Righteousness

Teena Myers
Teena Myers

Genesis 15:1-3 NAS95  (1)  After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (2)  Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”(3)  And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.”

The longest conversation God had with Abram opened with a sweet message of reward. But Abram was not impressed. He is eighty-five years old and has been living in Canaan for ten years. His wife is still barren.  Abram responded with complaints. What will you give me? Where is the seed you promised? He has a valid question in response to God’s assurance he will be paid for his service. But he is already rich in livestock, silver, and gold. He does not care about getting richer. He wants a child to inherit his wealth.

Abram knew what we know. One day we will die. He did not want to leave the fruit of his labor to a servant. Abram came to Canaan looking for a city that would bless all nations. God was the one who brought up the child.

Genesis 15:4 NAS95 (4) Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”

God dealt with Abram’s desire for a son by assuring him he will have an heir that comes from his own body to inherit his earthly wealth. Then he brough Abram outside to look at the stars.

Genesis 15:5 KJV (5)  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

God can be difficult to understand because there is no selfishness in him, and he sees the big picture. We wrestle with our flawed human nature, and our thinking is limited to our brief time on earth. At this point, all Abram wanted was a son to leave an inheritance to and that is the same thing God wanted with one exception. Abram was thinking one. God was thinking a vast multitude too numerous to count.

This promise falls flat to city dwellers. We can’t see what Abram saw because smog and city lights obscures our view of the stars. But we can get a taste of what Abram saw if we travel outside the city. On the way to El Paso to visit my husband’s parents, we stopped at a bed and breakfast near Fort Davis, home of the MacDonald Observatory. That night Rod brought our sons to the observatory hoping they could look at the stars through the enormous telescope. The sign on the door said, “Closed. Telescope is frozen”. So, they did some star gazing without the telescope. My son exclaimed, “Look at the clouds!” They were not clouds. He was looking at stars too numerous to count.

Genesis 15:6 NAS95 (6) Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

While Abram and God gazed at the stars, Abram believed God would keep his promise to bless all families of the earth. God called his faith righteous.

According to Vines Expository Dictionary the Hebrew word translated as righteousness in this verse signifies “demonstrations of mercy.”[1] God’s mercy prompted him to make himself responsible to keep the relationship between him and us legal. The burden of satisfying the righteous requirements of the law rest upon God. Generations of human history has proved repeatedly all of our righteousness is a filthy rag compared to God.[2]

Leviticus 19:15 NAS95  (15)  ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.

Righteousness is a legal matter that requires being impartial in judgment.  God does not pick some to receive his blessings and leave others out. Whoever strives to obey him will be included. His judgments are impartial. It’s not about our behavior as much as its about our faith, hope and love. 

Jesus said lawbreakers and law keepers are both in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:19 AMP (19)  So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teachers others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

You can break the law God gave to Moses and teach others to break the law without losing your place in the kingdom of heaven. God’s judgments are based on his behavior, not ours. Our behavior might give us a lessor place in his kingdom but not necessarily keep us out of his kingdom, depending on how bad the behavior is. If we are sexually immoral, a murderer, an idolater, or we love and practice a lie, and we do those things habitually without remorse, we will not be allowed to enter his city and be given access to the tree of life.[3]

Matthew 5:20 NAS95 (20)  “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus was born into a society doing their best to obey the law given to Moses. Those who taught the law and strived to obey the laws can go to heaven and they will be called great but only if they find the righteousness that exceeds theirs.

There is a righteousness that surpasses the good behavior taught by the teachers of Jesus day and our day. It’s called God’s righteousness. Our faith, hope and love that God will do what is right gains us access into his kingdom, whether we obey every law give to Moses or not.  It is an act of mercy that God show no partiality by giving everyone the same access whether we are weak or strong, rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile.

A person who has struggled with the worst kind of sin all his life can repent moments before he or she dies and  be welcomed into the kingdom of God. Simply because that person had faith God is good enough to forgive him or her.

Think about this quote I copied from Facebook. I don’t know who wrote it but its powerful.

“How does the thief on the cross fit into your theology? No baptism, no communion, no confirmation, no speaking in tongues, no mission trip, no volunteerism, and no church clothes. He could not even bend his knees to pray. He didn’t say the sinner’s prayer and among other things, he was a thief. Jesus didn’t take away his pain, heal his body, or smite their scoffers. Yet it was a thief who walked into heaven the same hour as Jesus simply by believing. He had nothing more to offer other than his belief that Jesus was who he said he was. No spin from brilliant theologians. No ego or arrogance. No shiny lights, skinny jeans, or crafty words. No haze machine, donuts, or coffee in the entrance. Just a naked dying man on a cross unable to even fold his hands to pray.

You might be wondering what righteousness, equality, showing no partiality has to do with faith. It has everything to do with faith. For God to treat us with equality, faith must come to everyone in voice they can understand. 


[1] Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W.E. Vine, Thomas Nelson Publishers, digital page 839

[2] Isaiah 64:6

[3] Revelations 22:15

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