Taken and adapted from, “Covenant Names and Privileges”
Written by, Richard Newton, D.D.
And this is the name whereby He shall be called, “The Lord our Righteousness”
(or, ‘Jehovah- Tsidkenu’) –Jeremiah 23:6.
The passage now before us leads us to look at Him as “the Lord our Righteousness” –or “Jehovah-Tsidkenu.”
In journeying through a mountain region, we find ourselves at times, on the top of a gentle hill, which will give us a delightful view of the picturesque scenery of the landscape that immediately surrounds us. But, now and then, we may reach the summit of some towering mountain. That lifts us far up above all other points of view. As we stand there and gaze, we can look down on hills, and plains, and valleys, and take in the geography of all the surrounding country.
In the mountain range of scripture truth, we reach such an elevated summit, in our present text, and in the subject which it brings up for our consideration. As we stand here and meditate, if we succeed in getting clear views of the great doctrine here spoken of, it will go very far to enable us to understand the plan of our salvation as made known to us in the Word of God. Some of the other covenant names, have taken in more of the poetry of saving truth: but none of them are more instructive in reference to matters which it is of the highest importance for us to understand.
“And this is the name whereby He shall be called –The Lord our Righteousness.”
In attempting to handle the righteousness here spoken of, we may look at it from five different points of view: Such as, 1. to its author; 2. its foundation; 3. its nature; 4. its importance; and 5. its possession.
“And this is the name whereby He shall be called –The Lord our Righteousness.” The phrase rendered in our version –“the Lord,” is in the original “Jehovah.” But in the Godhead, represented by this solemn name, Jehovah, there is a Trinity of persons. The precise point now before us is to determine which of the three persons, in that holy Trinity, is here intended? It is important to settle this point. And it is not difficult to do so. We have only to glance cursorily, at two or three passages, and we have scripture interpreting itself here, in the most clear and satisfactory manner.
Look, for instance, at the verse immediately preceding the text. Here we find it written, –“Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign, and prosper, and shall execute judgment, and righteousness in the earth.” Then follow the words of the text. “And this is the name whereby,” etc. Thus we see from the connection in which our text is found, that the person here called “Jehovah our righteousness” –is the same as “the righteous Branch, the prosperous King,” promised to be raised up unto David. This proves that the Jehovah of our text is Jehovah-Jesus. Isaiah (11:1), in speaking of Him, says –“There shall come forth a root out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Ezekiel (34:29) calls Him –“the Plant of renown.” Zechariah (6:12, 13), speaking of Him, says, “Behold the man whose name is the Branch; He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and He shall sit, and rule upon His throne, and He shall be a priest upon His throne.” We know, then, that the Jehovah who is to be our righteousness must be Jehovah-Jesus, because He is the Branch, who was to be raised up unto David. And He is the prosperous King who was to sit on David’s throne. For when the angel Gabriel foretold His birth, he applied this very prophecy to Him saying, “The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever.”
And then, to complete the testimony of Scripture on this point, and prove to a demonstration that the Jehovah of our text is Jesus, it is only necessary to turn to a single passage in the New Testament, I Cor. 1:13, where we find St. Paul distinctly affirming that it is He “who is made of God unto us righteousness.”
Thus we see, without difficulty, that it is that “name which is as ointment poured forth”; that “name which is above every name”; that name of Jesus, which sounds so sweetly in the believer’s ear, of which the prophet is here speaking, when he says that ” He shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.
It is Jehovah- Jesus who is the author of this righteousness.
And now, let us look, in the second place at the foundation of this righteousness.
This word, righteousness, is used in many senses in the Scriptures. But, the most important meaning attached to it is that in which it is regarded as denoting the procuring cause of our justification before God.
It is spoken of in the New Testament as “The righteousness of Christ.” And the foundation on which it rests, of that of which it is made up –is the active, and passive obedience of our Lord and Savior. It embraces all that He did, to honor God’s law, when He obeyed its every precept to the uttermost, in thought and feeling, in purpose, word, and action; and all that He suffered when the tremendous penalties of God’s broken law were visited upon Him. The righteousness of Christ means simply the benefit of all that He did, and suffered. This benefit, or righteousness, belongs to His people. It is made over to them. It is reckoned as theirs. This is what we are taught when told concerning Jehovah- Jesus: “the Lord our righteousness,” that, “God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” –2 Cor. 5: 21.
