November 13, 2020

JEHOVAH TSIDKENU: God, The Righteous One

Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”  Jeremiah 23:5-6

As the darkness that shrouded Russia under Communism began to lift, thousands of people began to search for their spiritual roots.  The following letter was sent to a fellow Christian broadcaster: “I do not know how to address you, that is, I do not know your name; but I do not think that is important. The fact is that I want to know definitely whether there is a God or are you just deceiving the people. If you are as certain about God’s existence as you preach and sing about Him, then I straightway would want to believe in Him the same way as you do.” The listener then begged for a Bible so he could read the record for himself.

As I pondered the circumstances of the one who wrote, living under the dark cloud of atheism, uncertain as to whether or not there is a God, I thought of the words of the one-time cynic turned believer, Malcolm Muggeridge, who said, “God has mercifully made the diversions whereby we seek to evade the reality of existence so ludicrous, so preposterous in their outcome, that we are forced back to Him to cry out of help and mercy.” (National Courier, June 24, 1977, p. 23).

Living without God under Communism for 73 years seemed to bring out the very darkness of the human soul and make people cry out, “God, wherever you are, whoever you are, we want to know you!”

If, however, you sat down and tried to tell the person who wrote that letter who God is and what He is like, what would you say?  Yes, you could tell him that God is powerful, loving, kind, and merciful, but those words describe the acts of God more than His nature or character.

There is one characteristic of God which has always been difficult for us to understand, and that is the righteousness of God.  Agree?  In the pages of the Old Testament there are seven redemptive names for God, each showing us something of His relationship with us as His children.  Each of these is a compound of a word with the Hebrew word Jehovah, and one of the most important is the expression Jeremiah used for God, calling Him Jehovah Tsidkenu or The Lord our Righteousness.  “Ah, yes!” you say, but quickly ask, “What is righteousness?”

Sometimes we better understand something by acknowledging its opposite.  And what is the opposite of righteousness?  In a word, depravity!  And then in our world of baseness and wrongdoing, we understand that God, being righteous, is the very opposite of what we describe as sin in the world.

One of our greatest misconceptions is that we can generate this in our own lives.  “Impossible,” cries Paul, as he writes, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  Again he said that forgiveness with God for our depravity and wrongdoing is “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us,” says Paul, “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Malcolm Muggeridge believed that our darkness drives us to the light, and our depravity and baseness make us cry out for mercy and help; and when we do that, a kind and loving God–totally different from what we are–gives us eternal life, accepting the payment made by His Son, who died for our depravity.

In the natural, none of this makes sense.  We, of course, treat anyone who acts generously towards us with suspicion, thinking, “What’s the catch?”  Understanding there is no catch makes the heart cry out in praise and worship. As Jeremiah wrote, He is indeed “The Lord our righteousness,” no matter how difficult it may be to understand from a human perspective.

Resource reading: Isaiah 53:1-12