Find Delight in Jehovah’s Righteousness
“He that is pursuing righteousness and loving-kindness will find life, righteousness and glory.”—PROVERBS 21:21.
1. What ways of people today have led to disastrous results?
“THERE exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Proverbs 16:25) How accurately this Bible proverb describes the ways of most people today! By and large, people are concerned only with doing what is right in their own eyes, ignoring even the most basic needs of others. (Proverbs 21:2) They pay lip service to the laws and standards of the land but seek to circumvent them at every opportunity. The result is a society fragmented, confused, and perplexed.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
2. What is urgently needed for mankind’s own good?
2 For our own good—and for the peace and security of the entire human family—we urgently need a law or standard that is just and right, one that all people are willing to accept and obey. Obviously, no law or standard proposed by any human, no matter how intelligent or sincere, can meet that need. (Jeremiah 10:23; Romans 3:10, 23) If such a standard exists, where could it be found and what would it be like? Perhaps the more important question is, If such a standard exists, would you delight in and abide by it?
Finding the Righteous Standard
3. Who is most qualified to provide a standard that is acceptable and beneficial to all people, and why?
3 To find a standard that is acceptable and beneficial to everyone, we will have to go to someone who transcends all racial, cultural, and political boundaries and who is unhindered by human shortsightedness and frailties. Without a doubt, the one uniquely qualified is the almighty Creator, Jehovah God, who declares: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) Furthermore, the Bible describes Jehovah as “a God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) Throughout the Bible, we find the expression “Jehovah is righteous.” (Exodus 9:27; 2 Chronicles 12:6; Psalm 11:7; 129:4; Lamentations 1:18; Revelation 19:2, footnote) Yes, we can look to Jehovah for the ultimate standard because he is faithful, just, and righteous.
4. What does the word “righteous” mean?
4 Of course, the word “righteous” is not very popular today. In fact, most people take a negative, even derogatory, view of it, equating it with being sanctimonious, or hypocritically pious and devout. However, according to one dictionary, “righteous” means “just, upright, virtuous; guiltless, sinless; conforming to the precepts of divine law or accepted standards of morality; acting rightly or justly.” Would you not delight in a law or standard that embraces such fine characteristics?
5. Describe the quality of righteousness as expressed in the Bible.
5 Regarding the quality of righteousness, the Encyclopaedia Judaica observes: “Righteousness is not an abstract notion but rather consists in doing what is just and right in all relationships.” God’s righteousness, for example, is not simply an inward or personal quality that he possesses, such as his holiness and purity. Rather, it is an expression of his nature in ways that are right and just. It might be said that because Jehovah is holy and pure, everything he does and everything emanating from him is righteous. As the Bible says, “Jehovah is righteous in all his ways and loyal in all his works.”—Psalm 145:17.
6. What did Paul say about certain unbelieving Jews in his day, and why?
6 The apostle Paul emphasized this point in his letter to the Christians in Rome. About certain unbelieving Jews, he wrote: “Because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3) Why did Paul refer to such ones as “not knowing the righteousness of God”? Were they not instructed in the Law, the righteous standards of God? Indeed they were. However, the majority of them viewed righteousness solely as a personal virtue, to be achieved by scrupulous, painstaking observance of religious rules, rather than as a standard to guide them in their dealings with fellow humans. Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, they missed the whole point about justice and righteousness.—Matthew 23:23-28.
7. How is Jehovah’s righteousness expressed?
7 In sharp contrast, Jehovah’s righteousness is expressed and clearly seen in all his dealings. Although his righteousness requires that he does not simply ignore the sins of willful transgressors, that does not make him a cold and exacting God, to be feared and kept at a distance. On the contrary, his righteous acts have provided a basis on which mankind can approach him and be saved from the dire consequences of sin. It is entirely fitting, therefore, that Jehovah is described as “a righteous God and a Savior.”—Isaiah 45:21.
Righteousness and Salvation
8, 9. In what ways did the Law express God’s righteousness?
