The King Whose Name Is “YHWH Is Our Righteousness”
“And this is the name by which he will be called, “YHWH is our Righteousness.”
– Jeremiah 23:6
The kings of Judah during Jeremiah’s days were corrupt and idolatrous. 23:1 tells us that they were like shepherds who destroyed and scattered their sheep. However, the Lord promises to raise up a Righteous King from the line of David, a king who will rule with God’s own heart and care for his people rather than harming them. And then, in verse 6, we are told the king’s “name”: YHWH is Our Righteousness.
Awesome. And we know who this King ultimately is – Jesus Christ, God who is man and man who is God, the final and true King from David’s line. But Jesus was never called “YHWH is Our Righteousness” during His time on earth, how can I say that He is the King in view in Jeremiah 23:6? In this post I hope to look at why Jesus is the King and then to consider what that means for us.
Jesus is YHWH is Our Righteousness
There are many passages that we could turn to in order to establish that Jesus is the ultimate King of God’s people, however I think the text that best shows us His fulfillment of this specific title comes in 1 Corinthians 1:30,
“And because of Him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…”
In this verse we see that through His gospel-work, Jesus Himself – the incarnate God – has become righteousness to us. Staggering. Jesus Christ is the righteousness of the one who has faith in Him. Now, this doesn’t exclude the fact that the Christian must become increasingly righteous in their thoughts and actions (see that Jesus has also become sanctification to us, that is, He is the one in whom we grow in holiness), however I don’t want us to miss the beautiful reality that Jesus is our righteousness….He, YHWH in the flesh, is our righteousness through the gospel.
One of the central wonders of the gospel, and one of the marks that makes it so different from man-made “paths of salvation,” is that the gospel teaches us that – at the roots – our righteousness before God is not something we’ve done or that we’ve accomplished, it is not even something that originates in side of us……ultimately, the only righteousness that can save the human soul is a person, Jesus Christ.
We see a similar teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:21, where Paul writes,
“God made [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is the great exchange, the act of God that puts all other “gods” to shame. The Father made His Son to become sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Notice that we do not become righteous by a self-originating righteousness….rather, we become the righteousness of another. So, see the glorious God-centeredness of our salvation: in God, we becomes the righteousness of God, so that we might stand before God robed in the righteousness that is Himself, and so be able to enjoy God for all of eternity. As with all things, our salvation and eternal joy is “from Him, through Him, and to Him” (Romans 11:36), all of this happens because of Jesus Christ, “YHWH is Our Righteousness.”
Now to mention two of the infinite implications that flow from these things…
Our Righteousness is, Foundationally, a Person.
Really this should not be a surprise. We live in a reality created by the Tri-Personal God, and so it is to be expected that a Person (namely, Himself) is at the roots of everything. That being said, it is still surprising. I am conditioned to think of “righteousness” as accomplishments or achievements or things I’ve done, “fruits” in my life….and for sure, that is true. In fact, it’s so true that without the fruit of righteousness in our life we have no assurance of salvation. However, at the foundational level – at the very deepest, unshakable root of true righteousness – we do not find a “what”, but a “who”: Jesus Christ.
The righteousness of the people of God is a person, it is Jesus Christ, the King whose name is “YHWH is Our Righteousness.” Every one of us is careening toward a final judgment, a real moment where we will stand, naked to the soul, before the all holy God. And when His eyes burn to the core of our being, if He finds a “what” there as the basis of our hope – we will be lost. But, if – after all is stripped away – He finds a “who,” if He finds His own Son, if it is revealed that we have leaned on, hidden in, looked to Jesus Christ alone as our righteousness – we will be welcomed in with songs of tear-stirring joy.
And could it really be any other way? Could God accept any being into His own Trinitarian fellowship that was not righteous as He is righteous, Holy as He is holy? Could anyone but God set foot into the banquet hall of the Triune YHWH? There is no way any created being could enter unfettered fellowship with God apart from the miracle that God has performed, namely, making Himself our righteousness in Jesus Christ. We have no hope but Him…Oh, friends, the only righteousness that will survive the final Day is the righteousness of God Himself, so – just as Noah fled to the Ark and so survived the deluge – let us run to and hide in YHWH made flesh, Jesus Christ, and let us claim HIM ALONE as our only hope for righteousness before God our Judge.
Our Only Hope is to be Found in Him
“For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
– Philippians 3:8-9
When Paul woke up to the reality that the righteousness that God requires is Jesus Christ, he saw his entire religious life in a new light. Gone were the days of counting up righteous deeds, of patting himself on the back for this or that good work, polishing his internal sense of purity with acts of kindness.The only thing God will accept into His fellowship is HIMSELF, therefore the only righteousness He will accept is His own righteousness in Christ.
If we trust in ourselves that we our righteous, truly it can be said, to hell with our good works! “Yes”, they must be present in our lives, but “no” they cannot form the basis for our hope. Jesus Christ is the banquet of divine righteousness that God has given to all who will trust in Him, and to bring our own “good works” to the table is like lugging a bag of manure into the banquet hall, spreading it on the table and then smiling and saying, “look at the good things I’ve done, Lord.” No….our only hope is to be “found in Him,” to be hidden in Christ by faith.
If this is true – if our God became man and poured Himself out in agonizing love under our punishment, becoming our sin so that He might become our righteousness – then it is blindness and insanity to look to anything else to make us acceptable in His sight! HERE is salvation! HERE is hope! HERE is rest, purity, holiness, divine embrace – it comes in CHRIST ALONE! Let us run to Him afresh (or for the first time)! Let us run to and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith!