An everlasting righteousness
by Glenn Pettit
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137 Righteous are You, O LORD,
And upright are Your judgments.
138 Your testimonies, which You have commanded,
Are righteous and very faithful.
139 My zeal has consumed me,
Because my enemies have forgotten Your words.
140 Your word is very pure;
Therefore Your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth.
143 Trouble and anguish have overtaken me,
Yet Your commandments are my delights.
144 The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting;
Give me understanding, and I shall live.
Those who claim that the Bible says the earth is flat have never read the Psalms. There is a word in Hebrew, "ôlâm", that is typically translated as "everlasting" or "eternal" or "forever." That word comes from a root word that carries the idea of something beyond the horizon, past the vanishing point, some thing or some time that is so far away we cannot see nor even conceive of it. I first came to know this word with the help of Psalms 103:11-18:
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
"As far as the east is from the west," "from everlasting to everlasting" - from beyond one horizon to beyond the other, from beyond where the sun rises to beyond where the sun sets - THAT is how great and everlasting is the Lord's mercy toward those who love Him. I will admit, I have a fondness for that psalm, because when I came to Christ and was first reading the Bible in earnest, those verses became the foundation of my nascent faith. It is very important that every believer understand the great depths and heights of God's love and mercy. As Paul wrote:
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -
19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
There is that same language, the same idea, that we cannot know the fullness of the love of God until we have faith in His Son, the living expression of His vast mercy and His everlasting righteousness.
In today's verses - Psalms 119:137-144 - the psalmist really focuses in on this idea that God's righteousness and holiness are beyond all measure, and that His love and mercy are equally great toward those who love Him. The psalmist admits his own insignificance, and in the same breath he mentions the greatness and eternal nature of God's righteousness, as expressed in His Word. When we read and study the Word of God - His testimonies, judgments, commandments, precepts, law - we will see what the psalmist and the patriarchs and prophets understood: God's Word is pure, refined, proven true. And the Bible being true in its expression of God's righteousness, we can therefore place our hope in the promises and covenants therein.
For, knowing that God is holy and good, we can believe Him when He promises to never leave nor forsake us. Since God cannot lie, we can believe when He tells us that He will redeem us from our sinfulness and write His Word upon our hearts. We can believe David when he says the Lord's mercy is immeasurable. We can believe Micah when he praises God for this:
18 Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
19 He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.
We can believe Jesus when He says on the Cross, "It is finished." And since it is finished, since Christ Jesus has imputed to us His own righteousness, we who believe on Christ have an eternal salvation and an eternal righteousness that cannot be measured.
That is the God we praise! That is the God we worship! That is the God whose Holy Bible we read and believe! This Word of God within our hands records and speaks of God's greatness and love, His power and grace, His abundant mercy and His eternal holiness. That is why the psalmist can say that he loves God's Word, that he takes delight in God's commandments - because that same righteous and eternal God is so loving and merciful that He grants life to all who love His blessed Son and thus keep His Word. God's righteousness and mercy are eternal, and so is the salvation He brings through Christ Jesus.
6 "Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished.
7 "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
You people in whose heart is My law:
Do not fear the reproach of men,
Nor be afraid of their insults.
8 "For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
And the worm will eat them like wool;
But My righteousness will be forever,
And My salvation from generation to generation."
Let us examine our faith today, to see if we truly believe and understand that God is eternally righteous and immeasurably merciful, that His love and salvation stretch far beyond our sight or knowledge. "For God so loved the world..." You ought to know the rest. Let us come to His Word every day, seeking His righteousness, delighting in His law, knowing His eternal salvation, cherishing the gift of eternal life that He has given the faithful through His great mercy. Let us seek His face all our days, and so become heirs with His Son not only of His glory but also of His everlasting righteousness.
Eternal God and Father, great is Your mercy and great is Your righteousness. Through Your beloved Son and His death on the Cross, You have given us a measure of Your righteousness, so that we might be saved and You be glorified. Therefore, let my life reflect Your light and love, Holy God. All honor and praise be Yours, Lord God, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.
© 2010 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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