Keeping God’s Word before us at all times

Believers should be so imbued with God’s Word that it causes them to act with the integrity of his commandments as a reflex.

Today we will be looking at one of the seven core Bible principles: integrity. Reviewing the information today I hope to show how believers should be so imbued with God’s Word that it causes us to act with the integrity of his commandments as a reflex.

Deuteronomy 6:18, 25 – Do what is right and good in 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.

As Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter the land of Canaan, he encouraged them to continually be reminded of doing what is good and right so that they would be sure to follow all of the commands of God’s law. If they were to do what was right from the heart, that is how they would be sure to be following all of God’s commands and they would be considered righteous.

In the same way, Yeshua taught that believers should demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands.

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

What Yeshua was teaching the audience of his day was nothing new. God had continually put before the Israelites that the integrity of the actions they were to pursue and the decisions they made should have been coming should have been coming from a genuine place in their hearts, not just outward compliance. Moses had urged this of the Hebrew community over a millennia earlier:

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 – 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

In order to continue this focus in their culture Moses had provided them a specific set of instructions or a template that they could implement in the lives of their communities. Over the years, the Israelites would form many traditions around his original template.  Ultimately, this was by design to help them to maintain a continuous recognition of the commands of God.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9 – and you shall teach [these words] 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.

One of the primary methods used by Hebrew believers over the years to accomplish this doing of the commands stems from the ongoing recitation of the Shema and the practices associated with it. What is the Shema? As outlined from a popular Jewish website Chabad.org, 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 [set-apart] 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 [closing of the gates] prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth.” – Chabad.org – What is the Shema

So let’s take a closer look at the principal section of the Shema that we reviewed a few moments ago in Deuteronomy 6.

First, Moses states the purpose of this instruction in the opening verse: “These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart…” This is his over-arching objective in the instruction he is about to reveal: to have the words that God commands on their hearts, not just in their minds. When God’s Word is on the heart of the believer, then all of the actions that stem from that foundation will be correctly motivated and acted upon.

Moses then proceeds to explain how to imbue the entire community with the richness of God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 6:7 – “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Notice the progression he outlines here. First be sure the children are taught the truth of God’s Word. If they are not exposed to the Word of God on a regular basis, they will likely form their own opinions based on the corrupted cultures around them and they will potentially fall away from the one, true God to a belief system of the popular culture or one of their own making.

“You shall teach them to your children…” The Hebrew phrasing in this passage could be literally rendered as, “You shall diligently sharpen your children.” The imagery is that children need to be constantly honed in the things of God in order to be a useful implement to God throughout their lives, much like a sharp knife is much more useful than a dull one. This is a process, not a program. It is something they must be exposed to on a regular basis through the course of their lives.

Moses continues, “You shall talk of them…” The commands of God are something that should be a topic of discussion as situations are encountered each day, whether at home or out and about in the community, or traveling on an extended journey. How do God’s commands apply to what the children are experiencing, or the family situation that is at hand? What better way to demonstrate the truth of God’s Word than to live it out in our daily, practical experiences? But in order for believing parents to do so, they must also be imbued with God’s Word. Adults must take the time to understand how God’s Word applies in their lives as parents so they can faithfully share that wisdom with their children.

Moses says to talk about the commands of God “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road.”  This constant focus on God’s commands would show that his Word is being implemented within the daily fabric of the family, not only at home but when running errands or traveling. When children see that the God’s Word is a vital part of the parents’ lives at all times and in every place, they are more likely to be receptive to it themselves seeing that it has universal application.

He says to also be sure to review it “when you lie down and when you get up.” This is where Judaism derives the principle that the Shema should be recited twice daily: in the evening (when you lay down) and in the morning (when you get up).

As an aside, notice how the day is reckoned in Hebraic culture: first there is evening, then there is morning. We get a glimpse here of how sunset begins the day and the morning begins the second half of the day. In our Western culture, we might have stated it as “talk about God’s Word every morning, noon, and night.” But for ancient Hebrews, a total day is halved between darkness first, and light second. This mirrors the Creation narrative:

Genesis 1:2-3, 5 – Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. … God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was an evening [listed first], and there was a morning: one day.

Ancient cosmology aside, the focus of Moses’ command is to indeed have a constant attention to God’s Word throughout the totality of every day. If the Israelites were to do so, the commands of God would always be the constant focus of his people, acting on it from the heart in all they do.

The next section of the Shema illustrates another picture of the constancy of the Word within the hearts of the believing community.

Deuteronomy 6:8 – “Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.”

Now from this one sentence has come a Jewish tradition that was practiced up through the days of Yeshua and is still practiced by Jews today: the wearing of tefillin or phylacteries. From the website of the Jewish Virtual Library, we gain the following definition of tefillin:

“Tefillin are two small black boxes with black straps attached to them; Jewish men are required to place one box on their head and tie the other one on their arm each weekday morning… The Pharisees … took the text literally; the words of the Torah are to be inscribed on a scroll and placed directly between one’s eyes and on one’s arm.”

However, with the entire section of this instruction from Moses beginning with “these words shall be in your heart,” the command has also been understood to be figurative, in the sense that every thought (between the eyes) and every action (of the hands) should be prompted from the commands of God. The Jewish Virtual Library article also points out how various Jewish groups have had this type of interpretation over the years.

