The integrity of walking in obedience to God’s commands

They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

Luke 1:6

Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the baptizer, are described as being a couple with incredible integrity. From the narrative in the gospel of Luke, it appears this is why they were chosen to be the recipients of such a great honor as being the parents of one of the most influential prophets. In fact, Yeshua would go on to describe John as being “the greatest of those born among women,” (Matt. 11:11, Lk. 7:28).

This righteousness, or integrity, was based on their keeping of the commandments. This is what being righteous means: doing what’s right. What’s right in God’s eyes is what he has revealed to us as his torah, his instruction. Those who are faithful in living in accordance with his instruction are considered righteous. This hyper-obedient type of integrity is what Yeshua taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. … In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. … So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:6, 16, 19-20

This righteousness, or obedience to the commands, is considered a standard of the those who would be participants in the kingdom of God. The apostle John also makes this abundantly clear.

1 John 2:3-4 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.
1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments do not weigh us down…

There is no difference between the righteousness of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the righteousness of believers today; righteousness is still based on obedience to God’s torah, his instruction. While their obedience was a hopeful, forward-looking faith toward the coming of God’s Messianic kingdom, our obedience is based on a faith that looks back to the establishment of that kingdom. Yeshua was going to fulfill the prophetic expectation of their day; we are now looking back at the completed picture of how that has been fulfilled.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the ruling leader and completer of the faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Our common faith with Zechariah and Elizabeth is based on walking in the same integrity and righteousness of obedience that allows all of us to be participants in the kingdom. They are the witnesses that have gone before, we are the witnesses that come behind, continuing the glory of the everlasting kingdom that has been completed and established by Messiah.

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

The momentum of integrity can keep one on the right path

Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, But wickedness overthrows the sinner.

Proverbs 13:6

There are a lot of rich words in this short proverb that convey a wealth of helpful information for those who are seeking the motivation and wisdom to live with integrity.

Righteousness is a word conveying right actions, or just decisions that a ruler might make. This word is used of those who follow and pursue the torah or instruction of God. This proverb begins by telling us that righteousness guards or preserves from danger, watches over and keeps close the one pursuing it. As a watchman on the wall of a city is always looking out for possible intruders, this guarding takes place because of the righteous actions.

The way of a person is their path or their habits, manner of life, course of their character. If that way of life is blameless or full of innocence and simplicity, complete in integrity, then their right decisions protect their way from the danger of straying from the truth.

However, the caution of this proverb is that wickedness, a moral, ethical, or religious straying from the right path can distort, twist, turn upside down the one who sins, that is, who is an offense to God.

What is interesting is that the emphasis in this proverb is on the actions of the individuals, and how their habitual actions keep them on one path or the other. We typically are inclined to think that good or bad people do good or bad things. This proverb, though, is implying that the actions of the individuals actually define who they are and keep them doing so.

The wicked person’s actions work in a way to prevent them from doing right. By contrast, the righteous actions of the person of integrity act as guardrails to keep them on right path. From this we can learn that the momentum of actions, good or bad, create a path of life that can define us.

My hope for all those seeking God is that they would remain motivated to continue to live in the ways of righteousness; following righteousness and integrity is a powerful protector for those who are continually seeking him.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The most effective act of righteousness is simply believing God

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.

Romans 3:21-22

One of the radical teachings brought out by the apostle Paul is the fact that faith in God and his Messiah is considered a righteous act. To his Jewish audience, righteousness had been defined solely by following the law of Moses. In fairness, this would not have been an incorrect conclusion, but the Jews had complicated it further by adding man-made rules and traditions that began to overshadow the original intent of God in the first place.

Paul’s argument throughout the early chapters of his letter to the Roman assembly is challenging, to be sure, but masterfully lays out how all along faith had been the root of righteousness that God was seeking for his people, and he uses the example of Abraham to make his point.

For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Romans 4:13

Paul’s whole point in doing so is to demonstrate how the torah or instruction of God described how Abraham was considered righteous simply by believing what God had promised him. This is the righteousness that was “apart from the law” (because it was 400 years before Sinai) yet “witnessed by the law and Prophets.” It’s as if Paul is saying just because faith was not one of the Ten Commandments at Sinai or expressly listed as a requirement of the covenant, faith in God is all through the “law and the Prophets,” that is, the rest of the Bible. According to Paul, this principle was there all along but was only then being revealed to his people as they were coming to faith in Messiah.

