Being created in God’s image, it makes sense that his stamp is embossed within us.
Proverbs 20:27 – The spirit of man is Yahweh’s lamp, searching all his innermost parts.
Different English renderings of this verse appear to be unsure of how exactly to render this unusual phrase.
- New International Version: The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being.
- New Living Translation: The LORD’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.
- Amplified Bible: The spirit (conscience) of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching and examining all the innermost parts of his being.
- Contemporary English Version: Our inner thoughts are a lamp from the LORD, and they search our hearts.
- Good News Translation: The LORD gave us mind and conscience; we cannot hide from ourselves.
Is Yahweh somehow invading our personal human spirit, or is it speaking of the human spirit in general? Is it speaking of our mind, conscience, or inner thoughts?
The spirit of man is using the term “neshamah,” or life-breath, for man. This term is closely associated with the word “ruach” which also is typically translated as spirit. In Hebrew thinking, the life-breath is something from God that animates us as individuals. This is evidenced when God created Adam.
Genesis 2:7 – And Yahweh God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [neshamah]; and man became a living soul.
When the spirit departs, the body dies.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 – Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [ruach] shall return unto God who gave it.
The term “adam” can be speaking of an individual or the entire human race. I think we can get some direction here from another familiar passage as well:
John 1:9 – The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.
There is a light that enlightens every person (all people: adam); it is called the Word, or the Spirit of God. Because of it’s association with the first chapter of John, most people assume that the Word is Yeshua. In one sense, that is true, because he was called by John “the Word made flesh.” He was so completely filled with and obedient to the Spirit of God that they were indistinguishable.
But John says this same light enlightens everyone, and this passage in Proverbs, written a millennia prior to John, is saying the same thing: the lamp of Yahweh is somehow connected to the spirit of all people. We have stumbled in our English Bibles at trying to describe it as conscience or inner thoughts, but the fact is that since all mankind (adam) is created in God’s image, we all have a connection to the Creator of all.
The writer of Hebrews takes this even further by describing how the Word of God, his eternal Spirit, is active within us.
Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
I can’t think of a more precise explanation of how the lamp of Yahweh searches the innermost parts of our being. As believers, our call to holiness is heightened by recognizing that somehow God is active within the depths of every person. We are set apart by continually growing in obedience to his Word, his Spirit.
I recognize this is not commonly accepted theology, but it is what the Bible records describe when we understand them within their cultural context. I believe this is why believers gravitate to the Bible, what we also call the Word of God, because it was conveyed to mankind through that same Spirit of God. As we recognize the Voice speaking to us from its pages, we are drawn closer to understanding the God of the universe and his desire for all men to come to him, as well.
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