In the New Testament, Jesus presented himself as the Good Shepherd who came to give his life for his sheep (John 10:1–21). He did this because the religious leaders had left the people of Israel “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), which deeply grieved him. But this failure to shepherd the people was not only a failure on the part of the New Testament religious leaders. The Old Testament prophets similarly rebuked the religious leaders of their day.
The prophet Jeremiah, for example, sternly declared, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” He warned that God would punish them for their mistreatment of the sheep and would gather the sheep himself. He would set other shepherds over his flock, who would gently and wisely care for them (Jeremiah 23:1–4).
In the context of this shepherding prophecy, Jeremiah also prophesied the rise of “a righteous Branch” from the lineage of David who would “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” This Branch would give to the people the security they so desperately needed (Jeremiah 23:5–6). He would be called “The LORD is our righteousness,” a phrase which translates the Hebrew name Yahweh Tsidkenu, the name of God under consideration this week.
It is universally recognised by Christian interpreters that this Branch—Yahweh Tsidkenu—was the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Jesus Christ the righteous” is our Advocate before the Father (1 John 2:1). He is, indeed, Yahweh Tsidkenu.
As we read and think about Jeremiah’s prophecy of Yahweh Tsidkenu, we are called to a threefold response.
First, we are called to affirm Jesus Christ as Yahweh Tsidkenu. That is, we are called to recognise that he is, indeed, the righteous one, given by God to gather his sheep together and provide safety and security for them.
As we read the Gospels, it becomes clear that Jesus was the very incarnation of righteousness. He perfectly fulfilled the law of God, never failing to obey a single command and never disobeying a single instruction. Spurgeon said of Jesus, “He lived out the law of God to the very full, and while you see God’s precepts written in fire on Sinai’s brow, you see them written in flesh in the person of Christ.”
Never once did Jesus speak a bitter or unloving word. Never once did he harbour unforgiveness in his heart toward those who hated him. Never once did he sinfully disrespect authorities that God had placed over him. He perfectly loved the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and fully loved his neighbour as himself.
Astonishingly, this perfect one—this spotless Lamb of God, in whom no guile was ever found—became sin for us. He took upon himself the sins of all those for whom he died so that his righteousness could be credited to their account. There is no other means of salvation. For us to stand before God with the righteousness he demands, we must recognise that Jesus alone is sufficiently righteous. He alone is Yahweh Tsidkenu.
Second, we must appeal to Yahweh Tsidkenu as our righteousness. It is insufficient to recognise that he lived a fully righteous life. We must at the same time recognise that we have failed horribly to live the righteousness that God requires. We must therefore, in repentance and faith, embrace him alone as our righteousness.
Do you recognise your guilt before a holy God? Do you realise that you have utterly failed to fulfil the righteous requirements that he sets before those who will come to him? Does your conscience condemn you? Then look to Christ.
Do you see that there is no good thing in you? Then look to Christ in whom all goodness dwells. Do you acknowledge that you have broken God’s law? Then look to Christ who perfectly upheld every law set before him. Do you see that you are deeply stained by sin? Then look to Christ whose blood washes away every stain of sin. He became sin for us so that, in him, we might become the very righteousness of God. To stand before God with any claim to righteousness, we must appeal to the righteousness of Yahweh Tsidkenu alone.
At the same time, let us recognise that, as we appeal to Yahweh Tsidkenu—the LORD our righteousness—we appeal to him not only for positional righteousness but also for practical righteousness. That is, our righteous standing before God, in Christ, is not only a legal standing but one that makes a difference in our lives. Even as he grants us the gift of righteousness in justification, he also empowers us to pursue righteousness in sanctification.
Will you pray earnestly to Yahweh Tsidkenu for the ability to overcome sin and to pursue justice and righteousness? “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Do you see it? Do you recognise that God calls his righteous ones to live righteously? To “do justice” is to practise righteousness and Yahweh Tsidkenu—the righteous one—empowers us to do that. Pray for his enabling grace to “do justice.”
Third, we are expected to gratefully admire Yahweh Tsidkenu for his graciousness toward us. What gratitude should fill our hearts as we reflect on the gift of righteousness given to us by the only righteous one.
As you pray to God, express heartfelt thanks to him for his gift of righteousness in Christ. Never forget the grace that saved you. Never forget the righteousness that made you righteous. Admire him for his righteousness and thank him for his gift of righteousness in Christ.