The lamp of God

Being created in God’s image, it makes sense that his stamp is embossed within us.

Being created in God’s image, it makes sense that his stamp is embossed within us.

Proverbs 20:27 – The spirit of man is Yahweh’s lamp, searching all his innermost parts.

Different English renderings of this verse appear to be unsure of how exactly to render this unusual phrase.

  • New International Version: The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being.
  • New Living Translation: The LORD’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.
  • Amplified Bible: The spirit (conscience) of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching and examining all the innermost parts of his being.
  • Contemporary English Version: Our inner thoughts are a lamp from the LORD, and they search our hearts.
  • Good News Translation: The LORD gave us mind and conscience; we cannot hide from ourselves.

Is Yahweh somehow invading our personal human spirit, or is it speaking of the human spirit in general? Is it speaking of our mind, conscience, or inner thoughts?

The spirit of man is using the term “neshamah,” or life-breath, for man. This term is closely associated with the word “ruach” which also is typically translated as spirit. In Hebrew thinking, the life-breath is something from God that animates us as individuals. This is evidenced when God created Adam.

Genesis 2:7 – And Yahweh God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [neshamah]; and man became a living soul.

When the spirit departs, the body dies.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 – Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [ruach] shall return unto God who gave it.

The term “adam” can be speaking of an individual or the entire human race. I think we can get some direction here from another familiar passage as well:

John 1:9 – The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.

There is a light that enlightens every person (all people: adam); it is called the Word, or the Spirit of God. Because of it’s association with the first chapter of John, most people assume that the Word is Yeshua. In one sense, that is true, because he was called by John “the Word made flesh.” He was so completely filled with and obedient to the Spirit of God that they were indistinguishable.

But John says this same light enlightens everyone, and this passage in Proverbs, written a millennia prior to John, is saying the same thing: the lamp of Yahweh is somehow connected to the spirit of all people. We have stumbled in our English Bibles at trying to describe it as conscience or inner thoughts, but the fact is that since all mankind (adam) is created in God’s image, we all have a connection to the Creator of all.

The writer of Hebrews takes this even further by describing how the Word of God, his eternal Spirit, is active within us.

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

I can’t think of a more precise explanation of how the lamp of Yahweh searches the innermost parts of our being. As believers, our call to holiness is heightened by recognizing that somehow God is active within the depths of every person. We are set apart by continually growing in obedience to his Word, his Spirit.

I recognize this is not commonly accepted theology, but it is what the Bible records describe when we understand them within their cultural context. I believe this is why believers gravitate to the Bible, what we also call the Word of God, because it was conveyed to mankind through that same Spirit of God. As we recognize the Voice speaking to us from its pages, we are drawn closer to understanding the God of the universe and his desire for all men to come to him, as well.


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.

Engaged with God in a faith that changes lives

True wisdom creates an active trust in God.

Core of the Bible podcast #62 – Engaged with God in a faith that changes lives

Today we will be looking at the topic of trust in God, and how remaining in and applying God’s wisdom continues to increase our faith or trust in God. As our faith increases, we then share the truths of his wisdom with others, and the Kingdom of God expands. True wisdom creates an active trust in God.

Proverbs 22:17-19 – “Turn your ear, and listen to the words of the wise. Apply your heart to my teaching. For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. I teach you today, even you, that your trust may be in Yahweh.”

The writer of the Proverbs provides us with understanding regarding the nature and results of true wisdom. True wisdom lives deep inside of us and causes us to trust in God. However, it only accomplishes its goal as we apply and review it regularly to where it is a ready resource for us to draw from.

The process begins with our ears; we must turn or incline our ears toward wisdom. The Hebrew word conveys a stretching out, as in stretching out the fabric of a tent when pitching a tent. This involves an intentional and focused purpose in what we listen to. We have so many different audio distractions in our age that it is common for the words of wisdom to be drowned out by the many other options available to us. We have radio and music in the car, music, podcasts, and videos in our headphones and on our phones and other devices wherever we go. It’s almost as if we cannot do anything anymore without having some sort of digital crutch with us.

One of my pet peeves among my family is when the TV is on “just for background noise” while another activity is going on. It may just be the way my brain is wired, but I believe that level of multiple distraction can be harmful to our ability to focus and concentrate long term. Whatever is on the TV is not meant to be a background filler, but a full-on attention getter and keeper. Regardless if we are paying direct attention to it or not, I believe that split in focus does not go unnoticed by our subconscious mind and tends to splinter our ability to create full awareness on spiritual training when it is needed.

