What does being righteous mean?

As we think about this word we probably picture someone who is honest and upright, full of integrity, virtuous, moral, good and kind. He or she doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, doesn’t party or go clubbing, doesn’t cheat on taxes, doesn’t watch doubtful movies or use filthy or blasphemous language. This person is gentle and quietly spoken, doesn’t gossip or judge others and walks a good straight path of faith. A righteous person? A perfect person? We might indeed think so.

Let’s look at a few scenarios.

1) A little woman gave up everything she had to serve the poor. She gathered like minded people around her and ministered to those less fortunate. She washed their feet and bathed their weeping sores. She did this for years, giving her all for the sake of the poor. Was this a righteous woman?

2) A man who was already married, one day saw a beautiful woman and lusted after her. He took her and got her pregnant. So that he could marry her, he had her husband killed. Was this a righteous man?

3) a man who was highly regarded by his peers, who lived a righteous life according to their standards, keeping to the tenets of his faith and who was extremely clever and learned, believed that those who did not agree with what he believed should be hunted down, put in prison, and even killed. Was this a righteous man?

4) a man, just a rough ordinary sort of bloke, promised to follow the ways of another, and swore he would never let this man down. Soon after he declared in the hearing of others that he never knew his friend. He lied. Was this a righteous man?

1) Mother Theresa lived and worked in the slums in India for many years. She became an icon to many because of her lifestyle. Yet she received a Nobel prize and the praise of men, often. She, sadly, confessed in her later years that she had no certainty in her faith.

2) King David repented deeply of his sin with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah her husband. The baby of their illicit union died and David didn’t realise what he had done until it was pointed out to him by Nathan the priest, and then he deeply repented and cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness.

3) Paul the Pharisee of Pharisees, who colluded in Stephen’s death, was changed In an instant from being a legalistic, Orthodox Jew, to being a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ, when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He became one of the apostles and totally devoted his remaining life to taking the gospel to a needy world.

4) Simon Peter betrayed Jesus, by denying that he knew Him, but was forgiven by Jesus, and went on to become a Holy Spirit filled believer who never betrayed his Saviour again, even dying upside down on a cross for refusing to deny Him.

By worldly standards the first person, Mother Theresa, appeared to be righteous, but was she righteous by God’s standard? On the other hand David, Paul and Peter were obviously unrighteous, but their hearts became right with God through faith and trust in Him. The difference between the world’s ideas of righteousness and God’s true righteousness is vast.

We all know good people who have no faith in God. They appear to be as good as Christians and indeed are better than some believers. They are kind and thoughtful, willing to do anything for anyone, but are they righteous in God’s eyes? There are many people who faithfully go to church every week, pray and read the Bible and do a huge amount of good works. But are they righteous in God’s eyes?

What about us?

It may be that we have been struggling for years to overcome a particular sin that refuses to go, however hard we pray. We just think we have got somewhere and then, Ooops! there we go again. It could be temper, lack of self control, criticism, or whatever becomes a habit, an idol in our life, that we just cannot give up and which takes our attention away from God. It could be an obsession or behaviour trait that is in control of our lives, no matter how hard we try, we cannot conquer it. What we need is a true understanding of God’s righteousness.

In Jeremiah 23:5-6 we read: “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 judgement 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. “

Understanding Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord our Righteousness, is absolutely crucial to the church’s survival in these last days. We talk about wearing the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6), but do we really understand what it means to wear it? We are living in times of rapid moral decline, in fact it’s so fast we can hardly draw breath from gasping at one appalling item of news before we are hit by another. This Information Age has it’s good points, but it’s also riddled with evil. So we need to understand how to be truly righteous in these dark times.

Jeremiah, the prophet, lived during the reign of King Josiah. Josiah was a righteous king, a man who walked humbly before God. Israel. The Northern Kingdom, had already been taken into exile by the Assyrians. Judah however, failed to learn anything from this and was well on the way to becoming even worse that Israel.