Paul equates faith in the Messiah of God as a righteous act, equally as righteous as any of the acts of the law-keeping Jews, and in fact more so, because faith in God was the whole point of the law. By demonstrating how Abraham’s faith preceded the giving of the law at Sinai, Paul is highlighting how the righteousness that the Jews thought they were possessing through their over-strict adherence to the letter of the law was being diminished because they were not expressing the faith in God that the torah was designed to supplement all along. It was a classic case of the Jews having missed the forest for the trees.

When we seek to live lives of integrity that Yeshua asks of us, we should consider that whatever the situation, demonstration of faith in God is always the most righteous thing we could ever do. God’s torah points us in the right direction, but it must always be accompanied by faith in him to be truly effective in the intent that God had for it in the first place. And it will never return to him without accomplishing what he intends.

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper [in the thing] for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

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

Overcoming relative morality by hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness

Core of the Bible podcast#17 – Overcoming relative morality by hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how the desire for righteousness should drive our every action, just like hunger or thirst.

Yeshua stated it this way:

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

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I’ve stated it as “Crave that which God approves; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied.”

A craving is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated. Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible.

While genuine poverty and hunger are present in our current American culture, the majority of the population doesn’t know what it means to really be hungry or thirsty. Most of us have access to clean water and basic food services and can afford to at least remain fed and hydrated.

However, in Yeshua’s day, this was not always the case. When we look at modern paintings of people following Yeshua as he traveled around from town to town, or taught by the Lake of Galilee; they are well-dressed and clean and the kids are playing nearby, like they are simply on a church family picnic. This image obscures the reality that living in Israel in the first century was a hard-scrape existence. It was an agrarian society that was dependent on local crops and the beneficence of an oppressive foreign military presence. Many people never knew where their next meal was coming from. This is evidenced by the large crowds that followed Messiah when he graciously and miraculously provided them bread and fish. And yet he recognized that the majority of them were only there for the food, not for his teaching.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.

Real hunger will drive you to do things you might not normally do, perhaps even unlawful things like stealing:

Proverbs 6:30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

Additionally, bread/food can be used to entice people to sin:

Proverbs 28:21 – To show partiality [is] not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.

Food is a compelling motivator for those who have none.

It’s that motivating factor that Yeshua seizes upon to drive home the urgency with which he encourages his listeners to seek righteousness. They should hunger and thirst for it.

So what is the righteous action in any given situation? In order to do what’s right, one must have some sort of “ideal of rightness” to reference.

THE MORALITY OPTIONS OF THE WORLD

In the case of the world at large, people tend to choose whatever seems good to them, or to ideals they have been brought up to believe, or what is culturally relevant or currently popular. While these are certainly significant considerations, one can readily see that these standards will not be the same in every instance and can obviously lead to differing ideas of what is right and wrong.

While ethical morality is a complex subject, it can be broken down into three major groupings or perspectives:

Relative morality: The idea that morality is relative to the culture in which it is expressed, and is not universal to all cultures everywhere.

Absolute morality: The idea that there are universal principles of morality that apply across all cultures.

Moral pluralism: The idea that there can be conflicting moral values that are both worthy of tolerance and respect.

Understanding these basic categories does not give us rigid boundaries, it is most likely that within these three major views, an individual may fall somewhere within the spectrum of all of them, and their spectrum location may vary depending on the topic at hand.

For example, someone may be an absolute moralist on the topic of murder, saying that outright killing someone else is wrong no matter what culture you’re in. But how does one’s absolute opinion translate on topics of accidental killing, or assisted suicide, or war? Then an individual needs to confront the issues of morality within the context of those situations. So whatever standard they are using for the basis of their absolute morality has to be evaluated in the light of these additional considerations. Hence, people’s opinions are all over the map when it comes to issues of ethical morality; there are innumerable ways of concluding what’s right in any given situation.

However, for the believer, the field of ethical options is narrowed down considerably because we are constrained to abide by how God defines righteousness, and what God’s word may say on any given topic. If we are truly hungering and thirsting to be righteous in his eyes, then we should know how he defines righteousness. After all, it is originally his concept anyway, and he can choose to define it any way that he desires.