Here we have the principle of substitution working both ways. You can no more get rid of this principle of substitution from the New Testament, than you can get rid of the sun from the heavens by day, or the stars from the sky by night. If any ask, how was Christ made sin for His people, when He knew no sin? The answer is simply by substitution. God dealt with Him as though He had actually been guilty of the accumulated transgressions of a world of sinners. This is what the prophet teaches when he says that “God laid on Him the iniquities of us all.” –Is. 53:6. And this is what the apostle teaches when he says that “He was made a curse for us.” –Gal. 3:13. “He should taste death for every man.” –Heb. 2:9. “He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” –I John 2:2. And as the sins of His people were reckoned unto Him, and considered as His, so His righteousness, or the benefit of all He did and suffered, is reckoned unto His people, and considered as belonging unto them. As God regarded and dealt with Him as a sinner for His people’s sake, so He regards and deals with His people as righteous for His sake.
This is the righteousness spoken of in our text. It is that by which, as ruined sinners, we are justified before God. It rests for its foundation on the life, the obedience, the sufferings, and death of Christ. It is called “The righteousness of Christ,” and He is called The Lord our Righteousness, because He is the Author and the Finisher, or the Foundation of it.
The NATURE of this righteousness is the third thing to claim our attention.
And here we have a delightful theme for meditation. No miser ever felt half the joy in counting over his hoarded gold, and no monarch ever experienced half the rapture in gazing admiringly on the splendor and magnificence of the crown jewelry he inherits, that the intelligent Christian experiences in dwelling on the nature of that finished, and all-perfect righteousness that Jesus, his glorious Savior, has wrought out for him. Let us just glance now at some of its leading features.
(a) It is a GRACIOUS righteousness.
It has its foundation altogether in the sovereign, unmerited grace of God. It was of God’s good pleasure alone, that ever a plan for working out such a righteousness was devised. God was under no obligation to devise, or carry out such a plan. The honor of His name would not have been tarnished, nor the integrity of His righteous government compromised, if He had stood aloof when man sinned, and had allowed the race of men, as He did the race of angels, to go on and meet the everlasting consequences of their transgressions. But, glory and praise to His blessed name, grace reigned in the councils of eternity, when the future of fallen man was considered.
“Grace first contrived a way
To save rebellious man,
And all the means that grace display
Which drew the wondrous plan.”
Redemption, contemplated as a mighty whole, has its foundation here. Grace wrought out the exhaustless store of righteousness which is here provided. And as it was the grace of God which procured this righteousness, so it is the same grace which dispenses it. It is grace alone which makes men feel their need of this righteousness. It is grace alone which inclines them to seek it. It is grace alone which makes them willing to cast sin, and self, and everything else away, and to rest on this righteousness, on this only, on this now, and on this forever, as the ground of their acceptance with God. Yes, it is a gracious righteousness.
(b) It is a PERFECT righteousness.
But how can mortal thought rise to the grandeur of this lofty theme? Or how may mortal tongue venture to speak of its excellence? Oh, may the Spirit of the living God guide our minds, and touch our lips, and open our hearts while thinking, and speaking, and hearing of this great truth! May He enable us clearly to see its meaning, and deeply to feel its power!
It is a perfect righteousness which Jesus gives to His people.
