Are You an Instrument of Righteousness?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 4-7

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” – Romans 6:13

What is an instrument for righteousness?

How do I know if I am an instrument for righteousness?

First, we have to know what righteousness is.

The word righteousness sounds like being right. Therefore, we tend to get it in our minds that righteousness is behaving rightly or correctly according to some set of rules, laws, or moral code. Conversely, if we break one of those rules or law, if we violate our moral code, then we are unrighteous.

But, this is not what righteousness is, at least according to God.

In “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?“, I showed that the righteousness of God was manifested at an appointed time. This time was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote that the scriptures – the law and the prophets – bear witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the righteousness of God.

This is the very thing that Jesus taught the disciples. Luke 24:44-46 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.'”

Romans 5:18 says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

The one act of righteousness is the suffering and rising from the dead of Jesus. That one act, which is the righteousness of God, justifies and gives life to all men.

Therefore, the righteousness of God is suffering and dying for others at the expense of oneself while trusting God to raise you from the dead to life. That sounds a lot like love and how we know love according to 1 John 4.

Consequently, unrighteousness is seeking my own advantage, benefit, blessing, comfort, contentment, ease, favor, and pleasure at the expense of others while becoming death. That sounds a lot like living in fear, which is the opposite of love according to 1 John 4.

On the one hand Paul says to present our members to God as instruments for righteousness. But, on the other hand, Paul says to not present our members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. It’s a direct contrast that Paul is making.

Except Paul tells us to present ourselves, not just our members, to God “as from death to life” (that’s the literal Greek).

What does Paul mean?

He means that we should present ourselves, our whole beings, to God just as Jesus did. To truly present ourselves to God we must know that it is necessary to suffer so that we can be raised to life. We cannot be raised to life without suffering.

And, if we do that, then we can present our members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Just what is an instrument for righteousness?

It means that we suffer to be raised to life for others.

But, the Greek more literally translates as weapons of righteousness.

To present our members to God as instruments for righteousness is to to present our bodies as weapons of suffering and rising to life for others.

Do you get that?

We are to be weapons of suffering.

This is how we fight in God’s war against evil.

We present our bodies as weapons of suffering.

We do not fight in God’s war against evil by trying to perfectly live up to rules, laws, or a moral code.

We fight in God’s war as weapons of suffering.

We love our enemies.

We bless those that persecute us.

We return evil with good.

As Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

In Romans 12:10-19, Paul says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves.”

If you do those things, then you be a weapon of suffering.

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

The Greek word for weapons in verse 4 is the same Greek word that Paul uses in saying we are to presents our members to God as “instruments for righteousness.”

So, what are “the weapons of our warfare?”

The righteousness of God.

Suffering, dying, being raised to life.

It is out suffering in the very face and onslaught of evil that has divine power to destroy the strongholds in the mind of the evil doer. It is our suffering in the face of persecution that destroys evil and wicked thoughts against the true knowledge of God.

Is this not what Christ demonstrated on the cross in his one act of righteousness?

Is this not what Jesus said all of the scriptures testify to?

Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2-7.

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons [same Greek word] of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.”

Afflictions.

Hardships.

Calamities.

Beatings.

Imprisonments.

Weapons of righteousness.

Weapons of suffering.

In the right hand and the left hand.

Where was Christ nailed to the cross? Where were Jesus’ weapons of suffering?

Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

The Greek word for “whole armor” has the same root as the word Paul has been using for weapons of righteousness. We can truly stand against Satan and his schemes when we present our members to God as weapons of suffering. When we do that we cannot be deceived by Satan’s schemes to act in our own self interest. This is how we war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Peter makes the direct comparison that since Christ suffered for others then we should think the same way. When Peter says to arm ourselves, the Greek word for arm has the same root as the word for weapons and instruments.

So, to be an instrument of righteousness is to be a weapon of suffering. We need to have the same mind as Jesus – the necessity of suffering to be raised to life.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 1-3

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26

I have heard this passage of scripture used in a way that sends a whole lot of people to hell.

I believe Paul’s words get used this way because the translation suffers due to the theological bias of the translators and a misunderstanding of the righteousness of God. The translations are biased and the righteousness of God misunderstood because so many Christians do not see God as only good, as a giver of only life, and as being just because he punishes the wicked with the eternally tormenting fire of hell.

However, if you see God as only, as a giver of life only and never death, and as being just because by grace and mercy he forgives us all for doing what we did not know we were doing, then you will understand these words of Paul in an entirely different way. This other way is more suited to God’s character – light and not darkness, love and not fear that has to do with punishment – and, in my opinion, supported the actual Greek Paul wrote.

Therefore, I will do my best to reveal to clearly and simply reveal by the Spirit what Paul is saying.