BIBLE DEFINITION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

In the Bible, the word righteousness comes from several layers of the the original Greek wording which means to show rightness (as something that is self-evident); it is action that is innocent or holy that is, set apart. In the Hebrew the word is associated with justice (of kings or judges), fairness, and ethical purity.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne…

God’s throne, from where he rules his kingdom, is based on righteousness (ethical “rightness”) and justice (correct judgment). As believers, we believe God’s judgment is trustworthy and reliable, and we should be hungering and thirsting to understand righteousness from his perspective. Let’s look at some practical ways that we can learn to apply principles of righteousness from God’s word in our lives.

SPECIFIC, GENERAL, AND IMPLIED DIRECTIVES

If the Bible is to be our ideal of righteousness, then we should understand how to view and interpret this information so we can apply it correctly. Unfortunately, methods of interpretation vary greatly; hence the disagreements of even Bible believers over a standard approach to a rigid definition of morality.

However, there are some general principles we can learn that can help even out some of these variations. The instruction, insights, or commands that God provides within his word can be grouped into three major categories: they may be specific, general, or implied depending on the topic or situation.

For example, a specific command relates to stealing: You shall not steal.

It’s pretty obvious that God specifically intends for us not to take for ourselves anything that does not belong to us. While there may be some die-hards who quibble over definitions, it is reasonable to infer that God does not want us to steal from others.

A general insight might be represented by a command on how Israel was to treat immigrants and foreigners in the land:

Exodus 22:21 “You shall not wrong a foreigner, neither shall you oppress him, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

There are no specific examples what types of wrongs should be avoided here, but just the general idea that foreigners should be treated fairly, and not be oppressed. Based on their unfair treatment while they were in Egypt, they should remember how that felt and not repeat it with those who would be foreigners in their newly established land.

Another general command might also be highlighted by the admonition to love our neighbor. While there are many specific examples throughout the Bible (like the parable of the good Samaritan), one general gauge of what loving our neighbor looks like would be the Golden Rule. Our love for others should be dependent on how we would want to be treated if we were in their place. The specifics would vary from situation to situation, but the general principle would still be valid.

An implied insight might be gained from reading a specific command to ancient Israel regarding real estate conflict.

Deuteronomy 19:14 Never move your neighbor’s original boundary marker on any property in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Apparently there was a huge potential for falsifying property boundaries before official surveying and plat recordings of real estate. While that is a specific command for a specific time, we can draw an implied principle from this command which would mean that we should deal fairly with our neighbors and not try to cheat anyone out of what is rightfully theirs.

Another implied insight might be gained from reading the book of Jonah. In the story, Jonah tries to run away from what God had instructed him to do, and yet God brings him back in a dramatic way to finish what he originally intended. From this, we can receive an implied lesson that we should not avoid what God would have us do in a given situation, or he may bring it back around in an unexpected way and we will still be expected to see it through to completion.

So these are just a few examples of how specific, general, and implied commands can be encountered and applied in our lives today.

Taking this information forward, we can then begin to formulate righteous actions to modern situations by applying these various directives in their intended ways.

To formulate a worldview that is consistent takes time and thought about many difficult topics and current events and dynamic relationships. This is where the hungering and thirsting comes in. If we are to be genuine, we must know what we believe and why, and this longing must consume us.

1 Peter 3:14-17 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them [those who would cause you evil], nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Peter mentions that we should be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us about the hope that we have, and the reasons we take the actions and stances we do. To be prepared is to take the time to look at the specific, general, and implied directives within God’s word and make consistent choices based on this understanding.

Peter here also emphasizes “good behavior,” or manner of life and conduct, as being a defining factor of righteousness. What we believe about these things will be evident in our actions, and these actions will then speak to our righteousness.

This is important because others who may not agree with your reasoning should not be able to fault you for being inconsistent. Hypocrisy is a universal deterrent to trust and open dialogue. Consistency, on the other hand, garners trust because it is recognized as being thoughtful and intentional, and your righteous actions will many times simply speak for themselves. Even the most hardened cynic would agree that having a consistent worldview is the most honest thing that any person can do.

To that end, the best I can do is determine my views on my interpretation of Biblical values, and live as consistently as possible within that framework. And you should, too. Believers who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the types of followers Yeshua is seeking out for his Father, because these are the types of worshipers the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Those who worship in spirit and truth do so because they are truly hungry and thirsty to do what’s right in God’s eyes, not just seeking to find a religious experience or to fit in with a specific crowd. Yeshua promises that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who seek it at every turn in their lives, will be satisfied. They will have those longings fulfilled. Just as a long, cool drink on a hot day quenches our thirst, or a hearty meal after a hard day of work satisfies a deep hunger, the blessing of those who are seeking these ideals of righteousness is that they will receive what they long for. And because they are seeking righteousness, righteousness will be dealt to them.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that hungering and thirsting after righteousness is basically another way of saying that we should have a constant longing to do what’s right in God’s eyes in any situation. This requires us to be thoroughly familiar with God’s word and to be thoughtfully prepared within our cultural context. This preparation will then allow us to take actions that honor God and demonstrate a consistent worldview in our understanding of the Bible.

