ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.”

Psalm 116:5

Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?”

Psalm 71:19

To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. … Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

Daniel 9: 7, 14

The righteousness of God is one of the most frequently referenced attributes found in Scripture.  It is tied closely to God’s justice, and the word “just” is sometimes used where other translations will say “righteous” in reference to God’s character.  When the Bible speaks of God’s righteousness, it means that God’s character or nature always leads Him to do that which is right.  We know that God is holy, and righteousness is His holiness in action.

צְדָקָה

The transliteration of this Hebrew word is tsedaqah and its pronunciation is tsed·ä·kä’. This Hebrew word is translated as justice or righteousness.  Strong’s concordance says this in its definition:

  1. righteousness (in government), such as a judge, ruler or king, of the law, and of the Davidic king Messiah
  2. righteousness (of God’s attribute)
  3. righteousness (in a case or cause)
  4. righteousness, truthfulness
  5. righteousness (as ethically right)
  6. righteousness (as vindicated), justification, salvation
  7. righteous acts

δικαιοσύνη

This is the Greek word for righteousness.  The transliteration of this Greek word is dikaiosynē and its pronunciation is dē-kī-o-sü’-nā.  Strong’s concordance defines this term in the following manner:  

in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God.  A) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; B) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

Now, let’s consider some of the examples and scripture passages dealing with God’s righteousness.

Consider, for example, that God deals righteously with humanity.  Abraham expressed God’s righteousness in Genesis when he was speaking with God about Sodom and Gomorrah.

“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 18:25

God expresses His righteousness when He loves the things that are good and hates the things that are evil.  This attribute leads God to do only those things that are right.  Thus, because He is righteous, He must judge evil and sin cannot come into His presence. 

Righteousness is like goodness and holiness, but this attribute differs from others because it requires works to establish it.  God is good and God is holy, but He refers to Himself as righteous because He works the good as well.

This connection between works and righteousness is seen in the very first book of the Bible.  God was speaking to Abram and promising to make him a great nation, notwithstanding the fact that his wife was barren.  After delivering this promise, scripture says:

“And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [God] counted it to him as righteousness.” 

Genesis 15:6

A multitude of other scriptures reference the connection between our works and righteousness.  Consider these as examples:

“And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”

Deuteronomy 6:25

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Psalm 24:4-5

The Old Testament is not the only place where righteousness is discussed and commanded from God’s people. 

Jesus said:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33 

Then Paul wrote to the Romans and said:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 14:17

The connection between righteousness and action was expressed by James like this:

 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;  and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness“–and he was called a friend of God. …  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

James 2:21-23, 26

While Christians are called righteous, we do not receive that commendation because of any ability to accomplish good works in ourselves.  Rather, we are considered righteous by our holy God because we reside in the righteousness of Christ.  In other words, Christ’s obedience is imputed to us and when we stand before God, God sees not us but the righteousness of His Son.

Paul expressed it like this:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–“

Philippians 3:8-9

Righteousness.  It is an attribute of God and we are commanded to follow God’s lead in doing works of righteousness.  Not to earn our own salvation, but to praise Him for the gift of grace and mercy in the atoning work of our Savior and Lord.

Father, I praise You for Your righteousness.  Through Your Son’s sacrifice, You have imputed His righteousness to us, and have covered our sins with His atoning blood.  Thank You for Your righteousness and mercy. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018

In the Book of Revelation, chapter 22, verses 20 and 21 read as follows:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Reading these words so soon after the celebration of Jesus’ birth I am reminded of the words written in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the prophet says:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder: and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end ….

The Child Jesus was born long after Isaiah made this prophesy, yet the Child born in a stable was the same Person Isaiah prophesied would be born.  The Child laying in the manger was the same Person the Apostle John wrote about when he penned the words quoted above from Revelation 22:20-21.

John was one of Jesus’ disciples. He knew that Jesus had been crucified and died.  In fact, he was standing at the cross when Jesus told him to care for Mary, Jesus’ mother. And, even before he wrote the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book in our Bible, John knew that Jesus rose from the dead and had ascended to Heaven, our Savior and King.  He also had confidence that Jesus would come again as He had promised. John 14:3.

So, what is Isaiah saying when he said that the government will be upon this Child’s shoulder?

The US Capital Building
U. S. Capitol Building

For us, the concept of government does not necessarily carry connotations of security or permanence. Not only do we have elections with the associated change of personnel, there are upheavals in governments all over the world with various groups fighting for control.  On top of that we have numerous allegations of sexual assault leveled at high government officials, with multiple investigations undertaken that seem to overwhelm the news cycle each day. Permanence and righteousness in government is hard to find these days. So, what is the Scripture saying here

The Hebrew word translated in Isaiah 9:6 as government is transliterated as misrah which, according to Strong’s Number reference, has a Hebrew definition of “dominion” and it comes from a root word which means “to rule”.  We understand that someone who rules, governs. But when “dominion” is incorporated into the meaning of “rule”, an entirely different picture is created.

The Reformation Study Bible says that these words in Isaiah 9:6-7 mean that “He will carry the burden of rule and authority.”

The Scripture allows for no change. Full dominion and authority will be Christ’s.  Isaiah does not say that He might rule for some period … His ruling dominion will not end. Whatever needs to be done, will be done. He has absolute supremacy in all things.

What does this mean? Simply put, it means that this Ruler can handle whatever is happening in your life, because He is in absolute control.

Who will be doing this ruling?   It is the Child for whom sovereignty is just one of His divine attributes.  It is the Child who was born in the stable and who was wrapped in swaddling cloths.  It is the Child who has incredibly wonderful, powerful names:

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 The Christian knows this Child by the name of Jesus.

The One who heals the sick. The One who takes our sins and burdens. The One who carried a cross and endured its torture and shame on our behalf.   If you don’t know this Child, Jesus Christ, please take time at the beginning of this new year to seek Him and respond to the Holy Spirit’s quickening of your heart — believe in and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

The concluding verses of Revelation 22 say:

Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

Revelation 22:20-21.

As we look forward to 2018, may we pray along with Henri J. M. Nouwen:

“Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send Your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear Your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of Your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of Your presence. We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To You we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Father, we come to the close of the year 2017 and think back of all that You in your providence gave to us, and we thank You for your presence and support in both the blessings and the difficulties.  We look forward to 2018, a year that is as fresh and clean as new fallen snow.  While we don’t know what will happen, we can face the unknown with confidence because You are in control, and we know that Jesus will one day come again, but this time it will be in power and glory.  Come, Lord Jesus, Come!