The Lord our Righteousness
Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Jeremiah 33:14-16, taken together, form one of the most wonderful Messianic meditations in all the Scriptures. In chapter 23 Jeremiah writes, "Behold, the days are coming, declares 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 dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'" In chapter 26 he wrote, "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which she will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness."
George Whitefield, in his sermon The Lord Our Righteousness, explained the connection between these two prophecies:
For the person mentioned in the text, under the character of the Lord, is Jesus Christ. Ver. 5, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days (ver. 6) Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness." By the righteous branch, all agree, that we are to understand Jesus Christ. He it is that is called the Lord in our text. If so, if there were no other text in the Bible to prove the divinity of Christ, this is sufficient: for if the word Lord may properly belong to Jesus Christ, he must be God. And, as you have it in the margin of your Bibles, the word Lord is in the original Jehovah, which is the essential title of God himself...For it is plain, that, by the word Lord, we are to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, who here takes to himself the title Jehovah, and therefore must be very God of very God; or, as the Apostle devoutly expresses it, "God blessed for evermore."
Here then we see the meaning of the word righteousness. It implies the active as well as passive obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. We generally, when talking of the merits of Christ, only mention the latter, — his death; whereas, the former, — his life and active obedience, is equally necessary. Christ is not such a Savior as becomes us, unless we join both together. Christ not only died, but lived, not only suffered, but obeyed for, or instead of, poor sinners. And both these jointly make up that complete righteousness, which is to be imputed to us, as the disobedience of our first parents was made ours by imputation. In this sense, and no other, are we to understand that parallel which the apostle Paul draws, in the 5th of the Romans, between the first and second Adam. This is what he elsewhere terms, "our being made the righteousness of God in him." This is the sense wherein the Prophet would have us to understand the words of the text; therefore, Jer. 33:16, "She (i.e. the church itself) shall be called, (having this righteousness imputed to her) The Lord our righteousness." A passage, I think, worthy of the profoundest meditation of all the sons and daughters of Abraham.
Jesus Christ is our righteousness. He is the righteousness of His people because He stands in our place, fulfilling the Law of God perfectly for us and taking the wrath of God that we deserve. His righteous status is our righteous status. Our sin was imputed to Him; His righteousness has been imputed to us by faith alone. Charles Spurgeon draws our the implication of this most precious truth in his sermon Jehovah Tsidkenu:
Let us call Him so. "This is the name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our righteousness." Let us call him by this great name, which the mouth of the Lord of Hosts hath named. Let us call him—poor sinners!—even we, who are today smitten down with grief on account of sin. I want this text to be fulfilled in your ears and in your case to-day. You are guilty. Your own conscience acknowledges that the law condemns you, and you dread the penalty. Soul! he that trusteth Christ Jesus is saved, and he that believeth on him is not condemned. To every trustful spirit Christ is "the Lord our righteousness." Call him so, I pray thee. "I have no good thing of my own," sayest thou? Here is every good thing in him. "I have broken the law," sayest thou? There is His blood for thee. Believe in him, he will wash thee. "But then I have not kept the law. "There is his keeping of the law for thee. Take it, sinner, take it. Believe on him. "Oh, but I dare not," saith one. Do him the honor to dare it. "Oh, but it seems impossible." Honour him by believing the impossibility then. "Oh, but how can he save such a wretch as I am?" Soul! Christ is glorified in saving wretches. As I told you the other day, Christ cures incurable sinners; so I say now he accepts unacceptable sinners. He receives sinners that think they are not fit to be received. Only do thou trust him and say, "He shall be my righteousness to-day." "But suppose I should do it and be presumptuous? It is impossible. He bids you, he commands you. Let that be your warrant. "This is the commandment, that ye believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent." If you cannot say it with a loud voice, yet with the trembling silence of your soul let heaven hear it. Yes, Jesus, "All unholy and unclean, I am nothing else but sin, yet I dare with fervent venture of these quivering lips to call thee, and to call upon thee now, as the Lord my righteousness."