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

How to improve our spiritual reflexes

I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20

In Matthew 5, Yeshua encourages believers to exceed the righteousness of the religious leaders by being sincere and genuine. The hypocrisy of the leadership was evident in all of their public actions, and Yeshua was constantly confronting them on their hypocrisy.

But Yeshua always focused on his followers doing the right thing from the heart, not just following a set of rules. He said that what was in the heart would overflow into actions that reveal the true intent of the heart.

Good people do the good that is in them. But evil people do the evil that is in them. The things people say come from inside them.

Luke 6:45

This is a challenging principle, but one that also helps us gauge where we are in our spiritual journey. How?

By reviewing our reflexive interactions with others, we can see how “changed” our heart is. When we say the wrong things and then realize it later, we know that our immediate heart response, like a reflex, responds with what it’s full of. If it’s full of bitterness or frustration, it will lash out in anger. If it’s full of peacemaking and reconciliation, it will seek to reach out in love and sacrificial effort for the sake of another. By self-reviewing our conversations with others, we can get an idea of how positive or negative our spiritual reflexes may be.

This is why, when we become angry or frustrated, it is recommended we wait until we have a chance to “cool down” before providing a response to a particular situation. Then we allow the negative emotion to pass where we can think more clearly of an appropriate response. Likewise, if we have a caring or willing heart impulse to help someone who comes across our path, we shouldn’t stifle that feeling and allow the moment to pass without acting on it.

This is a challenging dynamic process that requires maturity to navigate. If we constantly fill our hearts with the bitterness and strife we may encounter in our families, work places and social media interactions, then we are sure to outwardly act on those heart responses. But, if we keep our hearts filled with the positive aspects of our spiritual heritage of finding ways we care for others, healing the hurts around us, and going above and beyond for those who are antagonistic towards us, we will be more likely to  respond reflexively, in the moment, in a way that honors God.

Some of the practical ways we can do this is through memorizing helpful Bible verses, having hymns or spiritual songs that are meaningful to us in our daily routine, and by choosing to privately and sincerely pray throughout the day for our own responses and to overcome the actions of others. These habits produce a life of integrity, a life that honors God, because it is a life of refusing to succumb to the culture around us, and to maintain a righteous attitude in the face of adversity.

When we can train our reflexes to operate in this way, we are then able to magnify God to those around us just as he intends us to.

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

The unavoidable integrity that shines in the darkness

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Yeshua encouraged the believers to boldly follow his directives in the face of any opposition. He wanted them to influence that generation in positive ways so that by their unavoidable example others might also be drawn to the truth.

However, this public displaying of good works was not to be the sole end, but also the means by which the message of the kingdom was to be disseminated. If the disciples took his message to heart, it would fill every aspect of their being and their interactions and there would be no way to hide the fact that they were new creations in God’s sight. Yeshua’s analogies of being like candles on a lampstand or a city on a hill accurately capture the intent of the kingdom message: it would be unavoidably visible in a world of darkness: a candle can’t help but shine; a city on a hill at night can’t help but be seen.

How unlike the religious leaders of his day who outwardly did good works only for the display of righteousness; this was not because their hearts were changed, but only so they would appear to be righteous in the eyes of others.

Matthew 23:2-3, 5 “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. “Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. … “They do everything to be seen by others…

Yeshua knew that the religious leaders would calculate every appearance of their public actions to be in line with the strict letter of Torah, but in their hearts and minds they were as corrupt as dead mens’ bones.

Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. “In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

By contrast, Yeshua called his believers to be people of integrity, those whose sole motivation would be to glorify God and to be obedient to him no matter what the physical cost would be. This type of good works that would be seen by others was to come from a completely different place of motivation than the religious leaders of the day. Yeshua was creating a new kingdom of idealized subjects: those who are under no compulsion other than a genuine desire to do what’s right at all times. They would be aligned so closely to their heavenly Father and their Lord that obedience in the face of any difficulty or persecution was not even a question, it was a foregone conclusion.

