The surpassing righteousness of love

The truly righteous actions can’t be legislated.

Matthew 5:20 – “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

Many of the scribes and the Pharisees were famous for abiding by the letter of the law in scrutinizing detail, yet they were guilty of disobeying the spirit of it.

Matthew 23:23 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”

They had become examples of legalistic rule-following; outwardly appearing to obey the law when in their hearts they were just as wicked as the vilest law-breakers whom they would condemn. Yeshua continually called them out for their hypocrisy, and this is what enraged them against him.

For Yeshua, outward actions should stem from the sincerity of the heart; it is not possible to make the heart right just by conducting some outward ritual. This is why it is impossible to legislate morality; it must be something that springs from a place of inward purity, not just outward conformity.

Not every Pharisee or scribe was wicked, and many ultimately came to faith in Messiah among the early believers, albeit struggling to understand how the law would apply to believers in Messiah, as is demonstrated in Acts 15. However, for Yeshua, of primary concern was regenerative work of God’s Spirit on the heart.

John 3:6-8 – “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. “The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

When the heart is right, the actions will be right. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees can only be surpassed when the actions that conform to the Word of God are sincere with no agenda or motivation for self-aggrandizement.

1 John 3:14, 16 – We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love remains in death. … This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

If our true motivation is love for others, not just rule following to make ourselves look good, then we can be confident that we are doing the right thing for the right reasons. When the Spirit of God is present in our lives, we can’t help but do things that benefit others, because God is love. And only when we act in truly loving ways towards others is when our righteousness surpasses that of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. We can then see the kingdom, and others can see the kingdom in us. It is then that the kingdom of God is manifest 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.

The wisdom of God that guides believers

Staying close to God should cause us to exhibit his characteristics.

The Bible has many different genres of writings: historical (like the books of Kings, Chronicles, gospels, Acts), general instruction (epistles of Paul), wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus) and prophecy and apocalypse. Whether one includes the apocryphal books of Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus in the canon, the concept of a personification of Wisdom in a female character is represented in the wisdom literature, sometimes referred to as Lady Wisdom.

The inception of this character is revealed in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 8:22-23 – “Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his way, before his works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began.”

In the poetic style of the Hebrew, Wisdom is represented as imbued within the very foundation of the Creation itself, guiding and working alongside Yahweh as the reality of this physical universe was created. From this, many Christians have come to see this passage as literally speaking to a pre-incarnate Yeshua as co-Creator with Yahweh God. It is clear that in this passage wisdom is represented as an attribute of God himself, however, I would align this as a figurative representation more closely with his Spirit than a pre-incarnate Yeshua.

As such, the godly aspects of wisdom are said to be desirous for learning, long life, and righteousness. Because of this, believers should demonstrate the same characteristics that are learned by remaining close to the Wisdom of God.

Proverbs 8:6-9 – “Listen, for I speak of noble things, and what my lips say is right. For my mouth tells the truth, and wickedness is detestable to my lips. All the words from my mouth are righteous; none of them are deceptive or perverse. All of them are clear to the perceptive, and right to those who discover knowledge.”

If wisdom is an emanation of godly characteristics, then these qualities should be evident within the lives of believers, as well. Our speech should be based on noble things, speaking what is right at all times, always speaking the truth with righteousness without any deception. The things we say should constantly guide those who desire to know more about God and to help them discover more about him.

As believers in the one true God, we should always represent him honestly and knowledgeably. As an example of this, the apostle Paul’s admonition to Timothy was to ensure he was grounded in the truth, working hard to teach others what was right about God.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”

We also should work diligently and prayerfully to ensure we possess the wisdom that comes from God, speaking righteously and honestly about him at all times, so that we may faithfully guide others to also find the truth in him.


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 integrity of all who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Those who are righteous can’t help but show it in their actions.

Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Yeshua taught that those who diligently seek after righteousness, doing what is right in the sight of God, will have their desire fulfilled. Longing for righteousness appears to be a characteristic that defines the integrity of believers and helps them grow.

Righteousness, that is, the constant capacity to act in right ways, is the ultimate goal for all people. Doing the right thing is the very definition of integrity.

