Tag Archives: Righteousness

Honor

Meditations in the Psalms

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? (Psalm 4:2 ESV)

Jesus’ prayer, cried out in this Psalm, and the prayer of the Psalmist, is inspired by the thinking of the hearts of the people who rage against Him. They are wicked and ungodly people, the kings and rulers of nations, who surround Him, intent upon inflicting violence against His person. Their unrighteousness wars against His righteousness. God gives Him both grace and mercy when He answers His prayer and relieves His distress.

David, speaking for Jesus in this Psalm, asks those who dishonor Him with their lies, pointed, parallel questions. Honor means glory, glorious, abundance.Shamemeans disgrace, reproach, confusion, insult, ignominy, discredit. These combative people use propaganda to attack Jesus’ character and person. They embrace vanity or vain words, which are empty and idle speech, that lifts themselves up while tearing Him down. They seek and desire to believe and espouse lies, false, deceptive, untrue teaching and training. These are the same people who “plot in vain” (Psalm 2:1 ESV) against the “LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:2 ESV). How long are they going to continue their rebellion and vilify, belittle and slander Him?

Throughout the Jesus’ earthly ministry He consistently confronted and opposed the Jewish leaders and teachers of the law. They saw Him as a threat to their power and authority over the people. He viewed them as false teachers, who led people away from God.

Jesus performed a miracle, raising Lazarus from death after four days in the tomb. Lazarus’ body naturally started to decay and decompose. People reacted to Jesus’ miracle in two ways. Either they embraced Jesus, convinced He was who He said He was, or they did not believe Him and denied Him. What did Jesus declare about Himself? In the presence of the people, Jesus declared to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV). Even though Jesus’ miracle is undeniable, executed in public, witnessed by many people, some of those who could accurately testify to Lazarus being dead and then not being dead, denied Him. “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (John 11:45-46 ESV). They did not deny He performed a miracle. They denied His divinity, for only God can raise the dead.

How did the Jewish leaders react? “From that day on they made plans to put him to death” (John 11:53 ESV). But Lazarus was still walking around, a living proof of the miracle performed by Jesus. People came from all around to see him who had died and been raised. They wanted to see both Jesus and Lazarus. Not only did the religious leaders plot to kill Jesus, they also arranged to kill Lazarus, the living, undeniable evidence of the power of God flowing through the Man from Nazareth.

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11 ESV).

They plotted and schemed to murder two people who had done nothing against the law of God deserving of death. What was their motivation for premeditated murder?

“So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation’” (John 11:47-48 ESV).

They, who wanted the Roman occupiers to suffer the wrath of God, were afraid the Romans would remove them from power. They were afraid the Romans would remove their place, which is their temple, and their nation, already dominated by the enemy occupiers. Comfortable in their position in the world, the Jewish leaders did not really want to obey God and trust Him. People rumbled about making Jesus their king so He could defeat the Romans and feed them (see John 6:15). Jesus would not let them. This attitude of the people was not unknown to the Jewish leaders. They were afraid of Jesus, who represented a corrosion of their authority. At least under the Romans they had some control. They loved vanity and by their plotting to murder Jesus, sought to shame Him whom they should have honored.

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Righteousness and Justice

Meditations on the Psalms

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

David pleads with God to answer his prayer. Before singing about God’s answer, He identifies God’s righteousness, an attribute integral to His eternal character. God is just and righteousness. Not only is God righteous but He is the One who makes the Psalmist righteous. David never says he is righteous in his own right, by his own thinking and deeds, but that God has righteousness placed upon him, covering him. He is the God of my righteousness.

Answer means to hear and respond, to testify verbally by speaking out loud. It is the same word used in Psalm 3. “I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill” (Psalm 3:4 ESV). To callmeans to cry out, to proclaim, emotionally ask loudly, especially for help. So, the Psalmist seeks God in prayer, loudly and forthrightly, imploring God to respond favorably. He knows God hears and that His response is righteous.

God speaks about righteousness in the Psalms. He first declares a separation of the righteous from the wicked. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). Those who are righteous are those who do not rebel against Him. They are citizens of His kingdom, who do not follow the ways of the wicked, sinful, scoffers but are identified with the One Blessed Man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Only God will make a sinful person righteous through Christ.

What is righteousness as an attribute and quality of God? The attributes of God are eternal characteristics of His divine being, which cannot be separated from Him, which works in conjunction with all of the other attributes. Righteousness implies there is in place a moral law, followed to the letter. God’s moral law does not reside outside of Himself but is a fundamental part of His eternal being. His creation, those created in His image and those created with an ability to intellectually and emotionally know His moral standard, follow that law. God’s moral law is a true law, a fixed statute or rule that must be followed. Breaking a moral law, unlike a physical or natural law, is possible, but has eternally damning consequences. Those creatures created with the nature of adhering to God’s moral law bend and break themselves when they violate His eternal standard found in His eternal being.