As a brief example of this, an article from 2016 in Science Daily related a study in child development in settings with various noise environments.

“The environments children are in, including how much and what kinds of stimulation they are exposed to, influence what and how they learn. One important task for children is zeroing in on the information that’s relevant to what they’re learning and ignoring what isn’t. A new study has found that the presence of background noise in the home or at school makes it more difficult for toddlers to learn new words.”

(Society for Research in Child Development. “Background noise may hinder toddlers’ ability to learn words.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160721072605.htm)

Understandably, we are all exposed to various audio levels throughout each day, but when we are voluntarily choosing to add additional distractive noise into our background environment out of habit, we may be hindering our ability for overall focused comprehension when it is truly needed.

Another aspect of hearing the words of the wise, as the proverb points out, is literally hearing the words spoken instead of just read internally on the page.

While most believers today are used to reading the Word for themselves, in recent years I have become more reliant upon good audio versions of the Bible for my meditative read-throughs of the Bible. I have found that if I listen with headphones I can many times glean aspects of phrasing that I have missed in just reading the passages. The headphones help to block out background distractions and allow me to focus more on the immediate text. For even further increased comprehension, I will sometimes read along with the narration, but use a different version than the audio file. This many times leads to new discoveries when I encounter unique phrasing in one text over the other, and I pause the recording to do a little quick research on why this is so.

In our modern culture, we take for granted that we have the Bible readily available in written form and in many freely available audio versions. Yet historically these truths were conveyed to each generation orally and in person, as literacy was not nearly as widespread as it is today.

To hear the words of the wise implied a nearness of relationship as these truths were conveyed person to person. To hear the words of wisdom, one had to be in the company of the wise. In so doing, the learner would be exposed to not only the teaching, but the lifestyle of the sages. The wisdom of the elders would be taught not just with a lesson, but their lives.

Proverbs 23:12 – “Apply yourself to discipline and listen to words of knowledge.”

Proverbs 5:1-2 – “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen closely to my understanding so that you may maintain discretion and your lips safeguard knowledge.”


The next aspect of creating a growing trust in God comes when the wisdom is applied in the most inward recesses of our being: in our hearts. To apply the wisdom is to place or station it in this place so it will remain sure and steadfast, and become part of our deepest make-up, our very constitution.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 – “The sayings of the wise are like cattle prods, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails…”

Proverbs 2:1-2 – “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding…”

Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”

The heart is where God desires his instruction to be placed; so much so, in fact, that this was a condition of the new covenant with his people:

Jeremiah 31:33 – “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Because of this, one of the qualifiers of being considered among God’s people is having his Word in the heart.

Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

As this wisdom is established in our hearts, it causes us to act in ways that honor him when we keep his commands, faithfully discerning his will in our daily lives. One of the ways this is evidenced is when the wisdom of God in our hearts progresses to become fixed upon our lips; we can recite and manifest the knowledge we have gained in daily practice.

I can recall as a new believer in Messiah I was given a list of memory verses to learn to assist with the basics of living a believing life. The method presented to me was the Topical Memory System still put out by the Navigators ministry today. It contains a total of 60 verses surrounding five separate important topics to help with recall. Looking at the list today, I can see that there are many verses I still remember from 35 years ago, and others that I will need to refresh as I haven’t reviewed them regularly since. However, I am convinced that learning that practice early on served me well as I have drawn from the resources of those verses time and time again throughout my believing life. By spending time learning the verses by heart, I was strengthened through reciting them over and over. By being able to recall those verses when needed, I was helped when I needed it most. (If you would like to consider this method for yourself, simply type in “Topical Memory System Navigators” and it should come up in a search).

Additionally, what is in our heart can’t help but come out through what we say and do. Yeshua confirms this aspect of our inmost being when he teaches, “Out of the overflow (or abundance) of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34). His immediate context was demonstrating how evil in the heart is expressed, but the writer of this proverb shows how the positive, the good, and the useful will also spill from the mouths of those who have placed good in their hearts.

