Those who live and abide by God’s precepts are doing so because it makes up the very essence of who they are.
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, for I am with you,” says the LORD.
The one thing that set ancient Israel apart from their neighboring tribes and countries was that their God was present. While other kingdoms and countries had their gods, their idols, and their temples, Israel actually had the God of the universe with them.
God allowed himself to be present within their Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that traveled with them. His presence resided in the Most Holy Place, by all accounts hovering above and within the ark of the covenant, which contained the tablets of the Ten Words, the Ten Commandments.
This covenant, these Ten Words, are what separated Israel from their neighbors. This is what made them holy; they were to abide by the actual commands of God, written with his own finger, etched eternally into stone.
There was no fanciful prophetic vision or private revelation; these words had been conveyed to the entire assembly of Israel at once as he himself spoke these words from Sinai. Everyone heard his voice, everyone felt the weight of his presence and struggled with the fear, real fear, at hearing the resounding and penetrating voice of God.
On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled.
For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
Israel was born of revelation, a revelation to an entire people at once. This is what set them apart, and this was the heart of their most sacred place and artifacts that they carried with them throughout their wilderness journeys and into the land promised to them.
To this day, what sets God’s people apart is this covenant, the Ten Words. There is no equal among the religious communities of the world,
The illustration for us through what is pictured in the wilderness journeys of Israel is that just as God resided within that Most Holy Place above the ark of the covenant, God’s very presence resides within these Ten Words, the Ten Commandments. As we seek to fulfill these commands, then we are truly following in the footsteps of our Lord, the Messiah Yeshua.
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is the everlasting covenant that remains forever. The “new” covenant ushered in through Yeshua is a martyr’s covenant of dying to self so that the words of the everlasting covenant can be lived through us. It places this covenant in the hearts of those who would receive them, those who are called by his Name and who live and abide by its precepts because it makes up the very essence of who they are.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
This is holiness, being set apart for the purposes of God. He is present within the words of his covenant, and as the covenanted words are in our heart, he is present within us.
God is present. This sets us apart. This makes us whole. This is the essence of his kingdom on the earth.
The vigilance for righteousness that God expects of us is real and unwavering.
One of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman to his brothers. He did this right in front of Moses and the whole community of Israel while they were crying at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of the priest Aaron, saw this. So he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand, and went into the tent after the Israelite man.
The type of vigilance required for maintaining righteousness is extreme and rarely practiced. Yeshua spoke of it in hyperbolic terminology, that even if your eye or hand causes you to sin, you should be prepared to gouge it out or chop it off.
In the example of Phinehas, a priest in Aaron’s line at the time of the wandering in the desert, he demonstrated this commitment to righteousness in an extreme way that he is famously remembered for to this day.
The men of Israel had become complacent in their commitment to Yahweh. They began to succumb to the idolatry of the local Midianite population as they were being seduced by the women of Moab.
While Israel was staying at Shittim, the men began to have sex with Moabite women who invited the people to the sacrifices offered to their gods. The people ate the meat from the sacrifices and worshiped these gods. Since the Israelites joined in worshiping the god Baal of Peor, the LORD became angry with Israel.
Due to this rampant idolatry, God sent a plague among the general population that was killing thousands of people. He revealed to Moses and the leaders what must be done to put things right.
The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people, and execute them in broad daylight in the LORD’s presence. This will turn the LORD’s anger away from Israel.” So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you must kill the men who have joined in worshiping the god Baal of Peor.”
There were no compromises, no discussions, no negotiations; those who had sinned in idolatry had to be removed from the population of Israel. The offenders had become so brazen in their sinfulness that they proceeded in their practices, even as Moses and the assembly leaders were seeking God’s direction and favor.
Upon seeing this, Phinehas instantly jumped into action in obedience to God’s command. He didn’t hesitate or wait for a committee to decide on the right timing; he simply got up, grabbed a spear, and followed the offenders into their tent.