“Certain Jewish groups — including probably the Sadducees, and definitely the medieval Karaites — understood the last verse to be figurative; it means only that one should always be preoccupied with words of Torah, as if they were in front of one’s eyes.”

In my view, I believe that is the intent of Moses’ instruction, seeing how the primary emphasis is not on any outward show but on ensuring that the words of God are in the hearts of the believer. I think this is illustrated most clearly by seeing how this phrasing of signs and symbols on the hand and between the eyes is used in another section of Scripture where Moses is explaining about the annual practice of observing the week of Unleavened Bread at Passover.

Exodus 13:6-10 – “For seven days you must eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there is to be a festival to Yahweh. “Unleavened bread is to be eaten for those seven days. Nothing leavened may be found among you, and no yeast may be found among you in all your territory. On that day explain to your son, ‘This is because of what Yahweh did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that Yahweh’s instruction may be in your mouth; for Yahweh brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand. Keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.”

Notice how the practice of observing the week of unleavened bread was to be a sign on the hand (in practice) and a reminder on the forehead (in the mind). It was established as an annual object lesson to remind the ongoing Israelite descendants of the significance of the flight from Egypt. By keeping this command in a physical way, the believing community would be bringing to remembrance, as a memorial, the event that formed them into a nation of God’s own people.

Well, so far we have looked at the commands of Moses and how some Jewish traditions have sprung up around those commands. In a moment, as we continue to look at other commands and traditions, it is my hope that we can glean an understanding of the importance of keeping God’s Word at the foremost of our thoughts and actions every day.

Having reviewed some of Moses instruction in Deuteronomy, we now switch gears for a moment to review a secondary passage of the Shema that Israel recites each day from the book of Numbers.

Numbers 15:37-41 – Yahweh said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all Yahweh’s commands and obey them and not prostitute yourselves by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh your God.”

So, a secondary practice that has arisen out of the texts of the Shema passages is the wearing of tassels on one’s garments. The tassels were to be reminders to be diligent in following all of God’s commands. There is nothing in this command that suggests it is a figurative type of imagery, but by all accounts it appears to be the literal description of a specific practice. When worn on one’s own clothing, the tassels were to be a personal reminder to keep God’s commands throughout every daily situation. Seeing others wearing the tassels would also bring to remembrance the diligence needed in keeping God’s commands.

But over the years, as the practice grew within the leadership of the community, it had become corrupted as well. The tassels had become the equivalent of a religious status symbol, and, as with all social trends, it began to be abused. People began to change the appearance of their tassels to appear more righteous than others by lengthening them beyond what the typical tassel might be. Between this and the practice of wearing tefillin as mentioned previously, these things led to a pious hypocrisy of the religious leaders that Yeshua ultimately called them out on. But note: Yeshua didn’t condemn the Jewish leaders for the wearing of tefillin or tassels, but he did confront them because those things had become status symbols depending on how large the scripture boxes were, or how long their tassels had become. The outward show had replaced the inward meaning, and this opened them up to pride and hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:2-7 – “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.'”

When the object lessons we use to remind ourselves of God’s commands or to teach others about his Word become the primary focus of our practice, then we have lost sight of the spirit of God’s Word and we have succumbed to the idolatry of our traditions. This can be a slippery slope, which is why I believe God prefers simplicity from the heart. If a believer today wants to wear tassels as object lessons in the genuine spirit of the command of being reminded of the significance of God’s Word throughout the day, then I believe they should be free to do so. But if the wearing of tassels is only for attempting to appear more righteous than others, then the tassels have become idolatrous. It’s not necessarily the practice itself (excepting outright idolatry) but the motivation behind it that has any value.

Returning now to the Deuteronomy passage, the final admonition from Moses regarding the commands of God in this section was to, “write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.” Again, this constant and intentional placing of God’s Word where everyone in the household and where guests would pass on a regular basis would serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in providing his people with his instruction. God’s instruction only has meaning when hear it, see it, and know it. The repetition of talking about it in the house and when traveling, to wear the tassels and see them on others, and to touch the commands of God in the entering and leaving of the home all work together to keep the believing family knowing the one true God.

It’s been said that immersion in a foreign culture is the best way to learn another language. In a sense, the Kingdom of God is foreign to the cultures of this world, and it takes immersion for us to truly understand the scope and power of its presence here in the lives of believers.

The idea of being intentional about how we handle God’s Word is the key. In reality, as Yeshua illustrated, there is nothing wrong with using physical reminders as object lessons for the deeper spiritual significance. A problem only arises when those physical reminders and traditions become the objective that surpasses the underlying spiritual meaning.

The method Moses outlined of identifying what is most important in the Bible and reviewing it in an intentional way should be an example to us today. It demonstrates the tenacity required to imbue our 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 through our daily practices that his Spirit can bring those insights to the forefront of our thinking (between the eyes), and therefore our actions (through our hands), whenever needed.

Moses’ method in his template for the family and the community involves a constant, daily, repetitious routine that would saturate the culture of the people with God’s Word. Some of the practices were to become symbolic object lessons that would keep God’s Word before them at all times. 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 commandments as God outlined through Moses, but we would also be living lives of integrity that would be clearly and intentionally patterned on God’s Word.


If you enjoy these articles, 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Refusing the allure of coveting

The command to not covet may be the root command guiding all of our interactions with anything, or anyone, outside of ourselves.

