Tag Archives: Righteousness

Consequences of Sin

let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, 
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.
Selah.(Psalm 7:5 ESV)

Only the righteous can stand before God. “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers” (Psalm 5:5 ESV). 

We see in the Hebrew Scripture instances where an adversary stands before God and challenges Him in how He treated people. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6 ESV; see also Job 2:1) Satan is a proper noun, not a name, and means adversary, one who withstands or stands against. Twice in the book of Job, a spiritual being who was an adversary contests God’s dealings with Job, whom God calls a righteous man. Twice, God gives the adversary permission to deal with Job in a harsh manner, to test Job’s resolve to serve God. 

In another instance Jesus tells Peter that an adversary has asked for him.“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). If this adversary is the devil, he will finally be driven away from God and imprisoned for eternity. “[A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 ESV).

Only God is righteous. He gives His righteousness to those who are His. He embeds His righteousness in those He creates and then in those who believe the Gospel. Those who rebel against God cannot compromise His righteous character. The moment they rebel and sin they cease being righteous before Him. For God’s enemies to find any evidence of sin in God they can use to accuse God of unrighteousness gives them control over Him. Jesus, in this Psalm, makes a statement that gives His adversaries control if they find such evidence of sin in Him. “[I]f there is wrong in my hand,” (Psalm 7:4 ESV) then let the enemy be victorious. 

The Deceiver looks for anything in God and those who are His to use against Him, and them, to claim victory. There is nothing. If there were, then Jesus tells us God cannot be God. If there is sin in God, in His Son, the King of kings, then let it pursue and overtake, trample His life and lay His glory in the dust. “Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.”

Pursue means to persecute and is the same word used in verse 1. “O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me” (Psalm 7:1 ESV). Overtake means to reach out and secure, to attain. To tramplemeans to tread upon, to step on and stand on and laymeans to settle upon, dwell upon. These three words show absolute victory over an enemy. 

Being God’s enemy means God is viewed as an enemy. Those at war do not stop until they have utterly defeated their enemy. His pursuers and adversaries torment Jesus’ soul, that which is His very being, that which make Him who He is, His breath and substance, passions and desires, His moral character. Jesus’ enemy will examine on His life, that which is growing, active and fresh, the eternal energy which animates God. Jesus’ enemy, if there is found in Him any unrighteousness, will succeed in destroying God by overshadowing His glory, His splendor and honor, the eternal abundance of the riches, dignity and reverence due God because He is God. Should it find anything unrighteous in God, in His Son, then it has the upper hand and will defeat God.

This will never happen. The enemies of God cannot succeed in fining sin in God because there is no sin in God. There is no sin in His Son. Though Jesus walked the earth in the flesh and suffered the temptations of His enemies, He did not sin. He was God and Man the way God originally intended, a sinless servant.“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17 ESV). He alone, because He is sinless, is able to offer the sacrifice which covers our sin before God’s eyes. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). If there is sin in Jesus he could never accomplish His eternal purpose. “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).

Jesus stood before kings and rulers and was condemned by them to death, though He was innocent of any crime against man or against God. They, led by the Deceiver, wanted Him dead because they want God dead. For some reason, the Deceiver thought they could kill Jesus. God cannot die. God cannot sin. None will take His place.

For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right. (Isaiah 45:18-19 ESV)

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Innocent

O LORD my God, if I have done this,  
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause, (Psalm 7:3-4 ESV)

David cannot make the claim stated by this verse. Though he is the author of the Psalm and did great things for Israel and for God, his hands were covered with blood. Both those who were David’s friends and enemies suffered at his hands. 

While a young man, after his induction into the service of Saul, David earned more respect and esteem from the people than the king. Saul, angry, and going insane at losing the honor that comes with the throne to any person, tried multiple times to kill David. Fleeing Saul, David declares to Saul’s son, Jonathan, his friend, his innocence. “Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” (1 Samuel 20:8 ESV). In his early life there was nothing any could hold against David. Later in his life, after he ascends the throne vacated by king Saul’s death, is different. For example, David murdered one of his own soldiers, Uriah, a man supremely loyal to him, to cover up his adultery with the Uriah’s wife (2 Samuel 11). David knew his sin and repented (Psalm 51). He still continued to sin and then to repent.

