The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
Even though she died nearly a century ago, many of us still sing hymns written by Frances J. "Fanny" Crosby. Blind from infancy, Mrs. Crosby nonetheless wrote over eight thousand hymns in her 94-year lifetime. She once wrote:
"It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."
Rather than railing against her fate, Mrs. Crosby took hold of the blessings she had in Christ and used her many talents in His service. That is why she was able to write:
"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood."
That assurance of which she wrote is the assurance of salvation, the assurance of being able to enter the presence of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, the assurance of eternal life.
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
We may draw near to God "in full assurance of faith"--i.e. being assured of our righteousness in Christ because of our faith in Him. Purchased by the blood of the Son of God, we are now co-heirs with Him in eternal life. (Romans 8:16-17)
Looking at today's verse from the prophet Isaiah, I was reminded of that assurance we have through Christ. And as I was researching this verse, I came across something interesting: the Hebrew word translated here as "assurance" is also translated in other English Bibles as "trust," "confidence," and "hope." The word "betach" literally refers to a place of refuge but is often used as an adverb to mean "safely" or "securely." Isn't that a blessed thought? The effect of righteousness is quietness and security/safety/trust/assurance forever.
But of course, we must remember WHOSE righteousness it is that works in our lives. There is a deception in believing we can be righteous if we just do enough of the right works with the right intentions.
18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
19 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
20 "You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'"
21 And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth."
22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
We like to think that if we just DO the right thing, we'll be righteous enough to inherit eternal life. But is our "enough" ever really enough? No, not really. As Jesus reminded the rich ruler, there is no one good save our Father in heaven. Therefore, it is not OUR righteousness that saves us and gives us assurance forever, it is GOD'S righteousness and mercy that brings us the salvation in which we now rest assured. And we gain salvation through our faith in Jesus Christ.
3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The work of GOD'S righteousness is peace, and the effect of His righteousness is the rest we have in Him, a quiet abiding in the security of having been justified before Him. And this assurance and security we have is not a confidence in worldly blessings--although they can come, too--but a trust in the salvation that leads to eternal life. It is this same forward-looking faith that the patriarchs had, knowing that, even though they themselves never knew Jesus, they were yet assured of His coming and of His saving work that would bless all mankind. (Hebrews 11:13)
Even though she grew up never seeing the faces of her parents nor the beauty of the world, Fanny Crosby rested in that assurance of faith, that restful confidence that one day the very first face she would ever see would be the face of our blessed Savior and Lord. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all rested in that assurance? We worry, we fret, we toil, and we often forget that this mortal life is temporary, that we are just sojourners here on our way to our real home. We carry our burdens heavily, often refusing the assistance of the Holy Spirit to lift our hearts and give us strength. We ignore the Lord when He tells us "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) We forget that He has assured us, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
The call from our Lord Jesus is to submit to Him, to carry our cross in His name, to bear the easy yoke of His teaching and obedience. We who wish to rest assured of eternal life must first have faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that through Him--and Him alone--we have been adopted as children of God Most High. Then we can proclaim His praises forever, and sing with Fanny Crosby:
"Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love."
Let us not dwell on the burdens of this life but instead take hold of the blessings of the Holy Spirit, "looking above" for our confidence and our peace. Let us become so lost in the love of Jesus that we truly know the peace of God. Let us rest in perfect submission to the righteousness of God, having the blessed assurance of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Holy Lord God, as Mrs. Crosby wrote, I in my Savior am happy and blessed. I am blessed by your peace, Father, blessed by the confidence I have in the salvation You have ordained through Your Son. Guide my heart to rest in that place of refuge, Lord, so that in all things I truly will rejoice in You. I lay before You, my Lord, the burdens of my heart, knowing that Your grace is always sufficient for all I need. Praise be to the One in whose righteousness alone I may know the blessed assurance of eternal life. Amen.