God’s perfect law was the standard by which this righteousness was to be measured; and it came fully up to that standard. It was the scrutiny of God’s holy and penetrating eye to which this righteousness was subjected. He examined it. He weighed it in the balances of the heavenly sanctuary, and declared Himself well-pleased with it. How perfect that must be in which His penetrating eye could see no flaw! How perfect that must be which He pronounces faultless, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing!” There is no mark, or shadow of imperfection about it. It is because of His connection with this righteousness that God the Father loves His Son with a love that is unspeakable. This was what the Psalmist meant when he looked up to the Messiah, as King in Zion, and exclaimed –“Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, wherefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” –Ps. 45:7. And it is because Christ’s people share in this righteousness, that God cherishes towards them the same affection that He entertains towards His only-begotten Son. How wonderful this is! We never could have believed it, if Jesus Himself had not assured us that it is even so. And yet, this was what He taught us when taking the whole company of His ransomed people in His comprehensive grasp. He offered in their behalf this wondrous prayer; –“That the love wherewith Thou hast loved me, may be in them!” –John 17:26. This is marvelous indeed! But, in the very nature of things, God can never love any other beings as He loves His own Son, except on the ground of their being made “righteous even as He is righteous.” It is an admitted axiom in geometry that “any two things which are equal to a third thing, must be equal to each other.” But we never can be equally righteous with Christ in any other way than by being made partakers of His righteousness. Nothing less than this will meet our wants. This meets them fully. “A robe I must have,” says an old writer, “of a whole piece; broad as the law, spotless as the light, and richer than ever an angel wore; and such a robe I have in the righteousness of Christ. It is a perfect righteousness.”
(c) It is a uniform righteousness.
I mean by this that what the righteousness of Christ is to one of His people it is to them all. None of them are accepted on any other ground than this; and all who stand on this ground, are on an equality before God, as to the foundation on which they rest, or as to that which constitutes their title to heaven. It is the righteousness of Christ which constitutes this title. This righteousness is never given to any, in parts, or parcels; but always as a whole. The soul that has any interest in this righteousness, has an interest in it all. Where the sun shines at noonday, I have the benefit of its shining, as fully as though there were none around me to share its beams, and it shone for me alone. Yet each of my neighbors has, or may have, the same benefit of its beams that I have. And so it is with the righteousness of Christ. The infant, who dies before committing any personal transgression, has no title to enter heaven but that which is based on the righteousness of Christ; and the whole of that righteousness is needed to make a good title for every infant; and it is precisely the same with the veteran Christian of threescore years and ten. The dying thief who turned in penitence and faith, and was accepted in the last hour of his mortal life, had just the same title to enter heaven that the apostle Paul had, or Peter, or John, or Isaiah, or Elijah, or David, or Moses, or Abraham, or Enoch.
The degree of their enjoyment, or of their reward in heaven, will be immeasurably different –but the ground of their acceptance “the character of their title to enter heaven will be the same. This title is always based on the righteousness of Christ, and the whole of that righteousness is needed in every case to make the title good. And thus we see that the righteousness of Christ is a uniform righteousness.
(d) It is an unchanging righteousness.
The personal righteousness of the child of God, that which is wrought in his soul by the influence of the grace and Spirit of God, admits of degrees. It may be increased or diminished. It may be greater or less tomorrow than it is today. But the righteousness given to the believer, and by which he is justified before God, admits of no degrees. It can neither be more nor less at one time than at another.
And so when Christ gives Himself and His righteousness to His people, He gives them a world of spiritual treasures, which it will take all eternity for them fully to explore, and find out. But all this is given to them from the start. The very moment a penitent sinner exercises faith in Christ, there is secured to him a participation in Christ’s righteousness and that first act of his trembling faith does as much for his soul, in this respect, as all the subsequent actings of that faith can do. He is as much justified that instant, as he will be in the hour of death, at the Day of Judgment, or at the remotest period of eternity.
There are no degrees, or stages in the work of the soul’s justification. The soul once justified, is justified fully, and justified forever. The righteousness which secures justification will remain without changing what it was at first.
Comparing this righteousness to the robe which Christ puts upon the souls of His people, Toplady’s lines come in very well to round off this point of our subject.
“This glorious robe the same appears
When ruined nature sinks in years,
No age can change its glorious hue;
The robe of Christ is ever new.”
(e) The only other element in the nature of this righteousness that we can now touch upon is –that it is “a GLORIOUS righteousness.
