Anytime you need to understand a word in the scriptures you must go to the first instant of that word to see how it was used. In our case, we want to understand the word righteousness. The first two instances of righteousness in the scriptures involved Abraham. In Gen. 15:6 Abram believed YHWH and YHWH considered him righteous for it. Abram trusted that God was telling him the truth. He took Him at His word like he has always done. Abram’s thoughts toward God were right. He believed God could do what He said He would do. So righteousness started out with belief.
He believed in YHWH, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
In Gen. 18:19 God said He made Himself known to Abraham so he could teach his children and those after him how to keep the way of YHWH and how to do what is right and just in His eyes. Abraham’s belief led to following God and His ways. That meant obeying God’s commands to him, not showing partiality, but delivering justice to all.
For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of YHWH and to do what is right and just, so that YHWH may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him. (Genesis 18:19)
We see the first two instances of the word righteousness being used involve believing YHWH, following His ways of doing things and doing what is right and just. The first part deals with our relationship with YHWH, while the last part deals with how we treat other people. This is the same format God used when He gave the “Ten Words” for Israel to follow.
Deut. 6:25 lets us know that if we believe and obey the commands YHWH has given us, then we will be considered righteous also by Him. We can’t do things our way because our righteousness isn’t true righteousness. It is considered to be as filthy rags – no good and not usable anymore. (Is. 64:4)
It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to obey all these mitzvot (commands) before YHWH our God, just as he ordered us to do. (Deuteronomy 6:25)
This is why we are told to seek God first and His righteousness. (Matt. 6:33) By following God’s ways, seeking who He is and what He requires, we too can be declared righteous – ethically right with proper thinking towards YHWH and His ways. Even Mat. 21:32 states that righteousness starts with belief. John came to the people teaching how to obtain righteousness, but they didn’t believe him.
For Yochanan came to you showing the path to righteousness, and you wouldn’t trust him. The tax-collectors and prostitutes trusted him; but you, even after you saw this, didn’t change your minds later and trust him. (Matthew 21:32)
The way of righteousness leads to life. (Pro. 12:28) Following God’s ways, which are righteous, leads to life. This is why the disciples were called “followers of The Way.” (Acts 9:2; 19:23, 22:4, 24:14) They followed the ways of righteousness – believing God, following His ways, dealing in justice and having right thoughts.
Today many Christians believe that all we have to do to be in right standing with God is believe and then we become righteous. There are no rules to follow. We can do whatever we want. Yet, in the same breath, they say we must follow Jesus/Yeshua. But if we did that then we would follow the commands YHWH gave us from the beginning because that’s what Yeshua did.
Yeshua did everything he saw His Father do. He only spoke what His Father said to speak. He followed His Father’s way; he didn’t do away with them. He proved that following God with his whole being can be done. His job was to take away the stumbling blocks and lift up a standard (God’s ways) for the people to follow. (Is. 40:3, 57:14; 62:10; Mal. 3:1)
Yeshua became the righteousness by which we will be judged because He died doing His Father’s will, resurrecting to life everlasting and in doing so, he became our righteousness and provided an example to follow. (Acts 17:31) That means we do our part in living the way God wants us to, instead of making excuses as to why we can’t.
My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik, (the righteous one) who pleads our cause with the Father. Also, he is the kapparah (atonement) for our sins – and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. The way we can be sure we know him is if we are obeying his commands. Anyone who says, “I know him,” but isn’t obeying his commands is a liar – the truth is not in him. But if someone keeps doing what he says, then truly love for God has been brought to its goal in him. This is how we are sure that we are united with him. A person who claims to be continuing in union with him ought to conduct his life the way he did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command. On the contrary, it is an old command, which you have had from the beginning; the old command is the message which you have heard before. (1 John 2:1-7)
This is why Yeshua said he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is a certain way to follow, which leads to all truth and grants life everlasting. This way doesn’t involve following man’s addition to God’s commands. Yeshua said his yoke was easy and his burden was light. If we strip away all of man’s opinions and really search God’s word for His truth then we will find Yeshua’s statement to be true.
What it all comes down to is God desires for us to be righteous and that involves us doing something. The first step is to believe, followed by obeying His commands. Only God can make us righteous in His sight, which comes through trust (faith, belief) and with the righteous person living his life by trusting God. (Rom. 1:17) The way to trust God is to believe who He says He is and do what He says to do – walk in righteousness.
Help us to walk the way You want us to walk, to speak how and what You want us to speak, and to hear what You want us to hear. We desire to be like our Messiah, whom You gave to us to show us the way so we can be led into the truth and gain life. We bless your name, YHWH, for there is no one like you, who loves us like You do.
In Your Son’s Yeshua’s Name, Amen