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.

Continual confession is best for the soul

We need to respond to the prodding of God within our hearts.

Psalm 32:1-2 – How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is a person whom Yahweh does not charge with iniquity and in whose spirit is no deceit!

This psalm carries an important message that may be lost upon us in our current day and age. As believers in Messiah, we may freely (and maybe a bit too freely) acknowledge that we recognize the blessedness of one whose sins are forgiven. However, in our ongoing walk of faith we many times tend to overlook an important step that was responsible for bringing us to this point in the first place: confession.

Psalm 32:3-4 – When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat.

An unconfessed life is one that can feel like a burden, where issues arise that continually assault our sensibilities and make us feel as if we have no bearing or foundation. The psalmist here uses the language of God’s hand being “heavy” on him, to where his strength evaporates. It’s as if no matter what we try to do, the wrong results come of all of our actions. Everything we intend for good ends up going sideways.

Psalm 32:5 – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

The turnaround (literally) comes when we become honest about our rebellious hearts toward God. When we finally reach a point where the struggle has become so exhausting that we simply cannot go on under the burden of resisting God’s prodding within our hearts.

When it comes to confession, we tend to think that when we initially came to Messiah, we acknowledged our sinful lives and confessed our wayward actions before him. But God’s word encourages us to not only confess our sin when coming to him, but on a regular basis as part of an ongoing, healthy and sin-free relationship.

The apostle John writes:

1 John 1:6 – If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.

The psalm says that the person who is truly joyful is the one whom not only is forgiven, but “in whose spirit is no deceit.” How many multitudes of believers have fallen into the trap of false security because of an initial repentance when coming to the faith, and yet stumble in their walk because of ongoing unconfessed sin before God? John says when we do that, we are walking in darkness, not in the light; “we are lying, and not practicing the truth.”

Psalm 32:6 – Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately. When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him.

We should pray to him immediately and constantly when we slip. The longer wrong actions and wrong intentions remain, the further “under his hand” we place ourselves. We begin to drown in the floodwaters that inevitably surround us.

Psalm 32:7 – You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

Instead, a life of constant repentance is one that is without sin, not because sin never occurs, but because it is constantly being purged in the ongoing vital relationship between the individual and their Creator. Then, deliverance, joy, and light become the living environment of the faithful confessor.

1 John 1:7-9 – If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

To live cleansed from all unrighteousness is to acknowledge before God our faults when they occur, as they occur. In this way, we can walk in unburdened fellowship with other believers, and in a living and vital lifestyle of obedience before God.

While confession may be good for the soul, ongoing confession is even better.

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! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Guarded by integrity

Doing the right thing is usually doing the simplest thing.

Psalm 25:21: “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.”

Proverbs 13:6: “Righteousness guards the way of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.”

Individual integrity is a theme that runs throughout scripture, and is a primary focus of the Wisdom literature of the Bible. A contemporary English definition of integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” But it also conveys the wholeness of something, as in solidarity or unified strength, or soundness of construction.

The biblical definition has similar overtones of wholeness, but comes from a root word meaning “complete or finished.” In this sense, integrity is a characteristic that demonstrates maturity and simplicity, as something that is complete is not complex; it is a fully integrated wholeness, and therefore unified and simple.

As this term is explored in scripture, those who exhibit this characteristic of integrity are shielded from wrong paths. The integrity they have actually influences their ability to withstand the ebb and flow of ethical morality that swirls around them every day. In Psalm 25:21, the David wrote that integrity and uprightness preserves him. In Proverbs 13:6, Solomon writes that “righteousness guards the way of integrity.” Like father, like son. This principle can be seen being passed generationally in these great documents of the faith.

The same root word is used in these passages which has the meaning “to preserve, watch, guard, or keep.” Those who act with integrity are kept from wrong action; it’s as if their integrity actually shields them from wrong paths.

Proverbs 2:6-8: “For Yahweh gives wisdom. Out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. 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.”

The simplicity of this principle is often overlooked due to the many complex issues we face in our current era, and the multitude of ethical choices available to us at any given point in time. However, Yahweh himself maintains and watches over the way of those who demonstrate integrity. As we follow his knowledge and understanding, we mature. And as we grow in the completeness of our integrity, we find that the right thing to do is typically a very simple thing, and we will be guarded in the doing of it by the One who is glorified in it.

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.

Always speaking the truth from a new heart

Lying and falsehood have no place among believers of the truth.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16

Telling an intentional falsehood for personal gain is the simplest way to subvert any institution. Jealousy and selfish ambition lie at the root of deception. Recognizing this, and knowing the tendency of men to preserve themselves at all costs, God built in to the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, a specific command about not bearing a false witness against another.

Knowing that this was an unfortunate reality that would have to be dealt with, once a falsehood was found out by the judges, God had also provided a definitive way of handling the offender.

“If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.

Deuteronomy 19:16-20

So the punishment for the crime of falsifying a report was to apply to the deceiver the same action he intended for the other, and to do so publicly. In this way, a deterrent to falsification would be established within the community.

As God’s kingdom was moving from the natural to the spiritual, the arbiter was moving from the external  judges seat to within the heart of every believer.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

This is why James could speak so harshly to the remnant about the corrupting influences that could disrupt the community of God.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

James 3:13-16

James relates that selfish boasting and lying could be used to hide the truth, and were not within the wisdom of God.

The apostle Paul used the analogous contrast of the “old man” and the “new man” of the heart. As believers’ hearts were renewed, it was as if there was a new person who could only do what was right, and who would stand in judgment of the practices of the old man.

…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “[Let] each one [of you] speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.

Ephesians 4:22-25

The encouragement to truthful dealings within the community was to be based on this newness of righteousness and holiness of heart. Because of this community in which all were “members of one another,” that is, parts of an integral body, they were to always provide a truthful and honest example in everything, with everyone, in all of their words and actions.

In like fashion today, believers in Messiah, who was the embodiment of truth, should have this virtue imbedded deep within our hearts. Instead of deception and falsehood should come forth righteousness and truth.

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.

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

To walk with God is to live in a way that pleases him.

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.

Understanding the positive by defining the negative

Everything is open and above-board in dealing with a righteous person, and you will always know where you stand.

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Proverbs 11:3

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.

By contrast, 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. A person with integrity will deal honestly and fairly with others at all times. There is no 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 displayed in his word.