Some other proverbs that also delineate the ability of the wise to pour forth wisdom in speech. Lady Wisdom, or the personification of wisdom, is illustrated with the following instruction:

Proverbs 8:6-9 – “Listen, for I speak of noble things, and what my lips say is right. For my mouth tells the truth, and wickedness is detestable to my lips. All the words from my mouth are righteous; none of them are deceptive or perverse. All of them are clear to the perceptive, and right to those who discover knowledge.”

Proverbs 10:13, 21 – “Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense. … The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.”

Proverbs 15:7 – “The lips of the wise broadcast knowledge, but not so the heart of fools.”

I like the idea of the lips of the wise broadcasting knowledge and feeding many who are hungry to hear the truth. I am reminded of Paul’s instruction to the Roman congregation:

Romans 10:14-15, 17 – “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. … So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Messiah.”


As believers today, we may not always have a community of elders to live among and draw direct wisdom from. However, Yeshua reassured his disciples that the resource of God would be near to all who believed in him.

John 7:38-39 – “The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Yeshua were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Yeshua had not yet been glorified.”

This was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.”

Paul confirmed that this was the expected ongoing practice of believers, to be constantly engaging with spiritual wisdom that comes from God.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13 – “But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, that we may know the gift that has been given to us from God. But those things we speak are not in the teaching of the words of the wisdom of men, but in the teaching of the Spirit, and we compare spiritual things to the spiritual.”

As believers, we have the ability to draw from a wealth of spiritual resources and to prayerfully consider and discern these truths for ourselves. We are no longer limited to a localized circle of elders, although if we have access to fellowship with such a group, we can see and learn the distinctions of the faith worked out in practical ways through their actions.

In summary, when we listen, apply, and regularly recite the wisdom of God, our lives will be demonstrating a real trust and growing faith in God. Within this process of listening, applying and reciting, God engages with us, showing us his ways and directing us to purposes and goals that glorify him and expand the Kingdom of God on the earth. We have to remember that biblically speaking, trust or faith in God is not just a feeling or an inward state of mind, it is an active outworking of revealed truth which has been assimilated into the heart. This type of “living trust” is what shines into the darkness of this world to draw others to God and his wisdom.


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.

Removing conflict through intentional love

Love is the basis of all forgiveness.

Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.

Most commentators think that the type of hatred mentioned in Proverbs 10:12 is the sense of vengeance that one might have toward an individual due to a blood feud, an unintentional death that required satisfaction. The cities of refuge in ancient Israel were designed for just such a reason, so that an individual could remain safe from vengeful relatives in the case of inadvertently causing an accidental death.

But this is not necessarily the case, as the Bible mentions others who are simply wicked individuals who are content to go around stirring up trouble.

Proverbs 6:12-14 – A worthless person, a wicked man goes around speaking dishonestly, winking his eyes, signaling with his feet, and gesturing with his fingers. He always plots evil with perversity in his heart; he stirs up trouble.

People like this tend to operate out of a capacity for hatred and distaste of righteousness. The passage says they are dishonest and always scheming some twisted or crooked plan to cause harm to others.

In contrast to this, the righteous believers are urged to demonstrate love, since love covers or conceals the unrighteous actions of others. This does not mean we should whitewash or sweep injustice out of the way, or refuse to hold people accountable for wrong actions. This verse means that we should not hold grudges for personal infractions or relational injustices that are so often the cause of individual or familial strife.

Love is the basis of all forgiveness. We tend to think of love as an emotion that comes and goes of its own free will, and if love stays in our hearts, then we remain loving toward others. However, biblical love is not like that at all. Biblical love is a choice that one makes, an intentional attitude that one demonstrates toward another, whether there are any deep emotional feelings present or not.

Proverbs 17:9 – Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends.

Notice, this type of offense is between friends, and re-telling of these offenses and injustices simply fans the flames of contention. But the intentional concealing of a personal injustice can demonstrate to that individual that you are willing to extend trust to them by keeping their error hidden from others when you may have had an opportunity to expose them.

In his famous passage to the Corinthian congregation, the apostle Paul goes even further than the proverb by suggesting to believers that in order to demonstrate true love, they not only should conceal injustices but erase them completely.

1 Corinthians 13:5 – [Love]…does not keep a record of wrongs.

One of the secrets of being able to forgive others is to not keep a record of wrongs that have been done. When there is nothing to forgive, then it becomes easier to love emotionally rather than just obediently because we are supposed to. After all, this is the injunction for all believers as a basis for our community living within the Kingdom.

