The Righteous Lord Loves Righteousness
By James N. Jidov
"O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee!" (Daniel 9:7). What a blessed, glorious truth!" God alone is the possessor of righteousness! This is one of the great, profound truths of the Bible. God and He alone is the exclusive source of righteousness, the One in whom the righteousness that saves the sinner originates, the One whose righteousness keeps the vast universe He has created in its order.
"And the heavens shall declare His righteousness" (Psalm 50:6). "The heavens declare His righteousness" (Psalm 97:6). He is the righteous One who has made all His creatures. Job said, "I...will ascribe righteousness to my maker" (Job 36:3). David said, "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep: O, Lord, Thou preservest man and beast" (Psalm 36:6). O that this day you and I would see afresh the glory of God's righteousness!
We thank God for His love for us. We shall praise Him forever for His undeserved, His unmerited love for us. We would this day languish in the fires of Hell were it not for His love for us.
We will also praise Him eternally for His righteousness! Without His righteousness we would be as desperate as without His love! Can you imagine our tragic state had the Lord refused to grant to us His righteousness? Suppose God had said, "My righteousness is Mine and I shall never allow it to be the possession of another. I am a jealous God. Why should I give to any other that which is Mine? All things are Mine and I keep all that is Mine!"
God had every "right" to withhold His righteousness from all of us. God did not owe you and me righteousness. I do not deserve the righteousness of God.
Without the imputed righteousness of God there is no entry into heaven. My righteousness will not suffice. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). The righteousness of the religious crowd will not open heaven' gates to us. "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).
God is perfectly righteous and holy, and His Word tells me that without holiness "no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). There is no question that my life is not one of perfect holiness. James 2:10 says that if I offend God's Law in one point I've offended His entire law. So then, I find myself in a hopeless situation. "O, God! You own all righteousness and I need Your righteousness in order to be saved!" "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee!" (Daniel 9:7).
Praise God, the answer comes two verses later--the Gospel in the book of Daniel! "To the Lord belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him" (Verse 9).
"God, I am totally poverty stricken. I have nothing to bring to You to warrant salvation! I am destitute! I am rebellious! Your judgment of me is right! Eternal fire for me is just! I am born in sin! I live in sin! The just reward for me is death, my just wages! 'For the wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23).
"But Thou, 'God of righteousness,' to whom righteousness belongs, art possessor also of 'mercies and forgivenesses.' Because of Thy great mercies and forgivenesses You give to me that which is undeserved--eternal redemption. 'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us' (Titus 3:5). O God, we shall praise You eternally for Your goodness, for Your mercy unto us! 'To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses.'"
Confession Acknowledges God's Righteousness
Return with me now to verse 7, please. "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces." It is safe to read the term "Confusion of faces" as "shame." The margin in some Bibles gives this alternate rendering.
There is something significant here in verse 7, and it appears as well in verses 14, 16 and 18. It is the great contrast between us and the One to Whom we confess our sins. This entire prayer of Daniel is a confession to the Lord God, "I prayed unto the Lord God and made my confession" (verse 4).
Confession before God is not just a time of admitting to Him where we have sinned against Him. The purpose of confession is not only for forgiveness of sin. True confession always carries with it a recognition of the great contrast between the one confessing and the One to whom I confess. This is evident throughout Daniel's prayer. The very texture of this petition clearly is that of a man recognizing his own evil nature versus God's perfect righteousness.
This should always be the case when a child of God falls on his face in confession to his God. That is true confession. The purpose of confession is not only to receive forgiveness but also to remind ourselves of the perfectly righteous Father to Whom we make the confession and to acknowledge that it is His infinite glory and holiness and righteousness from which His mighty power to forgive originates. True confession always does this. It highlights the One to Whom we confess. It draws attention to the One Who has the power to forgive sin. Confession removes sin and draws attention to and glorifies the sinless One, glorifies the One Who has the power to forgive the sins confessed.
Jesus said, "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the sick of the palsy), Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house" (Matt. 9:6). This rejoices the believer's heart! We know that the One to Whom we confess has all power to forgive. Confession is a glorious experience!
Obedience Transcends Service
God requires the knowledge of Himself first before He will use a man or woman to serve Him. Daniel sought his God, sought the knowledge of Him, set his face toward the Lord God in order that he might first and foremost gain intimate knowledge and intimate fellowship with his God (verse 3). He demonstrated a great sense of priority. He is not first pursuing after service but rather after knowing God.
Obedience is another prerequisite for service. Sacrifice, service for God, and disobedience do not mix. We may try to convince ourselves that we can serve God and get away with disobeying Him. We may try to hide a disobedient, rebellious heart by covering it with the smoke screen of our burnt offerings of service. But it will never work. God is never fooled. God is never mocked.