Let’s start with the phrase “righteousness of God.” The word righteousness in the Greek is dikaiosyne. This is the word dikaios with the suffix syne.

The ultimate root of dikaios is the dike. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, “It is generally agreed the dike, the basic term in this group, is related to deiknymi, ‘show, indicate.’ Thus its root meaning would be ‘that which is indicated, is in usage, is customary,’ and it from this starting point that it ends up meaning justice. The first appearance of this meaning is as a mythical divine being: ‘There is a virgin, Dike, daughter of Zeus, honored and revered by the gods, inhabitants of Olympia,’ who denounces the unjust deeds of humans before her father and call for their punishment.”

Wait.

What?

Did you get that?

The ultimate root, dike, of the all the words meaning righteousness and justice in the Bible first appeared meaning justice in the context of the virgin of daughter of Zeus who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment.

Is this not what many Christians believe about God?

Is this not what many Christians believe Jesus is going to do at his second coming?

Many Christians believe that Jesus is going to come back and denounce all those that failed to believe in him, which is their unjust deed, and call for their punishment, sending them to fires of hell for eternal torment.

Dear Christian, are you worshiping Dike, the virgin daughter of Zeus, or Jesus, the son of God?

I’ve barely begun and should not alarm bells be going of in our heads?

Am I to believe that Jesus came to reveal that God is actually like Dike, the virgin of Zeus?

Of course not.

Dikaios is an adjective that means something is just, right, or equitable. With dikaios, we can say that something is just, right, or equitable really, actually, factually, concretely, materially, or objectively.

But, Paul is not writing about the dikaios – the actual or objective justness or rightness – of God here. No, Paul is writing about the dikaiosyne of God.

The Greek suffix syne makes the noun it is attached to abstract. Something is abstract if it is disassociated from any specific instance, difficult to understand, insufficiently factual; dealing with a subject apart from an object.

Paul is writing about the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God. This righteousess of God is not associated with any specific instance, difficult to understand, and insufficiently factual.

Until…

“It was manifested.”

The abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God was manifested. The Greek word for manifest, phaneroo, means to reveal, make clear, make manifest. Something is manifest if it is readily perceived by the senses, especially by the sight or easily understood or recognized by the mind. Therefore, the righteousness of God, which was hard to understand, has been made easy to understand. The righteousness of God, which we could not see because it was hypothetical and philosophical, has been made visible. The righteousness of God is now something you can really and clearly see with your own eyes.

How was the abstract righteousness of God manifested?

“Apart from the law.”

The Greek word for “apart from” is choris. It also means without. There is no Greek word the in the original. Therefore, the abstract righteousness of God was manifested “without law.”

Do you understand what Paul is saying?

God’s abstract righteousness, which is hard to understand and perceive, was made real and visible without law. You don’t need law, any law, to understand the righteousness of God. As Western Christians, to understand what is just and right without law goes against everything we know and believe about justice and righteousness. Because in our minds, we only know, conceive, and perceive justice and righteousness if there is a law that can or cannot be broken.

If the abstract righteousness of God was manifested without law, then how did we come to see this righteousness and have it clearly revealed to us?

“Although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

Now, we start getting into some translation problems.

There is no Greek word for although in Paul’s writing. However, there is an untranslated Greek word, de. De means but or and, which is how it is translated the vast majority of the time. I believe this word that was left untranslated should be translated “but.”

Immediately after the untranslated de is a second dikaisyne theou, the righteousness of God. This will be very important as we go.

We might say, “But the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

However, this is still not correct.

“Bear witness to it” is the Greek word martyroumene. The way this has been translated makes it sound like “the Law and the Prophets” are actively bearing witness to the righteousness of God. But, this cannot be correct because martyrourmene is a singular, present, passive, participle.

Basically, a participle is a verb that becomes an adjective. In English, we typically add -ing to a verb to make a participle. In our case, the word would be witnessing.

The voice passive means the subject is being acted upon by the verb. Therefore, if “the Law and the Prophets” are the subject of the passive martyroumene, then it should read something like “but the Law and the Prophets being witnessed.” It would be “the Law and the Prophets” that are being witnessed. But, “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed. We know from the rest of the Bible that “the Law and the Prophets,” which are together known as the scripture, do the witnessing. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

The present tense means an action that is continuous and ongoing. The passive action of being witnessed to that is happening to the subject is continuous and ongoing. Again, this makes it clear that “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed on a continual and ongoing basis.

This present, passive participle is singular. The singular thing Paul is writing about is the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is the subject that is passively being witnessed to on a continual and ongoing basis.

Also, there is another untranslated word in the Greek, hypo. The vast majority of the time this word is translated “by.”

Let’s put all of this together so far.

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

To what do “the Law and the Prophets” witness?

