“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer. 23:5-6).
God as Jehovah-tsidkenu is our righteousness; because our sins are forgiven, we are “the redeemed” who have been delivered by Jesus Christ who paid the ransom for us by the shedding of his own blood. By that act we can be restored with God.
God is righteous (Psalm 97:2). In contrast, man is evil (Jeremiah 17:9). The righteous God cannot overlook man’s unrighteousness (Exodus 23:7, Romans 6:23). How can a sinful man be acquitted of his unrighteousness and become righteous before God? . . . The provision of that righteousness was made in Jesus Christ who was substituted for us. “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21). (Author unknown. Copied from a study sheet with logo of Church on the Rock.)
The plaintive cry to God by Cain echoes through the ages, “…from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth…” (Gen. 4:14). All mankind has had some form of religion. Perhaps they seek to please God, or know God, or hide from God. Who is God and what does he want from me? Or, one whose center dwells more in humanism may ask, “Who am I and what am I here for?”
The Book of Ecclesiastes is King Solomon’s diatribe about how he has striven to have purpose for his life. He tried everything money could buy; he tried all that his intellect and wisdom could offer; he tried endless efforts at good deeds. Yet, he says, it is all vanity. So his conclusion was, “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man (Ecc. 12:12).” So, if one is to obey God, what better place to go than to the law of Moses?
Leviticus and Deuteronomy are replete with rules and laws for living righteously. This was tried for hundreds of years. But, Isaiah comes along and pronounces that kind of righteousness to be no better than filthy rags (Is. 64:4).
Jesus came and said his followers should love him and keep his commandments (John 14:21). Perhaps that could be defined as in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Therefore, the key to righteousness is good deeds, right? No! The Apostle Paul denounces good deeds in his litany of things that Solomon might have called vanity: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, …though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith…though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-4).
Ah! It is not what one does, but it is the love that motivates to goodness that reaches the heart of God. If one’s motivation is right, God understands. It doesn’t so much matter what you believe, as long as you sincerely believe it. Statements of that sort will likely be heard sometime in the discourse of one’s life. But God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9 A.S.V.) Therefore, how can one trust his own heart – or mind.
“Love thy neighbor as thyself,” Jesus said (Matt. 22:39). So, will humanitarianism suffice for us to reach God? The Book of James certainly tells us to love our brother with works, not words only! So man builds hospitals, looks for cancer cures, protects his country; and arrives right back where Solomon started!
Others groups of men believed the answer consisted of self sacrifice, self denial, even self affliction. During the 11th century, this view culminated in religious self-flagellation. This form of penitence arose again among Christians (mostly Catholics) in the Philippines about four hundred years ago. And even now there are places where it is still practiced.
It was with great horror that Americans read that the suicide bombers of September 11, 2001, were motivated by a religious belief. The New York Times, April 16, 2002, printed “Videotape Links Al Qaeda with Sept. 11 Hijackers,” written by Tim Golden. That article includes quotes that tie the actions of the hijackers to a holy cause. One segment in the video shows bin Laden with Dr. Zawahire, his second-in-command. Dr. Zawahiri is quoted as saying: “those 19 brothers who left us made efforts and offered their lives for the cause of Allah.”
Many modern American Christians have a concept of righteousness that portrays positive traits such as honesty, virtuousness, behaving well, and avoiding evil and temptations of the flesh. Among some Christians that can be summed up in the statement “We don’t drink, smoke, or chew, and we don’t run around with those who do.” That philosophy will lead to better health and good living, but it falls short of being the righteousness of God.
Neither good deeds nor sacrifice will make one righteous. Thus, the need for Jehovah-tsidkenu – THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! No other will do.
“The word tsidkenu (meaning stiff or straight) is derived from tsedek—righteousness It is firm in its meaning; it does not allow for any deviation. Only Jehovah is perfect in his righteousness; therefore, we can only be perfectly righteous in Him. He must be our righteousness or we have none! The apostle Paul says in Romans 3: 20 & 23, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The righteousness which Paul had once considered his great merit and gain, he came to regard as refuse (Phil. 3:4-9). Because of inherent sin, man cannot be righteous, and Jehovah, who is perfectly righteous, cannot overlook unrighteousness.
So how does one come into a state of rightness with God? How does one entice God to be Jehovah-tsidkenu for him? Man can perform no act; man cannot bait the Lord to come to him. God alone can make the move toward man. Man can do nothing except accept God’s offer. He can only believe, and that is the only thing that God desires. The apostle Paul writes to the Romans, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (10:4) and continues further, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness;” (10:10a). Then he applies the doctrine to the case of Abraham, thus, 4:22-24, “Therefore it was imputed to (Abraham) for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:22-24). Christ is righteous and is made righteousness unto all who put their trust in Him (I Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21. The Psalmist David expresses his awesome understanding of God as Jehovah-tsidkenu with these words, “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity” (Ps. 32:2). Thanks be to Jehovah-tsidkenu – our Righteousness!