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.

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

Honoring of parents respects God’s kingdom authority on earth

A believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best guidance and direction leading to well-being for the children who are obedient to their instruction.

Core of the Bible podcast #79 – Honoring of parents respects God’s kingdom authority on earth

Today we will be looking at the topic of the fifth commandment about honoring one’s father and mother, and how a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best kingdom guidance and direction leading to well-being for the children who are obedient to their instruction.

Exodus 20:12 – Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

As God conveyed his Torah, or instruction to Moses, he made it clear that within the kingdom of God, there would be many roles requiring to be fulfilled. While most people today look to define and embrace roles like prophets, priests, teachers, helpers, there are no roles as basic and impactful as the roles within each family: husband and wife, mother and father.

In today’s culture this has become a controversial stance, but I firmly believe that the significance of man and woman in the kingdom is a basic building block upon which everything else is built. The male and female component is inherent within the DNA of the kingdom, right back to its origins in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 1:27-28 – So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

The very first royal edict of the kingdom had to do with man and woman reigning and having dominion over God’s Creation. So, in Hebrew culture, the father and the mother are therefore figures representing divine authority over the family. They are the representatives of God’s authority because they have been made in his image, and to be respected as possessing and implementing the wisdom of God. In fact, the genealogies that take up roughly 5% of the Bible are based on a deference to authority in the sense of familial descent which is only possible through the recording of historical male-female heritage. This honoring of one’s parents or ancestry also spilled over into the ancient Hebraic view of the afterlife. Upon death, one was considered to be “gathered unto the fathers.”

Genesis 49:29 – Then [Jacob] commanded [his sons] and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite…

Judges 2:8, 10 – And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Yahweh, died at the age of 110 years. … And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers…

2 Kings 22:20 – Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace…

Within the conduct of individuals during this life, however, we can see how this understanding of paternal and maternal influence along with marital fidelity carried over into metaphors of God’s care for his people, as well.

Exodus 4:21-22 – And Yahweh told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh says: Israel is my firstborn son.

Isaiah 43:3, 6 – For I am Yahweh, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. … I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth.

Isaiah 46:3 – “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born.

Jeremiah 3:20 – But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. I, Yahweh, have spoken.”

Individual references cannot convey the depth with which the entire narrative of the Bible is imbued with this type of familial imagery; it is interwoven throughout every page. That parents were to be respected is brought out in the biblical stories conveyed throughout the Tanakh or Old Testament, but is most prominently evident in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 1:8-9 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are a garland of grace on your head and a pendant around your neck.

Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.

Proverbs 15:20 – Sensible children bring joy to their father; foolish children despise their mother.

However, children who are disobedient to this most basic sense of authority are also shown the end that results from choosing their own way.

Proverbs 19:26 – Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace.

Proverbs 20:20 – If you insult your father or mother, your light will be snuffed out in total darkness.

Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

Proverbs 30:17 – The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be plucked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.

In these passages this sense of structural authority within the family unit provides a powerful basis for wisdom and right actions. It is here that the roots of the kingdom are set deep into the soil so that each generation can continue to rise to the greatest heights in a demonstration of God’s power and glory over his Creation.

In a moment, we will see how this principle of parental authority is also built on by Yeshua and the apostles within the writings of the New Testament.

The God-given authority of the father and mother was an ongoing kingdom principle for the early Messiah believers, also. Before we look at the apostolic writings, though, we can see this principle exemplified most clearly by Messiah himself.

Luke 2:41-51 – Every year Yeshua’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Yeshua was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Yeshua stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant. Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.

This wonderful passage gives us a rare glimpse into the childhood of Yeshua, and how he viewed his own role in relation to his parents. The typical evaluation of this passage explains how at such an early age, Yeshua understood the uniqueness of his role and how he recognized Yahweh God as his father. Yet, the nugget in the story for our purposes today is that final verse that says, “he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” To me, this speaks volumes on Yeshua’s recognition of the established order of parental authority. Even though he was spiritually maturing at an accelerated pace, he chose to remain obedient to his parents in conformity with the overall plan of God’s kingdom. He honored his mother and his father.

He also taught this as an adult as he reiterated the validity of the Ten Commandments. When answering questions from an inquirer about eternal life, Yeshua responded with the necessity of recognizing the authority of the torah, or instruction of God.