1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.


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.

Contextualizing the positive through the negative

Contrasts illustrate the truths of the Bible more clearly.

Core of the Bible podcast #59 – Contextualizing the positive through the negative

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how we can learn about God’s expectations for positive ethical behavior by looking at the results of bad ethical behavior.

Proverbs 11:3 – “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.”

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.

This brings out an interesting facet of what the Bible teaches: the consequences of one’s own actions. While we may come to the Bible to learn about eternal answers to questions we may have, I believe that many times we tend to skip over the simpler, obvious teaching because we are looking for deeper or more significant meaning in a passage. It may also be that we don’t have a complete recognition of the cultural underpinnings of these ancient writings, which is one of the reasons I find exploring this type of literature so fascinating.

For example, in Psalm 35, David implores God to come to his aid and defend him against his enemies.

Psalm 35:1-8 – Oppose my opponents, Yahweh; fight those who fight me.  Take your shields ​– ​large and small — and come to my aid.  Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers, and assure me: “I am your deliverance.”  Let those who intend to take my life be disgraced and humiliated; let those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed.  Let them be like chaff in the wind, with the angel of Yahweh driving them away.  Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of Yahweh pursuing them.  They hid their net for me without cause; they dug a pit for me without cause.  Let ruin come on him unexpectedly, and let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it ​– ​to his ruin.”

This is what is known as an “imprecatory” psalm, one in which the writer calls down curses or imprecations on their enemy. These writings have confounded Christians over the years because we in our modern days try to read back into these passages the teachings of doing good to enemies for their good, not calling down God’s wrath upon them. Therefore, this type of writing seems out of place with the overall purpose and plan of God in desiring us to overcome evil with good.

However, it is helpful to understand that what may appear to be a psalm or prayer of vindictiveness is more likely a statement of allowing the natural consequences of their enemies actions to fall upon them. This is very typical in the writings of that time.

In ancient Jewish thinking, since God is just, the Creation itself is imbued with a mechanism of justice. Sometimes the forces of nature are blended with concepts of angels or messengers of God. In this psalm we see David asking God to “take your shields…and come to my aid,” and asking that the “angel of Yahweh” pursue his enemies. To our Western way of thinking, these concepts appear to be spiritual forces that David is requesting God to provide to protect him and to rout his enemies. However, these are more likely literary expressions as to how it would appear to his enemies when the consequences of their actions were to fall upon themselves. David is simply asking God for those consequences to come to fruition.

Some other instances where this type of literary design is seen include other representative psalms:

Psalm 104:1, 4 – “My soul, bless Yahweh! Yahweh my God, you are very great; you are clothed with majesty and splendor. … and making the winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”

Psalm 148:8 – “lightning and hail, snow and cloud, stormy wind that executes his command…”

In one of Elihu’s responses to Job, he also mentions the will of God being accomplished through the natural elements:

Job 37:11-13 – “He saturates clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. They swirl about, turning round and round at his direction, accomplishing everything he commands them over the surface of the inhabited world. He causes this to happen for punishment, for his land, or for his faithful love.”

These examples merely illustrate how that, to the ancient way of thinking in middle Eastern culture, the will and purpose of God blended seamlessly with the natural elements, and one served only to highlight and magnify the other.

Psalm 8:1, 3-4 – “Yahweh, our Lord, how magnificent is your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with your majesty. … When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?”

Additionally, besides the proverbs, there are other examples of how the wickedness of the wicked comes back to them in time. In one of Bildad’s responses to Job:

Job 18:5, 7-8, 21 – Yes, the light of the wicked is extinguished; the flame of his fire does not glow.  … His powerful stride is shortened, and his own schemes trip him up.  For his own feet lead him into a net, and he strays into its mesh.  … Indeed, such is the dwelling of the unjust man, and this is the place of the one who does not know God.

Here Bildad explains it as a common understanding that the wickedness of the wicked leads themselves to ruin.

Another example is this additional psalm of David:

Psalm 9:15-16 – The nations have fallen into the pit they made; their foot is caught in the net they have concealed.  Yahweh has made himself known; he has executed justice, snaring the wicked by the work of their hands.