The command to not covet may be the root command guiding all of our interactions with anything, or anyone, outside of ourselves.

  • Exodus 20:17 – Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

This command comes as the very last instruction of the Ten Commandments. And yet, wise men and rabbis over the millennia have commented that it may be the most significant commandment of the ten, as it relates to everything we do in life.

Let’s examine this a little closer. If we view the Ten Commandments in two  sections, we can put the first five under one heading: “Commands that apply to God and his authority.” The second five can come under the the heading, “Integrity in interacting with others.”

We can see how abiding by the tenth commandment will reduce or eliminate our violation of commands 6-9. If we don’t covet, we are less likely to murder someone to get what they have. We will not seek adulterous relationships with other wives or husbands because we are not coveting or desiring them. We will not steal because we are not coveting things we don’t have. We are less likely to bear false witness against someone else or lie for selfish motives because we are not coveting.

As for the first five commandments, if we are not coveting just any type of spiritual experience, we can truly seek God only, and no other. We will not be led astray by the seductive nature of idolatry. We will not take his name in vain only to leverage our relationship with God for our own personal gain. We will not violate the Sabbath for personal gain, and we will abide by the God-given authority of our parents instead of believing we know what’s best for our own personal benefit.

Coveting does indeed seem to be at the root of all that is contrary to God and his purposes. In fact, prior to being mentioned in the Bible narrative at Sinai, the only other time the Hebrew root word is used is in relation to the trees of Eden.

  • Genesis 2:9 – Yahweh God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Genesis 3:6 – The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

This pleasing appearance and desire for obtaining forbidden wisdom is the root of coveting, and Eve fell prey to its seductive allure. From this action has flowed everything contrary to God’s purpose in this world.

By contrast, the person of integrity stands against covetousness and everything that grows out of wicked desires for that which we do not have. The apostle John calls this covetous desire the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride.

  • 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world ​– ​the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions ​– ​is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

If we are to do the will of God, it is to let these covetous desires go, and to seek to simply serve him in humility and in truth. It is to do the opposite of coveting: to give and bestow good will on all those around us. It is to consider the needs of others above our own, thereby eliminating our selfish desires.

Therefore, if you must covet something, crave and desire to only do what’s right in God’s eyes.

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

If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Following the examples of righteousness lived by Noah and Abraham

When we walk before God with integrity and righteousness, we are living by faith in a way that pleases him.

Core of the Bible podcast #87 – Following the examples of righteousness lived by Noah and Abraham

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how when we walk before God with integrity and righteousness, we are living by faith in a way that pleases him.

Genesis 6:9 – This is the account of Noah and his descendants. Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his generation. He walked habitually with God.

From this description of Noah, we can begin to paint a portrait of what type of person pleases God. Noah was righteous, blameless, and walked with God as a way of life. By looking at each of these characteristics, we can draw some application for our own lives as we seek to honor and magnify God as his representatives in this world.

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.

We need to discuss this idea of righteousness a little more in detail than the other characteristics of Noah because 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 of a theological term called imputed righteousness, as is typically pointed out using the example of Abraham who was accounted or considered righteous for his faith in God.

Romans 4:1-5 – What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about ​– ​but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.

Now from this passage has been built an entire theological framework known as justification by faith. This was the famous cry of the reformers of the Christian faith in the 16th and 17th centuries. John Calvin has been quoted as saying, “Justification by faith is the hinge on which all true religion turns.”

In current discussion today, Dr. Kevin McFadden of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary covers the salient points of this doctrine in his article, “10 Things You Should Know about Justification by Faith” posted last year at Crossway.com. Dr. McFadden writes:

“Imputation is an attempt to capture the truth of biblical statements like 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Here Paul does not mean that God actually made Christ a sinner but that he imputed our sin to Christ’s account, just as, in the parallel statement, he has imputed his own righteousness to our account.”

This type of inputting something into our account that wasn’t previously there was outlined centuries earlier by Martin Luther.

“Do you now see how faith justifies without works? Sin lingers in us, and God hates sin. A transfusion of righteousness therefore becomes vitally necessary. This transfusion of righteousness we obtain from Christ because we believe in Him.” (Commentary on Galatians 3:6)

In my humble opinion, the passage in 2 Corinthians 5 has less to do with “transfusions of righteousness” and “crediting accounts” and more with the responsibility of the believer’s actions, as this passage of Paul regarding becoming the righteousness of God parallels his conclusion earlier on in the chapter.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – For the love of Messiah compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

That is the point that Paul appears to be making. He is relating to his audience in Corinth that the fact that Messiah died in a representative way should then spur them on to live in a way that honors him: he died for others, therefore they should live for others by dying to themselves. In this way, they would become the righteousness of God, that is, the righteous-living people that God desired them to be.

When we take the imputed righteousness theory which is based on the characterization of righteousness being added to an account without it being actualized in behavior, the meaning of the word becomes, in a sense, masked. 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. According to this doctrine, because of a believer’s faith, God decides to declare them righteous (even though they are not) by substituting the sinless life of his own son, Yeshua, for the sinful life of the sinner. In essence, this idea of imputed righteousness is all about the legal and theoretical standing of an individual before God and not about what they do or how they actually live their lives.