Peter also taught that these right actions are the expectation that God has for all nations. He came to this realization through an angelic revelation regarding the state of the non-Jewish nations. Cornelius, a commander in the Roman army, was stationed in Judea. Cornelius had sent to Peter to have Peter come to his house based on an angelic visitation in prayer.

Acts 10:22 – [The messengers of Cornelius] said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you [Peter] to his house and to hear a message from you.”

In response to a vision presented in Acts 10:9-16, Peter complied and went to the home of Cornelius.

Acts 10:29-31 – [Peter asked him] “So may I ask why you sent for me? ” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in dazzling clothing stood before me “and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms have been remembered in God’s sight.

The fact that Cornelius was praying at three in the afternoon illustrates his devotion to the Hebrew God, since that was typically the time of the afternoon prayer and the sacrifice of the second lamb of the day at the temple. That he was praying to the Hebrew God meant he was a God-fearer: a non-Jewish believer who was not a formal convert to the Jewish religion but believed in their God. The alms he had provided to the Jews in Judea were financial loans and gifts designed to help those in need. According to Peter, these gifts were demonstrations of the righteousness of Cornelius.

Acts 10:34-35 – Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

What is the example Peter is basing this on? What standard is Peter using as the basis for those who fear God and do what is right are acceptable to him? Well, it is the example of the holy Spirit being poured out on the non-Jewish believers in that household.

Acts 10:44-45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on those of other nations.”

Cornelius was a man who a) feared God, and b) did what was right; that is, continually provided righteous sacrificial gifts of giving from the heart. Cornelius hungered and thirsted for righteousness, but he was not circumcised; he was not a Jewish convert. But Peter had learned that if someone fears God and does what is right, they are righteous in God’s sight, and God demonstrated this by an outward display of them being filled with his holy Spirit. By Yeshua’s definition, those individuals who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be filled, their thirst satisfied by God.

This corroborates with the apostle John who likewise stated with plain language the heart condition of true believers over those who only professed to be so.

1 John 3:6-10 – “Everyone who remains in him does not keep on sinning; everyone who sins has not seen him or known him. Children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who practices 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 practice sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister.”

The message of the Bible is to live with integrity by fearing God and doing the right thing according to his Word. This is how we know we are truly God’s children, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, because that is who we are. And Yeshua promises that if our hunger and thirst are real, we shall be satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Revere God and protect and keep his commandments: for this is everything expected of mankind.


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.

Our integrity has real consequence

What we do is who we are.

Job 35:5-8 – Look at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds high above you. If you sin, how does it affect God? If you multiply your transgressions, what does it do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects a person like yourself, and your righteousness, a son of man.

One of the biggest cultural differences between Hebraic and Western thought has to do with worldview motivation. What I mean by this is that in Western thought, what one believes is what’s most important. In Hebraic thought, what one does is what’s most important. In fact, the biblical view is that what you believe is demonstrated by what you do. This is amply attested to by James in his famous passage:

James 2:17-18 – “In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works.”

In the story of Job, Elihu illustrates this for Job by pointing to the clouds, imagery which is employed throughout the Bible as representing the over-arching presence of God.

Deuteronomy 33:26 – “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your aid, the clouds in his majesty.”
Psalm 18:11 – “He made darkness his hiding place, dark storm clouds his canopy around him.”
Psalm 104:2-3 – “He wraps himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, laying the beams of his palace on the waters above, making the clouds his chariot, walking on the wings of the wind…”

Elihu establishes the idea that if Job thinks his righteous somehow affects God directly, or that wickedness of a person creates havoc in the realm where God exists, we misunderstand our sphere of influence. No, he argues, the clouds have no noticeable change due to our actions, good or bad. In like fashion, he states, God is unaffected by our specific actions. However, our actions, good or bad, righteous or wicked, do have an impact on others, and that is why we should be motivated to do what’s right.