So in this instance, is God causing this “snaring of the wicked” to happen directly or only indirectly as being the architect of consequential just recompense? We also see a hint in this passage that through this natural consequence of their own actions, Yahweh has “made himself known.”

In a psalm attributed to Asaph, we see a similar representation.

Psalm 73:11-12, 16-19 – The wicked say, “How can God know? Does the Most High know everything? ”  Look at them ​– ​the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth.  … When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless  until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.  Indeed, you put them in slippery places; you make them fall into ruin.  How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors.

According to Asaph, until he “entered God’s sanctuary,” or came to understand the spiritual reality behind the natural events, it appeared unfair that the wicked lived in relative ease while he, attempting to be righteous had the sense in v. 13 that he had “purified his heart and washed his hands in innocence for nothing,” being “punished every morning” and “afflicted all day long,” (v. 14). But once he took God’s perspective on the wicked, he realized the relative ease with which they were living was really a slippery path to destruction if they were not to repent from their ways.

The biblical idea that God has created the universe to act in a certain fashion, or to react to our actions in a certain fashion, is itself a slippery slope of sorts, as it can lead one to a form of fatalism or consequentialism. Fatalism is the belief that all events are predetermined or inevitable, therefore, people have no ability to influence the outcome of their lives. Consequentialism regards all actions as justifiable as long as the consequences are favorable; i.e., the ends justify the means.

However, what the Bible actually describes is a system of justice based on the consequences of actions also known as “reaping what you sow.” In this view, people still are influencing their circumstances, so it is not fatalism. People are also held accountable for the “rightness” of their actions, so it is not strict consequentialism. In the Bible, people do receive the consequences of their actions, but they also have the ability to change their actions from negative and hurtful to positive and ultimately self-sacrificial. If fatalism were true, there would be no calls to repentance, and if consequentialism were true, there would be no accountability for doing bad things as long as the immediate result was good. No, the Bible teaches that God desires people to do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do, even if the immediate consequences are unfavorable for us. But the Bible also warns us if we continue to do the wrong things, even with the best of intentions, the end result will be bad.

It is from these ethical theories of men that God desires to free us. When we act at all times with integrity, we can avoid those twin traps of fatalism and consequentialism and we can stand assured before God that our actions are based on the truth of his Word and not just our assessment of our own circumstances.

Going back to our anchor verse for today:

Proverbs 11:3 – The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

We can see here that 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. Here are some other similar examples from these contrasting proverbs:

Proverbs 11:5-6 – The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness. 

Proverbs 11:6 – The righteousness of the upright rescues them, but the treacherous are trapped by their own desires.

Proverbs 11:18 – The wicked person earns an empty wage, but the one who sows righteousness, a true reward.

Proverbs 13:6- Righteousness guards people of integrity, but wickedness undermines the sinner. 

Proverbs 13:20 -The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.

Rather than seeking to define our own ethical behavior, God has defined it for us. In these types of proverbs, the contrast between the right way and the wrong way is the method of highlighting the differences and end results that God desires us to recognize in these alternative paths. The righteous are guarded or protected by their righteousness; it clears a path for them when the way is unsure or blocked with obstacles. It rescues them and provides them an eternal reward. The wicked will lie and cheat, they are trapped by their own desires; they will be undermined by their own sinfulness which provides only an empty wage, and will ultimately cause their own downfall.

Which path seems more compelling to follow? When viewed in its larger context and cultural setting, I believe this becomes self-evident. This is why this type of contrasting teaching throughout the proverbs is such a powerful method of conveying truth.

Contrasted with the “crookedness” of the wicked, there is no covert or 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 and ethical characteristics that are displayed, and contrasted, in his Word.


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.

It’s not about how much we have, but how much we care

The right attitude can always find a way to help.

Proverbs 21:25-26 – The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.

In the Proverbs, we find many different contrasts laid out to assist our understanding and increase our knowledge: the righteous against the wicked; the rich against the poor; the proud against the lowly.

In this passage, however, is an interesting contrast: the one who is exhibiting compassion is not contrasted with one who hates, but is posited against the one who is lazy and covetous. Understanding this distinction helps us to recognize compassion for what it is.

Those who are lazy and covetous seek only what is beneficial to themselves. They refuse to work in order to have anything on their own, and yet they still desire to have that which is the result of physical labor and work. Therefore, they have no ability to help others because they don’t even have the ability to help themselves.