But this is not what the Bible teaches about righteousness, or what the passage about Abraham really says. This kind of theoretical abstract thinking would have been foreign to early believers steeped in the concrete terminology and prose of the Hebraic Scriptures and culture. Even today, when we look at the source material in Genesis that the apostle Paul is quoting, the text says nothing about accounts or infusions, but simply says that Abraham believed God, specifically about his promise to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky.

Genesis 15:2-6 – But Abram said, “Lord Yahweh, what can you give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? ” Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” Now the word of Yahweh came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” Abram believed Yahweh, and he considered it to him as righteousness.

The fact that Abraham simply believed what God told him was considered by God as an act of righteousness, not the change of some legal standing before him. We know Abraham was also considered a righteous individual because he was obedient to all of God’s revealed instruction, most likely oral at that point, just like it was with Noah. When God reiterated this promise of innumerable descendants to Abraham’s son Isaac, God states:

Genesis 26:4-5 – “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to me and kept my mandate, my commands, my statutes, and my instructions.”

This statement helps define God’s view of righteousness. A righteous individual believes in the instruction of God (taking God at his word) and then obeys it. In God’s view, believing what he says, even though it may not yet be fulfilled, is an act of righteousness as valuable as any other act of obedience. It is the sign of ultimate trust which is considered by God as the action of a righteous person.

So, returning to the passage in Romans where Paul is explaining this event in Abraham’s life, in reality, I think what Paul was attempting to convey is the idea that faith in God is equally considered a righteous act, along with all other lawful, virtuous, honest, and upright actions according to the instruction of God. Therefore, faith in God and his Messiah is considered a righteous action. That would have been a revolutionary concept to his audience. The believers of Paul’s day knew that to be a tsaddik was to faithfully and obediently follow the torah (or instruction) of God that has been revealed. But to do this effectively, Paul argues, requires faith, a righteous action like any other obedient action.

Noah had believed that what God had revealed to him about a coming flood, even though it had not yet been fulfilled, was going to happen. He took it seriously and built a giant boat, rearranging his entire life and enterprise to commit to this faith in what God had said. There are few greater examples of what a living faith looks like.

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 and his actions based on that 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 him. 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.

Additionally, the text says that Noah was tamim or blameless. This is a Hebrew term that can mean what is complete, entirely in accord with truth and fact. Noah’s life was not a life of hidden agendas or misrepresentation for the sake of personal gain, but everything he did and said was based completely on truth and fact. Someone who is blameless has nothing to hide from those who would inquire into their background or motivations.

This is a life of integrity, and Yeshua described this concept in various ways throughout his ministry, and most notably in his Sermon on the Mount. For Yeshua, to live with integrity and righteousness meant to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeded those who were merely following external commands, like the Pharisees and Sadducees. It meant to be a person of your word, simply saying yes or no, and doing what you say. It was defined as craving equity; thirsting for doing the right thing because it was personally and inwardly important. It included avoiding hypocrisy in judgment and practice, and to magnify God by letting your good deeds “shine.” And finally, Yeshua taught 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 “become the righteousness of God” by positively influencing those around us through our integrity and faithful obedience to God’s revealed word.


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

A royal priesthood of integrity

A faithful tribe created the pattern of intercession, reverent peace, and knowledge to turn others from iniquity.

A faithful tribe created the pattern of intercession, reverent peace, and knowledge to turn others from iniquity.

Malachi 2:5-7 – “My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave these to him; it called for reverence, and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and integrity and turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of Yahweh of Armies.”

Out of all of the tribes of ancient Israel, the tribe of Levi was entrusted with the ministry of the priesthood. Moses and Aaron were Levites, and the high priesthood remained within the specific line of Aaron, while the remaining priestly duties were distributed amongst the rest of the Levites.

Many today who are believers in Messiah consider themselves to be a type of priesthood because of a very famous passage written by the apostle Peter.

1 Peter 2:9-10 – But you are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

As always, it’s important to maintain the context and audience relevance of a passage to better understand its meaning. In this case, this passage was written to a specific group (or groups) of people almost two thousand years ago. The people that Peter was writing to are listed as “those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Yeshua Messiah.”

According to the Cambridge Bible commentary:

“Literally, taking the words in their Greek order, to the elect sojourners of the dispersion. The last word occurs in the New Testament in John 7:35 and James 1:1, and in the Apocrypha in 2 Ma 1:27. It was used as a collective term for the whole aggregate of Jews who, since the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, had been scattered in Asia and elsewhere.”

These were the descendants of Israelites who had been scattered throughout the known world 750 years earlier, when the Assyrians had taken the northern ten tribes captive and intermixed them among all of the people they ruled over at that time. We know this is the case based on Peter’s reference from the prophecy of Hosea. This prophecy of Hosea spoke about how God would reject his people for their disobedience, scatter them among the nations, but then again he would restore them and call them sons of God.

Hosea 1:9-10 – Then Yahweh said: Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And in the place where they were told: You are not my people, they will be called: Sons of the living God.

In the minds of the disciples, this prophesied restoration and reunification of the tribes was taking place before their eyes.

1 Peter 2:10 – Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This is why Peter could call those people a priesthood; they were the descendants of the Israelites who had stood at the foot of Mount Sinai 1500 years earlier.

Exodus 19:1, 5-6 – In the third month from the very day the Israelites left the land of Egypt, they came to the Sinai Wilderness. … “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, “and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.‘ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

All of the Israelites were not Levites, but the Levites were only representatives of the nation before God, just as the nation was representative of God before the rest of the world.

