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.

Overcoming spiritual instability through vigilance

How do we measure up to Paul’s assessment of the Corinthian believers?

Be vigilant, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strengthened. Do everything in love.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

As Paul is concluding his epistle to the Corinthian believers, after having attempted to correct their disfunction and internal strife over the fifteen previous chapters, he abruptly includes these five exhortations to summarize his earnest intent for that congregation: be vigilant, stand firm, be courageous, be strengthened, and do everything in love.

We can gain inspiration from these five qualities; however, we can also gain insight by looking at their opposites. By doing so, we can gain a better understanding of what the true state of the Corinthian congregation was.

Instead of vigilance, they evidenced drowsiness and carelessness. Instead of standing firm in the faith they had an unsure footing and understanding of basic doctrine. Instead of being courageous (literally “manly”) cowardice was evident among them. Instead of strength they demonstrated weakness over the smallest matters. And most importantly, instead of exhibiting love with one another they were factious and divisive.

However, at the head of the list, and the quality upon which the others depend, is vigilance. The Greek word in the text conveys being wakeful or perpetually watchful. This implies remaining alert, not allowing distractions, maintaining careful attention at all times.

Alexander MacLaren in his commentary provides the following insights in regard to this term:

‘Watch ye.’ That means one of two things certainly, probably both-Keep awake, and keep your eyes open … there is the military idea underlying it. What will become of an army if the sentries go to sleep? And what chance will a Christian man have of doing his [duty] against his enemy, unless he keeps himself awake, and keeps himself alert? Watchfulness, in the sense of always having eyes open for the possible rush down upon us of temptation and evil, is no small part of the discipline and the duty of the Christian life. One part of that watchfulness consists in exercising a very rigid and a very constant and comprehensive scrutiny of our motives. For there is no way by which evil creeps upon us so unobserved, as when it slips in at the back door of a specious motive. Many a man contents himself with the avoidance of actual evil actions, and lets any kind of motives come in and out of his mind unexamined. It is all right to look after our doings, but ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The good or the evil of anything that I do is determined wholly by the motive with which I do it. And we are a great deal too apt to palm off deceptions on ourselves to make sure that our motives are right, unless we give them a very careful and minute scrutiny. One side of this watchfulness, then, is a habitual inspection of our motives and reasons for action. ‘What am I doing this for?’ is a question that would stop dead an enormous proportion of our activity, as if you had turned the steam off from an engine. If you will use a very fine sieve through which to strain your motives, you will go a long way to keeping your actions right. We should establish a rigid examination for applicants for entrance, and make quite sure that each that presents itself is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Make them all bring out their passports. Let every vessel that comes into your harbour remain isolated from all communication with the shore, until the health officer has been on board and given a clean bill. ‘Watch ye,’ for yonder, away in the dark, in the shadow of the trees, the black masses of the enemy are gathered, and a midnight attack is but too likely to bring a bloody awakening to a camp full of sleepers.”

Maintaining a watchful eye over our motives at every turn will provide us the footing to remain steadfast in the faith and flesh out our doctrinal understanding. It will overcome our tendency toward cowardice and provide us courage in the face of opposition. It can help us understand our weaknesses and learn where we need to be strengthened. And with vigilance, we can and must destroy all factiousness and divisiveness so that every action and motive is conducted from love.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Trust that provides completeness

The richness of the original languages provides deep insights into the goal of our existence.

You will keep whoever’s mind is steadfast in perfect peace, because he trusts in you. Trust in Yahweh forever; for in Yah, Yahweh, is an everlasting Rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4

Hebrew is an interesting language from our Western perspective, because it is a language of concrete terms and phrases. While we can entertain abstract thought and concepts in our modern languages, Hebrew deals with reality images, things that can be observed, touched, or felt.

“Forever” is one of those abstract terms we find a lot in the English versions of the Writings, yet this phrase has a richer and deeper meaning when understood from the original languages. Translated literally, this phrase comes across something like “to the vanishing point,” or “that which is concealed.” This is a more tangible way of saying that which exists beyond what we can see or know about.

Another unique aspect of this term is that it is used of both what we would call the future and the past; it is the whole understanding of time from beginning to end, or more accurately, from horizon to horizon. Once you go over the horizon in either direction, you disappear and can no longer be seen. With its modifier, it conveys the idea of everlasting or perpetual. Not just something that exists from some point in time forward, but its perpetuity exists in both directions, past and future, horizon to horizon. It just always has been.

This is how Yahweh is described, as a Rock, a cliff or mountainside; an image of something massive and immovable. He is described not just as eternal like living forever, but as always having existed, present now, and always existing beyond the horizon of what we can see and know.

Because this is the true nature of Yahweh, Isaiah promotes trusting in him. In the picturesque speech of Hebrew phrasing, he never moves, never changes, stands towering over generation after generation, always visible and present.

Shalom is another one of those Hebrew phrases that conveys so more than what we can convey in English. It is peace in the sense of completeness or wholeness, as a cup that is perfectly full of liquid and needs no more. It includes all of the concepts like health, safety, prosperity, and rest. A person who has, or is, shalom is 100% of everything intended for human existence. That is a powerful word, and one that is sorely needed in our world today.

Isaiah says by placing our whole-hearted and constant trust in Yahweh, we can experience peace: shalom. And not just peace, but literally peace-peace: shalom-shalom. It comes across in English typically as “perfect peace.” What deeper desire in human hearts could possibly be lacking from this state of shalom-shalom; doubly full, doubly content, doubly complete?

This is what we can experience in this life when our trust is steadfast in Yahweh. He is the immovable, imposing, always-present Rock that provides every need so completely that we can be completely whole, twice over.

—–

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.