Every person who has ever lived, or will ever live, sins and is guilty before God. God takes note of how we treat both our friends and our enemies.  Repaid means to deal out, to recompense and give bountifully. The word friend is actually not used in this verse put is a translation of a word that means those with whom we have a pledge and bond of peace. To repay a friend with evil, which means all the word implies, suggests a solemn agreement between two has been arbitrarily violated. Or what of his enemies, those who cause him distress and try to bind him, press hard against him, treat with hostility and harass him? Has he plundered them without cause, which means to deliver up to death or take away for an empty reason, for vanity, just because he can. His actions motivated by the intention of his heart, is focused on self, not focused God. Self becomes the standard by which others are measured and judged.

Jesus, speaking through David, asks God to examine His heart and judge His actions. The Son of God stands before God willing to face any test which would reveal any sin. “If I have done this,” if anything in me shows the evidence of “wrong in my hands,” which is iniquity, unrighteousness, injustice, violently criminal acts against God and other, carried out by any part of my being. Are there any sinful actions for which I am accountable? If sin is present at any time then there is sin in the heart that breeds more sin. In Psalm 7:3-4, Jesus is asking to God to let happen to Him that which happens to those who sin. “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:9-10 ESV).

There is One, the Righteous Man of these Psalms, who does not sin. He cannot sin. Though tempted by the Deceiver, weakened in His human flesh, surrounded by a world which tugs and pulls toward sin, He did not sin. Why is it important Jesus is sinless?

God taught His people that the physical animals sacrificed for sin must have no blemishes (see Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:3; Numbers 6:14). A sacrifice for sin is required to cover the sins of the one offering the sacrifice.  Annually, the blood of a lamb was poured out over the cover, the mercy seat of the ark, containing the broken Ten Commandments. God would look down and see the blood and not the laws which were broken and violated. Before the priest could do this for the people he had to cover his own sin. All people sin whether priests and kings and those who fall under their authority.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV)

Jesus had to be prefect so the sacrifice He offered would not first be for Himself. Only God is perfect and sinless, and Jesus is God in the flesh. No creature is capable of becoming sinless once sin corrupts his life. Jesus, God in the flesh, came specifically to die as a sacrifice for the sin of those created in His image. His death fulfills the requirements of the law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV). God’s law is not just the written, verbally declared commandments given in the Hebrew Scripture. God’s law is embedded in the hearts of those who are His. Intimate knowledge of the eternal law of God is given as an integral part of the image of God. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15 ESV). Those who sin know they sin. Jesus did not sin. Standing before God, He opens Himself to judicial examination, declaring His innocence of all wrongdoing, making Himself the only sacrifice worthy and capable of fulfilling the promises of God.

Mercy

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. (Psalm 6:1 ESV)

Scripture is filled with mystery. Perhaps the greatest spiritual mystery given us in Scripture is the eternal fact that God judicially covered the sins committed by His people against Him with the righteousness of His Son. How does God do this? Everything we do is bent by sin, the desire to control and be over God. We cannot know how He does what He does. We can know that He has covered us with Jesus’ righteousness because He tells us He has. Still, it does not make sense to our finite minds and corrupted logic.

This mystery captures the essence of God and of His Son. God reveals to us what He has done throughout Scripture. Isaiah tells us “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”  (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Paul continues Isaiah’s prophecy by declaring, “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). Jesus is the eternal Servant and ultimate Authority. The mystery of following Him encompasses our whole lives, our motivations, our words, our thinking and feelings. Jesus came in the likeness of human flesh (see Philippians 2:7-8) to ransom, which means to redeem and to liberate from a criminal sentence for crimes committed against God.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28 ESV; see Mark 10:43-45)

In return for His righteousness we are made new and set apart for service and to have an intimate relationship with God.

This mystery is not cheap. God covering us with Jesus’ righteousness means God laid upon Him our sin. There are many illustrations of this truth but no one can know the depth of the cost and agony experienced by Jesus. We can imagine but must be careful in our imaginations. For we, as long as we are in this world, in this flesh, assaulted by the Deceiver, must rely upon the work of the Holy Spirit to know truth.

