satisfy me as with rich food; my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.

Regardless of his physical condition and circumstances, David relates that contemplating the faithful love of God is like rich food, and this provision causes spontaneous praise.

This is the place where believers demonstrate their integrity and love for God. When all around seems lifeless and barren, we are sustained by our hope in the God who provides for all of our needs. Yeshua constructed his famous beatitude upon this very principle:

Matthew 5:6 – ” Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

The life of integrity is one that craves for God’s will to become evident. It seeks to exhibit thanksgiving when there seems to be nothing to be thankful for, and in so doing, the blessing of the soul’s provision arrives. That which is truly nourishing is lavished upon those who strive for God’s honor. The example of David and the encouragement of Yeshua can give us strength for each day as we seek to exemplify God’s righteousness in our lives.


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.

Following the path, the Way of Life

The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest.

Core of the Bible podcast #41 – Following the path, the Way of Life

Today we will be exploring the topic of trust using one of the most widely familiar passages of the Bible.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in Yahweh with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you on pleasant paths.

The word for trust in this famous passage has shades of meaning which include confidence and boldness, running to a secure place for refuge, being free of care or worry, having a steadfast hope. All of these are different ways of representing the believer’s inner reliance on Yahweh.

It’s important to recognize that this is not an admonishment that we are to abandon all reason and understanding. We are simply not to have our own wisdom as the primary source of our planning and our actions. We must leave room for direction from God, maintaining a view to his kingdom and purpose in this life.

Pulpit commentary

“[The Hebrew word] signifies “to lean upon, rest upon,” just as man rests upon a spear for support. Its metaphorical use, to repose confidence in, is derived from the practice of kings who were accustomed to appear in public leaning on their friends and ministers…”

For example, Naaman, a foreign commander, after being healed of leprosy, requested forgiveness of Elisha the prophet.

2 Kings 5:18  – “However, in a particular matter may Yahweh pardon your servant: When my master, the king of Aram, goes into the temple of Rimmon to bow in worship while he is leaning on my arm, and I have to bow in the temple of Rimmon ​– ​when I bow in the temple of Rimmon, may Yahweh pardon your servant in this matter.”

Again, when Elisha pronounced a prophecy regarding the release of a siege famine from Samaria, the king’s aid was in disbelief.

2 Kings 7:1-2 CSB – Elisha replied, “Hear the word of Yahweh! This is what Yahweh says: ‘About this time tomorrow at Samaria’s gate, six quarts of fine flour will sell for a half ounce of silver and twelve quarts of barley will sell for a half ounce of silver.’ ”  Then the captain, the king’s right-hand man (upon whose hand the king leaned), responded to the man of God, “Look, even if Yahweh were to make windows in heaven, could this really happen? ” Elisha announced, “You will in fact see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it.”

So we see the practice since ancient times was to have the king supported by a close aid, one who provided physical, moral and tactical support and advice. While trusted counsel is not a bad thing, it is this type of worldly wisdom that is contrasted with trusting in, that is leaning on, Yahweh.

Pulpit commentary

“The admonition does not mean that we are not to use our own understanding, i.e. form plans with discretion, and employ legitimate means in the pursuit of our ends; but that, when we use it, we are to depend upon God and his directing and overruling providence.”

Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthian congregation, writes;

1 Corinthians 2:12, 14 – Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. … But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.

There is a worldly type of wisdom that is helpful in worldly things, but if that is true then there is also a spiritual type of wisdom that is helpful (in fact, necessary) in judging spiritual things.

In Proverbs 3:5-6, the language used here of trusting in God that he will “direct you on pleasant paths” can be likened to a traveler who is trekking through a wilderness in fog. He uses his natural wisdom and understanding to find the path that will take him where he needs to go. However, once he is on the path, he places his confidence in the path that it will carry him to his destination, even though because of the fog he cannot see the full length of where the path is heading. When he is following the path, he is carefree from having to choose his own potentially hazardous way through the wilderness.

Our wisdom instructs us to find the path; the path is that in which we place our trust, since it has been provided by God. We have confidence the path that God provided will lead us to the destination God has in store for us. God promises the path will be smooth and pleasant compared to the directionless wilderness ways of our own choosing.

Job 12:13, 23-25 – Wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are his.  … He makes nations great, then destroys them; he enlarges nations, then leads them away.  He deprives the world’s leaders of reason, and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland.  They grope around in darkness without light; he makes them stagger like a drunkard.

The trackless wasteland is a place where no one wants to be. There is no direction, no indication of the right way, just sameness and harsh wilderness in each direction.

In a description of the Biblical wilderness over at www.environmentandsociety.org/, they describe it in these terms:

“The wilderness is a locale for intense experiences—of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness.

“Linguists will make the point that the Hebrews did not have an exact equivalent of the contemporary English word ‘wilderness.’ Nevertheless, the Hebrews evidently knew the experience of confronting the wild.”

The Bible is filled with imagery and examples of those who have wandered away from God; they have gone off the path he has provided. Being off the path is straying from God, and is an indication of not trusting in him with your whole heart. Here are some examples:

Psalm 119:176 – I wander like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commands.

Proverbs 10:17 – The one who follows instruction is on the path to life, but the one who rejects correction goes astray.

Proverbs 12:26 – A righteous person is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.

Proverbs 14:22 – Don’t those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.

Proverbs 21:16 – The person who strays from the way of prudence will come to rest in the assembly of the departed spirits.

Isaiah 53:6 – We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way…

Jeremiah 50:6 – My people were lost sheep; their shepherds led them astray, guiding them the wrong way in the mountains. They wandered from mountain to hill; they forgot their resting place.