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.'” (Luke 24:45-47)

“The Law and the Prophets,” the scriptures, witness to the necessity that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead. That Jesus suffered and rose from the dead is clearly perceived, easily understood, seen by the eyes of more than 500 witnesses. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was the manifestation of God, and Jesus said the scriptures are a witness to that.

Now, it should be clear that the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God is manifested, clearly perceived, easily understood, and visibly seen in the suffering, the crucifixion, of the Christ and his resurrection from the dead.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

How did this come about?

“Through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Now we have more translation problems. I know this is a hotly debated subject.

The word “in” does not exist in the Greek.

Jesus Christ is a noun in the genitive case. Basically, this means that the noun possesses another noun. The other noun that is possessed in our case is faith. Therefore, I side with those who say Paul wrote “the faith of Jesus Christ” not “faith in Jesus Christ.”

The “faith of Jesus Christ” makes more sense when we consider that is “through,” or by means of, “the faith of Jesus Christ that the righteousness of God was manifested without law. It was not our faith in Jesus, which, if we are honest, is at best fickle and wavering, that manifested the righteousness of God but the faith of Jesus that did so.

Why is it the faith of Jesus that is necessary and not our faith in Christ?

The entirety of scripture witnesses that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

Who’s faith made it possible for Jesus to be crucified and rise from the dead?

Yours or his?

Pretty obvious isn’t it.

Jesus required faith in his Father that his Father would raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us torture and crucify him.

That is a tremendous amount of faith.

Care to put your faith into action like that?

You wouldn’t stand a chance.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Why “through the faith of Jesus Christ?”

“For all who believe.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

The Greek word  for “for” is eis. It is by far most often translated to, into, or in.

“To all who believe.”

Who believes though?

“Who” is not in the Greek.

Believe is translated from pisteuontas. It is a present, active, accusative, participle. The accusative case is the case of the direct object. The direct object receives the action of the verb.

While it is tempting to think that we are the direct object of Jesus’ faith, faith is a noun. Therefore, the believing are not the direct object of Jesus faith in this case.

There really is only one verb that pisteuontas could be the direct object of. That verb is manifested. If we strip everything extraneous away, then we would have “And now the righteousness of God has been manifested to all the believing.” Although it is possible to see the the believing as the direct object of being witnessed as well.

The believing are those to whom the abstract righteousness of God has been made visible and clearly perceived without law, being witnessed by the by the law and the prophets that is was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead through the faith of Jesus Christ.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing.”

Are there any that the righteousness of God has not been manifested to?

Is it not the Holy Spirit that manifests and witnesses the righteousness of God to us?

Is this not why the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh after Jesus ascended to heaven?

Sure, the manifestation and witness is more and less from person to person, but I believe scripture clearly shows that the manifestation and witness is happening, and will happen, to all.

Therefore, Paul writes, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Where is there no distinction?

Between Jew and gentile. The Jew has the law. The gentile has no law. But, it doesn’t matter because there is no distinction between them. In fact, all Jews and all gentiles sin and fall short of the glory of God.

But, what else happens to them all?

“And are justified.”

Justified is the present, passive, plural, nominative participle of dikaioo. Dikaioo means justify, declare righteous, set right, vindicate. The nominative case means that this participle is the subject of the sentence. It is passive, meaning the subject is being acted upon. It is present, meaning the process of being justified is ongoing and continual. And, it is plural.

The only possible noun that fits all of these requirements is the all that have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

“All are being justified.”

How are all being justified?

“By his grace.”

In what manner?

“As a gift.”

This is the Greek word dorean. It is an adverb, meaning it describes a verb.

Grace is a noun and not a verb. But, the translation makes it seem like “as a gift” is describing God’s grace.

The only verb dorean could be describing is “being justified.” Dorean means freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, for no reason, for no purpose.

All are being justified freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, and for no reason.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace.”

There is nothing you ever do to warrant justification, being declared righteous. It is by grace.

Therefore, there is nothing you could ever do to not warrant justification, to prevent God from justifying you.

“Through the redemption that i in Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

You guessed it. More translation problems.

The Greek word for “as a propitiation” is hilasterion. It is the word in the Greek Old Testament that means mercy seat.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat, a place of atonement.

“By his blood.”

The Greek word for by is “en.” It is by far most often translated in.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat in his blood, that is covered in his blood.

“To be received by faith.”

The words “to be received” are not in the Greek. And, they should not be in the English.

Who handles the blood on the mercy seat?

The chief priest. The high priest.

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”

Who took Jesus’ blood into the heavenly tabernacle and put it on the mercy seat?

Jesus.

Who’s faith was required to do that?

The faith of Jesus.