Matthew 19:16-19 – Someone came to Yeshua with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “Why ask me about what is good?” Yeshua replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question–if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked. And Yeshua replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Yeshua firmly taught the Ten Commandments as a basis for the kingdom, sometimes used as a synonymous phrase for the principle of eternal life.

Moving to the writings of Yeshua’s apostles, we can see how they continued to emphasize the role of parental authority within the early believing congregations.

Colossians 3:20 – Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases Yahweh.

One of the characteristics required of leaders within the congregation was to be exemplifying this authoritative structure within one’s own family.

1 Timothy 3:1, 4-5 – This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” … He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s congregation?

In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy in a basic and underlying premise of the kingdom: authority rests within the parental structure. If that structure is not present in the family, Paul argues, then how can it be present within the congregation? Besides a recitation of the Ten Commandments, to my way of thinking this is one of the most precise indications of the necessity for parental authority for the success of the kingdom in the entire New Testament.

Additionally, just like in the writings of the prophets in the Tanakh, the metaphors for God’s parental authority are present within the apostolic writings, as well.

Hebrews 12:7-8 – As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.

1 Peter 1:14 – So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.

1 John 2:29 – Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.

And finally, Paul writes to the Ephesian congregation about the promise of faithful obedience to parental authority.

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents because you belong to Yahweh, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”

Paul writes here that this commandment to honor father and mother is the first command that is not only the right thing to do, but it carries within it a promise for well-being and long life. The idea is that a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best guidance and direction that would lead to those things for the children who are obedient to their instruction.

In conclusion, we can see how the respect and honor of father and mother is therefore part of the eternal torah, or instruction, of God for all time. As the mother and father “rule” righteously over the kingdom of their family, they are fulfilling a role that is embedded within the Creation itself, a role that hearkens back through ancestral lines all the way to the original parents in the Garden. The Garden imagery of Paradise (the idealized kingdom) is therefore brought to life for each generation through every faithful father and mother. As believing parents recognize this awesome responsibility of the authority they carry, the Kingdom of God can continue to grow in righteousness, honoring the original parents whom God set over all Creation in the beginning.

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

Learning from Job’s life of integrity

In speaking of his faithful servant Job, God reveals what a life of integrity is.

In speaking of his faithful servant Job, God reveals what a life of integrity is.

Job 2:3: – “Yahweh said to the Accuser, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.””

Out of all of the people in the Bible who are mentioned as doing what is right, Job is described by his wife, his friends, and even God himself as a man of integrity.

  • Job 2:9: – “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? …”
  • Job 4:1, 6: – “Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: … “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”

In Yahweh’s honoring of Job as a man of integrity, we find one of the briefest and most succinct definitions of a life of integrity from Yahweh himself: “a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” At its most basic level, being a person of integrity involves at least two things: fearing God and turning away from evil.

To fear God is to recognize him for who he is as the Creator of all that exists. It is to respect and honor him by choosing to be obedient to what he has conveyed to us as his creatures. It is the fear of God that gives us the ability to gain wisdom so we can make the right choices.

Proverbs 1:7: – “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Additionally, a life of integrity involves turning away from evil. This is known as a life of repentance, constantly viewing our choices in the context of the greater purpose of God among humanity. When we see or encounter the things that don’t honor God, it is our obligation to turn away from those things, to take a different path than perhaps the rest of those around us blindly follow.

Proverbs 4:26-27 – “Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil.”

A life of integrity it is formed around a pattern of walking in the light, not the darkness. The light that shines is the wisdom that God provides when we choose to recognize him as the Creator of all.

Ecclesiastes 2:13-14 – “And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness. The wise person has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. …”

It is also a recognition that we shall have to answer for the choices we have made during this life, even as Job himself understood.

Job 31:6: “let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!”

Fear God and turn from evil. This is the life that believers are called to exemplify for themselves and for others. This hunger and thirst for doing what is right is what creates the purity of heart that God desires.

Matthew 5:6,8: ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. … “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see 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, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Why life can seem difficult

It is up to every individual to understand and heed the message that the Spirit of God pleads with all people.

It is up to every individual to understand and heed the message that the Spirit of God pleads with all people.

