Of The Righteousness Of God
Having laid the foundation of this study of election on the absolute sovereignty of God we must, in order to reconcile ourselves with this doctrine, move on to the most rational of ideas, another that obliges absolute submission, that there is no unrighteousness with God, Psa. 92:15 says, "To show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."
It is only natural to assume that where there is divine sovereignty there is divine righteousness. And since it would be unreasonable to believe that God can be anything other than absolutely sovereign it would also be unreasonable to believe that God could be unrighteousness. Since God is absolute sovereign He is the One who determines righteousness. We have been told that our righteousness is as "filthy rags", that "our thoughts are not his thoughts", and that we thought that He was a man like we are, but that we are way off in that idea. He has told us that He does not change and that He knows the beginning and the end. These are just a few of the reasons to know that it is God who determines righteousness.
Our God is and has always been possessed of infinite blessedness, that is, even before there was ever a world or any creature created. He did not make them for any need He had of them, but for His pleasure, "Thou art worthy, 0 lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." Rev. 4:11.
If God had no need of His creation then there was no reason why He should have made them for such and such an end. If He did not need them, then there is no reason why He should make them as He did, or make them for some specific end unless they were to be ruled over by an all-wise sovereign, that they might achieve that predestined end without doing wrong to even one.
There are two reasons why men are persuaded into sin: 1) To obtain something they do not have, as Jezebel who because of Ahab's desire, killed Naboth for his vineyard in 1 Kings 21; and Athaliah when she attempted to destroy all the royal seed to attain the throne of Judah for herself, 11 Kings 11.
And, 2) people sin to secure what they already have, Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites fearing that if they grew too great, they might shake off his power and leave Egypt, Ex. 1:1O; Jereboam set up his golden calves to keep the people at home, and firmly his, 1 Kings 12:27,28 and the Jews put Christ to death fearing that the Romans might come and take away their place and nation, "If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and our nation," John 11:48.
These two persuaders have long shared the parentage of all the oppression and wrong-doing that has existed in the world, and neither of them is compatible with our wonderful and blessed sovereign. All things are already His, He owns all of space and all that is therein, the earth is His and all who live there-on. The hosts of heaven and earth are His and He owns the right and power to dispose of them as He will.
There is nothing that He wants that He does not have and nothing that He has needs to be secured. Whom would God fear?
He is God and there is none beside Him, "Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God: I know not any." Isa. 44:8 and Isa. 45:22 says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
As for the creatures of His creation we are absolutely under His subjection, even as the dust of the earth is beneath our feet, "All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity," Isa. 40:17. And let us not forget that the word vanity means "empty."
God does not even need to touch the wicked to bring them down, Job 34:14 and 15 tells us, "If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust." Remember God breathed into Adam the breath of life, He only has to recall His breath and all men are dead.
If God simply withholds His sustaining influence, men fall of themselves; but He forever remains the same.
Another view or argument concerning the righteousness of God is founded in the perfection of His nature. We hear this righteousness proclaimed by the seraphs in Isa. 6:3 as they call out "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts: The whole earth is full of his glory." Here the word that is translated Lord is Jehovah or "self-existing one," and the word used here in the Hebrew for "holy" comes from a root word meaning "to be clean" but not just clean but the idea is three times (X) "wholly." The seraphs calls one to the other concerning the Self-Existent- One, Jehovah, that He is "wholly clean."
In another place Isaiah says that all our righteousness, that is, man's righteousness is as "filthy rags" but here we are told that He is wholly, completely clean.
Here in the Isaiah quotation we find that the reduplicating of this word magnifies the perfection of our God. This is one of the things that we as Christians are to do, magnify the Lord, let people around us know time and time again by our words and our lives that He is holy, supremely holy and finally infinitely holy.
