The Lord our Righteousness
By Diane Caston
I. Our Righteousness and His Righteousness
What is righteousness? Righteousness means morally right or justifiable but some other synonyms will help even more: blameless, guiltless, holy, innocent, just, sinless. Let’s be honest – how many of us can say that we are those things?
But how does our flesh normally feel about righteousness? Do you feel that you never measure up? You don’t get it right? You’ll never be as righteous as others? Or maybe sometimes you feel like you’re doing okay, pretty smooth sailing. You haven’t yelled at the kids or kicked the dog lately, and at least you’re not as bad as that person over there! But these are positions and thinking of the flesh, and not how the Lord would have us think of righteousness.
This is what Scripture says about our righteousness. You all know it:
Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” And who knows what kind of filthy rags those are? We have no righteousness, mighty or puny apart from him.
Rom. 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells
Matt 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Now I think that means we are not righteous and we have no righteousness in ourselves, right?
Years ago we did a Kay Arthur study on the names of God. She communicated that as men lived on the earth, God revealed Himself to them bit by bit. And when you read through scripture, you see every so often a new name of the Lord revealed. In our text this morning we see one of those new names revealed. This name is only used 2 times in scripture, but the principle of this name encompasses all of scripture.
Let’s turn to:
Jeremiah 23:1-8 this section of scripture is spoken to the leaders of Israel in the reign of Zedekiah, the last wicked king of Judah before judgement came on the southern kingdom. We’ll talk more about him later.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”
A new name of the Lord revealed – the Lord our righteousness. What we could not accomplish ourselves He did for us by paying our penalty on the cross. So now we stand completely righteous before Him. If we receive this gift of God, we are covered. No one can say otherwise.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
It’s not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5
Jesus is the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament name, Jehovah-Tsidkenu – In contrast to Zedekiah (the unrighteous king), Jesus is the Righteous King who is also our righteousness. Because of this exchange , His righteousness for ours, no one, no man, no devil can speak against us!
Romans 8:31-35 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
We belong to him.
Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Ladies – do you, can you comprehend the enormity of this? That is one I meditate on – joint heirs – we have done nothing and He gives us everything.
2. Judgement and Mercy
This second comparison is when His righteousness is exchanged for ours. We are no longer under judgement.
Jeremiah by the inspiration of God was speaking to a nation whose king was wicked. When Jeremiah uttered this prophecy, the kingdom of Judah was hastening to its fall. More than a hundred years before, the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel had been taken captive never to return. But apparently Judah had learned nothing from their judgement, and sinned perhaps even more grievously than their sister kingdom in the north. Jeremiah's ministry began during the reign of the good king Josiah. The present king’s name was Zedekiah, which means Jehovah is Righteous. Tzidkiyahu, this last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by Babylon was installed by Nebuchadnezzar at 21 years old. This man was called to be righteous, but he was evil. God had continually blessed His people and reached out to them, but they would always turn their backs on Him and return to sin.
They had been warned over and over through the prophets God had sent to them but their hearts were hard. Finally, when the time for judgment came, God did it with the greatest reluctance. In the midst of that devastation, the Lord comforted them by revealing himself to them in a new way that would carry them through the tough times ahead. God never gloats over our sin; he always grieves. And if we are suffering the consequences of our own sin, he always has a plan to bring us back to where his blessings can again flow in our lives. As someone said at the couples Sunday night, God allows U-Turns.
God’s eyes were not blind to Zedekiah’s wickedness, as He told him through Jeremiah the prophet, “I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath.” (Jeremiah 21:5)
God’s eyes were not blind to His children’s sin either and in Jeremiah 32:30, God declares, “For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth. “
In this first mention of Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6) God promises to exchange the one who should have lived up to his name as a righteous king who trusted Jehovah (Zedekiah) with THE LORD WHO IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. That promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who the Bible states – is our righteousness
In both Scripture references where God uses the name, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, He gives us an astounding parallel. In the middle of judgement, He is our merciful God who delights in His people and chooses to bring redemption, restoration and righteousness to His wayward children.