In popular culture today, it is common to see or hear the phrase “the struggle is real.” Usually, it is meant to ironically describe how hard life can be. More often than not, it is used sarcastically to illustrate how some people don’t have the ability to overcome some of the simplest challenges of life.

However, there is a general sentiment in the world today that the ability to live one’s life is always a struggle, that there is no relenting of the constant tide of challenges we face. To this, the believer should possess a different perspective.

In the Bible, the Hebrew concept of the wisdom of God, also referenced as the Word or Logos in the Greek, is essentially the Spirit of God pleading with humanity. Wisdom and the Word are both personified representations of the Spirit of God communicating with mankind.

Regarding the state of the world today, even most Christians attribute all of the evil in the world to a “fallen” human nature. However, the Bible speaks very plainly to the condition of of those who rebel against the wisdom of God: eating the fruits of one’s own schemes. To choose the fear of Yahweh is to trust in and honor him; to choose one’s own ways is to rebel against him. Time and time again, God warns people of neglecting what is right and following their own ways; it’s a story as old as Eden.

Proverbs 1:7, 20-33 – The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. … Wisdom calls out in the street; she makes her voice heard in the public squares. She cries out above the commotion; she speaks at the entrance of the city gates: “How long, inexperienced ones, will you love ignorance? How long will you mockers enjoy mocking and you fools hate knowledge? If you respond to my warning, then I will pour out my spirit on you and teach you my words. Since I called out and you refused, extended my hand and no one paid attention, since you neglected all my counsel and did not accept my correction, I, in turn, will laugh at your calamity. I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when trouble and stress overcome you. Then they will call me, but I won’t answer; they will search for me, but won’t find me. Because they hated knowledge, didn’t choose to fear Yahweh, were not interested in my counsel, and rejected all my correction, they will eat the fruit of their way and be glutted with their own schemes. For the apostasy of the inexperienced will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. But whoever listens to me will live securely and be undisturbed by the dread of danger.”

When people reject God’s counsel by refusing to trust in Yahweh, or worse, when they mock him, they become subject to the natural forces of God’s Creation (nature) and cruel intentions of others who also reject the fear of Yahweh. This is why the majority of people who are not believers in Yahweh feel that life is a random mess of hardship and struggle to survive, because that is what it feels like to not have a God to believe in, the God who actually created them and the world they live in.

By contrast, the believer is the one who listens to God, described as having “the fear of Yahweh.” The believer has knowledge of why things are the way they are; the believer has God’s “hand extended” to them. The believer receives counsel and correction from God by abiding in his Word and can live “securely and be undisturbed by the dread of danger,” which is another way of saying they are “saved” or safe.

The picture painted here in the opening chapter of the book of Proverbs shows us and summarizes for us how life operates, how life is. It is up to every individual to understand and heed the message that the Spirit of God pleads with all people. This is the contrast of apostasy and faith, darkness and light, ignorance and truth. For those who choose the fear of Yahweh, no longer should they say, “the struggle is real,” but instead they should be able to say with confidence, “the wisdom of God is real.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know and acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

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

Evaluating the wisdom of Solomon to grow in righteousness

The wise believer demonstrates integrity of speech.

The wise believer demonstrates integrity of speech.

The proverbs of Solomon are a mine of information on living with integrity. The life of the righteous is contrasted with the wicked throughout its pages, as each proverb typically highlights a specific contrast between the two types of individuals.

Because the information contained within the proverbs is so valuable to believers, many have attempted to organize the proverbs into different groupings to try to bring out the common characteristics more clearly. One of the ways I have found to illustrate this is to line up the positive characteristics of the godly in a group, and then contrast the corresponding negative characteristics or consequences of the actions of the wicked.

For example I have chosen just one of the chapters (chapter 10) and selected some verses that speak to the similar characteristic of the righteous as having knowledgeable and truthful speech.

  • 8 – The wise are glad to be instructed
  • 11 – The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain
  • 13 – Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding
  • 14 – Wise people treasure knowledge
  • 20 – The words of the godly are like sterling silver
  • 21 – The words of the godly encourage many
  • 31 – The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice
  • 32 – The lips of the godly speak helpful words

Now, by contrast, look at the corresponding distinctions that Solomon made between the representation of the godly above with the practices of the wicked.

