Pslam 146 “Righteousness”
“God loves the righteous.” That is the theme for this third Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday of Advent we talked about peace—that divine peace that we can get from knowing Jesus in our lives. Last week, the Second Sunday, we discussed the notion of “justice,” and that we cannot have true peace in this world unless we have justice. So, you should see that we are following a progression of thought that leads us today to “righteousness.”
I want you, please, to consider this basic scenario: A person is assaulted. There are physical injuries as well as a robbery. The victim calls the police. The police capture the assaulter. He is then picked up in a police car and held in jail. What do you think? Is everything made right again? Has justice been served? Is the victim now at peace? Probably not.
The story continues therefore. A trial is held against the assaulter. A jury decides to send him off to prison for ten years. During the sentencing, the victim is allowed to address the assaulter. He is eventually taken away to serve his term. Justice is now served. Is everybody at peace?
The story continues. In prison the man is treated badly. He too is assaulted. He finds no peace in prison. The victim is now suffering PTSD as well and also finds no peace in life.
Well, justice has been served, but the story lacks the righteousness of God. Let us add that to the story. While the assaulter is in jail, another ministers to him and he comes to accept Jesus in his heart. He finally in the end feels remorse for what he has done. He begins to reconcile his life to Jesus. He earnestly writes a letter of sincere apology to the person he victimized. Is everybody at peace?
Not yet! The woman who was assaulted is afraid to open the letter of apology. She still has hatred and fear in her heart. She is after all a victim. She goes to church and hears a sermon on forgiveness and the courage that that takes, and how forgiveness can lead to a freeing of the soul. In that moment she comes to forgive the man who attacked and robbed her. Is everybody at peace?
Eventually as the years go by, both pass away and find themselves before Jesus in heaven. Jesus is on his throne. The book of life is open. Jesus looks down upon the two and proclaims “All right then”
Rarely do we use this term “righteousness,” yet constantly we hear the idiom “Everything all right then?” Let me ask you then, “Is everything all right in your life?” Can Jesus look down from heaven today and say “All right!”
Do you remember the story of Noah? Genesis 8, if you cannot bring it back to your memory. The bible says that Noah was a righteous man. The term that is used in Hebrew here is “tsedek.” The term has been the cause of many a theological debate among those who know Hebrew. Some, like myself, like to translate the term not as “righteous” but rather as “vindicated.” You will recall, that everyone thought that Noah was crazy for building his Ark. Yet, when the rain came down, and the great flood was visited upon the earth, Noah was vindicated! It is hard to say that he was vindicated before the rain fell, so in this case we simply say “righteous.”
The other most famous bible character that is given the adjective “Tsedek” is of course Job. In the very first verse of Chapter one, we read that “Job was a righteous man.” That is why the devil was after him. Likewise we know in the end of the story of Job that his life is vindicated. He suffers the loss of so much, but he gains it all back. He wins over Satan in the end because of his steadfast faith in God.
Now, I have to very carefully point out to you that it is very hard being “right all the time.” Such people we like to call self-righteous. Our Bible does not tell us to be self-righteous but rather to be vindicated by God in heaven in the way we live our lives. Big difference for sure!
In Ephesians 6:14 we can read about the whole armor of God. Please note that it is the “sword of Truth” that Saint Paul mentions, but only the “breastplate of righteousness.” That is to say that righteousness is a defensive device. It protects you. It is not the “sword of righteousness.” It is a breastplate of protection.
Politicians would be wise to consider these words. One can wield the sword of truth against another candidate, a political rival, but unless you are wearing that very thick breastplate of righteousness, one is probably going to have to take the sword in to the chest one’s self.
Maybe you will still win the election, but in the end you may not be vindicated by God. Just knowing the truth about someone else is never good enough. You have to be right with God in heaven. Maybe you are a senator, governor, or the president; but are you all right?
Verse 8 from our Scripture for today: “Open your eyes. . . .God loves the righteous.”
The verses leading up to verse 8: vs.1: Praise God in all you do. Vs.3: Trust in God, not in humankind. Vs 5: Keep hope and faith in God. Vs. 8: Open your eyes. . . God loves the righteous.
But pastor, you have told us again and again that Jesus loves the sinner! We have all missed the mark. WE have all fallen short. No one is righteous. We are all sinners. And, yes, that is all right, because that is the most righteous thing you can say about yourself.
In 1538 Martin Luther wrote “... according to the Divine reckoning,” that, “we are in fact and totally righteous, even though sin is present. So we are in fact at the same time and altogether sinners” There is even a Latin term for this! “Simul peacatus.” Although we are righteous, we are so in our sinful nature. And, that is how God loved us enough to send His only begotten Son. (John 3:16)
Yes, we are all running the good race, even though we are limping all the while. You know, Jared is running a marathon this morning. Before he went off to Oahu to compete, he showed how his muscles on both legs were in knots above the knee. It looked incredibly painful. The fact that he is still running the race really affected me. He has won the race in my mind already. He has taken his infirmity and continued to the finish line. That is what we all need to do. That is what God’s righteous people will do.
I was reminded by a catholic friend of mine that this last Thursday was a day of obligation for the feast of immaculate conception of Mother Mary. Whereas there is no biblical basis for the idea that Mother Mary was created via immaculate conception, and the catholic church’s acceptance of the dogma is relatively new (1854), we all understand that that Mary was a person chosen by God. Interestingly enough in Matthew 1:19 we read that Joseph was deemed a “righteous man” for staying betrothed to Mary knowing that the child was not his. We have no mention of Mary here. For Mary, the bible reads that she is “blessed” (Luke 1:42). It does not say that she was righteous—much less immaculate—that is, without sin.
Honestly, I think we should see this as it is. Jesus was born at Christmas to a woman who was blessed by God. And, like all of us, she had bad things that had happened to her. She was also of sinful nature. She was all right. She was vindicated by Christ. Through the circumstances of her having been blessed by God, she became righteous. Yup, she was all right!
Peace, justice, and righteousness. To have true peace, we must have justice in our lives. To know true justice, we have to accept God’s righteousness.