The second mention of Jehovah Tsidneku is in
Jeremiah 33:14-17 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: ‘In those days and at that time. I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’
17 “For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;
God’s plan is to change the whole nation from wayward and wicked hearts and give them a new heart as well as a new name, Jehovah-Tsidkenu. Because of Christ, we can become just as righteous as He is. Just as the nation was named Jehovah-Tsidkenu, He names us the same.
Because Jesus has become our righteousness, when we receive Him, we become as righteous as He is in our Heavenly Father’s sight. We put on His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and when the Living God looks at us, He sees us just as perfect and just as pure as He sees His Son (Romans 5:21).
Knowing that God is our righteousness is not only good news for the unbeliever who turns from their sin and turns to God through faith in Christ, but it is also good news for the believer, who like the children of Israel, sometimes find themselves wandering far from the One they love. Jehovah-Tsidkenu remains our righteousness – even when we aren’t behaving so righteously.
3. The Past and the Future
Back to Jeremiah 23. Woe to the unfaithful shepherds. The Lord is calling out the leaders of Israel for their failure to lead His people. He is doing the same today. He lays a serious charge on the leaders of the people – his sheep. There is a movement in the liberal church today that takes exception to the judgement of God. A kind of sloppy gospel. We used to call it sloppy agape. Some in the social justice movement like to concentrate on the loving and reaching out to the sinner, regardless of their repentance of sin, disregarding the fact that real justice involves punishment to the evil doer. God simultaneously calls out the sinner to judgement and pronounces blessing and care for His sheep.
This prophecy from Jeremiah contains two future promises of the provision of God.
1. The future coming of the Messiah – the Branch. His name will be Jehovah Tsidkenu, which on a side note is an indication of the deity of Christ. And,
2. the return of the Jews to their homeland. Then He will bring back His flock from all of the nations where He has driven them. Out of all of the nations, not just out of Babylon, but all of the nations. This speaks to today. He has and is bringing them back to their fold. Promise of the Messiah, The Lord our Righteousness- And Judah will dwell in the Land! We see the Lord being ‘our righteousness’ for the people of every generation who by faith receive His righteousness until one day when He makes all things new, and we realty are like Him as we in forever in His presence.
I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree
Jehovah-tsidkenu was nothing to me.
When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die:
No refuge, no safety, in
self could I see; Jehovah-tsidkenu my Saviour must be.
My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free:
Jehovah-tsidkenu is all things to me.
Then will the Lord "cleanse them from their iniquity whereby they have sinned against Him" (Jeremiah 33:8) "and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth" (Jeremiah 33:6); "and Jerusalem shall be Holiness unto the Lord of Hosts" (Zechariah 14:16; 14:21). "Sing then O daughter of Zion; shout O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments." The King of Israel "even the Lord is in the midst of thee…thou shalt not see evil any more" (Zephaniah 3:14-15). Such are the promises to Israel. But what is our right to enter this glorious Tower?
Israel was given to be a light to the Gentiles, that the salvation of God should be unto the end of the earth. For "as Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7). And Christ hath redeemed us, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14), "that they should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). This is our right and claim, and Jehovah Tsidkenu is also The Lord our Righteousness.
Thus "may we, according to His promise," look also for "a new Heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth Righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13), and to the "Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2); and this is the name also wherewith she shall be called, "the Lord our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 33:16).
Then let us enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise" (Psalm 100:4). "Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go into them and I will praise the Lord: this gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter" (Psalm 118:19-20).
"Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee and I will clothe thee with change of raiment" (Zechariah 3:4), so shall they "see His face with joy for He will render unto man His righteousness" (Job 33:26).
Thus hath the Lord given Himself for His Church and adorned her as a bride, "that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church without spot, holy, and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). He hath adorned her with every grace, and clothed her with the righteousness of her beloved, that at the morning of the resurrection, she should arise and shine in the full splendor of Eternal glory.
"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 54:17).
"talk of the righteousness of the Lord all the day long…I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only" (Psalm 71:24)
"Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior" (Isaiah 43:1-3).