In another place Exodus 15:11 we find Moses extolling Jehovah and saying of Him, "... who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness...," here the word glorious means to be magnificent or honorable in cleanness or consecration. In a study of this word we find that it is rarely, almost never, used abstractly and so it is that Moses uses these words to mean consecration among the triumphal titles in that passage. To paraphrase ...who is like unto thee, consecrated...set aside as no man can be set aside, set aside from sin. God will never be touched by sin, He will never hear sin nor look upon sin. Remember how Jesus called out to Him from the cross, but God the Father could not look on Him nor hear Him for He had become sin for His elect.
In that passage in Exodus 15 Moses pronounces the reality of a righteous God. A God that is wholly, infinitely clean, completely consecrated, that is, wholly set apart from sin.
It is in these realities that we learn that our righteous Lord will do no iniquity: He is of a pure and wholly clean vision and it is a wonderful and magnificent demonstration of Deity that He cannot deny Himself, that is, that He can do nothing that is in the least contrary to that wholly clean nature. He never needs to retract a word or change His mind for all of His Decrees of Creation were honorable and wholly clean at their conception.
His will is the rule of righteousness, and righteousness is the rule of His will.
Moses and the Old Testament saints knew this, Gen. 18:25, "That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
This same thing is put forward by the apostle Paul as a question not to be answered in Romans 3:5 and 6, "But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?"
We have a third argument for the righteousness of God in the constant rule and measure of God's giving, which is not done by chance, nor is it rashly done, but the gifts of God are given deliberately and with absolute exactness. There is love in His giving but there is also reason. It is given in His own time and in the exact amount that He knows that we need. He takes care of our needs not our greeds.
In Isa. 28:17 we read these words, "Judgement also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet...."
In studying this passage we find that the Hebrew for line has to do with "a standard of truth or rectitude" and the plummet is a symbol used for an "act" or "measuring and act" so that we find God saying through His prophet that He will judge our standards and values and our truth and will lay our acts beside His "cleanness", that "absolute cleanness."
Our God will not punish without a cause, nor will He punish more than is actually deserved.
Concerning the sins of Sodom, "I will go down now, and see whether they had done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know," Gen. 18:21.
He says He will judge their standards and values and put their acts along side His "complete cleanness" to see if it measures up to what He expects from His creation (this is what is meant in the New Testament when we read, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God," we all fail the test when measured by his "holiness"). He renders to each and every one according to their deeds, Rom. 2:6, Paul is speaking of Christ, "Who will render to every man according to his deeds:," and gives to them a just recompense of reward, Heb. 2:2, "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward," Paul ,then wants to know how shall the elect escape if they neglected the great salvation provided them by Father.
Job is very succinct in chapter 8 and verse 20, "Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evildoers:." Here is eternal security for the perfect man is the man whose sins are under the blood and so not accounted to Him but were put on Jesus at the cross and there Jesus died for them and now the elect one is free, perfect, without sin in the eyes of God.
Going back to our quote from Job, the word "man" does not appear in the original but was added for clarity, the Hebrew word usually means "pious" but is more specific since it is usually coupled with ideas like "upright." Our English language mostly substitutes "godly" for "pious" for the word has taken on some bad connotations. God, then, will not cast away the godly upright man, not perfect, as we said, in the sense of sinless.
In Job 4:7 Eliphaz asks, "...who ever perished being innocent?..."
The righteousness of God is such that He even holds back His wrath until the innocent are out of danger as we so clearly see in Rev. 7:3, "...Hurt not the earth, neither the sea nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their Foreheads." Here the Greek word for sealed means "mark for preservation." Good Baptist that I am I certainly believe in the preservation of the believer. Our God is concerned with His own at all times.
Remember, also, when the Lord came to destroy Sodom, nothing took place until the righteous Lot was taken to Zoar and His only thought was, "Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything until thou be come thither..." Gen. 19:22.
We always see pictures painted with Lot and his family running away from the city and the fire already falling and Lot's wife looking back on a burning city. A burning city would not have tugged at her heart strings. She looked back on the City of Sodom while it still looked as it always did, inviting and attractive.
The righteousness of God is further in evidence in the laws He gave to man. The sum of these laws is to do righteously and if a man live by them his end will be a good end for these laws are for mans welfare.