But this is not a condition of race or ancestry, but one of faith. There were non-Israelites also present at Mount Sinai who were included in that holy nation of the kingdom of priests.

Exodus 12:37-38 – The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand able-bodied men on foot, besides their families. A mixed crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds.

God was creating a new thing, a nation out of all nations that would be called to represent him in the world. It was made up of his people chosen out of all the nations. This is why this passage comes to have important meaning to believers in Messiah. Just like those ragged folk standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, God is now calling people from all nations to join the kingdom of God. This is made possible through faith in his Messiah, his representative king. Faith in the Messiah allows believers to participate in a type of priesthood, a representation of God to the rest of the world.

As such, we are commissioned just as Levi was to be a people of integrity. The same qualities that were evident in the ancient tribe of Levi as related by Malachi should be evident in us today.

  • He revered God and stood in awe of his name.
  • True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips.
  • He walked with God in peace and integrity and turned many from iniquity.
  • For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of Yahweh.

If we are to take our walk with Messiah seriously, we should consider that we represent all that God wants to convey to the world. We can intercede on behalf of others and provide true instruction to all people. Most importantly, we must walk in integrity and peace; this is how others will be turned from iniquity.


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The fruit of the heart

Our words and actions have real consequences in the world around us to influence for good or wickedness, to produce wisdom or foolishness.

Our words and actions have real consequences in the world around us to influence for good or wickedness, to produce wisdom or foolishness.

Throughout the Proverbs are numerous references to the speech of the wise, and how a righteous person is known by what they say or profess. In just the tenth chapter alone are some select verses that indicate how important and influential is the speech of the wise.

  • 11 – The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
  • 13 – Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning
  • 20 – The tongue of the righteous is pure silver
  • 21 – The lips of the righteous feed many
  • 31 – The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom
  • 32 – The lips of the righteous know what is appropriate

By contrast, the mouths of the wicked and the foolish demonstrate the results of their perversity and foolishness.

  • 11 – the mouth of the wicked conceals violence
  • 13 – a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense
  • 20 – the heart of the wicked is of little value
  • 21 – fools die for lack of sense
  • 31 – a perverse tongue will be cut out
  • 32 – the mouth of the wicked [speaks] only what is perverse

In just these few examples, it becomes readily apparent as to what are the benefits of righteous speech, and also the consequences of wicked and foolish chatter. This is especially relevant for those who claim to be followers of the Messiah, for he was very clear in teaching the importance of what people say.

Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

The issue then becomes not how wise or foolish an individual is, but what is in the heart. The things that we say illustrate outwardly what our heart is concealing inwardly. This principle is so basic as to be almost an embarrassment of childlike instruction. The context of this teaching of Yeshua is placed in the midst of this teaching on what he calls the “fruit” of the heart.

Luke 6:43-44 – “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit…”

The flipside to this principle is carried forward in the continuing teaching of Yeshua in this passage, as the secondary aspect of this fruit of the heart is applied toward actions.

Luke 6:46-49 – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great.”

So, the balance is not just what we say, but do our actions line up with our speech? Yeshua rightly questions the sincerity of those who claim with their lips to be obedient disciples, yet they do not carry out his teachings in their lifestyles: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?”

This question of our Messiah and Lord leaps across the millennia to our day and age and into the relevance of our daily actions, as well. In the words of Solomon’s proverbs, could our speech be considered a fountain of life? Is it the pure silver of wisdom that satisfies the needs of those who hunger for truth? Is it appropriate at all times so that it produces wisdom in others?

Are these the things that are in our hearts and overflowing to all others, or something else? Either way, according to Yeshua, the things we say and do will reveal the true contents of our hearts for all others to see.


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Keeping to the good paths

As believers abiding within the words of Yahweh and his Messiah, we conduct ourselves in well-worn paths that have been cut by our spiritual forefathers.

As believers abiding within the words of Yahweh and his Messiah, we conduct ourselves in well-worn paths that have been cut by our spiritual forefathers.

Proverbs 2:20-22 – So follow the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous ripped out of it.

The way of the good and the paths of the righteous were found in the keeping of the commands of God. We can know this because the penalty for not remaining in those paths would result in removal from the land. When Moses had charged the people of Israel with faithfulness to Yahweh, he outlined very specific results that would occur from either obedience to the law, or rejection of it.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 – “Now if you faithfully obey Yahweh your God and are careful to follow all his commands I am giving you today, Yahweh your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. “All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey Yahweh your God…”

He then goes on to list a host of physical blessings inclusive of bountiful harvests and peace in the land. However, if they were to reject the law, there would be many horrific things that would be applied to their forfeiture of the covenant; most prominently, that they would be removed from the land he was allowing them to inhabit.

Deuteronomy 28:15; 63-64 – “But if you do not obey Yahweh your God by carefully following all his commands and statutes I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overtake you:…”Just as Yahweh was glad to cause you to prosper and to multiply you, so he will also be glad to cause you to perish and to destroy you. You will be ripped out of the land you are entering to possess. Then Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will worship other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.”