This sounds a bit foreign to our Western sensibilities, since we are typically focused on believing what is right and rejecting what is wrong at all costs. This is certainly a significant aspect of our role: ensuring our doctrine is sound. However, what most times is lost in the culture shift between Hebraic and Western thought is the emphasis on our physical actions. These are many times downplayed at the expense of “right” beliefs.

The Bible tells a little bit different story, though. For example, Zacchaeus demonstrated the sincerity of his faith by what he did.

Luke 19:8-9 – “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Yeshua told him, because he too is a son of Abraham.”

Tabitha was recognized for the acts of kindness she performed in her life. The text doesn’t say what she believed, but what she did.

Acts 9:36 – “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity.”

Yeshua was righteous because he went about doing good, not just teaching what was good.

Acts 10:38 – “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.”

Those who are affected by our actions are the very ones whom God desires we be positive examples to. If we truly desire to have an impact in this world for God, and if we are seeking righteousness and integrity, then our lives should be examples to those around us who can benefit from our righteous actions. God doesn’t receive a direct benefit from our righteousness, but others do.

The one benefit God receives is that when we act in righteous ways, his Name is honored among the nations, and the Kingdom has more opportunity to continue to grow.


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.

Living for good no matter what

Those who fear Yahweh will always do what’s right.

1 Peter 3:13 – “Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good?”

Peter explains to the believers he is writing to that those who are devoted to doing good at all times are, by the nature of their good actions, less likely to be persecuted for their faith. He strengthens this argument by quoting from David in Psalm 34.

Psalm 34:11-14 – “Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of Yahweh. Who is someone who desires life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Peter is quoting David’s description of someone who truly fears Yahweh. Their life will be a display of right speech, turning away from evil, and seeking and pursuing peace and doing good. The benefit, Peter argues by continuing David’s quote, is that those who act with integrity will be placing themselves under the watchful care of Yahweh.

Psalm 34:15-16 – “The eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help. The face of Yahweh is set against those who do what is evil, to remove all memory of them from the earth.”

However, Peter is not so naive as to assume that bad people won’t do bad things to good people; he is just emphasizing that suffering for righteousness and doing what is right can result in a blessing, as well.

1 Peter 3:14-15 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Messiah the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

All of this, in Peter’s line of thinking here, results in God being glorified; either through believers doing what is right, or suffering for doing what is right and still being able to defend the truth of their hope in the Kingdom of God.

Demonstrating a fear of Yahweh through living with integrity in all things therefore can bear fruit at all times; whether living in peace or suffering for righteousness’ sake. Our conduct should not be based on our circumstances but on our true spiritual character.


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.

Contextualizing the positive through the negative

Contrasts illustrate the truths of the Bible more clearly.

Core of the Bible podcast #59 – Contextualizing the positive through the negative

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how we can learn about God’s expectations for positive ethical behavior by looking at the results of bad ethical behavior.

Proverbs 11:3 – “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.”

The book of Proverbs provides a wealth of God’s wisdom in brief statements. The juxtaposition of positive and negative characteristics help to illustrate each other, causing them to stand out in bold relief to one another. When we understand the characteristics of the negative quality, we look to its opposite in order to understand the positive quality more fully. This is the beauty of the proverbs that contrast good and bad qualities.

In this verse, the integrity, the completeness or wholeness, of someone who is righteous or upright is contrasted with the twisted ways of those who are deceitful, or who act covertly in order to accomplish their own ways, even if it means overthrowing the actions of the righteous.

Many Bible versions will list this negative quality as “perverseness.” While this is not technically incorrect, the word “perverse” tends to have a different connotation in our modern vernacular. Relating the underlying Hebrew word as “crooked” brings out some of the meaning of the original: the idea of twisting or distortion of something by acting covertly in an intentional manner. This is an apt description of how someone who is treacherous would act in order to accomplish their own ends. In the end, it destroys them.

This brings out an interesting facet of what the Bible teaches: the consequences of one’s own actions. While we may come to the Bible to learn about eternal answers to questions we may have, I believe that many times we tend to skip over the simpler, obvious teaching because we are looking for deeper or more significant meaning in a passage. It may also be that we don’t have a complete recognition of the cultural underpinnings of these ancient writings, which is one of the reasons I find exploring this type of literature so fascinating.