Compare the laws of God and the laws of man and you will quickly see that those laws of man that are good laws and are for his eternal welfare grow out of the laws of God.
Men change their minds and opinions concerning their laws but the laws of God are stable, sound and unchanged. "Thou camest down also upon Mt. Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments." Neh. 9:13.
The law of the Old Testament He knew we could not keep and so He furnished us with a Lamb that took away our sin, shed His blood for our inability. The perfection of the Lamb, without spot or blemish, covered us with His righteousness so that we stand before the Father in that robe that covers our own, it covers that robe that Isaiah said was "as filthy rags" or as the Hebrew says, rags that have been used to wipe the pus from a lepers sores.
The laws of the New Testament are not burdensome, we are to love Him and love others. In Romans 12 we read that we are not to be slothful, but fervent in spirit; serving the Lord. We are to rejoice, be patient, be in prayer, giving to the necessity of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And in Gal. 5:22-23 we read, "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness temperance; against such there is no law." These are the laws we ought to have now and they would not be burden, they would be a joy.
But now let's take an overview of these laws that are for our good:
1. Concerning our duty towards God no doubt is left when Jesus during His temptation tells Satan, "...thou shalt worship the Lord they God, and him only shalt thou serve." Matthew 4:10.
Many are not going to like what I have to say here but the meaning of "worship" has been ignored for a long time and it's time we got back to the truth. The Greek word used here is "proskieneo" and it means, and I quote Strongs Exhaustive Concordance, "to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand; to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (lit. or fig.) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):-worship."
Note that the English word "prostrate" comes from this Greek word. And we might note that in the Bible when people pray the word prostrate is usually the word used rather than kneel or stand.
The English dictionary tells us that homage is to pay allegiance to, it is the service of a vassal. The lesser pays allegiance to the greater for all that he has. In medieval times the vassal received his lands from his lord and in return gave his lord his service upon request and without question.
Reverence is to show awe, adoration, homage, honor, etc.
When our Matthew 4 verse says worship it is speaking volumes. We go to church to worship but what happens, chatter, gossip, babies and children running about, constant chaos. There is no preparation at home for worship. People rush about to get dressed arguing and chattering instead of getting up in time to do things slowly so that thought can be given to the day and the coming services. There probably is no Bible reading or prayer before leaving for the church-house.
On arrival there is no place to meditate, to sit quietly to pray, or read from God's Word. We prepare for worship in chaos, arrive at the church-house in chaos, enter into the House of God in a chaos of chatter and laughter, worship is the thing that is furthest from our minds.
There is nothing more equalizing and just than to worship and serve Him to whom we belong, to love Him and live for Him from whom we have our breath and life particularly when we consider that His laws are wholly clean and perfect even as He is. They are without spot or blemish. They are life. "Judges and officers shalt thou make in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shall not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the lord thy God giveth thee." Dent. 16:18-20.
2. The second part of our overview of those laws of God that are given for our good is that those laws that have immediate and direct bearing on man, such as, temperance, chastity, moderation, sobriety, etc. are favorable to our outward welfare in all things such as health, estate, posterity, etc.
If these be for our good then the contrary must have an evil consequence especially where our spiritual state and welfare is concerned.
3. These commandments that have to do with our duty towards others, i.e., to do justly, to show mercy, to be at peace with all men, to mind our own business and not meddle in the affairs of others. Then there are those that tell us to "be subject" to those in power and to pray for those in authority, if we do not do these things we could very well bring persecution down on our own heads. These are those things that fall under the rule of doing for others as we would they should do to us.
There is nothing that is forbidden except those things that would bring hurt to us. There are many instances where doing contrary to His righteous laws brings suffering and hurt to the one who fails in obedience to these laws.
4. To these three might be added the strictest injunction laid down by God upon the subordinate dispensers of His justice (assemblies, pastors and elders), to do absolutely according to His law, not to distort or pervert judgment, nor respect persons, "Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous." Deut. 16:19. It is a great and heavy burden that we as churches of the Living God must bear. But would God command men to do this or that and not do much more Himself?