Not you. You don’t cover the mercy seat in the blood of Jesus

We are talking the same faith, the faith of Jesus, that we saw above.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God intended to be a mercy seat in his blood by faith.”

In the translation, the next sentence starts, “This was to show God’s righteousness.” However, I think this is the actual conclusion to the sentence we just read. “This was” is not in the Greek. Nor is the word God. It’s the word for his.

It really should just say “to show his righteousness.” That is, the abstract kind.

The Greek word for show, endeixin, is interesting. It also means to demonstrate or prove. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon says it means “a pointing out,”  and as a law term “a laying information against one who discharged public functions for which he was legally disqualified.” Jesus carrying his own blood to the mercy seat in the heavenly tabernacle was information against all of us and Satan who discharge the public function of crucifying Jesus illegally.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness.”

I think the next sentence and its repeated use of endeixin proves (pun intended) why I put the previous one at the end of the last sentence.

Now Paul writes, “Because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time.”

“It was” is not in the Greek. I think this is one thought from Paul that is the preface to his concluding statement.

Further, the words “he had passed over” are misleading. This the Greek word paresin. The root word for paresin is iemi, which is where we get the word forgive in the New Testament. The Greek prefix par means beside, alongside, related to; disordered, sideways, wrong, contrary to, different from.

To translate this as “he had passed over” seems a little misleading given the Hebrew feast of Passover, the whole context of what we have covered so far, and what we will cover below. Paresin more literally means tolerate.

The word for time is karios. It means a set or proper time, the right point of time. The word for present is nyn, which is almost always translated now. The now time is the appointed time. Of course, the appointed time was the crucifixion of Jesus, that was “the hour” his entire life and ministry was headed towards.

Therefore, the preface to Paul’s concluding statement is “Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness [the abstract kind again] in the appointed time.”

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time.”

Now, what is Paul’s concluding statement about the abstract righteousness of God that was manifested at the appointed time of the cross?

“So that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

“So that” is eis, which is almost always translated to, into, or in. I think is most appropriate here.

In the translation, he is the subject of the sentence. But, in the Greek he, auton, is in the accusative case, meaning it is the object of the verb.

“Might” is not in the Greek.

“Be” is the only verb in the sentence. So, he is the subject of be or being.

“Justifier” is the present, active, accusative singular participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it should be justifying and is the object of the verb being.

“Of the one who” is the word ton. It is in the accusative and goes with the accusative participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it is ” the justifying one” not “the justifier of the one who.”

“Has” is not in the Greek. It is the word ek, which means from, of, out of.

“Faith in Jesus” is the same as we saw above. It should be the “faith of Jesus” or “Jesus’ faith.”

So, what then is Paul’s concluding statement?

“in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

How is God being the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith?

Recall from above, the mentioned Jesus needed faith to be the Christ who had suffer, be crucified, die, and rise from the dead. He had faith in his Father to raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us crucify him.

Why did Jesus do this?

Go back above to Luke 24:47.

Jesus suffered and rose from the dead so “that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name.”

Forgiveness of sins could only be proclaimed in his name if they were actually forgiven.

What did Jesus ask his Father for on the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus asked this of his Father in faith.

The Father answered his request, forgiving everyone, justifying all that have sinned for no reason, so that the Father could be the just and justifying one of Jesus’ faithful request for forgiveness for all.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time, in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

Yes, the meaning I have given Romans 3:21-26 is entirely different than what most translators and preachers have said it means. But, it is all in the original Greek if you know what the righteousness of God is that Jesus was manifesting on the cross, what the whole witness of scripture is, and what God wanted to show the world about himself.

Did God want to show the whole world that he was like Dike, the goddess of justice who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment?

Or did God want to show he was something altogether different?

God is just.

God is merciful.

God is forgiving.

Of all, for no reason other than his Son asked him to.

Jesus, the Christ, God’s son, for whom it was necessary to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, according to all the scriptures.

 

Suffering, dying, and rising for the sole purpose that repentance, changing our minds about who God is, a forgiver not a condemner like Dike, and the forgiveness of sins.

Yes, God is justifying the faith of his son Jesus by declaring all righteous, all forgiven.

Justice and Righteousness: Is Not This How You Know Me?

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 22-24

“Is not this how you know me? declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 22:16

How do we know God?

This is a very fundamental question for every Christian.

However, I think many Christians get this question confused with another related, but not the same, question.

That second question is how do we know about God?

We can know about God, really anyone for that matter, but reading an account of them. We can know about anyone in history by reading an account of their works. The written account of someone’s works is the testimony of what they have done.

This is exactly the role that scripture fulfills in regards to God. Through scripture we can know about Jesus and about God. This is precisely the role that Jesus gives to scripture in John 5:39-40, which says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

The scriptures witness about eternal life, who is God. But, the scriptures do not allow you to know eternal life himself. Jesus said you can know about me, about God, about eternal life, through the Scriptures. However, if you want to know him, the Father, and eternal life directly, one-to-one, in relationship, then you must come to him.

