Righteousness is the Hebrew word “tsedeq”. It is also translated as justice, or rightness. My working definition is living in right relationship with God, with man, and with ourselves.
How is righteousness to be formed in us?
You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved?
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Isaiah asks “We meet the one who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers God in his ways. We continue them in a long time. Shall we be saved?”
I know there are things that I have done trying to be holy for a long time. My efforts towards righteousness don’t seem to amount to much.
What’s interesting is studying out the Hebrew for the two words translated as “filthy garment.” The Hebrew is as follows:
- Beged (H899) – Clothing or covering
- Ed (H5707) – While this is translated as filthy, it also means “witness.” Blood serves as a witness of righteousness or its lack.
Could it be that our own efforts of righteousness testify against us?
Paul’s writings in both Romans and Ephesians say the following:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
The Greek word for saved is “sozo.” “Sozo” is an amazingly rich word, translated as preserve, make whole, heal, save, deliver. Grace is God’s indwelling power to do that which we can’t do. I can’t save myself.
If I could, I am boasting of my own efforts to be righteous or become righteous. Hmmm, sounds like the tree of pride and self rather than the tree of life (Jesus).
The problem is we think we are the ones forming our spiritual formation rather than recognizes that it can only come from God. Are there things we can do to foster it? Absolutely. Can we make it happen? No.
Religiously, we think we are the Potter, the one who can shape or form our righteousness.
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.
In Romans 10:3, the problems of self-righteousness are revealed.
For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. We miss the grace of God when trying to establish our righteousness apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 10:4 goes on to say:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
It can only be through the righteousness of Christ. The process is akin to gold being refined through fire. God help us to be still and know.