By contrast, the righteous person is one who is generous to a fault. This passage says they don’t withhold anything that can be of benefit to someone else. They have the ability to be generous because they have something to give based on their own industriousness and careful attention to the needs of others. Yet, it does not imply that they are only giving out of the excess of what they have, but that they give regardless of what they have.

This points out that the contrast is based not on what one has or doesn’t have, but on the attitude of the individual. The lazy person refuses to work and yet is covetous; they are concerned only with what affects them. The righteous can provide for themselves, yet they are still willing to not hold back anything if it can meet the need of someone else. They are constantly thinking of others.

The writer of Hebrews mentions a similar encouragement to the early believers in Messiah, as well.

Hebrews 13:16 But don’t forget to be doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Giving compassionately may still be a sacrifice because of what one doesn’t have, but the best way to ensure that we are doing the pleasing acts of sharing and doing good is by keeping the focus off of ourselves and always looking around to the needs of others.


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.

Being diligent in what matters most

Hard work always pays off.

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent surely lead to profit; and everyone who is hasty surely rushes to poverty.

The proverbs of Solomon are filled with admonitions to diligent labor and hard work, and the rewards that come thereby. The Hebrew word he uses is charutzim, the ones who are are sharp, decision-makers who are consistent in their efforts, determined and eager. Primarily, Solomon illustrates the natural rewards that result for those who are consistent and diligent in their work.

10:4 He becomes poor who works with a lazy hand, but the hand of the diligent brings wealth.
12:24 The hands of the diligent ones shall rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.
12:27 The slothful man doesn’t roast his game, but the possessions of diligent men are prized.
13:4 The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing, but the desire of the diligent shall be fully satisfied.

If we were to take advice from anyone regarding the wealth of this world, Solomon would be the most likely candidate, as he was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. However, as highly as Solomon praised those who were diligent in their work, he also had some insights on something more valuable than wealth, more precious than silver and gold. If we believe he was trustworthy with his advice in estate planning, then perhaps we should pay attention to his lessons on that which is even more valuable.

3:13-14 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gets understanding. For her good profit is better than getting silver, and her return is better than fine gold.
8:1 Doesn’t wisdom cry out? Doesn’t understanding raise her voice?
8:10-11 Receive my instruction rather than silver, knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies. All the things that may be desired can’t be compared to it.

Solomon claims wisdom is of more value than the wealth of this world. So, a logical conclusion to be drawn from these passages is that if diligence in work has a high reward in the wealth of this world, how much more of a reward is available to those who are the charutzim, the diligent, eager, and determined ones who labor in the wisdom that God provides?

Psalm 119:66, 72 – Teach me good judgment and discernment, for I rely on your commands. … Instruction from your lips is better for me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.


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.

Humility before God is where the path begins

Recognizing our inability to be righteous on our own.

Isaiah 66:1-2 – “Yahweh says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build to me? Where will I rest? For my hand has made all these things, and so all these things came to be,’ says Yahweh: ‘but I will look to this man, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.'”

Everything in the life of a believer begins with humility of reference: the one who is of a contrite spirit. The Hebrew word Isaiah uses here for “contrite” means “stricken,” and is also translated in other passages as “crippled or lame; not having the ability to walk on one’s own.” To my way of thinking, that is a powerful metaphor for the believing life.

These are two of the biggest hurdles for those who do not believe; to recognize that God is the all-powerful Creator and that his Word is supreme. There is a pride that will not yield to God’s authority, as one prefers to chart their own way through this life.

One of my favorite sayings of the ancients that is attributed to Solomon comes from the Septuagint version of the Bible where it reads, “Unwearied endurance in seeking Yahweh is better than a masterless charioteer of one’s own life,” (Sirach 20:32). The masterless charioteer may have the freedom to choose their own way, but in doing so they must recognize that their way is fraught with unnecessary strife and adversity.

A few examples from the other writings of Solomon in the book of Proverbs can illustrate this:

Proverbs 11:5 – The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way, but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.
Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who is wise listens to counsel.
Proverbs 19:3 – The foolishness of man subverts his way; his heart rages against Yahweh.
Proverbs 21:2 – Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Yahweh weighs the hearts.