Essentially, Jesus said you cannot know God by the scriptures. You can know about him, but you cannot know him.

Many Christians fail to see the distinction between knowing about God and knowing God. Therefore, many Christians don’t understand that we can and should know God apart from the Bible. Dare I say that Jesus even insists that we know God apart from the Bible.

For, there is a world of difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Knowing about God leads us follow strict rules and regulations, which if you break those strict rules and regulations you are evil and wicked and out of fellowship with God, perhaps even condemned to everlasting torture. Knowing about God leads us into forcing others to adhere to our strict moral code without producing any real transformation in our own lives.

However, knowing God leads us into a relationship of self-sacrificial love with the God of all creation through Jesus that transforms our very hearts and minds so that love we love our enemies with the same love that we have for God and our friends.

So, I believe it is possible, and necessary, to know God apart from the Bible.

But, what that does that look like?

Jeremiah 22 helps us see how.

The lead up to God’s question “Is not this to know me?” begins to reveal how we know God apart from the Bible.

“Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? The judged the cause of the poor and the needy; then it was well. Is not this how to know me? declares the Lord?”

We know God by doing justice and righteousness. But, justice and righteousness are not adhering to strict moral codes, rules and regulations. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 4:3, 6-10.

“In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world…And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather be known by God, how you can turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!”

When we know about God we follow the elementary principles – rules and regulations of how to please God – of the world. But, once we know God, we are no longer a slave to those elementary principles.

And, it is the Spirit of Jesus who God has put in our hearts who takes beyond these elementary principles to practice true righteousness and justice. Jeremiah tells us that the justice and righteousness we should practice is judging the cause of the poor and the needy. We don’t judge them in terms of right and wrong as in a court of law. Instead, we judge them as in need of our care and support, our love.

Jeremiah explained this further earlier in chapter 22. In verse 3, the Lord commanded the king and his servants, “Do justice and righteousness.”

What did this justice and righteousness entail?

  • “deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed”
  • “do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow”
  • “nor shed innocent blood in this place”

Doing justice and righteousness is taking care of the disadvantaged. Doing justice and righteousness is providing for those that have been taken advantage of and despised by the rest of the world.

And God says, “Is this not to know me?”

Therefore, we know God apart from the Bible by doing justice and righteousness in the same manner and character that God does it. And, God does by delivering people from their oppressor who has robbed them, doing no wrong or violence to anyone, particularly the stranger and the weak, and not shedding innocent blood, which in a true Biblical understanding goes far beyond physically murdering them.

In virtually identical language, Jesus tells us the same thing. Taking care of the needy is how we know God, or as Paul said, how God knows us.

Remember, in Jeremiah 22 God was speaking to the king on the throne and his servants. Now listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-40.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothes med, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when we did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”

These righteous, by caring for the outcast, the poor, the hungry, the broken, and the naked, did true righteousness and justice to the disadvantaged. And, by doing this righteousness and justice to the disadvantaged, they did it to Jesus. Therefore, they knew Jesus. These righteous didn’t just know about Jesus from the scriptures. These righteous knew Jesus and God by their practice of true righteousness and justice.

At the close of the sermon on the mount, which details all the ways that true righteousness and justice are displayed in loving our enemies, Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

There will be many that in effect say, “But, we practiced all the elementary principles of this world. We did all the religious sacrifices that the Bible says.” And, Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you.” In effect, Jesus is saying that religious practice only leads you to knowing about him. But, it doesn’t lead you knowing him and him knowing you.

So, we can, even must, know God apart from the Bible. Jeremiah and Jesus tell us how – by practicing true righteousness and justice, taking care of the disadvantaged in society. It is then the actual act of righteousness and justice that we truly know God.

 

As the Lord Lives, or Jesus Is Lord

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 4-5

“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and him shall they glory.'” – Jeremiah 4:1-2

If Israel was going to return to God and if they were to swear “As the Lord lives” in truth , justice, and righteousness, then the nations would be blessed and glory in the Lord.

Israel was originally called by God to be a witness of him, a light, to the Gentile nations. They had failed in that calling because they had become enslaved to idols and false gods. But, if they would return to God, turn from their false idols, then they would once again be a witness of God to the nations and the nations would be blessed through them.

A condition of their returning to God was to proclaim “As the Lord lives” in truth, in justice, and in righteousness.

What does “As the Lord lives” mean?

And, how do we see Jesus in this proclamation?

“As the Lord lives” was something Israel was to swear. Therefore, this phrase is an oath. And, it is used that way all throughout the Old Testament.