In the first verse of Psalm 6 we see a man begging for mercy. Our assumption is God’s wrath is justly exercised against the speaker because of their transgressions against His law and person. The writer of the Psalm was a sinful man. Yet, the writer of the Psalm is speaking for Jesus, who did not sin and lives in God’s eternal blessing. How then can Jesus beg for mercy? When God laid upon Him our sin He felt the full wrath of God. 

Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, knowing His executioners awaited Him. He did not deviate from His course or linger in places to avoid facing His responsibility. He ministered for many years before His final journey to Jerusalem. His intent was purposeful, drawing people to Himself and teaching them the meaning of citizenship in God’s eternal kingdom. Then, when the time was right, according to the eternal will of God, He faced His death, offering to God His body, the sacrifice for our sin.

Read the words of Psalm 6:1 as coming from a righteous Man bearing the unrighteousness of all men. Rebuke means to decide, reason, chide and reprove, to judge, convince and convict. Discipline means to chasten, admonish and correct, to teach. Anger means nose or nostril, or face, and wrath means fever, heat, burning rage. God’s face reflects His anger and judgment toward sin, which He hates. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  (Psalm 5:4-5 ESV). Those who sin, who cannot stand before Him, are driven from His presence. God’s anger toward sin is characterized as a snorting, burning rage, justly executed against those who rebel against Him.

Jesus did not rebel against God but felt and experienced God rage against sin. Jesus is the only righteous person who has ever lived, refusing to walk in the way of the world, accept the lies of the Deceiver, or allow His own flesh to tempt Him and move Him to rebellion. Hanging on the cross, He endured the just wrath of God against sin. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46 ESV; see Mark 15:34). Jesus was for a brief time, forsaken by God. This does not mean Jesus sinned, for He could not sin. Jesus is God in the flesh.

Jesus’ purpose for coming as a man was to take upon Himself the sins of man to bring people back into relationship with God. Peter also declares his understanding of why Messiah came as a man. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”  (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). 

When Jesus took upon Himself our sin, He was, is and will always remain, sinless. He is eternally righteous. God, when He saw Jesus on the cross, saw His Son covered with our sin. Jesus bore the burden of the sentence for sin. Conversely, when God looks at the Christian, those who are in Christ, He sees the blood of Christ covering them, hiding the obvious sin they carry in their whole being. We are no more righteous than He is a sinner. What God declares He sees, because of the sacrifice of His Son, is Christ’s righteousness covering us as a cloak, a shield, surrounding us as a hedge and impenetrable wall, a refuge. He leaves us in this world to prepare us for eternity. While in the world, those who are His are safely held for eternity.

COVERED

For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12 ESV)

God blesses the righteous. In Psalm 1, God blesses a righteous man. “Blessed is the man who walks not …”  (Psalm 1:1 ESV). This opening statement of the Psalms points to the One Man who has never done anything wicked or sinful. There is only One. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If anyone else is righteous before God it is because they are found in Christ. They take refuge in Him. God blesses those in Christ because He blessed Christ and what happens to the Son of God happens to those in Him. “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).

How does God bless the Righteous One and those found righteous in Him? He will cover Him, which means to surround and to give a crown. Not only does God protect Him, spreading His “protection over them” (Psalm 5:11), those in Christ, but He gives Him a crown, seating Him in Zion. “As for men, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill”  (Psalm 2:6 ESV).Where God’s King is, so are His citizens.

Favor  is goodwill, acceptance, delight and pleasure. A shield  is a buckler and can also mean something piercing, a hook or barb. A shield is a defensive weapon designed to stop any attack without qualification. God does not even allow an attack to occur but hooks those who hate Him and leads them away from His presence.

God will allow nothing into eternity that conflicts with His ultimate will and purpose. His presence is enough to keep all protected from sin, from the Deceiver, and the world that draws people away from Him. There is no danger in His presence. There is peace and rest given to all whom he draws to Himself. Those found in Christ are protected and secure in their being and place before Him.

Throughout Jesus’ last week, after He entered the Temple and violently drove out those who desecrated His Father’s house, He challenged and was challenged by the religious leaders. They questioned Him, His authority, and His reason for acting violently against them. He challenged them, telling them parables meant to convict and draw out their sin so they might see their sin and repent. Just before launching into a long, multi-pronged accusation of them, Jesus asks them a simple question. Whose son is the Christ? “Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?  They said to him, ‘The son of David’” (Matthew 22:41-42 ESV). They rightly answered. Messiah, the anointed One, the Son of God, known as Christ, is a descendant from the lineage of King David. He is a Man, as God originally created Man, without sin and with the character and personality of a servant, as Adam was created. 

