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I have to be honest: I’m not big on “top 10” lists.

I know that when I see a top 10 list—it almost doesn’t matter what it’s about —my mouse, as if taken over by some evil spirit, just slides over to take the clickbait.

And I don’t think the kinds of things I write about—like God, Jesus, and the Bible—should be clickbait alongside “top 10 shocking pencil sharpeners,” “top 10 rock stars you didn’t know died horrible power equipment-related deaths,” or “top 10 things to do with Q-Tips you have to see to believe.”

Having said that, here is my list of the top 10 Old Testament passages. As for my apparent caving into worldly social media strategies, I would remind you that Yahweh gave Moses  “top 10 laws you really need to obey if you want to remain in the Promised Land.”

See? You can find a prooftext for everything.

All kidding aside, these passages describe God in ways that resonate with me personally. Some make me feel very reflective, others bring a tear to my eye, and still, others remind me of what this life of faith is all about.

1. …for the Lord does not see as people see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God is not impressed with what we call success but with what is deep within us, perhaps even deeper than we ourselves can see.

2. Besides being wise, Qoheleth also taught the people knowledge…(Ecclesiastes 12:9). After Qoheleth complains for 11 chapters about the futility of life and how ultimately God is to blame, the narrator of Ecclesiastes makes no attempt to cover it up with platitudes. God can handle our complaints.

3. O Lord, why do you cast me off? Why do you hide your face from me? (Psalm 88:14). It helps to know that the Bible itself canonizes the common experience of God’s absence.

4. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26). More than once, at times of joy and sadness, when I didn’t know what to pray, this came out of my mouth. It’s good to have God’s face shine on us now and then.

5. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled… (Psalm 73:2). An honest and real comment about what it feels like when God doesn’t do what we have every biblical right to believe God should do (in this case, blessing the righteous).

6. Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message I tell you (Jonah 3:2). By giving Israel’s powerful and merciless archenemies the Assyrians a chance to repent, God surprises us by redefining our notions of insiders and outsiders.

7. Wisdom is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her (Proverbs 3:15). Money always comes in handy, but wisdom is about something of greater value: how we navigate through the bits and pieces of our day-to-day lives with true peace.

8. And the Lord changed his mind… (Exodus 32:14). I’m not sure how this works out practically speaking, but there is something both destabilizing and reassuring about the thought of someone in the Bible getting God to change directions.

9. For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told (Habakkuk 1:5). God can rescue in a manner we don’t expect—even the exact opposite of what we expect (here, God uses the Babylonian enemies to address injustice within Israel). The help may even be painful for a time.

10. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). This about sums it all up for me. Knowledge alone is overrated. To trust God, despite what you know or don’t know or think you know, is to be whole and at peace.

This blog was originally posted in December 2014.


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    Pete Enns, Ph.D.

    Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.