So he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand, and went into the tent after the Israelite man. He drove the spear through the man and into the woman’s body. Because of this, the plague that the Israelites were experiencing stopped.
Phinehas is remembered because he unhesitatingly did a difficult thing that God required, and in so doing, saved the rest of the assembly. In his vigilance for righteousness, he saw the iniquity and took immediate action.
This story is a metaphor for us today. The example is extreme because God wants to make sure we understand how serious it is for us to remain in blatant disobedience to his purposes.
In like fashion to the men of Israel, we can be easily seduced by the surrounding idolatry of our day and age. The culture and technology we are immersed in provide ample opportunities for us to be led away, seduced as by Midianite women, from our commitment to the one true God.
It is only when those disobedient thoughts and actions are decisively put to death that we can be restored to wholeness with God. Yeshua used the example of gouging out eyes and chopping off hands (Matt. 5:29-30). Paul writes about it this way:
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
The same vigilance and determination of Phinehas for the righteousness of his people needs to be evidenced in us today for our own standing in God’s presence. The only way we can be truly set apart for God’s purposes is by brutally putting to death, gouging out, chopping off, and stabbing a spear through the heart of those things in our lives that offend God.
This is the determination needed to remain on God’s path. This is the vigilance it takes to be a child of God. Be a Phinehas, not waiting, but taking immediate and decisive action on the habits and practices in your life that are offensive to God.
Integrity or wickedness can each pull us into established patterns, for better or worse.
Righteousness keeps him who is upright in the way, and wickedness overthrows a sin offering.
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.
When we carry God’s Name, our words and actions should match his.
You do not take up the Name of your God YHWH for a vain thing, for YHWH does not acquit him who takes up His Name for a vain thing.
Those who belong to the kingdom of God should be honoring the Name, or character, of God with their thoughts, speech, and conduct. This is appropriate and expected kingdom behavior.
This verse has classically been used throughout generations for the purpose of not abusing or misusing the revealed Name of God, in the sense of using it as a curse word, or speaking it casually in conversation outside of an appropriate worship setting.
But that misses the intent of what God is attempting to teach us here, and throughout the Bible. The real sense of the passage is less about misusing God’s name carelessly, and more about our character in claiming to be believers or followers of him.
To “take God’s name in vain” is not expressly to use it flippantly (although that certainly in included). To “take” his Name is to take up, or carry his Name as identifying who we are, or rather, whose we are.
For example, when a wife has historically taken the name of her husband, she has identified with the honor of his family line. In the same sense, when someone comes to the knowledge of God and wants to be his follower, then they take his Name, identifying with his character. As God’s children, we carry his Name and his character in this world.
The admonition here is not to abuse God’s Name, but it’s about when we are identifying as belonging to him, we do not dishonor or defame his Name or character by our careless conduct. This could be paraphrased as “You shall not take my Name lightly or for no purpose.”
Our desire to follow his ways should not be rooted in our own selfish ambition or schemes. We should not join the kingdom impetuously, without any real thought for the responsibility we bear. Instead, we should be sincere in our desires to live for him and to bring honor and glory to his Name. When we carry his Name, our actions and our words should match his.
Yeshua demonstrated this so completely that it was impossible to distinguish between him and his Father.
John 5:19 – So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
John 7:16 – So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.
John 12:49 – For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment–what to say and what to speak.
John 14:8-9 – Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
When we consider following the Messiah, we are accepting that he was sent from the Father, and carried the Name of God so completely that he was essentially indistinguishable from the Father. If we are to become more and more like Messiah, then this same characteristic should be evident in our lives. When people see or hear us, they should be seeing what the Father would want to do or say in that situation.
Does this sound like a heavy responsibility? Of course, which is why we should not take his name lightly or for no purpose. We are admonished by Yeshua to count the cost of kingdom living (Luke 14:25-33), but in so doing, to accept it willingly and gladly .