Jesus then asks them other questions. “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him, Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:43-45; see Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 1:13). How can Messiah be a son of a sinful man? How can Messiah be a man at all?

They were confounded. “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions”(Matthew 22:46 ESV). They challenged God to debate. They sought to impose their traditions and will upon Him whom they are designed to serve. They refused to accept the words and works of the Man standing before them aware of the miracles He had performed, doing that which only God could do. Messiah was standing before them and they rejected Him.

David wrote the Psalms as prophecies of Messiah, of Christ. David’s heart reflected the thinking of the heart of Jesus. Though they hated Him and put Him to death, He fulfilled God’s ultimate, eternal purpose, and lives, reigning in eternity over His kingdom. His citizens are with Him. God’s blessings are on them because of Jesus. His blood covers them with His righteousness, protecting them. Christ’s blood is the only defense against sin, stronger than any fortress, impenetrable, a shield of God’s favor and protection.

The Narrow and Straight

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.(Psalm 5:8 ESV)

There is a spiritual pathway that leads to God’s Kingdom. It is narrow, sometimes meandering, straight in other places, steep in some, and impossible to traverse without the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. People start their journey along this route carrying everything they deem valuable. As they walk, they lose stuff that has no eternal value. At the end of the path is a gate, small and narrow which allows only the traveller called by God to enter. They may carry nothing through that gate which belongs in the world. Their old self cannot enter, either. 

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24 ESV; see Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25)

In the world is a highway leading away from God. It is fast and wide, and accommodating to all. As people move along this freeway they pickup stuff, adding to their burden, refusing to abandon anything they deem valuable and necessary to their life. Surrounded by many, who jostle and fight for position, they move en mass toward anything that is not God. At the end of the road is a gate, wide and inviting, going to a place where God cannot be known by any who enter. 

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Jesus cleared the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and then again just before His crucifixion and resurrection. He made Himself known, angering the Jewish religious leaders because of His brazen actions and outrageous claims. They were His enemies, foes and rivals, opponents and antagonists. They were against Him in everything He did. It was common knowledge among the people of Jerusalem that the religious leaders wanted to murder Jesus. “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?’”  (John 7:25 ESV). Everything Jesus did rankled and irritated those who hated Him. Even when Jesus healed sick and maimed people, they became enraged.

Surrounded by such malevolence, Jesus sought God’s will. He prayed for God’s righteousness. This Psalm speaks to Jesus’ desire to know God under the harshest circumstance. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). To lead, or to be led, means to be guided, to bring to a place with purposeful intent. Righteousness is the rule of law of the King and Sovereign, God’s decrees founded on God’s eternally pure character. Straight means level and smooth, to be perfectly right according to law, directed without mistake or purposeful deceit. Before me means face, presence, person, in front of, as in leading by the hand someone who cannot lead themselves. Jesus is praying that God prepare the way, clear the obstacles which would trip or hinder, and direct His words, actions and motivations, to ultimately bring Him before God, the destination of every spiritual journey.

One of the major themes of the Psalms is the confrontation of those who are righteous against those who are unrighteous. God blesses the man, Jesus Christ, and all who take refuge in Him, because He, and they, do not walk “in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”   (Psalm 1:1 ESV). His enemies conspire against Him, teaching and training those under their authority to actively rebel against God. They surround Him. But He is not afraid, even when the intent of His enemies is His murder. “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6 ESV). He challenges them in the thinking of their hearts. “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). His resurrection is the ultimate victory over their rebellion. “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:11-12 ESV).

Jesus does not just pray this for Himself but for all who are identified with Him. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who trust Him, that He will deliver what He has promised, are hidden in Him. What happens to Him happens to them. Where He goes they are. God’s house is in eternity. As Jesus walks toward God’s house, a spiritual path, those who are in Him go with Him into God’s presence. God gave Jesus the purpose and task of drawing those who love Him into His life-giving presence. We carry nothing with us but, for a short time, His cross, which is our cross.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)

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.

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.