Another beautiful proof of the righteousness of God is that He puts the matter of our duty in such a way and with such method as makes it readily learned and a contributor to our good.
For instance, in Eccles. 12:1 we are told to remember God when we are young, i.e., remember our Creator in the days of our youth. The young change more easily than the old. God can change the old and the young by conversion, change is much easier for the young before they have formed those habits that are so strong and so difficult to rid themselves of. A long life of sin does not make salvation impossible but it estranges the mind from God and makes the spirit more inflexible. It can be very hard for the older sinner to make the change. But God can save whom He will old or young. When the old are saved it is often difficult to get them to really mature in the Word of God and to grow in grace and knowledge. It is a rare and difficult thing for a man to "be born again when he is old." John 3.
The young have the opportunity to watch for and suppress the first motions of sin, to have the better chance of avoiding the tendency. To do this one must take heed of his or her spirit, Mal. 2:15, and here the Hebrew word for "heed" comes from a root word for "hedge" as with thorns, in other words to guard, or to protect so that the word used means to "beware"! When we are young we are to protect our spirit, take heed of the terrors that are out there in the world and guard ourselves from them. We are to keep the heart with all diligence, Prov. 4:23, again for the word "keep" the Hebrew words means "to guard or protect", also is "to obey and maintain". So we are not only to protect our hearts but our hearts are to obey, maintain the laws of God. We are to abstain from all appearances of evil, 1 Thess. 5:22. This is a statement that needs no illumination, it speaks very plainly. Do not even appear to do evil. For instance, when I was teaching, being single, and being a pastor I would not ride alone in a car with a woman nor would I go into a house or apartment where there was no other man present. Although I would know that I was innocent the world might judge me by their standards and so assume sin on my part. Do not even appear to do evil.
Jude 23, says to hate even the garment that is spotted by the flesh. The Greek word used for garment here indicates an under tunic that garment that actually touches the flesh and so becomes soiled by it.
And so God says that it is simpler to nip sin in the bud, to keep an enemy from rising that it is to have to have to kill that enemy. The easier way is to grow up with the knowledge of God and of sin and to learn early to be aware those things that we have spoken about above.
The Bible tells us that what is not of faith is sin, and so when there is a question concerning an action it can not be done of faith and so since it's lawfulness is dubious then it should not be done at all.
Then there is 1 Cor. 6:12 that tells us that some things are not expedient, that is not suitable under the circumstances. Some think that if they can arrive at their desired end then the way there is right, that the end justifies the means. But let us remember that we should always adhere to principle rather than to utility or advantage. Too often expediency is nothing more than another way of saying "situational ethics".
God is exceedingly insistent where there is great duty, such as faith, love, patience, self-denial, etc. Let us look at these for it is adherence to these duties that make His righteousness available to us.
1. Faith, consists in submitting to the righteousness of God, taking hold of his strength, and following the conduct of His wisdom. This, then, shows us our own sinfulness, weaknesses and folly and that we are filled with the same vanity as other men and that this sinfulness, weakness and folly still fails in the time of greatest need. Learning this then we can learn to lean on Him in whom alone we have righteousness and strength, "Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength:...."
2. Love: this is a powerful, active, candid and obliging principle; bears all things; thinks no evil; takes all in good part, so we are told in 1 Cor. 13:5. Love makes that both endurable and pleasant which, without love, would be both harsh and burdensome.
3. Patience and meekness of spirit; these mitigate the anguish of any suffering, and often prevent or calm a storm that is rising: "A soft answer turneth away wrath:..." Proverbs 15: 1.
Patience and meekness of spirit also breed experience: a) that any afflictions may be borne through Him that strengthens, 11 Cor. 12:9, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness..." b) That all afflictions are always for our profit, "For they verily for a few days chasten us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." Heb. 12: 10. Holiness is separation from all that is sinful and so His chastening is that we might grow away from our sin into His holiness. c) that we cannot well do without these afflictions. 1 Peter 1:6,7 tells us that it is these afflictions that make us more and more pure like the gold that passes through the fire seven times to be made pure, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." So we see that passing through these trials is even more than gold passing through the fire for we are brought to that moment when we bring praise, honour and glory to our God.