For example, in Psalm 35, David implores God to come to his aid and defend him against his enemies.

Psalm 35:1-8 – Oppose my opponents, Yahweh; fight those who fight me.  Take your shields ​– ​large and small — and come to my aid.  Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers, and assure me: “I am your deliverance.”  Let those who intend to take my life be disgraced and humiliated; let those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed.  Let them be like chaff in the wind, with the angel of Yahweh driving them away.  Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of Yahweh pursuing them.  They hid their net for me without cause; they dug a pit for me without cause.  Let ruin come on him unexpectedly, and let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it ​– ​to his ruin.”

This is what is known as an “imprecatory” psalm, one in which the writer calls down curses or imprecations on their enemy. These writings have confounded Christians over the years because we in our modern days try to read back into these passages the teachings of doing good to enemies for their good, not calling down God’s wrath upon them. Therefore, this type of writing seems out of place with the overall purpose and plan of God in desiring us to overcome evil with good.

However, it is helpful to understand that what may appear to be a psalm or prayer of vindictiveness is more likely a statement of allowing the natural consequences of their enemies actions to fall upon them. This is very typical in the writings of that time.

In ancient Jewish thinking, since God is just, the Creation itself is imbued with a mechanism of justice. Sometimes the forces of nature are blended with concepts of angels or messengers of God. In this psalm we see David asking God to “take your shields…and come to my aid,” and asking that the “angel of Yahweh” pursue his enemies. To our Western way of thinking, these concepts appear to be spiritual forces that David is requesting God to provide to protect him and to rout his enemies. However, these are more likely literary expressions as to how it would appear to his enemies when the consequences of their actions were to fall upon themselves. David is simply asking God for those consequences to come to fruition.

Some other instances where this type of literary design is seen include other representative psalms:

Psalm 104:1, 4 – “My soul, bless Yahweh! Yahweh my God, you are very great; you are clothed with majesty and splendor. … and making the winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”

Psalm 148:8 – “lightning and hail, snow and cloud, stormy wind that executes his command…”

In one of Elihu’s responses to Job, he also mentions the will of God being accomplished through the natural elements:

Job 37:11-13 – “He saturates clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. They swirl about, turning round and round at his direction, accomplishing everything he commands them over the surface of the inhabited world. He causes this to happen for punishment, for his land, or for his faithful love.”

These examples merely illustrate how that, to the ancient way of thinking in middle Eastern culture, the will and purpose of God blended seamlessly with the natural elements, and one served only to highlight and magnify the other.

Psalm 8:1, 3-4 – “Yahweh, our Lord, how magnificent is your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with your majesty. … When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?”

Additionally, besides the proverbs, there are other examples of how the wickedness of the wicked comes back to them in time. In one of Bildad’s responses to Job:

Job 18:5, 7-8, 21 – Yes, the light of the wicked is extinguished; the flame of his fire does not glow.  … His powerful stride is shortened, and his own schemes trip him up.  For his own feet lead him into a net, and he strays into its mesh.  … Indeed, such is the dwelling of the unjust man, and this is the place of the one who does not know God.

Here Bildad explains it as a common understanding that the wickedness of the wicked leads themselves to ruin.

Another example is this additional psalm of David:

Psalm 9:15-16 – The nations have fallen into the pit they made; their foot is caught in the net they have concealed.  Yahweh has made himself known; he has executed justice, snaring the wicked by the work of their hands.

So in this instance, is God causing this “snaring of the wicked” to happen directly or only indirectly as being the architect of consequential just recompense? We also see a hint in this passage that through this natural consequence of their own actions, Yahweh has “made himself known.”

In a psalm attributed to Asaph, we see a similar representation.

Psalm 73:11-12, 16-19 – The wicked say, “How can God know? Does the Most High know everything? ”  Look at them ​– ​the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth.  … When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless  until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.  Indeed, you put them in slippery places; you make them fall into ruin.  How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors.