When we live in awe of God’s majesty, we are compelled to act compassionately towards others.
Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
“The fear of the Almighty” or “the fear of the Lord” are phrases that have fallen out of use in our modern religious vernacular. Rarely is God represented as a being who is to be feared; rather, his mercy and forgiveness are emphasized above and beyond all of the qualities of his being.
To better understand this admonition to fear God, we would do well to investigate the word that is translated in our English versions as “fear.” In regular vocabulary, that word to us means to be frightened or scared of something or someone who might do us harm. However, in biblical terminology, the term goes beyond that into a broader usage of “reverence” or “awe.”
If we have the fear of God, we have the deepest respect and reverence for God, recognizing just how awesome and powerful he really is. Whether we read of his power in the creation of all things, or the separating of the Red Sea, or in the resurrection of Yeshua, we are glimpsing the majesty and glory that sits outside of our natural understanding into the supernatural realm of God’s character and abilities. When we incorporate that perspective of the other-ness of God into our daily lives, we cannot help acting and working differently than others around us who have a physical-only worldview.
In Job’s perspective above, he mentions how the fear of the Almighty is a factor in us helping those around us. If we do not have the fear of God, Job says, we have no motivation for expressing compassion to those less fortunate or those who are going through rough patches in their lives; we withhold kindness. We instead focus on our personal agendas which end up being relatively insignificant by comparison. Having the larger perspective of awe can help us realize that the things we value as important to us in the short term of our temporary lives pale in contrast with the more important things that the God of the universe expects of us, such as helping others.
This concept of perspective-changing awe is a known commodity, even outside of religious environments.
Imagine yourself at a scenic vista somewhere on Earth, such as the rim of the Grand Canyon or the shore of an ocean stretching out past the horizon line. As your brain processes the view and its sheer vastness, feelings of awe kick in. Looking at a photo is not the same, but we might get a dose of that when we look at a particularly sparkly Hubble picture of a star cluster. The experience of awe, whether we’re standing at the summit of a mountain or sitting in front of a computer screen, can lead to “a diminished sense of self,” a phrase psychologists use to describe feelings of smallness or insignificance in the face of something larger than oneself. Alarming as that may sound, research has shown that the sensation can be a good thing: A shot of awe can boost feelings of connectedness with other people.
Taken as a whole, the Bible is all about instilling in us a sense of awe and wonder for the God who created all things and who placed us within his creation to make a compassionate difference in the lives of those around us. When we operate within that sense of big-picture reverence for our Creator, we are not only encouraged but compelled to express his compassion. In this way, the two greatest commands, to love God and love others, can be fulfilled in us.
Just like the correct food and drink allow us to live healthy lives, believers thrive on righteousness.
In this episode we will be exploring the deep desire for integrity that is a hallmark of believers. This desire wells up from the deepest recesses of our spiritual being, driving us to be conformed to the life of Messiah, a life of truth and righteousness.
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 have restated it this way: Crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied.
I like the idea that righteousness or integrity is a craving. We can relate to that sensation from a physical point of view, so it is easy to translate that into a spiritual perspective. A craving or a thirst is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated. A life of integrity is one in which those cravings are striven for in every area of life.
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. In like fashion, a believer cannot deny the indicators of holy injustice and inequity which can only be satisfied with right actions. Just like the correct food and drink allow us to live healthy lives, believers thrive on righteousness.
Isaiah 41:17-18 NKJV – “The poor and needy seek water, but [there is] none, Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the LORD, will hear them; [I], the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in desolate heights, And fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, And the dry land springs of water.
Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 107:9 For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Hunger and thirst are the physical representations of the deeper spiritual needs that we all share, and therefore we have a common bond with all other humans in the pursuit of having these needs met.
According to Yeshua, the life of integrity is a life that is hungry and thirsty for righteousness. The world is a barren desert wilderness where righteousness is not to be found, unless God meets that need for us. And he can, and he will.