However, you could swear “As the Lord lives” falsely.

Jeremiah 5:1-2 says, “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her. Thought they says, ‘As the Lord lives,’ yet they swear falsely.”

Israel was proclaiming “As the Lord lives,” but no man could be found who did justice and sought truth in all Jerusalem. In other words, men were claiming “As the Lord lives” but their actions revealed that oath they swearing was not a reality in their lives. So, the profession “As the Lord lives” was false because their words did not line up with their actions.

Jeremiah 23 connects the oath “As the Lord lives” to Jesus.

Verses 5-6 say, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.'”

Remember that Israel was to declare “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness but not one man could be found to do so. However, in Jeremiah 23:5-6, we find just such a man.

Of course, these verses are referring to Jesus, the righteous branch, that came forth from David. This one man, Jesus, does not profess the oath, “As the Lord lives,” verbally, but he does profess it with his life. Notice that these verses say Jesus would reign as king and deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness. In other words, by the life he lived, Jesus professed “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness and all the nations are blessed in him, just as Jeremiah 4:1-2 says. Here is the one man in all the streets of Jerusalem that could not be found in Jeremiah 5:1-2.

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Jesus declared of himself that he is the living one, alive forevermore, the Lord that lives.

In the New Testament, we do not find the words “As the Lord lives,” but we find a similar oath.

Romans 10:8-9 says, “‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

1 Corinthians 12:2-3 says, “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

In the New Testament, instead of professing “As the Lord lives” we profess “Jesus is Lord.” This is our oath. This is the declaration we swear to live by. But, we can swear it falsely, just like in the Old Testament, if our the actions of our life do not line up with the words we say. This is why Paul says that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Not because you can’t literally say the words “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit, but because you can’t actually live the life that reflects the reality of the words “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit.

How do we go about professing “Jesus is Lord?”

Notice that back in Jeremiah 4:3-4 it says, “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.'”

Jeremiah stated that in order to swear truthfully “As the Lord lives” one had to break up their fallow ground and be circumcised, removing the foreskin of their hearts. In other words, one had to repent and be baptized.

This is exactly what we see in the New Testament. In Acts 2, Peter delivers the first sermon in church history. He closes it in verse 36, saying “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” In other words, Peter closed by saying, “Jesus is Lord.”

What was the response of the hearers?

Verse 37 says, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” The hearers had come to see that “Jesus is Lord” just as Peter proclaimed. What should they do in response?

Verse 38 says, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Just like Jeremiah 4, you need to repent and be baptized to truly profess “Jesus is Lord.” And, Peter says that you will receive the Holy Spirit to ensure that the profession of your mouth lines up with the profession of your life.

So, what will the life of one who proclaims “Jesus is Lord” with his mouth and the actions of his life look like?

I believe there are threes specific actions the flow out of allegiance to the oath “Jesus is Lord.”

Isaiah 53:9 says, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

Daniel 9:9 says, “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness.”

Jesus lived a life that was marked by absolutely no violence and no lies. This is why he was also to go to the cross and be crucified to be free us from our bondage to sin, idols, and false gods. And, it was because Jesus lived a life marked by no violence and no lies that he was able to proclaim forgiveness, mercy, to us from the cross.

Jesus proclaimed that the same should be true of us. In John 8, Jesus said that Satan was the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. He told the Jews he was talking to that Satan was their father, meaning their lives were marked by murder, violence, and lies. But, Jesus told them that those whom the son sets free are free indeed. Therefore, to say that “Jesus is Lord,” means that your life is no longer characterized by the works of Satan – murder of lies – but by Jesus, who did no violence and no lies.

In the context of loving your enemies, in Luke 6:36, Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” The ultimate display of that mercy was Jesus’ forgiveness of us even as we were crucifying him. Therefore, our lives should be marked by the same level of forgiveness.

Remember that Jeremiah 23 said that Jesus was the one man that was found who said “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness. And, that Israel would truly swear “As the Lord lives” if there profession was lived out in truth, justice, and righteousness.

To live in truth is to live without lies.

Righteousness is not the right moral action alone. It is more than that. Righteousness is setting things right. For Jesus, this meant bringing to life. In John 10:10, Jesus said he came to give life and life more abundantly. This will be fulfilled when the last enemy, death, Satan’s chief weapon, is defeated. To live in righteousness is to bring life and overcome death, murder, violence.

To live in justice is to give mercy. Mercy, forgiveness, was Jesus’ justice from the cross. James 2:13 says, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Paul sums this profession, “Jesus is Lord,” in two ways for me.

First, in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, he says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And, in Galatians 6:14, Paul says, But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Second, in Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Let me close with two final points.

