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. 

WORTHY IS THE LAMB

Often at Christmas time we hear Handel’s oratorio Messiah with the announcement to Mary and the shepherds.  “For unto us a child is born” and “Glory to God in the highest” and then the oratorio moves into the second and third parts with prophesies of the coming Messiah and affirmation that the Redeemer lives and is worthy to receive all power, and honor and glory.   All the words are taken directly from Scripture.

The Messiah is really the story of Christ throughout His life with the focal point being His rejection, suffering, death and resurrection.  It is, therefore, properly considered at this time of the church year, when Jesus’ passion, His sacrifice and His resurrection is center in our collective minds.   

In Part II we are directed to “behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”.  This is a direct quotation of John 1:29, the words of John the Baptist in reference to Jesus Christ.  

Then the alto sings Isaiah 53:3.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

After describing the misery that the Lord would endure for our sin, the chorus vividly describes mankind, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 ESV

The tenor presents the crucifixion and resurrection, after which the choir erupts into a chorus describing heaven when Jesus defeats death and sin. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”  Psalm 24:7 KJV

The oratorio continues by describing the mission of the Lord’s people, going into all the world preaching the gospel and then by telling of the rebellion to that Word.  “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”  Psalm 2:1 KJV  After questioning why, the soloists reveal the Lord’s response to mankind’s opposition: 

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. … Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Psalm 2:4, 9 KJV

At this point we hear the famous Hallelujah Chorus, proclaiming the power of the Lord God and that God’s kingdom will reign forever and ever.  This too is from Scripture, specifically from Revelation 19:6. 

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

It is at this point that the audience rises in honor of the majesty of the music and of its message. For many of us, this is the crescendo of the oratorio.

After a recent presentation Parts II and III of the Messiah, I found it interesting to think about the placement of the Hallelujah Chorus.  It is not at the end of the work, rather it comes immediately after describing God’s prevailing power over man’s revolt against Him and His Anointed One.  This should be encouraging for each of us. 

The Chorus certainly praises God for His authority over mankind, for the strength of His kingdom, in recognition of His power and of the inviolate guarantee that things that He has ordained will, indeed, come to pass.  His providence will not be thwarted by anything that man or any other created being can do.  In short, God wins!  Hallelujah!

But, this is not the only instance of praise in the oratorio. 

Part III of the oratorio begins with the soprano singing “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” Job 19:25.  These words should bring praise to the lips of every believer in our Lord.   

The substitutionary atonement of Jesus is told when the choir sings “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 

And the hope of everlasting life is described when the bass sings “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV

The final song is one that is sung in heaven:  “saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’”  Revelation 5:12 NKJV

Not only should we sing Hallelujah because God defeats sin and evil, we should continue our praise and worship of our God and of His Son by acknowledging and praising Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, for His work on the cross, for His atoning death and resurrection for us, for He alone is worthy to be praised. 

Here is a presentation of the song “Worthy is the Lamb” as found on the album Glory to the Holy One, words by Dr. R. C. Sproul and music by Jeff Lippencott.

I am including the text of the words for your reference:

The veil of heaven opened wide
The scene was clearly set
John saw a scroll writ either side
Where seven seals were met
With booming voice the angel said
To now unseal the scroll
But none was found to meet the task
Not even one lone soul

Refrain

Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb
Worthy, worthy is the Lamb who was slain

Convulsed with tears and broken heart
John’s hope was now assailed
“Weep not,” the elder counseled him,
“A Lion has prevailed!”
No lion came to take his claim
No beast of royal reign
Instead there stood a bloodied Lamb
Like one who had been slain

Refrain

Ten thousand times, ten thousand more
The host of heaven cried
All blessing, honor, glory, and pow’r
To Christ, the Lamb that died

Refrain

Christ the Lamb, who was slain

Father, during this time of the year when we consider the Passion of our Lord, I can do nothing other than fall at the foot of the cross in recognition that He has taken my sin upon Himself and I have nothing to bring other than a broken and contrite heart.  May my life reflect praise for my Lord and my King to whom all glory and honor belongs.