The Bible is filled with stories and parables regarding hunger and thirst, and the provision of God. For example, as Moses is recounting to the Israelites their struggles in the wilderness for 40 years, and how God had provided for them, he says:
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. … “
This passage is rich with the imagery that speaks in more concrete terms about spiritual truths. The example of Israel wandering in the wilderness is akin to our own wandering journey through this life. The uncertainty of the daily provision was a real struggle that had to be endured. Yet, God overcame that uncertainty of daily food by providing manna. But the text also says WHY God did this:
He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Just as their physical hunger was provided for, their spiritual hunger could be provided for if they would seek his word and his wisdom as earnestly as they sought the manna each morning, and with the same regularity. The Bible teaches us is that whatever is needed, God can provide. Wandering Israel needed food; God provided manna. They needed water; God provided miraculous pools and springs to sustain them.
Drawing on this very imagery of the wilderness journeys, Yeshua states further:
John 6:31-32, 35 NLT – After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. … Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Yeshua spoke not only of the bread of life that he could provide, but of the water of life to satisfy every thirst:
John 4:14 But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”
John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”
God knows we have a need, and he has provided for that need. In some cases, people don’t recognize their need for this spiritual food and drink, and therefore carry on through their lives oblivious to the richness available to them. This is why it is the person of integrity who recognizes this need, and feels the hunger and the thirst for righteousness every moment of every day, and pursue those cravings by drawing near to God. Their cravings drive them to seek for the truth of God’s instruction, and God provides.
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible regarding Matt. 5:6
Blessed are they which do hunger … – Hunger and thirst, here, are expressive of strong desire. Nothing would better express the strong desire which we ought to feel to obtain righteousness than hunger and thirst. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily, and when long continued, as in case of those shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands, with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for anything is often represented in the Scriptures by hunger and thirst, Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1-2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isaiah 55:1-2.
They shall be filled – They shall be satisfied as a hungry man is when supplied with food, or a thirsty man when supplied with drink. Those who are perishing for want of righteousness; those who feel that they are lost sinners and strongly desire to be holy, shall be thus satisfied. Never was there a desire to be holy which God was not willing to gratify, and the gospel of Christ has made provision to satisfy all who truly desire to be holy.
Isaiah 55:1-2 1“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why spend money on that which is not bread, and your labor on that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of foods.…
Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
How can you tell if you’re hungry? Well, if your hungry you’re most likely going to eat whatever small bit of food is put in front of you. But if you’re full even the most generous portion of delicious food will not seem appealing in any way.
The person hungry for righteousness will eat every little scrap of it that comes their way, while those who are not hungry wouldn’t touch it if it was served in the very center of the most delicious cake. The hungry yearn for even crumbs of righteousness to fall from the table. Those who are full do not value integrity and righteousness at all, and would rather use any means and any methods to get what they want.
So, in my mind, a natural question arises: If those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are filled and satisfied, then could the opposite also be true? If one doesn’t hunger and thirst for righteousness, will they not be filled?
The Bible speaks of it in this way:
Job 38:15 – Light is withheld from the wicked, and the arm raised in violence is broken.
Proverbs 4:19 – The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
Prov 11:3: The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.
Prov 13:6: Righteousness guards the way of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.
1 Cor. 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Ultimately, those who choose to follow their own ways demonstrate the lack of integrity that God desires of his people who will accomplish his purpose, and they are therefore outside of his kingdom. The way of the unrighteous is to reject the wisdom of God. In doing so, they seal their own fate, if they remain in that state.
In the first chapter of Proverbs, the Wisdom of God is personified as an individual warning people to abide in God’s ways:
Proverbs 1:30-33 They refused my [Wisdom’s] advice. They despised my every warning. They will eat the fruit of their lifestyle. They will be stuffed with their own schemes. Gullible people kill themselves because of their turning away. Fools destroy themselves because of their indifference.