By contrast, one needs only to look at how Solomon also depicted the path of the righteous:

Proverbs 3:33 – Yahweh’s curse is in the house of the wicked, but he blesses the habitation of the righteous.
Proverbs 10:2 – Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 11:6 – The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them, but the unfaithful will be trapped by evil desires.

There are over 80 references to the positive attributes of the righteous in the Proverbs alone; this is no small indication of God’s desire for all people. Solomon’s conclusion even at the end of Ecclesiastes is also a famous verse, noted for its simplicity and universality for all people:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 “This is the end of the matter. All has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”

Yeshua begins the most significant teaching in the New Testament writings, the Sermon on the Mount, with the assertion that every principle he was about to teach on begins with simple humility before God.

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

There is no need to go further into the Sermon on the Mount if one has not begun with the humility of heart that Yeshua honors. Recognizing that one is not able to walk the path of this life on one’s own is a true demonstration of the contrite spirit, and one that Isaiah assures believers will provide an ongoing rejuvenating experience.

Isaiah 57:15 – “For the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, says: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'”


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.

The faith of the righteous opposes all adversity

As people of integrity, we are obligated to stand firm for what’s right.

Proverbs 11:3 – The integrity of the upright guides them, but the perversity of the treacherous destroys them.

Most of the proverbs of Solomon are stand-alone nuggets of wisdom providing a snapshot of insight into a specific aspect of life. In chapter 11, however, there are several similar proverbs grouped together in the same passage that carry a consistent message. Here are some of those examples.

Proverbs 11:5 – The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness.
Proverbs 11:6 – The righteousness of the upright rescues them, but the treacherous are trapped by their own desires.
Proverbs 11:23 – The desire of the righteous turns out well, but the hope of the wicked leads to wrath.

All of these proverbs are centered around the actions of the righteous or upright, those exhibiting integrity. The integrity they have is represented as guiding them, clearing a path for them and rescuing them, with the end result being favorable for them.

The same Hebrew word used for integrity is the same word found in only one other book of the Bible: Job. Job was consistent in maintaining his integrity or innocence before God.

Job 2:3, 9-10 – Then Yahweh said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited me against him, to destroy him for no good reason.” … His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die! ” “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity? ” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said.

Job 27:3-6 – as long as my breath is still in me and the breath from God remains in my nostrils, my lips will not speak unjustly, and my tongue will not utter deceit. I will never affirm that you are right. I will maintain my integrity until I die. I will cling to my righteousness and never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live!

Job 31:5-6 – If I have walked in falsehood or my foot has rushed to deceit, let God weigh me on accurate scales, and he will recognize my integrity.

True to the wisdom of the proverbs, Job was ultimately rewarded for his faithfulness. By holding on to his integrity through the worst of circumstances, he was guided on a cleared path through his adversity and rescued out of his troubles. In the end he was blessed more abundantly than before his troubles had begun.

I recognize that most people typically view Job as an example of questioning God when bad things happen to good people. However, I think there is an opportunity to see just how courageous someone has to be to maintain their integrity and blamelessness amidst the harshest of physical circumstances while having extended dialogues with those of contrary opinion.

As believers in Messiah, we should be challenged by Job’s example as to how far we are willing to go to stand for the principles of integrity. Paul wrote to the Romans to remind them of their status before God because of their faith in Messiah:

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua Messiah.

Paul also wrote to Titus to encourage his congregation to maintain a righteous and godly life:

Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age…

We live daily amidst cultural influences which constantly assault our belief in right beliefs and right actions. May we be emboldened to say with Job: “as long as my breath is still in me and the breath from God remains in my nostrils, my lips will not speak unjustly, and my tongue will not utter deceit,” and “I will cling to my righteousness and never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live!” If we do so, then according to the wisdom of Solomon, the righteousness and integrity we have by faith will guide us, clear a path for us, and rescue us, allowing God to favor us as he sees fit in this life and into eternity.


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.

The ancient practice of non-retaliation

If we recognize that only God is truly able to judge others, we relieve ourselves of that burden and responsibility.

Matthew 5:39 – “But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

While many people claim that Yeshua began a revolutionary concept of non-retaliation in his day, it was actually a godly principle from ancient times, evidenced by the narrative of Scripture.

1 Samuel 24:12-13 – “May Yahweh judge between me and you, and may Yahweh take vengeance on you for me, but my hand will never be against you. “As the old proverb says, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’ My hand will never be against you.

As David was confronted with the continuing persecution of Saul, he makes the commitment that he would never do Saul harm as Saul was attempting to do to him, since Saul is God’s anointed ruler. David fulfilled that commitment.

What I find fascinating from an historical perspective is that David quoted “an old proverb” regarding how wickedness in action stems from those who are wicked. As far as we know, this is not a quote from Moses or any biblical writer prior to David, but it was a quote that had become common enough to be routinely mentioned as proverbial within that culture. This idea of non-retaliation appears to be very ancient, indeed.

Ironically, or perhaps because of David’s parenting influence, his son Solomon would become associated with thousands of proverbs. Likely influenced by that same godly motivation of his father, Solomon would ultimately pen the following proverb:

Proverbs 24:29 – Don’t say, “I’ll do to him what he did to me; I’ll repay the man for what he has done.”

This is a line of thinking carried all the way down to New Testament writers. Even beyond the life and teaching of Yeshua, the apostle Paul expands on this perspective that was modeled by his Lord and Master and the ancient forefathers.

Romans 12:17-19 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says Yahweh.

That vengeance belongs to God is a statement that is an echo of David’s words to Saul. If we recognize that only God is truly able to judge others, we relieve ourselves of that burden and responsibility, and allow him to do whatever is appropriate in regard to our situation. This takes a strong measure of faith on our part, as we may have an opportunity to “right” a wrong, or provide a retaliatory measure of what we would consider justice.

By staying our hand and allowing God to work, we may endure injustice for the moment but in the process God can be glorified. When others see that we are willing to suffer an injustice at the hands of others and yet not retaliate, we provide a strong witness to our faith that God is in control and that only he is the true judge.

When we choose to forego those opportunities and instead trust God for ultimate judgment, we also demonstrate our like-minded discipleship and faithfulness to our Lord and Messiah and can rightfully assume our place in a long line of historical and spiritual ancestors before us.


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.

Learning about integrity by reviewing its opposites

Contrasts in the Proverbs help to provide clarity.

The Proverbs of Solomon provide us some insight into the life of integrity by contrasting integrity with its opposites. By viewing what integrity is not, we can gain a better understanding of what it is and how it is beneficial to those who practice it.

Proverbs 10:9 – The one who lives with integrity lives securely, but whoever perverts his ways will be found out.
Proverbs 10:29 – The way of Yahweh is a stronghold for the honorable, but destruction awaits the malicious.
Proverbs 13:6 – Righteousness guards people of integrity, but wickedness undermines the sinner.

In these three proverbs, we see integrity and the way of Yahweh contrasted with those who are responsible for twisting and distortion, those who make trouble or sorrow, and wickedness that overturns those who are sinful.

However, on the positive side, it can also be noted that integrity is associated with security and protection. Living and acting with integrity can provide safety from the consequences of those who are sinful and willing to cause pain and suffering to others for their own benefit.

Proverbs 19:1 – Better a poor person who lives with integrity than someone who has deceitful lips and is a fool.
Proverbs 28:6 – Better the poor person who lives with integrity than the rich one who is crooked in their ways.

In these proverbs, the one who lives with integrity is contrasted with two other types of individuals: those who are arrogant, foolish, and who distort the truth with their speech, along with those who are twisted in their ways. One of the common negative characteristics of these individuals is this idea of crookedness, twisting their speech, distorting the truth. People who act like this cannot be trusted because they will simply manipulate situations to their advantage.

It is interesting that these negative characteristics are generally, though not exclusively, associated with those who are rich, while integrity is associated with humility of circumstance.

Proverbs 2:7 – He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity
Proverbs 20:7 – A righteous person acts with integrity; his children who come after him will be happy.

Here we see the benefits associated with living a life of integrity. Those who have integrity are considered righteous. There is protection and longevity of benefit for their families associated with doing what’s right, extending even to their children.

From this brief survey of integrity in the Proverbs, we can glean the advantages of living righteously according to the way of Yahweh over those who exploit others and busy themselves with constantly striving to gain advantage for themselves. Solomon encourages humble circumstances with doing what’s right over wealth and subterfuge.

These positive traits of integrity are consistent with what Yeshua presented in the Sermon on the Mount regarding purity of heart, doing what’s right, and magnifying God. In his way of thinking, to individuals such as these belong the kingdom of God.


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.