Webster defines righteousness as “the quality or state of being righteous; holiness; purity; uprightness; rectitude… Righteousness, as used in Scripture and theology, in which it chiefly occurs, is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law.” This understanding is quite adequate when considering the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “righteousness” found in the passage of scripture I have chosen to reflect upon at present; it truly encompasses the magnitude conveyed. For clarity, consider the last few words of the above definition; “…conformity of life to the divine law.” For the sake of this devotion, I would push that a bit further by adding “absolute conformity of life to the divine law.”
I often wonder if I, together with other followers of Jesus, actually resolve what has been afforded them in the gift of redemption. God is perfect and, without exception, requires the same of His children. This literally means that I must be without error in thought, word, and deed; and would include my past, present, and future! Um… “Houston we have a problem!”
How is such a thing even possible? From the October 24th reading in our devotional Bible, consider two amazing verses tucked within the Book of Jeremiah; a book predominantly about God’s displeasure with and judgment upon sin and disobedience.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 (NASB)
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD (translated Yahweh, or God’s name, in the HCSB) our righteousness.’ (emphasis and underlining mine)
These verses look forward to Jesus and His work of redeeming sinful Judah and Israel; ultimately including all who are children of God’s promise through faith, His church. I turn a microscope to Jeremiah’s reference of the Savior’s name, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’ The indication seems to be that God Himself will become the embodiment of His unreachable standard. Could it be possible? A close examination of Christ’s work of redemption through His life, death, and resurrection will bear this truth out.
The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12b-13, …work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The idea behind the words ‘work out’ is ‘carry to the ultimate conclusion,’ as one would when working out a math problem; one plus one equals… two. Stated differently, with a proper understanding of my wretched, sinful, hopeless self combined with the awe and respect that accompany the unimaginable realization of God’s absolute holiness and power; I am left to turn from any feeble religious attempt, rooted in my own ability, to achieve a standard of such staggering proportions expected by such an inconceivable God, and completely trust His mercy and promise of faith alone. This being done, I then recognize ‘it is God who is at work in (me), both to will and to work for His good pleasure.’
The bottom line is that in His flesh, Jesus did not succumb to the temptations and sins that I do; He lived perfectly as a man; making Him the perfect sacrifice. He died on the cross where God the Father transferred my sin and its punishment to Him. For that sin, He paid the ultimate price, death; and is then buried along with that sin. However, with sin and death properly in the grave, through the victorious resurrection, God the Holy Spirit gave God the Son life from the dead and in the same manner life to me through faith. In this, the righteousness of Christ spoken of above is imparted to me! Thus, in Christ, God the Father sees His perfect standard fulfilled in me!
My sin passed along to Jesus, His righteousness passed along to me; no wonder I can sing Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! Can you sing it as well?