Righteousness is only one side of the coin. On the other side is the word justice. In the Hebrew and Greek, the word used for righteous also mean justice. Though the theological concepts are related and may be viewed as essentially the same, they have slightly differing applications. God is righteous and just, but He is also true and good and holy. His essential attribute of righteousness and justice cannot be divorced from His equally essential attributes of truth and goodness and holiness. God declares a person righteous when they meet, continue to meet, have always met, the just requirements of His moral law.

Righteousness is the measure God uses to evaluate and judge those who adhere and keep His moral law. Those who live according to the moral law of God are declared righteous. Those who rebel against God break His moral law and are declared unrighteous. Then God judges both, separating one from the other by separating those who rebel from Him.

Moses sings about God after leading the people to the border of the Promised Land. God is their immovable and unbreakable foundation because of His divine immutable attributes. “For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 ESV). God is just and will do nothing which violates His eternal character. So also, Abraham appeals to God’s justice, knowing intimately He will not inflict His wrath on those who have done nothing to deserve punishment.

 “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:23-25 ESV)

It is with confidence the Psalmist declares His trust in the God of my righteousness!  Being identified with God means He is declared by God to have fulfilled all of the requirements of the moral law of God completely and wholly. He is righteous and just because God is righteous and just.

Salvation

Meditations on the Psalms

Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3:8 ESV)

He who has been praying about His circumstance and passion now turns His attention to those for whom He has worked and taught and bled and died. He has asked God to save Him from those who murdered Him. He died and was resurrected. Through His agony and distress those who are His are irrevocably drawn into His kingdom. Those who identify with Him are so connected, not because of anything they have done, but everything He has done. Still, the citizen of the kingdom of heaven has the responsibility to obey God This is why they were created. Working for God by those redeemed by Jesus carries no merit but does result in eternal blessing.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are decreed and determined by God from eternity, from before the space-time creation of the universe and before Adam and Eve rebelled. “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-21 ESV). Jesus prayed for those who are His before His passion, declaring His eternal purpose in bringing them to Him. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24 ESV).

Jesus is our salvation. Salvation means deliverance, victory, welfare and prosperity. God’s blessing, His gift of peace with Him, is given to those who are His through the blood of Christ, the mercy seat, which hides the sin of the people from His sight. It is not that Christians stop sinning but that, because Christ took upon Himself the judgment of and sentence for our sin, they are declared righteous before God. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV).

Our obedience to God is demanded and expected and carries no merit. We cannot work for that which God gives freely through Christ. Our freedom in Christ is not shown through the lazy and irresponsible thinking of our hearts and actions in the world but through steadfast devotion and obedience to Him who gives salvation. There are at least four things we must believe and do.

We must truthfully admit our rebellion against God, that sin is real and turns truth on its head, demanding a lie be acted upon as truth. We are the wicked and ungodly people who are trained and teach others to hate God as described in Psalm 1. Not, only are we commanded to admit sin, we are commanded to acknowledge God as Creator, the One who sustains creation, who gives us purpose and who is the governor of creation. He is God and there is no other and we are designed to serve and worship only Him. Thus, sin is walking away from God.

We are commanded to repent, which is turning away from sin in the thinking of our hearts and actions. Repentance demands we understand the truth of sin and then its consequences, which is separation from God for eternity and existence without that which sustains life. Knowing the magnitude of the consequences of sin, coupled with the drawing of God toward Himself, is enough for those who are His to hate sin because He hates sin. Repentance is turning away from sin.

Faith is turning toward God. Those who repent, who turn away from sin, must turn toward that which is not sin. Faith is the intellectual believing of the evidence of God’s work, the emotional trusting of Him who alone is able to deliver upon His promises, and the willful obedience to His commands. Faith involves the whole person. Remove an element, or make one element of more importance than the others, and faith ceases. This is only a brief summary of faith.

Even though obedience is part of faith it also is the fourth element of salvation. Those who sin, walking away from God, who then turn away from sin in repentance, who turn toward God in faith, must now walk toward God. Jesus calls walking toward God to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 ESV). This is not the simple obedience of faith, which is necessary, but the driven, insatiable delight to know God intimately. Instead of rote behavior, the obedient person abandons themselves to God, ceases living for the world and sets their eyes, and the thinking of their hearts, upon serving God in eternity, beginning now.

Those who are God’s are identified with Jesus Christ, His blessed Man, the Son, the King of kings, the One who gave Himself. Where He is, we are.

Refuge

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

God begins the Psalms by singling out One Man who is blessed, happy in His relationship with God because He is just and righteous and does not rebel against Him in any way. This last verse of Psalm 2, echoes the beginning declaration of blessedness. But instead of speaking about One Man, God is speaking about all people who identify with that One Man.