Next, d) we begin to have some understanding of what God is trying to teach us through these trials which age and worldly passions often drown out so that again the believer remains a babe in Christ.
To work in us this patience instructs us in His word that there is a cause for every chastening: and that cause is from ourselves, and therefore, no cause for complaint. He teaches us that He does not afflict us willingly but only when there is need and then no more than we can bare, no more than is absolutely necessary. And very importantly, He teaches that there are many wonderful ends in our afflictions, as, to humble us for sin committed as He humbled the brothers of Joseph in Gen. 42:21, "And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us."
We also learn that these afflictions are to purge out the dross of our lives as He did in the case of King Manasseh of Judah, 11 Chron. 33:11-13, "Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God."
God has a lesson for everyone, it is through affliction that we are prevented from sin that we might otherwise fall into, as in Paul's case, 11 Cor. 12:7, "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." Paul here admits that he could have fallen into egotistical ways and felt himself more important that other Christians had it not been for the affliction that God gave him, his "thorn in the flesh".
These afflictions are there to wean us from the world as He did Baruch in Jer. 45:4,5, "...Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest." These words were spoken to Baruch at the instruction of God to bring him comfort and instruction when he learned the future of Judah and Jerusalem.
Other reasons for our trials in teaching us patience is that we might learn to exercise our graces; as Abraham's great faith in the face of many temptations.
And never forget that the lesser trials prepare the way for the greater trials and so we should never let a trial pass by without studying it, meditating on it, coming to know it as God would have us know it and so prepare for the greater that will surely come.
Among the duties mentioned was self-denial. If you would defeat self-love and fleshly lusts (and when the word lust is used it is not just sexual lust that is being spoken of for there are many lusts that the body suffers) then you must learn to practice self-denial, that is, to deny positively these sins from your life.
The righteousness of God is further seen when it is seen that He affixes rewards and punishments to good and evil works respectively, according to what is the proper result and natural product of them. "Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap," Gal 6:7. "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him," Isa. 3:10,11. "Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings," Jer. 32:19
Holiness has in it a natural tendency to life and peace: "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life;..." Proverbs 11:30. And reasonably then grace and glory grow from that that same root with salvation as the end of faith, the flower that grows upon that wonderful tree. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:9, "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
What is the end of it all then, this fixing of rewards for good and evil, "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever," Isa. 32:17. If the root be holy, the branches cannot be otherwise, to paraphrase Romans 11:16b.
It is the same with sin, death follows sin, not only as a punishment but also as its natural offspring. Original corruption is the root; sin the stalk that grows next upon it and death the finishing touch, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death," James 1:14,15.
Even if there were no justice to revenge sin, sin would take vengeance on itself, Proverbs 1:18 says, "And they lay wait for their own blood;...."
Unbelief maybe the root out of which all sins are derived, this was Adam's sin in Genesis 3, it was the root of all the rebellion of the Jews while they were in the wilderness, "...How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them," Numbers 14:11.
Unbelief was the root cause for the Jews rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, in John 19 when Jesus is standing before Pilate Jews called out to have Jesus crucified and then in verse 7 we read, "...We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God."
Faith is that which holds the soul to God, its life and blessedness; unbelief is departing from Him or letting go of its hold, the loosing of the knot upon which the soul falls off of its own accord. The first step away from God is in the way of death, eternal death, it is a branch breaking off from its stock and dying of itself. This was Adam's unbelief, in all men since it is refusing to return.
The righteousness of God is further illustrated by His dealings with His people. The Jews though long under oppression, some four hundred years plus, were finally brought out by God with greater riches and substance than when they first arrived in Egypt as a small family out of Canaan. His leading them about in wilderness for some 40 years, as though they were in a maze, and then bringing them back to where they had been at an earlier time when they might have entered the land. It probably seemed strange to those who had made that long trek and may even seem strange to some today but it proved to be the right way, Psalm 107:7 says, "And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation."