When one has gone astray, they have left “the path to life,” (Prov 10:17), or “the way of prudence,” (Prov 21:16). Jeremiah says those who wander have forgotten “their resting place,” (Jer 50:6).

As believers, unfortunately it’s not uncommon for us to go astray, to forget who we are, where we are going, or where to find true rest within the will of God. We get caught up in our circumstances and distracted from our purpose. For non-believers, the picture is an even wider perspective where God is a distant or non-existent resource for guidance through life. All of us need to know and understand God’s ability to guide us where he would like us to go which can only happen when we keep our eyes on him and trust his direction with all of our heart.

—–

That this trust in God directs people in the way of life is a theme all through the Bible. This has been recognized by Jews throughout the centuries and is expressed in many different ways.

One of the most popular examples of this is brought forward from the mid-1700’s in Jewish literature. At that time, a respected rabbi by the name of Moshe Chaim Luzatto wrote a book entitled the Derech Hashem; the Way of God. In it, he details a spiritual perspective of life, God, and human responsibility from a deeply Jewish, mystical perspective. This book has become a Jewish classic, much like Pilgrim’s Progress might be to the Christian faith.

However, he was not the first to coin the term, the Way of God, or the Way as being the path of life. We can go to the teachings of Yeshua and find this same type of “path of life” imagery present.

Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

We have reviewed these verses in detail in a previous episode, but in summary Yeshua is conveying that this narrow way to life is a cramped and difficult passageway, surrounded by obstacles; it takes determination, effort, and persistence to find one’s way through.

Ellicott in his commentary writes:

“The meaning of the parable here lies on the surface. The way and the gate are alike the way of obedience and holiness, and the gate is to be reached not without pain and effort; but only through it can we enter into the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. A deeper significance is, however, suggested even by our Lord’s own teaching. He Himself is the “way” (John 14:6), or with a slight variation of the imagery, He is the “door,” or gate, by which His sheep enter into the fold (John 10:7). Only we must remember that His being thus the “way” and the “gate” does not mean that we can find, in union with Him, a substitute for holiness, but indicates simply how we are to attain to it.”

To break this down a little further, let’s look more closely at these other references that Yeshua makes to the Way.

John 14:4-6 – “You know the way to where I am going.”  “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way? ”  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Interestingly, Yeshua didn’t point Thomas and the disciples to an expected place like the Temple or Jerusalem as a further place of learning, but claimed that he himself is the Way. He specifically said that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” This would be a hugely conceited statement were it not true. The exclusiveness of Yeshua’s teaching is here revealed with no apology from the Master himself. Whatever this Way is, it is represented solely by his life, his practice, and his teaching, all of which make up who he is. This is why Yeshua is so central to Christian thought and practice, because he has placed himself there on purpose. The life of Messiah is one that is to be followed and imitated; this is how one stays in the Way of God.

In Yeshua’s other reference to exclusiveness, he relates that he is the gate or the door to the sheep pen.

John 10:6-9 – Jesus gave them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.  Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

In rapid-fire succession, the context of this passage reveals that Yeshua was likening his life and ministry to practices surrounding the tending and herding sheep. On the one hand, he relates that he is the gate, or the single entry point into the sheep pen, but on the other hand that he is also the good shepherd, the one who cares so deeply for his sheep that he is willing to lay his life down for them to protect them, if necessary. Through these examples, Yeshua is conveying the supremacy of his own teaching over the “thieves and robbers,” (i.e., false teachers) who had come before him, as well as his unique position as being the only one qualified to effectively protect the sheep with his own life.

That Yeshua is conveying the true Way of God was a concept that was picked up by his disciples and considered a summary of distinguishing their belief in Messiah from the broader context of popular first-century Judaism. The Way or the Way of God was an ancient title for the true spiritual understanding of the kingdom, mentioned several times in the book of Acts.

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 the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, 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.

Acts 19:8-10, 22-23 – … But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he [Paul] withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. … After sending to Macedonia two of those who assisted him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself [Paul] stayed in Asia for a while.  About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.

We find that this term, the Way of God, or the Way, was simply becoming shorthand for the teaching about Messiah and the kingdom of God. Paul even uses this terminology in his defense before Felix when he was accused of the Jewish leaders of leading a rebellion.

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

The Way was considered a sect within Judaism at that time, the way of worshiping the God of the Bible in truth according to all of Torah. Paul saw no conflict in this understanding, and struggled to convey this over-arching unity of purpose to his fellow countrymen, along with his detractors.

Acts 24:24-25 – Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Messiah Yeshua. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”

So we can see from this brief review that the Way of God consisted of faith in Messiah Yeshua, the law and the prophets, righteousness and self-control as disciplines, and the warning of impending judgment on those who would not believe.  These are all aspects of the Yeshua’s life and teaching; hence he is the Way.

Coming full circle to our verse in Proverbs 3:5-6 today, we can see that leaning solely on our own understanding can lead us astray. When we place our trust in Yahweh, we are thereby placing our faith in the law and the prophets, the practices of righteousness and self control, and the teachings of Yeshua as his Messiah. The “pleasant paths” that Yahweh leads us on are considered the Way of God, the message of the kingdom, and the hope of rest. Though the narrow way may be restricted and difficult, in the end it is considered a pleasant path to the alternative of striving through the “trackless waste” of the wilderness without God. However, when we choose to acknowledge him “in all our ways,” we demonstrate we are trusting in him with all of our heart, and he will lead us instead in that pleasant Way, the Way of the Messiah, the Way of God.

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