By contrast, the righteous long for the wisdom of God. They seek his counsel at every opportunity.
1:33 But whoever listens to me will live without worry and will be free from the dread of disaster.
Prov 2:7-8: He lays up sound wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity; that he may guard the paths of justice, and preserve the way of his saints.
Those who seek God’s wisdom will walk in their integrity.
Titus 2:7-8 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.
By walking with integrity, we provide no opportunity for others to demean the message of the kingdom. In fact, we exhibit the very characteristics that God desires of his people, and that becomes a light to others in a world filled with the darkness of selfish ambition and careless avarice.
In summary, being a person of integrity can be simply stated as someone who strives to do the right thing, according to God’s standards, at every opportunity. They are so focused on righteous living that it can be characterized as a deep and enduring hunger and thirst that drives them. In so doing, God promises their hunger will be filled and their thirst will be satisfied.
Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Integrity is a lifelong pursuit, but one that God promises will be rewarded when we seek his wisdom and righteousness in everything we do.
We need to keep in mind that integrity is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.
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God’s greatest strength is typically viewed by humans as a weakness.
If You, O LORD, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.
The deities of the ancient nations exhibited power through their strength and ruthlessness. They were cruel gods with weaknesses and foibles rivalling those of the most degenerate of human behavior. Yet Yahweh stands out among the ancient gods for his characteristic forgiveness.
You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long. Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, O Lord, are kind and forgiving, rich in loving devotion to all who call on You.
The Psalmist writes, “But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.” The quality of God that most causes people to revere him is the fact that he is willing to forgive those who sincerely admit their failings.
Let the wicked man forsake his own way and the unrighteous man his own thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.
Considered in this light, this explains how God’s kingdom can expand to the entirety of earth. This is not a kingdom that is to be established by force or by might, but by love and forgiveness. Force and might may hold sway for temporary times and in limited areas, but it always gives way to the next sweep of power and might.
Forgiveness operates from a different base than forced subjection; it is a subtler but stronger might that captures the heart, and in so doing causes willing obedience and respect. It is not as visible and decisive as forced compliance, yet it spreads farther, reaches deeper, and lasts longer than any armed campaign could accomplish.
If our God is a God of forgiveness, and if we consider ourselves to be his children through faith, then should we not mimic the characteristic that would most demonstrate our likeness with our Father and bring honor to his name?
The contrast of our fleeting lives with the eternity of God should keep our trust firmly grounded in him.
Trust in the LORD forever, because GOD the LORD is the Rock eternal.
God deserves our trust because he never changes. What he has decreed will come to pass. What he has done remains forever. What he continues to do is as constant as the ocean surf, the shining sun, the starry constellations.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the purposes of His heart to all generations.
Our lives, by comparison, are unstable and variable as we flit from passion to passing trend. We waste time, energy, and passion on so many pointless and fleeting distractions that we arrive breathless and strained at the end of each day.
We rave about the most popular people and issues of the day, while ranting about individualized injustice and personal misery. Like Job of old, we come to view our lives as a constant, unfair struggle that deserves to be broadcast to the widest possible audience:
I wish that my words were recorded and inscribed in a book, by an iron stylus on lead, or chiseled in stone forever.
The fallacy of this type of thinking is borne out even in the conclusion of Job’s story: his fortunes are restored, his honor is retained, and the eternal justice of God is exonerated.
When we really pause to consider that God is eternal and we are not, how can we possibly think that our ways are better than his? Have we learned nothing from the natural course of life, how the wisdom of the aged is more stable than the impetuous passion of youth? If this is true in a natural sense, how much more with the One who never changes for all of eternity?
We are encouraged by the prophet Isaiah to trust in God if for no other reason than simply because he is eternal. We need to allow God to be God, and to recognize that we are not. When we do so, we can then have clarity through the settling dust of our temporary existence to see him for who he is, and place our trust where it really belongs: in his gracious, unchanging hands.