Refuge means to trust, to confide in or hope for, to flee to for protection. Trust is an emotional response to the promises of the object of faith. God is the object of true faith. Only He is completely and justly capable of fulfilling the promises made. What are God’s promises? His promises are both comforting and terrifying.

God promises to give His Son the earth and all it contains. God promises to bring to an end all who rebel against Him. God promises to bless those who He brings into eternity with Him.

Jesus Christ is God the Son, born a man the way Man was originally intended. He was a Servant of God, who came to serve those who rebel against God. He was God in the flesh, who came to die for the sins of the world. He is the King of kings and His kingdom is eternal. His subjects are those who, created in the image of God yet rebelling against Him, repent of their mutiny and identify with Him, rejecting the wickedness of the world.

He is a refuge, a sanctuary for those who are His, who are persecuted by the world. He is a refuge for those who trust Him, relinquishing control of their lives to Him, becoming His servants, the citizens of His kingdom. It is not that He removes any from the world once they are aligned with Him but that He leaves them in the world to witness to the world about Him, but also to prepare them for eternity with Him. Those who are His are identified with Him.

Jesus, in His prayer just before His death, tells us His intent for all who are His.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 16:20-26 ESV)

He wants us with Him in eternity. He wants us to know Him intimately. He wants us to know we are known by God. He wants the world to know we belong to God, that God has chosen us, that He will bring us into eternity with Him. Eternity is ours in Christ.

Nothing can separate us from God. Instead, we are separated from the world for God. We believe, with Paul, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV). Being in Christ, hidden in Him, protected by Him, enjoying His presence, growing in our knowledge of Him, means we receive all that is His purposed for us. All who are hidden in Christ receive the blessings of Christ.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:2-4 ESV)

Kiss the Son

Meditations on the Psalms

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

Who is the Son? He is the blessed, righteous man from Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV). He is the Anointed (Psalm 2:2). He is the King of Zion God has set on His holy hill (Psalm 2:3). He is the One begotten by God (Psalm 2:7) who is given the earth and the nations of the earth (Psalm 2:8). He is the One who will crush the rebellion of those who have mutinied against God (Psalm 2:9). He is the One they are to serve with fear and trembling (Psalm 2:10). He is the King of kings, Emanuel, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, Messiah.

Kiss means to touch gently or to put together. One would kiss those of greater rank to show respect and allegiance to the person and to that which they represented. Thus, these kings and rulers, and the people they represent, are to abandon themselves to Him by giving Him their complete loyalty in all the thinking of their hearts.

There are only two possible outcomes to God’s command to embrace His Son. This is a command, not a request. Nowhere in Scripture does God request anyone do anything for Him voluntarily. His commands are given with the expectation of obedience. Yet, bent by sin, no one can obey God without His direct intervention, which He gives freely. Still, people disobey Him, refusing to identify themselves with His Son, the King. Either God’s commands are obeyed, which is the natural action of those created in His image, or they are disobeyed, which brings His wrath.

Notice the warning given after the admonishment to kiss the Son. He will be angry and you perish in the way. Perish means to go astray and be destroyed. Annihilation awaits those who continue in their rebellion against Him. Their words and works are destroyed and they are consigned to eternity outside the presence of the life giving and sustaining God. Though God is patient in His dealings with people His patience does come to an end, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Wrath is the same word used in 2:5 for snorting through the nostrils. He will heatedly and justly condemn those who refuse to obey.

Do not test the patience of God with your sin.

Jesus speaks the parable of the wheat and the tares as an illustration of the kingdom of heaven and His authority and rule.

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.

And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?”

He said to them, “An enemy has done this.”

So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”

But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

God created that which is good, people with the image of God. An enemy, the Deceiver came and led His people into rebellion. Yet, God has provided a way for those who are rebelling to return to Him. Some will, others will not. Those that will not are separated from those who will. Those who are His are gathered to Him and have His pleasure, while those who refuse to obey and give their loyalty to Him are removed from His presence and face His eternal wrath.

Rebellion

Meditations on the Psalms

“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:3 ESV)

People do not understand freedom. This is because everyone, whether they realize it or not, are enslaved to sin. Freedom is not the ability to willfully decide to do either right or wrong but the natural, since we are created in the image of God, ability to always do what is right. God determines righteousness according to His divine character. Originally, He embedded this natural ability for righteousness in those created in His image. However, because of Adam’s sin all are corrupted and now only rebel against God with their whole being. People want to be something other than as they were created by Him. How absurd.

God emphasizes the inflexible thinking of those in rebellion against Him with metaphorical language. To burst bonds apart means to snap or violently separate, to tear apart. To cast away means to throw as far as possible, to hurl or shed, the cords, which is a rope or line like that which binds together, as in removing the shackles which have bound and throwing them away in anger. These people view God as a malevolent despot and tyrant, who has and will never give them anything good, nor allow them to pursue their own desires.

