THE NAMES OF GOD Lesson #7
Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our Righteousness Jeremiah 23:6
Among all the names by which our Savior is revealed in Holy Scripture, none is more sweet, comforting, assuring, delightful and precious than that which is found in Jeremiah 23:6. “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the righteousness of his people. We have no righteousness but Christ. We want no righteousness but Christ. And we will own no righteousness but Christ.
We sustained a very great loss in the matter of righteousness by the sin and fall of our father Adam. By Adam’s transgression, we suffered the loss of a righteous nature and the loss of all legal righteousness in the sight of God. Man sinned. He was therefore no longer innocent of the transgression. Man did not keep the commandment of God. He was therefore guilty of the sin of omission. In that which he committed and in that which he omitted, man’s original character of uprightness was completely ruined.
Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to undo the mischief of the fall and restore that which he took not away. Christ, by his sin-atoning death, has completely removed from his people all sin and all the consequences of sin, in so far as the law and justice of God are concerned (Heb. 1:3). By his one great sacrifice for sin, he has satisfied the penalty of the law against sin in his flesh. He, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree. He died the Just for the unjust to put away our sins. By the sacrifice of himself, the sins of God’s elect have been forever put away. Because Christ died in our place, we are completely pardoned and forgiven of all sin. Being pardoned by the blood of Christ, believers are without sin in the sight of God. “He was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin” (I John 3:5). But that is not enough.
Atonement alone is not enough to give us acceptance before the holy God. It is required of man that he keep the whole law, and keep it perfectly. It is not enough not to break the commandment, or to be regarded through the blood of Christ as though we did not break it. God requires of man a perfect righteousness, a perfect obedience. He must continue in all things written in the book of the law to do them (Gal. 3:10).
How can this necessity be supplied? Man must have perfect righteousness, or God will not and cannot accept him. Man must have a perfect obedience to the law and will of God, or the holy character of the Almighty will not allow him to be rewarded with eternal life. God cannot accept anything less than perfection. Suppose that God were to give heaven to a soul that has not perfectly kept his holy law. That would be giving the reward where service is not rendered. The universe would mock justice. God’s righteous and holy character would be ridiculed. Where then is the righteousness with which the pardoned sinner may be completely covered, so that God can justly regard him as having perfectly kept the law and reward him for doing so?
There is no possibility of our accomplishing this righteousness for ourselves. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20). If righteousness must be produced by us, we are full of despair. Hell must be our eternal portion. We sin everyday, every moment! All that we do is marred by sin. The law of God is too high, too holy, too pure, too perfect. We cannot attain its requirements. We cannot keep its precepts. Though we have passed from death to life, old Adam still struggles for dominion within us. By force of our lusts, we are still held in the captivity of sin in our members. The good we would do, we do not. The evil we hate, that we often perform. If anything is plain in the Word of God and the experience of God’s saints, it is this: There is nothing good or righteous in any man of himself (Rom. 7:14-24). If we would be righteous, we must have the righteousness of another.
Many are of the opinion that the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification gives us a righteousness by which we may stand before God. I would say nothing to minimize the work of God the Holy Spirit. He is God, one with the Father and the Son in the holy Trinity; but the work of the Holy Spirit was never meant to supplement the work of the Son. We dare not depreciate the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to exalt the office of the Holy Spirit. Those who teach that the Holy Spirit enables the believer to keep the law, and that God will accept this, are woefully mistaken. In sanctification the Holy Spirit does not conform us to the law, but to the Son. He does not teach us to follow the law, but to follow Christ. He never points the believer to Sinai, but always to Calvary.
Each Person in the blessed Trinity has a branch of salvation which he performs. Each One carries out that work to perfection. We were chosen by God the Father. We are regenerated and called by God the Holy Spirit. But the work of our redemption and justification is that which is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. We are accepted in the Beloved. Our acceptance therefore must be by something that the Beloved has done. If we are justified in Christ, then our justification must not be the work of the Holy Spirit, but of Christ. That righteousness by which the saints are clothed, through which we are accepted, with which we are made meet to inherit eternal life is the work of Jesus Christ alone. It is the life of Christ that constitutes the righteousness with which his people are clothed. His death washed away our sins; and his life covers us from head to foot. His death was his sacrifice to God for atonement; and his life is his gift to man by which we satisfy the demands of the law.