First, “As the Lord lives” is used eight times in the book of Jeremiah. Eight is the number of new beginning or new creation. When we proclaim “Jesus is Lord” and truly live a life marked by no violence, no lies, and complete forgiveness as Jesus did, then we participate with him in ushering in the new creation and causing the nations of the world to be blessed and glory in Christ.

Second, “As the Lord live” us used 35 times in the Old Testament. The number 35 speaks to vindication and hope. Remember, we can say Jesus is Lord because he is the living one who died and is alive forevermore. That Jesus lives and is Lord is both or vindication and our hope.

1 Corinthians 15:13-14 says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In other words, if Christ has not been raised, then our faith would be without hope, without vindication.

However, 1 Peter 1:21 says, “God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Jesus has been raised, resurrected. He is the living one. “As the Lord lives” he is our vindication and hope.

Jesus is Lord!

Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush

Today’s Reading: Exodus 1-4

In John 1, we read that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Rightly, we understand that this is Jesus. We know that Jesus came into the world. Wrongly, many of us think that this is the first time that Jesus appeared in the world. The Word made flesh was when Jesus, God, became a man, became like one of us. But, it was not the first time that Jesus appeared in the world. Jesus, the Word of God, was and living active in the creation from the beginning of creation. The entire Old Testament testifies to this.

Exodus 3 is one such testimony of Jesus.

In this chapter, Moses leads his flock to the west side of the wilderness. Throughout the Bible, east is the direction away from the presence of God. But, as we move west, we draw closer and closer to God’s presence. So, it’s important to recognize that Moses led his flock to the west side of the wilderness to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Verse 2 says, “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”

It is important to recognize that the angel of the Lord is Jesus in his pre-incarnate form, before he took on flesh and became a man. I have written about this before – most recently in Jesus Meets a Woman at a Well and God Provides Himself the Lamb.

The angel of the Lord is not just another angel that God sends to do something. We know this because in every place the angel of the Lord appears he speaks in a way that equates himself with God, but he also seems to be in submission to God. After the angel of the Lord appeared, notice that the rest of Exodus 3 says that “God called to him”, “I am the God…”, “the Lord said…”, “Moses said to God”, “God said to Moses”, and so on. Is it the angel of the Lord or God speaking to Moses? Is Moses speaking to the angel of the Lord or to God? Yes and yes.

Also, it is very important to see that the angel of the Lord “appeared” to Moses. Typically, when the angel of the Lord shows up in scripture, we read that he “appeared.” This is not referring to a vision, but a physical manifestation of the presence of God. Not physical in the sense of God made flesh, but a physical manifestation none the less. Appeared is the Hebrew word ra’ah. Generally, it means to see, to show, to look at. But, most of the time when it is translated “appeared” it is referring to the Lord manifesting himself to someone.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Then, in John 6:45-46, Jesus says, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me – not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” Jesus says we can hear the Father, but we can’t see him. If we have heard the Father, then we will come to Jesus. Jesus, the angel of the Lord, who is from God, is the only one that has seen the Father.” Further, in John 14:7, Jesus says, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” To see Jesus is to see the Father, because Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him.

Therefore, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, he did not see the Father. No one has ever seen the Father. But, Moses did see Jesus.

How did the angel of the Lord appear to Moses? In a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush.

This Hebrew word for bush (which sort of sounds like Sinai – is it a pun?) is only used five times in the Bible. Four are found in the passage we are looking at. The fifth is in the blessing Moses speaks to the tribe of Joseph in Deuteronomy 33. Joseph will be blessed by “the favor of him who dwells in the bush.” This bush is a brier or species of bramble. What is significant about brier or bramble bushes? They have thorns. Adam’s sin caused the ground to be cursed and, because of the curse, the ground would produce thorns. (Consider that the dry ground that appeared on day three in Genesis refers to Jesus.) So, in this sense, thorns are the fruit of sin. The angel of the Lord, Jesus, appeared in the thorny bush. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin.” And, seeing Jesus in this thorny bush gives new meaning to 1 Peter 2:24, which says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire. Did you know that there are actually bushes in the wilderness that secrete an oil that, when under enough heat, will catch fire? They are called gas plants, or burning bushes. But, generally the flame burns out quickly. But, in verse 3, Moses says, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” I think Moses was used to seeing one of these bushes catch fire. But, what caught his eye was that the fire on this bush lingered. The fire on this bush did not go out. Moses saw that the bush was burning but was not consumed. The word “consumed” literally means to eat or devour. But, it also means destroyed. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a bush that was burning but was not destroyed.

