Dude, That’s Righteous! (Jeremiah 23:1-6)

YHWH Tseqenu– The Lord, our Righteousness

Surfers speak of something good, like an awesome wave set, as “righteous.” (Remember the sea turtles in Finding Nemo?)

We often hear of religious people being “self-righteous,” supercilious, holier-than-thou, judgmental.

Two demonically empowered monsters threaten God’s people throughout the Bible: Empire and Religion. After describing in detail how the religious and political leaders of Israel and Judah have failed, God declares that, incarnate in Jesus, YHWH will be our shepherd. No sheep will be lost. No enemy will triumph.

Jeremiah 23:The days are surely coming, says 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 live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” (NRSV)

One of the many names applied to God in the Scripture is YHWH Tseqenu.

The LORD, YHWH (Yahweh), I AM THAT I AM – the ever-living eternal creator, sustainer and redeemer of the entire cosmos.

YHWH eternally exists in community – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – One God in perfect harmonious relationship, in need of nothing, but choosing to create a material universe filled with stars and babies. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in seamless dance of love – the love spills over – and it is very good. Humans in the image of God, the imago Dei, created to love and be loved; created to love God, each other, themselves, and nature.

In classical Greek, there are a variety of words to describe love. The purest form of love is agápe. Agápe: Unconditional, self-sacrificial, cruciform, selfless, altruistic love. God is Agápe. “By this shall all know you are my followers, that you agápe one another.”

We are all broken people. Agápe is who God is; agápe is what all of us long for; agápe is what begins the process of redeeming, restoring, reconciling, and regenerating us.

“Righteousness,” here is Tseqenu, (sometimes spelled, Tsidkenu) which can be translated “righteousness,” “righteous,” “honest,” “right,” “justice,” “accurate,” “just,” “truth,” or “integrity.”

Righteousness is being brought into right relationship – right relationship with God, with ourselves, with others, and with creation.

Colossians1:21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (NRSV)

Romans5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

I love God because God first loved me. The only sense in which we were ever “enemies of God,” was in our own minds. Guilt and shame lead us to the erroneous conclusion that God doesn’t much like us. Right relationship with God begins as we awaken to the reality that God, in God’s essence, is unconditional, cruciform, enemy-embracing, all-forgiving, eternal, agápe love. Only when I am convinced of God’s love will I come to God openly and honestly. Until I am convinced of God’s perfect love, I can only be religious.

Once I begin to be convinced of God’s love nature, I will start to realize that my core identity is Beloved of God. That is who I am. Not a worthless worm, not a disgusting sinner, not a vessel of wrath, but God’s beloved. God has set God’s love upon me. God’s core, essence, is love. My essential self is beloved of God. And that love is unconditional. Regardless of what I have done or where I’ve been, nothing in all of creation can ever separate me from God’s love.

When I begin to love myself, I begin to be able to love others. I begin to see others – all others – as the imago Dei, bearing the very image of the God whom I love, created to spend eternity with God. I love the other. I love the enemy. I love my neighbor. My neighbor is everyone – Indigenous, Asian, African, Latinx, European, Middle Eastern, Arab, Jew, Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Atheist, Communist, Socialist, Capitalist … no exceptions – everyone. I forgive, I genuinely wish them well; I promote their wellbeing and wholeness; I affirm their essential goodness, listen deeply to their stories, seek to learn from them, and acknowledge their worth and dignity. I taste the foods of many cultures, hear the languages, dance to the songs, and admire the costumes. I treasure their art and poetry.

Filled with the Love that is God, I cannot stop there. I love all that God created. Whales, carp, algae, sandcrabs, moths, butterflies, owls, bluebirds, ornamental cheery, towering oak, opossum, fox and walking stick; nova, meteorites, galaxies and constellations; tidepools, mountains, deserts, rivers and streams – it all sings of the glory of the Creator. I preserve it, refuse to pollute it, try to conserve it, and care for it because it is God’s garden.

YHWH is our righteousness – notice the plural pronoun. Right relationship with God, ourselves, others, and nature occurs in community. It occurs collectively. We are one body with one Lord. 

Filled with the love of God, I eschew religions and empires and embrace relationships in the Kingdom of God. 

Filled with love for God, others, nature, and myself I hear music and see beauty. I dance, celebrate, enjoy.

Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life. (1 Timothy 6:17b, CEV)

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on August 16, 2020, in anabaptist, apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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