Truth, Understanding, Insight

Righteousness of God

2nd June 2013, mgh


2) Righteousness of God in the Old Testament

The Law of Moses educated the Israelites about sin and the forgiveness of sin through sacrifices and the recognition of sin and acknowledging the sin of individuals and the nation. It also provided laws which related to life style, character building and behaviour, that had to be obeyed. In Leviticus its purpose was summarised in a few words.

And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. (Leviticus 20:26)

Peter quotes from the Old Testament affirming that this was a principle that was very relevant to the Jews and the Gentiles who professed Christianity.

But as he which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: ( I Peter 1:15-17)

The prophet Micah records the failure of Israel to recognise the righteousness of Yahweh and explains what they should have done, “To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God”. These principles still apply today for those who seek salvation.

Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD'S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:2-8)

Yahweh was pleading showing that he had always done right and good and kept his side of the covenant, and all he asked was that his people also did right.

The Psalms also develop the same themes.

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD. (Psa 4:5)

Psalm 7 deals with the fate of the wicked and God's judgement that will come on them, but contrasts the fate of those who are 'upright' in heart and thus 'righteous and who will be saved'.

My defence is of God, which saves the upright in heart. God judges the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he has bent his bow, and made it ready. He has also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordains his arrows against the persecutors. Behold, he travails with iniquity, and has conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high. (Psa 7:10-17)

David's prayer in Psalm 31 which is an out pouring of his trust in Yahweh's righteousness and plea for help against his enemies, needs little comment.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength. Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities; (Psa 31:1-7)

Psalm 33 states that Yahweh loves righteousness and judgement. He is Powerful and is to be feared and he will bring the 'devices of the people of none effect'. There will be blessing for those whom he will choose 'for his own inheritance'.

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loves righteousness and judgement: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as an heap: he lays up the depth in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. The LORD brings the counsel of the heathen to nought: he makes the devices of the people of none effect.
The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance. (Psa 33:4-12)

Psalm 71 also calls upon Yahweh's help against enemies who persecute and desire to kill. There is complete confidence in Yahweh's power and righteousness to protect and save. There is also the recognition of salvation and resurrection from death.

But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more. My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grey headed, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come. Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!
Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. (Psa 71:10-20)

Mankind has little excuse today in rejecting the power of the Creator. In the days of ancient Israel his power was known among the heathen and today prophecy displays his hand at work among the nations and especially in the revival of the nation of Israel in their homeland. We can say with confidence that, 'his righteousness has he openly showed in the sight of the heathen.' The final statement will yet be fulfilled, 'all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.'

A Psalm. O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he has done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, has gotten him the victory. The LORD has made known his salvation:
his righteousness has he openly showed in the sight of the heathen. He has remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. (Psa 98:1-3)

Even though we might die, the mercy and righteousness of Yahweh is promised to those who fear him, remember his promises and do his commands, reflecting his righteousness in teaching our children and any who will hear and obey his Word. Psalm 103 can give us hope and confidence.

Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. (Psa 103:13-18)

Isaiah also deals with the righteousness of God. The reasons for the captivity of Israel by foreign nations and their final dispersion into the rest of the world are given in Isaiah 5. They had forsaken their law and lacked knowledge of the covenants of promise. The loftiness of man and his pride in his own achievements will be judged. Those who mock Yahweh's existence and power will ultimately be humbled. For 'the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgement, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.'

Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices, shall descend into it. And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled: But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgement, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat. Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope: That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it! Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isa 5:13-24)

Isaiah points out that the desire of the just is for the judgement of Yahweh on the wicked. He says that 'the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee'. If we recall James' words in Acts 15, we see the same theme here, which is the calling of a people who will reflect the character of Yahweh. When Yahweh sends his son to the earth again to bring about his judgements, it is then 'the world will learn righteousness'.

Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD Yahweh is everlasting strength: For he brings down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he lays it low; he lays it low, even to the ground; he brings it even to the dust. The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy. The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.
Yea, in the way of thy judgements, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. (Isaiah 26:4-9)

In chapter 45, Isaiah prophesies that there will come a time in the future when other nations will turn to Israel in humility seeking the God of the Israelites. They shall be humbled and finally subjected to the God of Israel. Yahweh speaks righteousness, that is truth and what is 'right'. This is the requirement of all those who would be faithful servants.

They shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God. Verily thou art a God that hides thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.
But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
For thus said the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he has established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth:
I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness,
I declare things that are right. (Isaiah 45:14-19)

Though Israel was punished, they were punished so they would turn from idolatry to serve their God. When they sought him, He would do them good, as He is always faithful to his promises and His covenant to the seed of Jacob.

There is a promise for the faithful recorded in Isaiah 54. The flood of Noah's time destroyed the wicked, but Yahweh's promise will be fulfilled. The righteous servants of Yahweh will be saved in the time of judgement.

For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, said the LORD that has mercy on thee...
And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shall thou be established: thou shall be far from oppression; for thou shall not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.
Behold, I have created the smith that blows the coals in the fire, and that brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgement you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.(Isa 54:9-17)

Righteouness, Justice and release from prison

The Messiah read from the following passage from Isaiah, revealing that he was the promised Messiah. Y'shua was to bring the hope of salvation to the people of Israel first. There would be a time when the Gentiles would be also blessed along with the nation of Israel. It will be a time when Yahweh will be recognised by all nations and righteousness will be established in the earth.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
For I the LORD love judgement, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isa 61:1-11)

See how those who are release from prison, who receive justice rejoice. Because of the right judgment of God the recipients of blessing and salavation are 'covered with the robe of righteousness'.

The prophet Daniel also proclaimed that righteousness belonged to Yahweh and that the people of his day were without understanding.

O Lord, righteousness belongs unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. (Dan 9:7)

Zephaniah calls the 'meek' of the earth to aim for what is right because this is the only way to be saved when Yahweh brings his judgements on the earth.

Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgement; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger. (Zep 2:3)