2 Chronicles 36:16 states: ‘But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.’

Josiah tried to clean things up, he removed the idols, and the high places where people worshipped, and when the temple was being restored the books of the law were discovered, (2Chron 34). Josiah was shocked that they had been forgotten and worked hard to reinstate the law, even to having it read aloud to the people. Subsequently a sort of revival occurred, but the change of heart that was required for it to real work was not there in the people, there was no true repentance. As soon as Josiah was killed in battle the people of Judah went back to their old ways. Jeremiah was overwhelmed with grief at what he saw. Adultery and homosexuality were rampant.

‘For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yes in My house I have found their wickedness,” says the Lord. “Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; for I will bring disaster on them. The year of their punishment,” says the Lord. “And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal and caused my people Israel to err, also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah.”  Jeremiah 23:10-14

False teachers and false prophets were prolific and told the people what they wanted to hear. Poor Jeremiah could only weep as he saw the wickedness, evil and darkness all around him.

“Let my eyes flow with tears night and day, and let them not cease; for the virgin daughter of my people has been broken with a mighty stroke, with a very severe blow.”  Jeremiah 14 v 17

The reign of Josiah could not make a long term difference unfortunately. The fate of Judah was already sealed, for God could not forgive the sins committed by former kings, especially by  Manasseh, who was responsible for the shedding of the blood of his own people including children and babies. (2 Kings 24 v 3 – 4)

As it was then so it will be with us. God relented while Josiah reigned, but after he was gone God’s wrath fell. Jeremiah however, received a revelation from God which showed hope for the future. (Jeremiah 23 v 5 – 6)

This talks of Jesus Christ who would secure His people’s salvation by the shedding of His own blood. The Lord our righteousness  – Jehovah TSIDKENU  – Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

The law could not provide the righteousness that comes with Jesus. It was all a work of the flesh and could not succeed. We are so blessed to know that as believers, God sees us as righteous through the covering blood of Jesus. We have no righteousness of our own, whatever people in the world may think, we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But do we really understand what that means? Is it real to us? Isaiah after prophesying and preaching faithfully received an incredible vision. (Isaiah 6 v 1 – 7)

This man, so used by God, was brought to a place of understanding how unclean he really was in the sight of God. He knew his human frailty, and until God purged his sin away with the live coal, he could not be free of his sin or acceptable to God. The point of this is that he could not make himself righteous, no matter how hard he tried, and neither can we.

It is God who purifies us, and only then after we come to the end of ourselves and confess our unrighteousness to Him. He makes us righteous, it is His gift to us, undeserved, unmerited and unearned. Be certain if this one thing – their is no good thing in us, all our righteousness is as filthy rags.

George Whitfield said, ‘Self righteousness is the last idol that is rooted out of the heart.’

In our own strength we can do nothing, we cannot please Him by our own efforts. We have to be in that place, like Isaiah, of giving up hope once and for all, of ever finding anything good in ourselves that we can bring to the Lord.

We can sing, ‘I surrender all’, but do we really mean it?

Righteousness is believing the promises of God.

Romans 4 v 3 and 20 – 22

V3 ‘For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’

V20 – 22. “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Unrighteousness is unbelief, doubting that He will do what He promised and trying to do it ourselves. Let us not judge righteousness by outward appearances and standards, but by God’s standards. The truth is that some who led lives of sacrifice remained sinful in God’s eyes, because they never fully trusted that He would be their righteousness. Instead they relied on their own works and goodness.

David, a righteous man? He had a repentant heart! He did great wrong, but he had a heart after God, and recognised his sin. (Psalm 51)

Peter a righteous man? He was weak, hasty, foolish, and God made hi a person useful in His Kingdom, confounding others who seemed to be wise and mighty, because he was totally sold out for his King.

Paul, a righteous man? A scholar, intellectual, legalistic and certain he was right until Jesus met him and changed him forever so that his gifts could be used for the Kingdom and for the glory of God.

All these men were broken before God could use them. Each one of them came to a place of realising that they could do nothing without the guidance and direction of God, that when they tried to do anything in their own strength it just would not work out right. That’s where we need to be too. We need to be patient, to rely on our Jehovah Tsidkenu, to wait upon Him and not rush ahead because nothing seems to be happening.

He is our righteousness, He only waits for us to realise what that means.

In His love,




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