8 To appreciate the relationship between God’s righteousness and his loving act of salvation, consider the Law that he gave the nation of Israel through Moses. There is no question that the Law was righteous. In his parting words, Moses reminded the Israelites: “What great nation is there that has righteous regulations and judicial decisions like all this law that I am putting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:8) Centuries later, King David of Israel declared: “The judicial decisions of Jehovah are true; they have proved altogether righteous.”—Psalm 19:9.
9 By means of the Law, Jehovah made clear his perfect standards of right and wrong. The Law spelled out in minute detail how the Israelites were to conduct themselves not only in religious matters but also in business dealings, marital relations, dietary and sanitary practices and, of course, judicial decisions. The Law also carried strict sanctions against violators, even imposing the death penalty in some cases. * But were God’s righteous requirements, as expressed in the Law, a harsh and tiresome burden to the people, robbing them of their freedom and joy, as many people today claim?
10. How did those who loved Jehovah feel about his laws?
10 Those who loved Jehovah found great delight in his righteous laws and decrees. King David, for example, not only acknowledged Jehovah’s judicial decisions as true and righteous, as we have seen, but also had a heartfelt fondness and appreciation for them. Regarding the laws and judicial decisions of Jehovah, he wrote: “They are more to be desired than gold, yes, than much refined gold; and sweeter than honey and the flowing honey of the combs. Also, your own servant has been warned by them; in the keeping of them there is a large reward.”—Psalm 19:7, 10, 11.
11. How did the Law prove to be a “tutor leading to Christ”?
11 Centuries later, Paul pointed out an even greater value of the Law. In his letter to the Galatians, he wrote: “The Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith.” (Galatians 3:24) In Paul’s day, a tutor (pedagogue, Kingdom Interlinear) was a servant or slave in a large household. It was his duty to protect the children and to escort them to school. In like manner, the Law protected the Israelites from the degraded moral and religious practices of the nations round about. (Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Galatians 3:23) Additionally, the Law made the Israelites aware of their sinful state and of their need for forgiveness and salvation. (Galatians 3:19) The sacrificial arrangements pointed to the need for a ransom sacrifice and provided a prophetic pattern by which the true Messiah could be identified. (Hebrews 10:1, 11, 12) Thus, while Jehovah expressed his righteousness through the Law, he did so with the people’s welfare and eternal salvation in mind.
Those Counted Righteous by God
12. What could the Israelites have gained by carefully observing the Law?
12 Since the Law given by Jehovah was righteous in every way, by obeying it the Israelites could have gained a righteous standing before God. Moses reminded the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land: “It will mean righteousness for us, that we take care to do all this commandment before Jehovah our God, just as he has commanded us.” (Deuteronomy 6:25) In addition, Jehovah had promised: “You must keep my statutes and my judicial decisions, which if a man will do, he must also live by means of them. I am Jehovah.”—Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5.
13. Was Jehovah unjust in requiring his people to keep the righteous Law? Explain.
13 Sadly, as a nation, the Israelites failed “to do all this commandment before Jehovah” and thus lost out on the promised blessings. They failed to keep all God’s commandments because God’s Law was perfect but they were not. Does this mean that God is unjust or unrighteous? Surely not. Paul wrote: “What shall we say, then? Is there injustice with God? Never may that become so!” (Romans 9:14) The fact is that individuals, both before and after the Law was given, have been counted as righteous by God even though they were imperfect and sinful. The list of such God-fearing people includes Noah, Abraham, Job, Rahab, and Daniel. (Genesis 7:1; 15:6; Job 1:1; Ezekiel 14:14; James 2:25) The question, then, is: On what basis were these individuals counted righteous by God?
14. What does the Bible mean when it speaks of a human as being “righteous”?
14 When the Bible speaks of a human as being “righteous,” it does not imply sinlessness or perfection. Rather, it means measuring up to one’s obligations before God and men. For example, Noah was called “a righteous man” and “faultless among his contemporaries” because he “proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.” (Genesis 6:9, 22; Malachi 3:18) Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptizer, “were righteous before God because of walking blamelessly in accord with all the commandments and legal requirements of Jehovah.” (Luke 1:6) And a non-Israelite, an Italian army officer by the name of Cornelius, was described as “a man righteous and fearing God.”—Acts 10:22.