Only in this way was it possible for the law of God to be honored and magnified in making us accepted as the objects of his love and grace. Many who are perfectly clear about the merits of Christ’s death seem to understand nothing of the merits of his life. The fact is that, from the moment that the child Jesus drew his first breath until that hour when he “bowed his head and gave up the ghost,” he was at work for his people. From the moment that he came into the world until he laid down his life for us, Christ was performing the work of our salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ completed the work of his obedience in his life and said to the Father, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). Then he finished the work of his obedience in his sin-atoning death, and knowing that all things were then accomplished, he cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Both were necessary for our salvation. C.H. Spurgeon put it this way: “Throughout his earthly life our Savior was spinning the fabric of our royal garment; and in his death he dipped that garment in his blood. In his life he was gathering the precious gold; and in his death he hammered it out to make for us a garment of wrought gold.” Believers have as much to be thankful for in the life of Christ as in his death. In his life Christ Jesus rendered perfect obedience to the law of God as our Representative. In his death he satisfied the claims of the law as our Surety. Therefore Jeremiah declares, “This is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the only righteousness of his people; and it is our joy to confess him as such.
OUR SAVIOR’S NAME IS JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU: “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” The first thing that strikes me as I read this name is the fact that Jesus Christ is Jehovah. Either he is the Lord Jehovah, or the Word of God is false and there is no hope for sinners. I make no effort to prove the divinity of Christ. It is a fact plainly revealed in Holy Scripture, received by faith, and proved in the experience of grace. He is not a creature of God, or some kind of secondary god. He is the second Person of the triune Godhead. This is not a mere point of systematic theology. It is not a mere logical deduction. It is a plain, undeniable assertion of inspiration (Ps. 110:1; Isa. 9:6; John 1:1-3; Acts 20:28; Heb. 1:1-3; I John 3:16; 5:7; Rom. 9:5; I Tim. 3:16; Tit. 2:13). Our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified by the Jews because he claimed sovereign authority as God (John 5:18; 10:33). That One who bare our sins in his own body upon the tree, though he was a real man, was and is the eternal God. The whole of creation attests the deity of Christ (John 1:3). Providence proclaims the deity of Christ. He is before all things. And by him all things consist. He sits upon the throne of sovereign supremacy “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). And those who have been saved by his grace can never doubt that Jesus Christ is God almighty, the infinite, omnipotent Jehovah. Who less than God could have put away our sins? Who less than God could have delivered us from the jaws of hell and brought us up from the pit of destruction? Who less than God almighty could say, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world?” Who less than God could hear and answer all the prayers of his people? Let others scoff and mock as they will, Jesus Christ is God. We know that he is. The Scripture states it plainly; and God’s elect experience the very Godhead of their Savior daily.
Christ Jesus, who is our God, is Jehovah our Righteousness. What does the Bible mean when it ascribes such a name as this to the Son of God? First, it means that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of righteousness. Literally, Christ is the incarnation of the law, the will, and the righteousness of God. In his life our Redeemer was so righteous that we may say of his whole life, “This is righteousness.” Jesus Christ lived out the law of God perfectly in thought, word, and deed. While we see God’s law written in stone at Sinai, we behold it embodied and living in the Person of his dear Son. The Lord Jesus never offended the commandment of God in thought or in act. He loved God with all his heart. He loved his neighbor as himself. Among all that are born of woman, it can be said of Christ alone, “He is Righteousness.” We are made righteous by him; but he alone is righteousness.
Second, while it is a blessed thing to know that Christ is Jehovah and that as a man he is Righteousness, the great joy of this name lies in the fact that Christ is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (I Cor. 1:30-31). This is the precious doctrine of the Holy Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness for justification. In the matter of justification Christ is all (Acts 13:38-39). His work, only his work, without any contribution whatsoever from us, makes us righteous in the sight of God. God looks upon all who believe as though the life which Christ lived had been lived by us. He graciously accepts, blesses, and rewards us as though all that Christ has done had been done by us, his believing people. God so perfectly imputes the righteousness of Christ to us that we are called by this very name (Jer. 33:15-16).
Divine imputation is the very foundation of the gospel. We fell and became sinners by the imputation of Adam’s sin to us, without anything we had done personally. And it is only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, apart from anything done by us, that we rise to the justification of life (Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:21-22). This is the only true grounds of our acceptance with God - Christ Jesus is the Lord our Righteousness. The Law-Giver has obeyed the law in our stead; and his obedience is sufficient for us. When he died as our Substitute our sins were imputed to the Son of God. And now, in his resurrection life, his righteousness is imputed to us. “He was delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Christ is the Sun of Righteousness who has risen with healing beneath his wings for the healing of the nations. He finished the transgression. He made an end of sin. He made reconciliation for iniquity. He brought in an everlasting righteousness. He magnified the law and made it honorable. And he is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (II Cor. 5:21).