This is how the kingdom would be grown until it would fill the earth. There is no other way. A strong eternal kingdom cannot be fostered in an environment of doubt, hypocrisy, and disobedience; it needs to be based on an underlying central integrity that cannot change or diminish over time. These acts of internal integrity then become evident as being something different than the world has to offer, and it causes others to be drawn to its collective light.

Philippians 2:15 That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

The example of their unavoidable integrity has been set for all time. It is up to us to receive and carry that metaphorical torch which will then be handed 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 here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Doing what is right in God’s eyes

Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God.

Deuteronomy 12:28

Doing what is right in the sight of God is the biblical definition of integrity. It means following his instruction or acting according to his precepts.

Some examples of those who have done what is right in God’s eyes can help us to understand what this practical righteousness or integrity looks like.

2 Chronicles 14:2-5 Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the pagan shrines. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded the people of Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his law and his commands. Asa also removed the pagan shrines, as well as the incense altars from every one of Judah’s towns. So Asa’s kingdom enjoyed a period of peace.

2 Kings 22:1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.
2 Kings 23:24 Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the LORD’s Temple.

Notice in these examples that Asa and Josiah were considered doing what was right in God’s sight because they were doing something according to God’s word. As kings, they had the ability to make laws and take actions that would guide and protect the people of Israel. They had chosen to take action, to do what was right in God’s eyes (according to his word), in regards to the corruption and idolatry that they saw had creeped in among God’s people. They were men of practical vision who recognized that the idolatrous influences of the surrounding cultures were polluting God’s people and they acted in accordance with God’s word; they did what was right in God’s eyes.

By contrast, those who instead follow their own ways do what they think is right, not paying any attention to the commands of God.

Proverbs 16:25 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
Proverbs 21:2 People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart.

Similarly, we can see peoples’ stature and the impressive way they present themselves, but we don’t always know what’s in their heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Some people’s actions are praised, but they may actually be hypocritical because they are doing things only to be seen as righteous by others. Yeshua had to combat this type of unrighteousness among the leaders of his day.

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

There are things that are right in the sight of God, and there are things that are an abomination in the sight of God. The key factor is understanding what God’s perspective is, then we can know what’s right and what’s wrong.

Even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand our motivation, we can still do what’s right in God’s eyes. Meditating on his word and understanding it in its entirety provides us the correct context for our outward actions. Like Asa and Josiah before us, this type of obedient integrity purifies God’s people and accomplishes God’s purpose in each 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 here.

Living lives of integrity by intentionally placing God’s word in our hearts

Do what is right and good in the Yahweh’s sight, so all will go well with you. … For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands Yahweh our God has given us.

Deuteronomy 6:18, 25

Yeshua taught that believers should demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands. The integrity of the actions we pursue and the decisions we make should come from a genuine place in our hearts, not just outward compliance.

What Yeshua was teaching the audience of his day was nothing new. Moses had urged this of the Hebrew community over a millennia earlier, and they had formed many traditions around his template to maintain a continuous recognition of the commands of God.

Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The method used by Hebrew believers over the years to accomplish this doing of the commands from the heart is in the recitation of the Shema. As outlined from a popular Jewish website below, this process has become a daily declaration of their faith.

Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) (“Hear, O Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is the centerpiece of the morning and evening prayer services, encapsulating the monotheistic essence of Judaism:

“Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.”

In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.

Its recitation twice daily (morning and evening) is a biblical commandment. In addition, we recite it just before retiring for the night, as well as in the Kedushah service on Shabbat.

Indeed, this succinct statement has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth.

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/705353/jewish/The-Shema.htm

While I am not suggesting we adopt this specific Jewish tradition listed above, its method of identifying what is most important and reviewing it in an intentional way should be an example to us of the tenacity required to imbue their culture with a recognition of an obedient life, an upright and righteous life, a life of true integrity.

How diligent are we in making sure the words of God are in our hearts so we can act on them without even thinking? Like physical reflexes, we should respond to our situations and conditions in ways that honor God because his instruction is thriving in our hearts. When situations arise that demand our obedience, we shouldn’t have to seek commentaries and biblical concordances; we should be so imbued with God’s word that his Spirit can bring those insights to the forefront of our thinking, and therefore our actions, whenever needed.

Moses’ method in the commandment involves a constant, daily, repetitious routine that would saturate the culture of the people. “…you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

If we could find ways to incorporate this level of diligence in our daily routines for ourselves and within our families, we would not only be following the commandment, but we would also be living lives of integrity that would be clearly and intentionally patterned on God’s word.