15. To what is righteousness closely related?
15 Furthermore, righteousness in humans is very much related to what is in one’s heart—one’s faith in and appreciation and love for Jehovah and his promises—and not just to one’s doing what God requires. The Scriptures say that Abraham “put faith in Jehovah; and he proceeded to count it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6) Abraham had faith not only in God’s existence but also in his promise regarding the “seed.” (Genesis 3:15; 12:2; 15:5; 22:18) On the basis of such faith and works in harmony with faith, Jehovah could deal with and bless Abraham and other faithful ones even though they were imperfect.—Psalm 36:10; Romans 4:20-22.
16. In what has faith in the ransom resulted?
16 Ultimately, righteousness in humans is contingent on faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Of the Christians in the first century, Paul wrote: “It is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by [God’s] undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) Paul was there talking about those who were chosen to be joint heirs with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. But Jesus’ ransom sacrifice also opened up for millions of others the opportunity of gaining a righteous standing before God. The apostle John saw in a vision “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, . . . standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes.” The white robes symbolize their being clean and righteous before God because “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”—Revelation 7:9, 14.
Delight in Jehovah’s Righteousness
17. What steps must be taken in the pursuit of righteousness?
17 While Jehovah has lovingly provided his Son, Jesus Christ, as the means for humans to attain a righteous standing before him, the result is by no means automatic. One must exercise faith in the ransom, bring one’s life into harmony with God’s will, make a dedication to Jehovah, and symbolize it by water baptism. Then, one must continue to pursue righteousness, as well as other spiritual qualities. Timothy, a baptized Christian with the heavenly calling, was admonished by Paul: “Pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper.” (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22) Jesus also emphasized the need for continued effort when he said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” We may work very hard to seek the blessings of God’s Kingdom, but do we work equally hard to pursue the righteous ways of Jehovah?—Matthew 6:33.
18. (a) Why is it not easy to pursue righteousness? (b) What can we learn from Lot’s example?
18 It is, of course, not easy to pursue righteousness. This is because all of us are imperfect and our natural tendency is toward unrighteousness. (Isaiah 64:6) Moreover, we are surrounded by people who care little about Jehovah’s righteous ways. Our circumstances are very much like those of Lot, who lived in the notoriously wicked city of Sodom. The apostle Peter explained why Jehovah saw fit to deliver Lot from the impending destruction. Peter said: “That righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.” (2 Peter 2:7, 8) Thus, each of us does well to ask: ‘Do I give silent consent in my heart to the immoral practices we see around us? Do I find the popular but violent entertainment or sports merely tasteless? Or do I feel tormented as Lot did by such unrighteous deeds?’
19. What blessings can be ours if we find delight in God’s righteousness?
19 In these perilous and uncertain days, taking delight in Jehovah’s righteousness is a source of security and protection. To the question: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?” King David answered: “He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness.” (Psalm 15:1, 2) By pursuing God’s righteousness and finding delight in it, we can maintain a good relationship with him and continue to enjoy his favor and blessing. Thus, ours is a life of contentment, self-respect, and peace of mind. “He that is pursuing righteousness and loving-kindness will find life, righteousness and glory,” says God’s Word. (Proverbs 21:21) Furthermore, trying our best to do what is just and right in all our endeavors means happy personal relationships and an improved quality of life—morally and spiritually. The psalmist declared: “Happy are those observing justice, doing righteousness all the time.”—Psalm 106:3.
^ par. 9 For details regarding the extensiveness of the Mosaic Law, see the article “Some Features of the Law Covenant,” on pages 214-20 in volume 2 of Insight on the Scriptures, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Can You Explain?
• What is righteousness?
• How is salvation related to God’s righteousness?
• On what basis are humans counted righteous by God?
• How can we find delight in Jehovah’s righteousness?
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King David expressed heartfelt fondness for God’s laws
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Noah, Abraham, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Cornelius were counted righteous by God. Do you know why?