This was a common theme all throughout the Old Testament writings. Removal from the land was to be the the sign of, and penalty for, their disobedience to the commands of God. When Israel did fall to the Assyrians in 721 BC and again to the Babylonians in 587 BC, the captives were carried off to the nations, and the prophetic curse of Moses came to pass. Jeremiah recounts the distress of the faithful over the loss of their identity:

Lamentations 2:9, 15, 17 – Zion’s gates have fallen to the ground; he has destroyed and shattered the bars on her gates. Her king and her leaders live among the nations, instruction is no more, and even her prophets receive no vision from Yahweh. … All who pass by scornfully clap their hands at you. They hiss and shake their heads at Daughter Jerusalem: Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth? … Yahweh has done what he planned; he has accomplished his decree, which he ordained in days of old. He has demolished without compassion, letting the enemy gloat over you and exalting the horn of your adversaries.

Even when they returned to the land later that century, they never fully regained a solid independence and ended up remaining vassals to Egypt, Greece, and finally Rome. Upon their rejection of their true Anointed One, the Messiah in the person of Yeshua, this was the ultimate refusal to obey the God of their fathers. The temple was therefore destroyed and the nation was once for all finally disassembled and scattered among the nations for all time. This was to be, of course, since God had something much more wonderful planned for those who would demonstrate faithfulness with him.

After listing the righteous and faithful examples of believers such as Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham, the writer of Hebrews expresses how they never actually received what was promised and they always considered themselves sojourners in a land that was not really theirs.

Hebrews 11:13-16 – These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place ​– ​a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Even after recounting the events in the lives of Isaac, Jacob and his offspring, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, the writer is convinced that even though these had indeed lived in and inherited the actual physical land that God had promised them, they still had not received the true promise of God: a heavenly dwelling.

Hebrews 11:39-40 – All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

In Messiah, the promise was accomplished. The transition from an earthly land and kingdom was finalized into a spiritual land and heavenly capital city of the New Jerusalem.

Hebrews 12:22-25 – Instead [of the fiery dread of Mount Sinai], you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which says better things than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not reject the one who speaks. For if they did not escape when they rejected him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven.

This promise to those first-century believers holds true to this day. If we continue to walk in the good ways, the paths of righteousness, we will remain within the promised inheritance, the heavenly city of Jerusalem. Living with integrity according to the words of Yahweh will guard and protect those within the well-worn and clearly defined paths of righteousness. It is up to us to abide in him by remaining obedient to his words.

Proverbs 2:6-11 – For Yahweh gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity so that he may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of his faithful followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity ​– ​every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will delight you. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you.

  • John 12:44, 49 – Yeshua cried out, “The one who believes in me believes not in me, but in him who sent me. … “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a command to say everything I have said.
  • John 14:21 – “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

Since the words of Yeshua are the words of Yahweh, we can have every confidence that as we faithfully follow the Messiah, we are abiding within the true paths of righteousness.


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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

Maintaining integrity with God’s help

Psalm 141:4 – Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity; and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Throughout this psalm, the Psalmist pleads with Yahweh to assist him in maintaining the right course of action in his heart and in what he says at all times. He does not want to be swept away by the actions of the wicked and counted among them; in fact, he prays that their own wickedness would find them out!

Psalm 141:8-9 – But my eyes are toward thee, O Yahweh God; in thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers!

He pleads that he would not be defenseless against the lure of wickedness, or by any of the traps they may have set in his way. This hunger and passionate desire for integrity should be the heart cry of every believer.

The good news for believers today is that we do have a “defense system” against wickedness when we choose to abide in the Word of God: the holy Spirit of God himself.

1 John 2:26-27 – I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1 John 3:24 – All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.

——-

If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.
Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.
Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com

Living with integrity at all times

What we today might consider persecution is more likely closer to inconvenience.

What we today might consider persecution is more likely closer to inconvenience.

The first century believers lived at a unique time in the outworking of God’s Kingdom. This is why that time period is studied so heavily among believers today; what was their base doctrine, how did they worship, what practices are still valid for us as believers in the modern world? How we answer these questions will align us with the various expressions of those root questions. Those who favor authority and continuity might feel compelled toward Roman Catholic teachings; those who feel that God works independently and organically with each generation may lean toward Protestant traditions. Yet all of these established variations of the faith of Messiah will hold that believers will encounter some measure of adversity due to their faith, whether in large scale persecutions, or even the daily exercising of their beliefs.

This perception comes from the many passages of the New Testament writings which speak of persecution and suffering. Yeshua wanted to encourage his hearers to recognize that suffering adversity due to their attachment to him was to be rewarded.

Matthew 5:10-12 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This was a pattern of encouraging believers through trials that his disciples also passed on to their hearers.

Paul:
Philippians 1:27-30 – Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Messiah. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your salvation ​– ​and this is from God. For it has been granted to you on Messiah’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.

Peter:
1 Peter 3:14 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated…
1 Peter 4:12 – Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you.

John:
John 15:20 – “Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…

This suffering and adversity was to be based on their stance for righteousness and for the principles of Yeshua, not for their own rebellion or stubbornness against the ruling authorities. In fact, we see these warnings were not without merit, as those early believers indeed experienced the very things that Messiah had predicted.

  • Acts 5:40 – After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them.
  • Acts 8:1, 3 – …On that day a severe persecution broke out against the congregation in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. … Saul, however, was ravaging the congregation. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.
  • Acts 12:1-3 – About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the congregation, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

These examples show how bitterly the message of the gospel of the Kingdom would be received among the corrupt Jewish authorities, and Yeshua had wanted to ensure that his followers were fully prepared for what they would experience. This is why the New Testament writings are filled with statements of encouragement against adversity, because they were actually experiencing it first-hand in their daily lives.