We see this in the peculiar position which the ransomed people of Christ will occupy, among the creatures of God, in possessing this righteousness. They will stand on higher ground, in the scale of being, than even angels and archangels can ever reach. These must stand in their own righteousness; and that, after all, is but the righteousness of creatures. But believers n Jesus stand before God on the very ground which is occupied by His own eternal, and only begotten Son. It is in Him they are accepted. It is ”in Him” they are complete. Well might the Psalmist declare of Christ’s people that ”in His righteousness they shall be exalted.” –Ps. 89:16. Why, the humblest believer in Jesus would be a loser in this respect, if he should exchange places with Gabriel, who stands before yonder shining throne. We have no reason to suppose that there is another tribe or race of creatures in all the boundless universe, who will rise to a point of elevation like this. This is what is meant when we are told that Christ’s ransomed ones are to be ”a peculiar treasure unto Him.” They are to be to “the praise of the glory of His grace,” as none other of His creatures shall be. Their peculiar, distinguishing privilege will be that Jehovah-Jesus is their righteousness. The elements that go to make up the nature of this righteousness are that it is a gracious righteousness, a perfect, uniform, unchanging, and glorious righteousness.
Let us look now, in the fourth place, at the importance of this righteousness.
We see its importance in its bearing on our comfort for the present; and on our confidence for the future. The proper understanding of this doctrine has very much to do with our comfort, as Christians, in the present life. It is a possible thing that we may be Christians, without understanding this doctrine; but it is not possible that we can have the comfort of being Christians, unless we have a clear knowledge of this great truth. Here is a practical illustration of this point.
Suppose that in a week from tomorrow, you have a note of a large amount to pay, and you have nothing with which to meet it. Of course, under such circumstances, you must feel very uncomfortable. And suppose that under these circumstances, a friend should deposit, in your name at the bank, a sum of money, more than sufficient to meet all your indebtedness. The fact that the money was there would put you in a position of safety. But unless you have a clear knowledge and a full assurance of this fact, you cannot be in a position of comfort in reference to it.
Now, in our natural condition as sinners, we are all overwhelmingly in debt to God. We are liable, at any moment to be called to a settlement, and we have nothing to pay. But when we are led to repent of our sins, and believe in Jesus as our Savior, His infinite and all-perfect righteousness is entered in the bank of heaven in our name, and to our account. It is reckoned as belonging unto us. If we are able to understand this truth, and grasp it, in the exercise of a firm faith, we shall have access to the most full and flowing fountain of comfort which the gospel affords. And then our confidence for the future, as well as our comfort for the present, must depend entirely on our knowledge of this doctrine, and our belief in it.
Here we have at once the title that is to secure our entrance into heaven, and the robe we are to wear on entering there. It is only by sharing in the righteousness of Christ that any child of Adam ever has entered heaven, or ever will. And the robes which the ransomed wear who enter that blessed abode are robes that have been washed, and made white in the blood of the Lamb. We can have no title to heaven, and no fitness for its joys without an interest in this righteousness. And when we think of its intimate connection with our comfort for the present, and our confidence for the future, we see how unspeakably important the clear understanding of this doctrine is!
A word in closing on our last point, which is the possession of this righteousness.
To whom does it belong? Who are entitled to share the privilege of possessing it? The text speaks of “The Lord our righteousness.” Who are included in this short, but important and comprehensive word “our”? It does not refer to the Jews alone, though it is a Jewish promise. It does not embrace exclusively any one nation, or tribe, or rank, or condition of men. No; but it refers to all the spiritual children of God. It takes in all, of every age and nation, of every name and condition, whose hearts have been converted by the grace of God, and who have been made His children in Christ Jesus. Every man, woman, and child who is led to exercise simple, saving faith in Christ, becomes a partaker of this righteousness. The testimony of Scripture is clear, decided, and absolute on this point. It is written, ”Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes” Rom. 10:4. It is called, “The righteousness of God which is by faith in Christ.” –Phil. 3:9. Multitudes of other passages might be quoted to the same purpose. But these are sufficient. It is faith in Christ, alone, which can make this righteousness ours. Show me one, therefore, who is exercising simple faith in Christ as His Savior, and I will show you one who has a gracious, covenant, inalienable right to say, “This little word ‘our’ in the text takes me in. I belong to the company here spoken of. “Jehovah-Jesus is my righteousness.” All who are exercising faith in Christ have a part in this righteousness. It belongs to no one else.
There is one question I would press on the conscience of everyone who reads these pages. It is this. Have I a personal interest in this righteousness? If not, then say to yourself, what is the simple, solemn, awful truth, “While in this state I do not have, I cannot have, one ray of hope for eternity! No title to enter heaven. No robe to wear among its bright and blessed redeemed. Then what ought I to do?”