To read a verse like that makes me think of our own lives as pilgrims (as in Pilgrim's Progress) He leads us on the right way to that great city that He has prepared for us so that where He is we might be also.
Deut. 8:16 furthers this thought that He always leads in the right way, "Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end."
The way often seems hard but we can only see the "now" He sees the "then", He knows that what happens now is for our "good at thy latter end."
David's long persecution by Saul made him better suited to be the king when the time came. It also prepared him to be in a great sense the principle secretary of the Great King. God gave him insight to such affairs of the heavenly kingdom and council as is good for men to know. It was by his words that we read today that we gain such magnificent views, pictures and knowledge of Him whom we also serve.
Think of the latter end of Job after all he suffered, "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold," Job 23:10 and in Job 42:12 we find "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning:...." If you read on you find that God doubled His blessings to Job materially and gave him sons and daughters again.
And even of the Babylonian captivity we read in Jeremiah 24:5, "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good." "For their good," how can that be that it is for someone's good that they be made a captive and slave and be carried away from their home? One day it will be clear all things are for our good.
Then there is one of the most valuable lessons in the Bible, even Jesus the Christ Himself suffered the temptations, the sorrows, the pain and the suffering, and His were such as were never known to man, they were intended and succeeded in perfecting and enabling Him to come to His office of Mediator, Hebrews 2:17 and 18, "Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." In a sense His suffering worked for His good for He was able to become what the Father intended Him to be and it was certainly for our good so that we can become what our Father intends us to be, like Christ.
One of the most important instances and evidences of the righteousness of God appears in how He acts toward His elect; those precious souls whom He has loved from eternity past, those whom He has determined He will bring to glory.
Yet they have sinned and not one of them can enter into that glory that has been prepared for them until satisfaction has been made to His justice for those sins. He must above all be a just God and the sins of the elect must be paid for, we read in Romans 8:3,4 "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
The glory of God does not consist only in showing mercy but doing it in such a manner as not to clash with His justice. It is part of His name and His glory that "Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty;..." Exodus 34:7.
Then well you may ask, Who then will be saved? since all the world is found guilty before God, a paraphrase of Rom. 3:19.
Yet there was a way for God to show mercy, a way that is forever wonderful and matchless, a way no man can accomplish, and in this is shown the manifold wisdom of God as well as His righteousness. He and He alone was able to make a way for mercy and truth to meet together, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other," Psalm 85:10.
This meeting together of mercy and truth was done by transferring the guilt of His chosen upon another one who was able to bear it, and to give a more adequate satisfaction to His justice than they ever could have done by their personal suffering which was typified by the law of the scapegoat in Lev. 16:8,10,26, "And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat." "But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness." "And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp."
We see here the teaching of the separation of man from his sins, a teaching of great importance to man. Here we see Christ in two representations, the One who dies for our sins and the One who takes our sins away, we are forever separated from our sins, all of our sins. Christ as our substitute has made ample satisfaction for all the sins of His people.
And, finally concerning the righteousness of God we must consider the great instance of Christ Himself, the first elect, and the head of all the family, and the pact made between Him and God the Father.
Though Jesus was His Son, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles," Isa. 42:1, this is the Messianic prophecy that refers to our Lord as God's "elect," and tells us of the love between the Father and the Son.
Even so there was the pact made, if He will undertake the salvation of sinners, then He must stand in their place. All their sins must meet upon Him and He must bear the punishment due to them, Isa. 53:4,5, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed that that the cup of death might pass from Him knowing full well that it could never be even though He prayed as Paul tells us in Hebrews 5:7,8, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;..." Though the Father loved Him as His own soul yet the pact must be fulfilled. He was not, he must not be, released until He had paid for the very smallest and seemingly most insignificant sin.
Grace may be perfectly free to men in pardoning and saving them but justice must be satisfied and not one sin past, present or future was passed over when the Lord suffered and died for those sins.
This last unparalleled instance of incomparable justice vitally illustrates the point that we have been considering for all the past pages: Our great and sovereign God can never do anything that is not right. He always does right and His word will never lead you wrong.