Hebrews 12:3, 12 – For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up. … Therefore, strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees…

Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we in our Western culture are experiencing true persecution for the faith of Messiah. Just because someone disagrees with a social media post or breaks off a friendship because we choose to no longer pursue unrighteous activities is not persecution. To be persecuted in the biblical sense means to be chased or hunted down with the intent to physically harm or kill.

While these New Testament encouragements were designed to minister primarily to that first century generation, I recognize there are still places in the world today where believers in Messiah are persecuted, physically beaten, imprisoned, and tortured for their faith. In those situations, these words that were aimed at those early believers still ring true in all their fullness today.

However, regardless of the severity of adversity that anyone suffers for righteousness and the principles of Messiah, we can take the advice of the apostle Paul to heart that applies in any situation:

Philippians 1:27- Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Messiah.

This is the high calling of every believer of Messiah in every place, in every situation, at all times. When we continually live our lives with integrity, worthy of the gospel of Messiah, we honor our true citizenship and bear the greatest witness to the reality of that Kingdom.


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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

Cultivating godly leaders of integrity

The fruit of a life lived in harmony with God’s Word is beneficial to all.

The fruit of a life lived in harmony with God’s Word is beneficial to all.

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

With these words, Yeshua sets a contrast that he will continue to illustrate over and over in the gospels: the person of integrity will not simply follow outward rules but will be obedient to God from the heart. Through these contrasts which were on display by the majority of the religious establishment, Yeshua demonstrates that the opposite of integrity is not just lawlessness, but hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:2-3 – “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.”

Yeshua had warned about recognizing false teaching by evaluating the fruit of those who teach these things. If their lifestyles did not match what they were teaching about, then they could be ignored.

Matthew 7:15-17 – “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.”

The fruit of the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day had become so corrupt they no longer fairly represented Yahweh, and by their lifestyle they were judged by him as lawless. The third commandment of the Ten is to not take Yahweh’s name in vain, yet their entire religious lives centered on their vanity.

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.”

His condemnation of the leaders was not just a rebellious act against authority, but a condemnation of their hypocrisy. Leaders, by the very nature of their responsibility, must be held to a higher standard.

James 3:1-2 – “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body.”

Maturity in a leader is that they will be consistent between what they say and what they do. As believers, we should all be striving for that level of integrity in everything, and as God sees fit, godly leaders will then rise to prominence among his people. The flashy charisma of hypocritical false leaders will be shown for what it is as the fruit of a life that is not truly yielded to God. However, the leaders of integrity will demonstrate a heart for truth and obedience to God’s Word. This is the goal of integrity for all believers: to harmonize truth with actions.


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

Making righteous choices everyday

Routine habits of integrity or wickedness can each pull us into established patterns, for better or worse

Core of the Bible podcast #80 – Making righteous choices every day

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how routine habits of integrity or wickedness can each pull us into established patterns, for better or worse. Those patterns then become the template of God’s judgment upon our lives.

Proverbs 13:6 – 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 in righteous actions, the simpler it is to stay on the correct path.

Psalm 25:10, 12-14, 21 – Yahweh leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands. … Who are those who fear Yahweh? He will show them the path they should choose. They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. Yahweh is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant. … May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.

Psalm 26:1-5 – Declare me innocent, O Yahweh, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in Yahweh without wavering. Put me on trial, Yahweh, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. I do not spend time with liars or go along with hypocrites. I hate the gatherings of those who do evil, and I refuse to join in with the wicked.

Proverbs 11:3, 5 – Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people. … The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.

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 or outright sinful rebellion.

Psalm 25:3 – No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Psalm 140:9-11 – The chief of those who surround me, the perverseness of their lips covers them. They cause to fall on themselves burning coals, Into fire He [God] does cast them, Into deep pits — they arise not. A talkative man is not established in the earth, One of violence — evil hunts to overflowing.

Proverbs 1:29-32 – For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear Yahweh. They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes. For simpletons turn away from me–to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.

Proverbs 5:22-23 – An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

Even in the light of the national sin of Israel that Jeremiah was recounting against them, the same principle applied:

Jeremiah 2:19 – Your wickedness will bring its own punishment. Your turning from me will shame you. You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to abandon Yahweh your God and not to fear him. I, the Lord, Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!

In a moment, we will explore the logical outcomes of this biblical principle as it relates to the judgment of God and the outworking of sinful actions into the chaos of the world.


As we have seen in the foregoing verses, living a life of integrity or wickedness is a life of momentum. The weight of our everyday thoughts and actions drives a flywheel of consequence that can keep us headed in positive or negative directions based on patterns we are establishing in every decision.

Galatians 6:7-8 – Don’t be misled–you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

The Galatian congregation was challenged by Paul to recognize what it is they were planting with the types of lives they were choosing to lead. Whatever they planted would be the fruit that would come to bear when it reached maturity in the events that would unfold after the fact.

But this now raises a question, at least in my mind: if, as Paul says, we reap what we sow, how involved is God in the execution of that justice in one’s life? Does God arrange events and situations to challenge us or to justify us, or are those situations merely the outworking of natural consequence?