We need to note with great care the phrase, "to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22). "Hearken" relates to hearing, "to give heed to, to attend to what is said." We see in the church today programs, plans, blueprints, ideas, books, manuals, guides, all originating in the minds of man. Often these are simply copies of worldly methods, secular systems, "proven" to work in the market place, in the world outside the Church and we say, "These methods work outside the Church so why not use them inside the Church?" We throw in a few verses of Scripture here and there to give it the stamp of being "spiritual" or "churchy."
But there is to the discerning eye that missing element, that element of the genuine stamp of the Holy Spirit upon it. A genuine appeal to God's Word is somehow absent in the content of the material.
It is always a bad thing for us believers to be confident in ourselves, in our thoughts and our ideas, in our logic and our conclusions. It is always dangerous to place our confidence in ourselves. This always leads to destruction (2 Chronicles 26:16; Jeremiah 17:5-6; Habakkuk 3:17-19).
It is always a good thing to appeal to God for His thoughts and His mind in all of life, in everything that we do. It is good to not trust yourself, but to seek always the mind of Christ, to always "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is" (Jeremiah 17:7).
This is why David cried out that God would search him and know his thoughts because he didn't know or trust himself and he wanted God to detect the presence of any wickedness and disobedience of his heart attitude toward Him (Psalm 139:23). He wanted to be exposed before his God. He sought to be obedient and confident in his Lord, not in himself. He sought the mind of his God.
This is most apparent in Daniel's prayer to his God. He was keenly aware of the bent toward disobedience and rebellion among his people and himself. He sought God's forgiveness and intervention in their lives that they might return to a life of righteousness and obedience. Daniel knew that our obedience transcends our work. Our obedience far exceeds our service in importance.
God Chastises With Purpose
The purpose of chastisement is not for driving away, but for increasing our obedience, for drawing us near. I will never forget our youngest daughter when she was a little one and at times needed a stern word or a hand of correction. It was so precious. In tears she would oftentimes come to my wife or myself, that is, to the one making the correction. How sweet to see that little repentant heart so concerned about displeasing her mommy or daddy!
How we need to be like little children! A truly mature believer is often very childish. It is another of the many blessed paradoxes of Scripture. "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit, in malice be ye children" (1 Corinthians 14:20). That is, don't ever learn to inflict deliberate pain on another. Remain childish and unlearned in that skill--in malice.
So likewise, under chastisement, under God's mighty hand of correction be simple, childlike, humble. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God" (1 Peter 5:6). When chastised run to Him in humble obedience and response to His action in our lives. God chastens us in order to turn us to Himself. Isaiah 9:13 says, "For the people turneth not unto Him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts." Through the lips of the prophet Jeremiah the Lord said to the Israelites in Jeremiah 2:30, "In vain have I smitten your children: they received no correction."
The Lord goes on to say, "Your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion." The Israelites silenced the very ones God was sending to them to direct them back to Himself. They killed off their prophets, God's mouthpieces, just like a lion devouring its prey.
It's so important for us to see and to understand that chastisement of God's own people by Himself is always administered by Him for the purpose of bringing His people back to or closer to Himself--always--to direct their hearts into repentance. "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten" (Revelation 3:19).
There are times that a rebellious heart can continue in the one being chastised. When God chastens His child that child doesn't necessarily respond at once with a loving, humbled heart and return to his Father. Those of you who are parents have experienced this with your child. You reprove or correct that child in some way and instead of the child coming to you in a repentant spirit, seeking forgiveness and restoration to a good relationship, there is instead a stiffening of the neck, a rebellious resistance to correction. That little one might even run away from his parent, seek to put distance between himself and a loving mother or father.
This was the case with God's people here in Daniel 9. In verse 13 Daniel says, "All this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities."
Daniel makes this petition to God while he and his people are in captivity. They are currently undergoing all of the "evil" he mention in the verse. The verse gives sufficient evidence that in spite of intense judgment at the hands of the Babylonians, permitted by the Lord God Jehovah, the people are still, even under the yoke of bondage, rebelling against God. They are rebelling against a God of correction.
Here they are 66 or 67 years into the 70-year Captivity and they apparently continue to demonstrate a heart of rebellion, and they complain and murmur against their lot. They are not concerned about their own sin and rebellion that brought them to where they are. Daniel says, "All this evil has come upon us--YET made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities."
O, that this day we would see in a new and fresh way that it is always a God of love, a God Who is jealous for our love, Who deals with us in times of chastisement. When Daniel speaks of "the evil that the Lord has brought upon us" (verse 14), it is a God of "mercies and forgivenesses" (verse 9), a God Who chastises those that He loves. "For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth" (Proverbs 3:12).
O that we would see this, that we would not stiffen our necks and resist His gracious chastisement, but rather return unto our wonderful Lord in humble repentance and total abandonment of everything in our lives that we know displeases Him!