According to Asaph, until he “entered God’s sanctuary,” or came to understand the spiritual reality behind the natural events, it appeared unfair that the wicked lived in relative ease while he, attempting to be righteous had the sense in v. 13 that he had “purified his heart and washed his hands in innocence for nothing,” being “punished every morning” and “afflicted all day long,” (v. 14). But once he took God’s perspective on the wicked, he realized the relative ease with which they were living was really a slippery path to destruction if they were not to repent from their ways.

The biblical idea that God has created the universe to act in a certain fashion, or to react to our actions in a certain fashion, is itself a slippery slope of sorts, as it can lead one to a form of fatalism or consequentialism. Fatalism is the belief that all events are predetermined or inevitable, therefore, people have no ability to influence the outcome of their lives. Consequentialism regards all actions as justifiable as long as the consequences are favorable; i.e., the ends justify the means.

However, what the Bible actually describes is a system of justice based on the consequences of actions also known as “reaping what you sow.” In this view, people still are influencing their circumstances, so it is not fatalism. People are also held accountable for the “rightness” of their actions, so it is not strict consequentialism. In the Bible, people do receive the consequences of their actions, but they also have the ability to change their actions from negative and hurtful to positive and ultimately self-sacrificial. If fatalism were true, there would be no calls to repentance, and if consequentialism were true, there would be no accountability for doing bad things as long as the immediate result was good. No, the Bible teaches that God desires people to do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do, even if the immediate consequences are unfavorable for us. But the Bible also warns us if we continue to do the wrong things, even with the best of intentions, the end result will be bad.

It is from these ethical theories of men that God desires to free us. When we act at all times with integrity, we can avoid those twin traps of fatalism and consequentialism and we can stand assured before God that our actions are based on the truth of his Word and not just our assessment of our own circumstances.

Going back to our anchor verse for today:

Proverbs 11:3 – The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

We can see here that the righteous or upright can be guided in the correct way to walk by recognizing the opposite of the crooked, twisting, covert ways of the treacherous. Here are some other similar examples from these contrasting proverbs:

Proverbs 11:5-6 – The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness. 

Proverbs 11:6 – The righteousness of the upright rescues them, but the treacherous are trapped by their own desires.

Proverbs 11:18 – The wicked person earns an empty wage, but the one who sows righteousness, a true reward.

Proverbs 13:6- Righteousness guards people of integrity, but wickedness undermines the sinner. 

Proverbs 13:20 -The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.

Rather than seeking to define our own ethical behavior, God has defined it for us. In these types of proverbs, the contrast between the right way and the wrong way is the method of highlighting the differences and end results that God desires us to recognize in these alternative paths. The righteous are guarded or protected by their righteousness; it clears a path for them when the way is unsure or blocked with obstacles. It rescues them and provides them an eternal reward. The wicked will lie and cheat, they are trapped by their own desires; they will be undermined by their own sinfulness which provides only an empty wage, and will ultimately cause their own downfall.

Which path seems more compelling to follow? When viewed in its larger context and cultural setting, I believe this becomes self-evident. This is why this type of contrasting teaching throughout the proverbs is such a powerful method of conveying truth.

Contrasted with the “crookedness” of the wicked, there is no covert or hidden agenda with a righteous person; what they say, they will do. They are known as a “straight shooter,” someone who can be trusted because they are faithful and loyal. Everything is open and above-board in dealing with a righteous person, and you will always know where you stand.

In Matthew 5:33-37, Yeshua encourages believers to exhibit these characteristics in all of their outward relations: “Be a person of your word, not requiring any oath to substantiate your actions. Simply say yes or no, and do what you say.” When we act in this way, we can honor God and magnify the positive characteristics and ethical characteristics that are displayed, and contrasted, in his Word.


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.

We always have the choice to do what’s right

If we don’t, then there is no choice to be had.

Psalm 51:5 – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

This verse is one of the key passages used to support the hypothetical concept of original sin. The theory of original sin generally states that every person is born sinful, stained with the genetic sin from Adam and Eve. Therefore, according to this theory, every person is born guilty of someone else’s sin and there is no way for anyone to please God because sin is in our very nature.

This premise is further substantiated through a famous passage in the New Testament written by Paul to the Roman congregation.

Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

However, what Paul was doing in this passage was symbolically contrasting Adam with Yeshua, and showing how following the paths of either of their lives results in diametric opposites; one to death, and the other to life.

Romans 5:17 – For if by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Yeshua the Messiah.

The sin of Adam and Eve was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which represents choosing to make one’s own decisions about what is right and wrong. The tree of life, however, is representative of following the instruction of God, since God knows what is best for us.

There are other passages which illustrate that we are responsible for our own actions, not the actions of others. Most famously in Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18:20-21 – “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

The whole chapter goes into much more detail regarding personal accountability, and I encourage you to read the entire context.

Additionally, if Paul actually believed in the concept of original sin, then he contradicts himself in his letter to the Corinthian congregation.

2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

The reason that making this distinction about original sin is important is because we are urged by Yeshua to live lives of integrity. He directs each one of us to be a person of our word and not be hypocritical. Being born from above is representative of the new perspective that we can live according to the instruction of God, the tree of life, from the heart. We are no longer to just coast through life’s circumstances at the whim of our own best judgment; that is the path of Adam that leads to death.

If we are inherently sinful from birth, then there is nothing that can be done about our sinful actions, and we are destined to die in our sin. This also makes God an unjust judge by unfairly assigning blame to us for something we had no control over.

Matthew 16:24 – Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

By contrast, Yeshua, through his sacrificial example, taught and demonstrated that we can choose to follow him and abide in the instruction of God by the Spirit of God working in and through us. Every admonition of Yeshua for people to follow and abide in him is hollow if they have no real choice in the matter.

We lead lives of integrity when we do what’s right, as defined by God, not by us. This involves us having the ability to choose to do so.

Matthew 5:20 – “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees [that is, doing what’s right from the heart, not from legal obligation], you will not enter 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, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

David’s transparent honesty before God

God can increase our sensitivity to his guidance when we allow him to.

Psalm 26:1-2 – Vindicate me, Yahweh, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in Yahweh without wavering. Prove me, Yahweh, and try me; test my heart and my mind.

David exhibits a true test of integrity: asking God to test his heart and mind to prove his integrity. Today, we typically think of the mind as the center of logic and reason, and the heart as the repository of emotion. However, in ancient Hebraic thinking, almost the exact opposite was true: the heart was the seat of the will and understanding, what might be called the “inner man.” The mind, if we were to translate literally, was thought to reside in the location of the kidneys, considered the seat of all emotion and affection.

Physiology aside, the standard set before us by David is one of incredible honesty and sincerity. Could we truly sit before God in his presence and ask him to review our hearts, to review our thoughts, and be confident he wouldn’t find anything amiss?

What we can take away from this passage is the outworking of integrity. If our heart and mind are right before God, we can then walk in faith and integrity. Our minds and hearts need to be set correctly for us to be walking correctly.

This is likely one of the main reasons that believers today are not exhibiting Kingdom principles in their daily lives. It is because we are so easily distracted by the many sources of information that vie for our attention every minute. We check our phones for updates in our online presence far more frequently than we reference God’s Word. Notifications alert us to the fact that some other new piece of information has been posted somewhere, and we incur an addictive fear of missing out on some new thing or the latest trend.

If we can maintain our headspace within God’s Kingdom, we may instead find that God begins to instill within us a fear of missing out on what he desires to reveal to us within his Word, and what he is instructing us to do. Rather than audible notifications from our digital devices, we become trained to be sensitive to his Spirit prompting us to review a specific passage or take a certain action in our daily activities.

The true life of integrity is one that is responsive to the spiritual indications and direction of God, operating with a sense of transparency in heart and mind, all aspects of which are working together to accomplish God’s will each day.


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.

Humility before God is where the path begins

Recognizing our inability to be righteous on our own.

Isaiah 66:1-2 – “Yahweh says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build to me? Where will I rest? For my hand has made all these things, and so all these things came to be,’ says Yahweh: ‘but I will look to this man, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.'”