I think the answer may reveal itself in the wording of the question. What if the “natural consequence” is a law built into the very fabric of Creation, like the physical laws of gravity or light? We reap what we sow. We see that exhibited in the natural world as well; whatever seed is placed in the soil is what will come to fruition when it matures. What if, when someone experiences the fruit of their own doing, whether good or bad, this is what the Bible calls the “judgment of God,” or “God’s justice.” It would make sense, and still remain consistent with the bulk of Scripture as we have seen in all the instances quoted earlier.

And isn’t it still the judgment of God? For example, God warned Israel what would happen if they turned from him, and it came to pass. The judgment that fell upon that nation was decreed by God, but it was accomplished as a result of their own disobedience.

The personified Wisdom of Proverbs shares the same view:

Proverbs 1:29-32 – For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear Yahweh. They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes. For simpletons turn away from me–to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.

It’s as if God has pronounced a specific judgment on that individual, when in a practical sense, they have caused their own troubles as a result of their rejection or ignorance of his ways.

In bearing this principle into the New Testament writings, Yeshua also intimated the foregone judgment of those who make certain choices, especially in regard to those who chose to believe in him, and those who did not.

John 3:18 – “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

John 5:24 – “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.”

And I guess this is where I am headed with the trajectory of this principle today. Why is it that the world is in the chaotic condition it is today? As humans, we argue and fight about every inane idea that happens to be trending on social media; we struggle against oppressive authorities; we try to garner support for whatever the cause du jour happens to be; we watch painfully as people brutalize one another over ideologies that are outdated or misapplied. Believers would say all of this is the result of sin, and that’s not an incorrect conclusion. However, I believe it is not from sin as the typical believer would characterize it.

The mainstream idea within Christianity would assert that sin, equated with the fallen nature of mankind, is the cause of the chaos world. Through the passages we have looked at today, and hundreds of others we haven’t, I would draw a slightly different conclusion.

Sin is indeed the cause of the issue, but I would characterize this sin as the act of not obeying the revealed will of God, not a predisposed nature of humans. This disobedience may be out of outright rebellion, having known the truth of God and simply choosing to ignore it (like national Israel), but it may also be the result of straight-up ignorance about what God expects of mankind as his creation. Whenever anyone, anywhere, knowingly or unknowingly, acts in opposition to the righteous commands of God, sin is the result. They have violated a “law” of nature. That’s what sin is: disobedience to his righteous command. And if sin has predetermined consequences as God has revealed, then that resulting sin sets in motion a chain of other actions and reactions that can further be guided by acting in alignment with God’s commands or in the absence of them. Every new branch in the moral decision-tree is a junction where righteousness can be reestablished, or sin can continue to progress into other areas.

I don’t believe man has a “sin-nature” other than it appears to be quality of man that, left to our own devices, we will always choose the path of least resistance to get whatever we want. Always. Just like water flowing down a mountain and around rocks and bluffs, the path of least resistance leads to the lake or ocean into which it empties. I believe that is a universal human principle that is experienced in every culture.

However, when a command of God is introduced into a potential situation, the ongoing human response can be to continue to follow the path of least resistance (now in blatant rebellion to the command, having heard and understood it) or to expend some sort of effort or restraint in attempting to follow the dictate of the command. The water must now flow uphill or turn another direction upon hitting the Rock. This is the crux of the human condition, and a deeper understanding of the chaos in the world.

The reason this principle can be so hidden from view is that each person is sinning or obedient to varying degrees, knowingly or unknowingly, and all of those various natural consequences are being borne out in overlapping, concentric circles throughout the entire world and as a result, causing chaos. Generally speaking, this is why it can be truly said that all of the chaos in the world is due to sin, or disobedience to God’s commands.

God’s judgment comes into play in the sense that he has made it abundantly clear through his Word and with the historical example of the nation of ancient Israel that he expects mankind to follow his commands, and he has also shared the consequences of not following his commands. His commands are the key.

1 John 5:3-4 – Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.

If you’ve listened to this podcast for any length of time, then you know I believe the Ten Commandments are the basis for all human conduct, and they are not burdensome. The teachings of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount which are built upon these commandments are also not burdensome. But they must be obeyed and lived out to be effective in bringing God’s light to this chaotic world.

When we recognize Yahweh God as the one true authority in the universe and make a conscious decision to abide by his Word, we will be empowered to do so by his Spirit guiding us.

Galatians 5:16, 22-25 – “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. … But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have nailed the passions and desires of their flesh to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

This happens both inwardly and within the ongoing review of his Word, having our minds renewed to match the inward renewal of the new Creation that we have become in him.

Romans 12:2 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by renewing your minds. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Messiah has become a new creation. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

The Spirit of Messiah is a spirit of unswerving obedience to God. When we place our faith and our hope in Messiah, we fulfill the Word of God because that faith will keep us obedient to his commands and guide us on the correct paths.

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. Just like the water not flowing in the path of least resistance, the Spirit of God empowers us in new channels of right actions within which we begin to flow. The more we obey God’s commands, the more righteousness is injected into the rippling chaos of the world. As others see and experience the light of God, then further righteous choices are made which continue to radiate out in calming waves, as well. The goal of God is to have his instruction universally recognized and practiced on the earth, thereby making all things whole.

This should then be our goal, as well. To make righteous choices every day means the expansion of the Kingdom of God into the world of chaos. This is the effect our faith can have when we choose to be obedient to the Creator of all and live by his standards established for all time.

1 Peter 1:23 – For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.


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