Let every believer look back upon his past sins, look upon his present infirmities, and look even upon his future errors, and weep with bitter tears of heartfelt repentance. But rejoice while you weep, that there is no fear of condemnation, because Christ is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” If you truly trust Christ, you stand before God robed in the garments of his own dear Son; and in him you are right now as holy as your holy Redeemer. You are now “the righteousness of God in him.”
We have a better righteousness than Adam had in the garden. His was the created righteousness of innocent man. Ours is the earned, purchased, imputed righteousness of the perfect God-man. Christ’s righteousness is compared to fine linen, clean and white. If we wear it, then we are without spot before God. In this robe we are worthy to sit at the wedding feast of the great King. In the parable of the prodigal, it is called “the best robe.” It is a better robe than Adam wore. It is a better robe than the legalist, the ritualist, or the hypocrite wears. And it is a better robe than the holy angels wear. It is the robe that God’s own dear Son wears as our Mediator. And this robe shall never be worn out.
Not only is Christ our righteousness for justification, He is our righteousness for sanctification too. The apostle Paul tells us that God has made Christ unto us sanctification, and that “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10, 14). God our Father says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” not with whom, but “in whom I am well pleased,” satisfied and delighted (Matt. 17;5). If we are in Christ, the Father is well pleased with us too. Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us in justification. His righteousness is imparted to us in sanctification (II Pet. 1:4). When we were born naturally, according to the flesh, we received the fallen, sinful nature of our father Adam. When we were born again by the Spirit of God, we receive the holy, righteous nature of Christ, whose seed we are (I John 3:5-9). So long as we are in this world, in this body of flesh, we will have to struggle with sin (Rom. 7:14-24; Gal. 5:17). But even now God accepts our feeble efforts to serve and honor him through the merits of Christ our Righteousness (I Pet. 2:5). And soon we will drop this robe of flesh and enter into heaven’s glorious inheritance through the merits of Christ’s righteousness. Our only claim to heaven, the only claim we have and the only claim God will accept is, JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
FAITH CALLS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST BY THIS NAME, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” We must have Christ for our righteousness, or we will perish forever. CHRIST ALONE CAN MAKE YOU RIGHTEOUS. God is pure, righteous, and holy. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The heavens are not clean in his sight. He charges his angels with folly. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” The only way the holy God can receive us is if we are made to be perfectly righteous in his sight. And only Christ can make us righteous. We have no righteousness of our own at all (Isa. 64:6). There is no possibility of us being made righteous by our own obedience to the law of God. We cannot justify or sanctify ourselves by obeying the law. And there is no possibility of becoming righteous by works and acts of religion. You might pray three times a day, memorize your Bible from cover to cover, be baptized by the most faithful minister in the world, receive the Lord’s table every week, attend only the most orthodox church, hear only the most biblical preaching, give generously and sacrificially, fast twice a week, and live in perfect outward conformity to the law of God, and yet perish in hell forever, a sinner and an enemy of God. We must be made righteous by faith in Christ, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” He must be made of God unto us righteousness. We must trust him as “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” and confess him as such. We must by faith call Christ, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Rom. 3:24-28; 10:9-13).
“This is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,” by all his people. Let us call Immanuel by this name always. Let us live in constant dependence upon the righteousness of our Savior for our acceptance with God and for our confidence and assurance before him. Yet, there are special times when I would encourage you to call Christ by this name. Whenever you sin, call him the Lord my righteousness (I John 2:1-2). “In the teeth of all thy sins,” C.H Spurgeon said to his congregation, “Believe that he is thy righteousness still. Thy good works do not improve his righteousness. Thy bad deeds do not sully it. This is a robe which thy best deeds cannot mend and thy worst deeds cannot mar. Thou standest in him, not in thyself.” Whenever you are enabled to do anything for the good of your brethren or the glory of your Lord, call Christ Jehovah my righteousness (I Cor. 4:7). Whenever you ask anything from your heavenly Father call Christ Jesus by this name, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” And when you come to look death and judgment in the face, rejoice in the privilege of calling Christ “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Because he is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,” we are the sons of God, we are reconciled to God, we have access to God, and we shall enter into heaven’s eternal glory accepted of God.