In the Bible, fire symbolizes judgment. The angel of the Lord appeared in a thorny bush that was on fire but not destroyed. Jesus was made sin for us and bore our sins on the cross but was not destroyed. Jesus is the burnt offering. Referring to his crucifixion, Psalm 22:14 says, “My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast.” Jesus’ heart was burned and melted like wax on the cross. And, when Jesus’ side was pierced on the cross blood flowed out. Revelation 1:15 says that John saw Jesus’ “feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” His feet that touched the ground, which was cursed and produced thorns, were burnished like bronze in a furnace. But, immediately after John sees this, in verses 17 and 18, Jesus says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” Jesus was burned but consumed, burned but not destroyed. “I died, but ‘I Am’ alive forevermore.”

Notice that angel of the Lord, Jesus, appeared out of the midst of the bush. The midst is the place where God dwells. The Word of God, Jesus, was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among, in the midst of, us.

Meditate on where the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses. And, meditate on where Jesus has appeared to you. We truly see Jesus in the innocent, just, and righteous one that was made the thorny bush of sin, burned on the tree, died, but was not destroyed, and is alive forevermore. The sin, the burning, the death Jesus died was done by his own creation. Jesus, the one through whom all things were made (John 1:3). Or, as Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” What Jesus created murdered him.

How was Jesus burned but not destroyed? How was Jesus burned, murdered by his own creation, but not destroyed, alive forevermore?

In Luke 23:34, when Jesus was on the cross, in a flame of fire in the midst of his creation on the tree, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Forgiveness. Life overcoming death.

He was not destroyed because he forgave. He defeated death and became a life-giving Spirit because he forgave.

This is to know Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24, why did Jesus become sin for us? Why did he bear our sin in his body on the tree? “That we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” “So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

What does this look like?

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus tells us to pray “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In Mark 11:25, Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Paul writes in Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

To know Jesus is to be aflame in the burning bush with him and not be destroyed but live forevermore with him through forgiveness. But, this is to know, not just Jesus, but God.

Moses sees this burning bush that is not consumed and asks the name of the one he is speaking to. The angel of the Lord responds, “I Am.” Reread Revelation 1:17-18. Jesus says “I Am” the first and the last. “I Am” the living one. I died. But, “I Am” alive forevermore.

In Exodus 3:15, the angel of the Lord, Jesus, says, “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

Jesus! I am the burning bush in the midst of all men that was not destroyed. I forgive you!

 

The Way of Death Was to Stay in Jerusalem?

As I’ve been reading Jeremiah the last few days, it seems so relevant to our time today.

In short, Jerusalem and Judah were in full rebellion against God. The leaders, the shepherds, were not feeding and protecting the people. Instead, they were enriching themselves through injustice and oppression. So, God was going to bring Babylon against them and send them into exile.

They came to Jeremiah, asking him to inquire of the Lord for them. In Jeremiah 21:8-10, Jeremiah says, “And to this people you shall say: Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set you before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’”

What!?!? The way of death was to stay in Jerusalem? This was the city where God had caused his name to dwell. This was his holy city. Shouldn’t the people fight to stay in God’s city, where he dwelt, where the temple was? Shouldn’t they defend it against the king of Babylon? No, because God had set his face against it. He had seen its wickedness and corruption. God saw the city and that it was full of evil. So, God was going to put an end to that. To stay in the city, to defend the wickedness, the evil, and the oppression would be to go against God. Therefore, to go with God would be to flee the city. To go with God was the way of life.

Our government, political system, and rich leaders are full of corruption, evil, and wickedness. It is a continual oppression to people in this country and around the world. God’s people should not be a part of that. It seems to me in Jeremiah that God isn’t saying that you should stay in it, try and fix it up, and fight for it. Because God’s kingdom will consume every kingdom of man in the end. All the nations are but dust before him.

Instead of staying to defend and fight for the city that had become corrupt, God tells his people what to do in the next chapter. Jeremiah 22:3-5, “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.” Don’t fight against the king of Babylon who God sent to destroy Jerusalem. Instead do justice, righteousness, and no wrong to those who have been taken advantage of or are helpless.

What’s a possible application for us?

There is no need for American Christians to lend their support to our corrupt government. There is no need to defend it, to fight against God ending its wickedness. Simply come out from it and do justice, righteousness and mercy. God’s kingdom is completely different than the kingdoms of this world. As Christians, we have transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We are strangers and sojourners in the earth. Like Jesus, we are without a home, a place to lay our head. We are ambassadors in a foreign land, representing our Lord whose kingdom is completely different than the one we are currently sent to.

Later in chapter 24, Jeremiah has a vision of very good figs and very bad figs. The very good figs were the ones that went with God, that left the city, that became exiles. The very bad figs were the ones that stayed and tried to defend what Jerusalem had become and what God wanted to destroy.

Jeremiah 24:4-10 says, “Then the word of the Lord came to me: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall by me people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. But thus says the Lord: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them. And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they shall be utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.”

Let us be the very good figs that go with God.