  • 8 – babbling fools come to ruin
  • 11 – the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions
  • 13 – those lacking sense will be beaten with a rod
  • 14 – the babbling of a fool invites disaster
  • 20 – the heart of a fool is worthless
  • 21 – fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense
  • 31 – the tongue that deceives will be cut off
  • 32 – the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words

This type of analysis and re-grouping of the text of Proverbs can prove to be very enlightening, and is a type of simple study that can be conducted by anyone who desires to learn more about how God expects his people to behave. Even from this brief example, it can be clearly seen how believers have a responsibility to seek the wisdom of God and to guard their tongues, speaking only what is helpful or encouraging to others. This is corroborated by the writings of the disciples of Yeshua, as well.

Ephesians 4:29 – Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

James 1:26 – If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

The integrity of the believer becomes readily apparent as soon as they open their mouth. If they have not sought the wisdom of God but are only speaking their own opinion or the opinions of others that they have not verified on their own, then they are little better than a fool who invites disaster or will come to ruin, as the proverbs above state. We should be reminded that believers have the monumental responsibility to be thoughtful and mindful about how they represent the God they believe in.

Instead, let’s focus on the positive characteristics of the godly as related by Solomon, and ensure that our speech is knowledgeable, wise, encouraging and helpful.

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

Faith is being receptive to the abundance of God’s Instruction

For anyone to trust in Yahweh, there must be a trust in his Word.

For anyone to trust in Yahweh, there must be a trust in his Word.

Psalm 19:7-11 – The Instruction of Yahweh is perfect and complete, refreshing and bringing back the soul [to him]; the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, wisdom for the simple. The precepts of Yahweh are upright, joy for the heart; the commandment of Yahweh is clear, light for the eyes. The fear of Yahweh is pure, lasting for ever; the judgments of Yahweh are true, righteous, every one, more desirable than gold, even than the finest gold; his words are sweeter than honey, even than honey that drips from the comb. Thus your servant is warned by them [as by a shining light], observance brings great reward.

All of the ancient writings of the biblical texts speak with a unified voice on the reward of keeping the Torah, the Law or Instruction, of God, just as it is mentioned here in the nineteenth psalm. Wisdom is crowned as the ultimate prize, and it is depicted as residing within God’s Instruction.

  • Psalm 111:10 – The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.
  • Proverbs 2:6 – For Yahweh gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
  • Proverbs 3:13 – Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding,
  • Proverbs 4:7 – Wisdom is supreme ​– ​so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding.

As the apostle Paul is crafting his argument to the congregation in Rome, he quotes from this very psalm as he isolates the source of faith in Yahweh:

Romans 10:17-18 – so then the faith is by hearing a report, and the report is through the Word of God, but I say, Did they not hear? yes, indeed — ‘to all the earth their voice went forth, and to the ends of the habitable world their sayings.’

Paul is here quoting Psalm 19 where it speaks about the witness of God in his creation, specifically the wonder of the heavens:

Psalm 19:1-4 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard. [Yet] their message has gone out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world…

This corroborates what he has previously mentioned in his opening statements to the Roman believers:

Romans 1:19-20 – …what can be known about God is evident among them [those who don’t know him], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

When one is drawn to the God of the universe through his Creation and begins to look for further insight, his Word, his Instruction is found to contain his wisdom and understanding.

Psalm 19:7 – The Instruction of Yahweh is perfect and complete, refreshing and bringing back the soul [to him]; the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, wisdom for the simple.

Living in this world one is placed in a paradigm of God’s crafting: a world and universe that is a living illustration of his power and majesty, and a book of Instruction that can guide one into a living relationship with him. Faith in the God of the Bible would be inevitable if it were not for the stubbornness of our own hearts in wanting to be independent and self-sufficient, drawing our own conclusions about our worldview rather than obeying the wisdom of his abundant Instruction.

The Psalmist encourages us that “observance [of God’s Instruction] brings great reward.” The reward is self-contained within the keeping of it and is available to all! According to this passage, it brings joy, clear perception of truth, and warning from dangerous error. If these are only some of the primary benefits of faith in God, why would we instead persist in choosing our own way?

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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