Everything in the life of a believer begins with humility of reference: the one who is of a contrite spirit. The Hebrew word Isaiah uses here for “contrite” means “stricken,” and is also translated in other passages as “crippled or lame; not having the ability to walk on one’s own.” To my way of thinking, that is a powerful metaphor for the believing life.

These are two of the biggest hurdles for those who do not believe; to recognize that God is the all-powerful Creator and that his Word is supreme. There is a pride that will not yield to God’s authority, as one prefers to chart their own way through this life.

One of my favorite sayings of the ancients that is attributed to Solomon comes from the Septuagint version of the Bible where it reads, “Unwearied endurance in seeking Yahweh is better than a masterless charioteer of one’s own life,” (Sirach 20:32). The masterless charioteer may have the freedom to choose their own way, but in doing so they must recognize that their way is fraught with unnecessary strife and adversity.

A few examples from the other writings of Solomon in the book of Proverbs can illustrate this:

Proverbs 11:5 – The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way, but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.
Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who is wise listens to counsel.
Proverbs 19:3 – The foolishness of man subverts his way; his heart rages against Yahweh.
Proverbs 21:2 – Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Yahweh weighs the hearts.

By contrast, one needs only to look at how Solomon also depicted the path of the righteous:

Proverbs 3:33 – Yahweh’s curse is in the house of the wicked, but he blesses the habitation of the righteous.
Proverbs 10:2 – Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 11:6 – The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them, but the unfaithful will be trapped by evil desires.

There are over 80 references to the positive attributes of the righteous in the Proverbs alone; this is no small indication of God’s desire for all people. Solomon’s conclusion even at the end of Ecclesiastes is also a famous verse, noted for its simplicity and universality for all people:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 “This is the end of the matter. All has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”

Yeshua begins the most significant teaching in the New Testament writings, the Sermon on the Mount, with the assertion that every principle he was about to teach on begins with simple humility before God.

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

There is no need to go further into the Sermon on the Mount if one has not begun with the humility of heart that Yeshua honors. Recognizing that one is not able to walk the path of this life on one’s own is a true demonstration of the contrite spirit, and one that Isaiah assures believers will provide an ongoing rejuvenating experience.

Isaiah 57:15 – “For the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, says: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'”


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.

Keeping God’s commands from the heart

This is the stated goal that God has for all people everywhere.

1 Kings 8:61 – “Therefore let your heart be whole and complete to Yahweh our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

As Solomon was dedicating the newly built First Temple, he offered a long and detailed prayer to God that it would be a beacon to Israel and the rest of the world of God’s faithfulness. He prays for righteous judgment and forgiveness for Israel, for overcoming drought and famine, for victory over Israel’s enemies, and even for the foreigners who prayed God to also have their prayers answered.

As he concludes his oration by blessing the assembly before him, he issues the admonition quoted above, that they would remain whole-heartedly faithful to God by keeping his commandments.

1 Kings 8:57-58 – “Yahweh our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors; may he not leave us or abandon us, but incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors.”

Key within Solomon’s admonitions to the assembly are two things: following God’s commands, and doing so with whole-hearts that are inclined toward God. This is also the hope and prediction of the prophets throughout the rest of Israel’s history:

Psalm 119:10-11 – 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.

Jeremiah 31:33 – “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Ezekiel 11:19-20 – “I will give them integrity of heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh, “so that they will follow my statutes, keep my ordinances, and practice them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

The new covenant is all about keeping God’s commands from the heart. According to Yeshua, there are two commandments which are the summation of everything taught in the entire Law and Prophets, or the Tanakh, what we call the Old Testament.

Matthew 22:37-40 – “He said to him, ‘Love Yahweh 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.'”

If, as Solomon prayed, God’s people (even those who would have been considered foreigners to them) would simply keep God’s commands from the heart, they would be faithfully “walking in his ways.” This is the goal of all of the entirety of the Biblical narrative: that people walk in God’s ways sincerely and from the heart.

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

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is the whole duty of humanity.

This is what integrity looks like: it is the fulfillment of all that Solomon prayed for, the promise that the prophets predicted, and the consummation of what Yeshua accomplished. Now it is up to us to go and live it out among our 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, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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