Noah’s life of integrity and righteousness is an example for us to follow

This is the account of Noah and his descendants. Noah was righteous and was a man of integrity among the people of his time. He walked [habitually] with God.

Genesis 6:9

Noah is remembered most famously for building an ark and surviving a great flood. But most people don’t realize he is the first person in the Bible to be named as righteous.

The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddik. A tsaddik is a person who is considered just and righteous in conduct and character, Other contexts of the word include describing someone who is upright, honest, virtuous, pious. It is a word commonly used of good kings or judges who faithfully dispense justice and fairness.

In most Christian circles today, righteousness is typically viewed as something that is only conferred on an individual from God, as a bestowal of a righteous state that they did not possess previously. This perspective comes largely from the apostle Paul writing about the legal aspect of imputed righteousness, as in the case of Abraham who was accounted or considered righteous for his faith in God.

But this heavy theological concept of imputed righteousness masks the meaning of the word, as it implies someone can be considered righteous while not really being righteous; it is simply a way God chooses to view those who place their faith in him.

In reality, I think what Paul was attempting to convey, as it is used of Abraham in the book of Romans, is the idea that faith is equally considered a righteous act, along with all other lawful, virtuous, honest, and upright actions. Faith in God and his Messiah is considered a righteous action. That would have been a revolutionary concept to his audience. To be a tsaddik, they knew, was to faithfully and obediently follow the torah (or instruction) of God that has been revealed. To do this effectively, Paul says, requires faith, a righteous action like any other.

For Noah, this would mean that out of all others in his generation or age, he was the individual who most closely matched the ideal that God had provided up to that point because of his faith. While those in his day may not have had any written Scripture, there were undoubtedly oral teachings that had been passed from generation to generation since the days of Adam previously. And in God’s eyes, Noah was a tsaddik, a righteous individual, one who faithfully and continually walked with God.

To walk with God in this sense is to live in a way that pleases him, to abide by his counsels and admonitions, to be familiar with God and his ways and to direct one’s own personal affairs in agreement with God’s. This is biblical righteousness.

This is a life of integrity, as Yeshua described this concept in his Sermon on the Mount. To demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands. To be a person of your word, simply saying yes or no, and doing what you say. To crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, To avoid hypocrisy, and to magnify God by letting your good deeds “shine.” To conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and, if necessary, to endure harmful attacks of those who may not agree with your right actions. All of these things could essentially be said of Noah, which is why he was considered a tsaddik.

We would do well to follow in his footsteps among our generation, doing what’s right in the face of adversity and corruption around us. God may not task each of us with building a literal ark, but we should be just as mindful of our responsibility to positively influence those around us through our integrity and faithful obedience to God’s revealed word.

Making the right choices every day helps keep us on the right path

Righteousness keeps him who is upright in the way, and wickedness overthrows a sin offering.

Proverbs 13:6

Those who have integrity are often described with similar terms such as “upright” or “perfect.” This idea of perfection, though, is not as though one is completely without fault; it is more a concept of completeness, or wholeness.

Yeshua uses the phrase in a similar way when he encourages believers to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:48). This is a Hebraic way of expressing that believers should be totally consistent in their lifestyle: their beliefs and what they say should match 100% with what their actions convey. This is wholeness, perfection, integrity.

In the proverb above, walking in righteousness is said to guard or “keep” one in the way of God. The more our lives demonstrate consistency, the simpler it is to stay on the correct path.

By contrast, when our lives are in disarray and when our actions are inconsistent, we struggle more to keep our focus where it needs to be. The wickedness of those who do not walk with integrity is said to “overthrow their sin offering.” This is a demonstration of how even the best of intentions can be counteracted by a pattern of inconsistent behavior.

Living a life of integrity or wickedness is a life of momentum. The weight of our everyday thoughts and actions drive a flywheel of consequence that can keep us headed in positive or negative directions based on patterns we are establishing in every decision.

When we are consistent in our actions and our speech, we establish patterns of righteousness that tend to keep us walking in the right way. Sin is less of a temptation and a distraction because we have established views and behaviors that we begin to thrive in. This encourages further righteous actions and as a result, we begin to exhibit larger measures of integrity in our interactions with others.

My eyes are on the faithful of the land, to dwell with me, Whoever is walking in a perfect way, he serves me.

Psalm 101:6