Jesus, declares Himself the only way to God. There is no other way. A rebellious worldview and mindset demands Jesus be wrong. Yet, He, being God the Son, cannot be wrong. He upholds God’s justice and declares emphatically that anyone who naturally sins, is a slave to sin.

Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. (John 8:34-38 ESV)

It is the enslaved, sinful world which views obedience to God as unnatural, abnormal and untenable. And it is the leaders and teachers of the world which train people to rebel against God in specific ways. The natural tendency to sin is found within everyone from birth. Everyone sins because everyone has the bent to rebel against God. But, there are those who train and encourage people to rebel in distinctive ways and by precise means, justifying their rebellion with intellectual and emotional arguments.

Everyone teaches and trains others. Everyone leads and directs others. They may not think they do but every motivation and action coaches people who you are and, in some minor or major way, affects their inner person.

People think freedom is defined by what they believe is true and their decisions to act in a individual way. Our world has trained its population to believe truth, and the perception of truth, is an personal matter which affects no one else. Yet, everything we see, hear, read, think, feel either directs us toward God or away from Him.

The image of God in man is the natural, eternal essence to do that for which God designed people. He gave the image to people so He might have a relationship with them and so they might intimately know Him. He made us a particular way and for any to not fulfill the original purpose of God for them does not mean they are a free agent but are broken, bent in a way which precludes them every doing that for which they were designed.

Those who are rebelling against God want to reduce Him to insignificance or nonexistence. They want to kill Him, if they could. His righteousness and justice are odious to them. There is no one in hell who wants to be with God just as there is no one in heaven who hates being in His presence. The world believes that abdicating the eternal, created relationship with God will bring freedom, which has no evidence in reality.

God allows sin to continue so those who are called by Him and drawn into His presence will know thoroughly the power of corruption brought by sin. They seek truth and are directed by the Holy Spirit to know and embrace truth with the thinking of their hearts. Those who embrace sin have turned truth on its head, demanding and teaching that which is true is a lie and the lie is the truth.

Righteous

Meditations on the Psalms

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6 ESV)

Righteousness is shown by thought, motive and action. Those who are righteous will think in a righteous way. They will do righteous acts. Their motivation for righteousness will come from their love for God because of His love for them. Created in His image, righteousness is a natural, integral element of the essence of people. However, sin corrupted the vessel making it impossible for people created by God to think and act in a righteous way. It is the thinking of the heart which is known through the actions of the will which shows to whom the individual gives allegiance.

Conversely, those who are wicked are betrayed by their actions. Their motives are known by their actions, or in some instances, their inaction. Sin is not just an action. Sin is also notorious for the willful decision to not confront or restrain evil. Even the corrupted person has the uncorrupted image of God and knows when a motive, thought and action is unrighteous. Wickedness is the willful giving oneself permission to think and act in an ungodly way, justifiably condemned by God.

Jesus, just before His passion, spoke about the final judgment of God. In Matthew 24 and 25 He gives a chilling description of what will happen before and during this final judgment. God, the Son of Man, will finally separate those who are His from those who are not His. He “knows the way of the righteous” and will bring them into His presence. He knows “the way of the wicked” brings His righteous judgment as He drives them from His presence.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:31-32 ESV)

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41 ESV)

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 ESV)

God’s righteous judgment is based upon the thinking of the hearts of all people measured against His divine moral law. Read the entire Matthew 24-25 passage. You will see throughout God separating one from another, those who love Him from those who hate Him. Those who love God, doing that which is driven by the righteous thinking of their hearts, will be persecuted by those who are driven by ungodliness and sin. Wickedness will grow and try to overwhelm and destroy righteousness. But, Christ will return to gather to Himself those who are His and to banish from His presence those who war against Him by attacking the righteous.

Jesus illustrates His teaching through the parables which follow. All of the parables speaks about the deepest motivations of the thinking of the hearts of each person. The parable of the ten virgins show those who consciously pursue their relationship with Him versus those who lazily believe they have to do nothing. The parable of the talents illustrates those actively serving God through abandoned devotion to Him are blessed. Those who refuse to serve Him with what He has given lose that which was initially given and their lives. Jesus illustrates this in other places describing salt losing its saltiness. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:34-35 ESV). God judges the thinking of the heart based upon the evidence of the life.

We are engulfed in a war where those who hate God actively and purposefully choose to rage against Him. Since they cannot touch God they actively and purposefully rage against those who are His. Read carefully the passage in Matthew 5:31-46 and you will see God identifying with people, just as He did trough the physical life of His Son. God’s righteous judgement is against those who refuse to act in a righteous way but instead embrace the world and its refusal to pursue righteousness in every way.