Reflected righteousness

Judaism poses us with a dilemma: An infinite G-d who reveals His righteousness to mankind through the Torah, His absolute standards of holiness and consecration, and then apparently sets us up to fail. As I mentioned before in a previous blog entry (I don’t desire sacrifice), the sacrificial system was only given because of our inability to keep Torah perfectly, and so we fail to actually lay hold of HIS righteousness, a righteousness which is vital to have in order to stand before Him justified and not die instantly. The protective layers of the Mishkan and later Temple were designed to keep apart a sinful and unrighteous man from a fully righteous G-d, who as the Torah says, does not desire the death of sinners. King Shlomo put it this way in 1 kings 8:46 ‘there is no one who does not sin’. Sin is breaking the commandment (to break one is to have broken them all, see also 1 Jn 3:4 ), and you can hear the desperate heart cry of the followers of Yeshua Mashichaynu in Matt 19:25 ‘who then can be saved?’ Yeshua’s answer is interesting: ‘With man this is impossible, but with G-d all things are possible.’ In essence He is saying that man can never reach that level of righteousness needed to enter the Kingdom, to be a part of Israel now and in eternity. But G-d CAN make a way for this to happen.

To be fair to our brothers in history, the Prushim (Pharisees) have been given a very, and undeservedly, bad press. Yeshua’s castigation was not laid against them because they were not righteous, but because the righteousness was not enough! Matt 5:20 makes this clear, our righteousness as Jews must EXCEED that of this particular sub-group in Judaism of the first century. The question is how, given that these men were indeed righteous and Torah observant? If they failed to meet the mark, still struggling with sin (and they did), then what hope does anyone have? Again, Yeshua’s words point the way ‘with G-d all things are possible’.

So how DO we achieve a level of righteousness that will allow us access to G-d’s presence? Thankfully the Lord has not left us to work this out for ourselves. One of His own names is Adonai Tzidkenu, the Lord our righteousness. Our G-d IS our righteousness and we have to have His righteousness given to us if we are ever to be righteous enough.  The next question then becomes, how do we receive such a righteousness? Do we have to earn it, pay for it, or just receive it? Is it dependent upon us at all? The answer is maybe surprising for those who have worked within the parameters of more recent forms of Judaism. The model of righteousness turns out to be Avraham avinu, who because of his faith, or better faithfulness in response, was given God’s righteousness, freely and undeservedly despite his own personal sin. G-d justified him because of his response towards what G-d was offering. In this way then the Prophet Joel fully understands the scope of this faith in that anyone can exhibit it, regardless of whether born Jewish or not: All who call on the name of the Lord can be saved.

Only by reflecting G-d’s own righteousness do we stand a chance of ever standing in His presence, a core desire and aim of Judaism. The writer to the Hebrews puts it in a radical way: (a) boldness to enter the Holy of Holies. This is no sacrilegious or iconoclastic act, but an understanding that through faith salvation can come, and that through the sacrifice that He alone could bring for our sins: Yeshua. With faith making righteousness possible we can come fully into His presence and not fear death.

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