Being regularly engaged with God’s word in meaningful ways is what sets us apart for his will.
Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of the LORD and reflects on his teachings day and night.
A life that is set apart in holiness has its roots in the torah, or the instruction, of Yahweh. This constant input of God’s teachings is what generates within us a desire to do what honors him and directs us to deal fairly with others.
Since we are commanded to be holy, a practical understanding of what it means to “meditate” or “reflect on” his teachings can benefit our spiritual growth and nourishment.
Firstly, if our review of God’s instruction is to be constant, it must be comprehensive. We should be reviewing all of God’s word on a regular basis, not just cherry-picking our favorite verses. At a minimum we should be reviewing all of the Bible at least once a year.
Secondly, our review should be intentional. We have to set apart time each day to be successful. Like any relationship, there has to be constant interaction in order for the relationship to grow. The psalmist uses the language of “day and night” to convey the constancy of this meditation in God’s word.
Thirdly, this review should be meaningful. We need to be critically engaged with God’s instruction, not just passing popular scripture memes on social media.
While there are different learning styles, we can have various levels of meaningful engagement depending on how we choose to interact with the word. Reading or listening to an audio version engages one level of our critical insight. By reading while listening to an audio version, our comprehension grows on multiple levels. We can also read the word out loud, interacting through sight, speech and hearing. By committing meaningful passages to memory and reciting them over and over (i.e., “hiding God’s word in our heart,” Psalm 119:11), we have our most intimate and meaningful application of this engagement.
In our day and culture here in America, we have a large variety of versions and translations to choose from. We also have many different media options from print, to online, to apps for our mobile devices. We have audio versions and video versions that can be listened to and viewed regularly. If any generation has the ability to be steeped in God’s word, it is our current information-rich society.
In what ways can you be more engaged with God’s instruction? Perhaps experimenting with different levels of interacting with his word through the media options available to us can provide fresh perspective and renewed insight. The more intentional we are in learning from his guidance, the more set apart and available for his purposes we become.
If Proverbs 31 is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people, we can be encouraged to collectively attain its lofty ambitions.
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs contains a famous passage providing the characteristics of a “noble” or “virtuous” woman. Many a wife has reviewed this passage with trepidation, as the ideal set forth in these verses can indeed be intimidating.
However, instead of describing the ideal woman and holding wives to an unreachable standard, this passage can be viewed from a different, and perhaps more attainable, perspective that aligns with the middle-eastern propensity to couch word pictures and ideas in parabolic language.
Especially in the prophets, God has revealed himself as desiring his people as a husband desires the pure love of a faithful bride. He is equally disappointed when that love is not returned to him, but is instead wasted on the idolatry of the nations around them.
“O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the LORD. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.
But he holds out the promise of renewed faithfulness and marital fidelity for the people of Zion.
Never again will [Jerusalem] be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.
This theme is echoed in the book of Revelation:
And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
If this noble woman in Proverbs is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people as his prophetic bride, then it begins to make sense of the overall passage lining out the expectations God has for his people, not just wives.
One of the characteristics God expects of his people is the vigilance with which this woman watches over her family, that nothing is outside of her purview. She carefully looks ahead to the needs of her family, identifying dangers ahead of time, like a watchman on the walls of a city.
This vigilance is contrasted with laziness, or more literally the eating of “the bread of idleness,” as one who sits idle, concerned only with their own appetite and nothing else. In today’s terminology, they might be considered a “deadbeat mom.”
However, we have the opportunity to view the passage in its entirety of what God expects of his people, and his goal for us is not to remain trapped in the idleness of our own selfish passions, but to be ever watchful, caring for the welfare of those of our “family.”
As an ideal for wives, Proverbs 31 can be intimidating and unattainable. However, viewed as an ideal for all believers, collective attainment of its lofty ambitions suddenly becomes more applicable and practical. We would do well to imbue our lives with her character of vigilance for her family in respect and honor of our Husband and Provider.