1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But He brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land He promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
Deuteronomy 6:1-3 & 20-25
Friday and Monday we looked at the verses above and both implied one could have righteousness by following God’s instructions, decrees, and commands. Certainly that was the Old Testament thinking even though it was clearly known no one could perfectly keep all that God had commanded. Thus there were a number of sacrifices to atone for not keeping all God had commanded, even for those broken accidentally.
So, if that is true, and it is, how is one to ever become or gain righteousness? To find out let’s turn to scripture where God spoke to Abram in Genesis 15
5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. 7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
Did you get that? Abram believed what the Lord had told him and then He credited it to him as righteousness. God made the decision. It will help here to look at the English word “righteous” and see that it originated from an old Anglo-Saxon word, rihtwis, which meant right wise. The purpose of the word was to emphasize the distinction between good wisdom and bad wisdom, which in turn produces good or bad behavior. The Hebrew word of the Holy Scriptures that is translated as “righteous” means lawful or clean – again, referring to right wisdom.
Now I am going to share a reader’s comments on this (edited and paraphrased).
Obedience does not make us righteous. It is our heart condition when we obey that that can lead to righteousness, if it is done out of gratitude and love (after all He first loved us) and not out of fear of punishment. God then decides whether or not His righteousness will be imputed to us. As Moses taught, as long as the Israelites fulfilled the stipulations set forth in Torah, they were temporarily protected, since they met the requirements of the Law including sacrifices for the times they failed. However, as seen in Romans 6-7 the original intent of the Law was spiritual, to bring each man to a place of surrender and hopelessness before God showing the need for a Messiah realizing that he could only keep nine tenths of the Decalogue at best, but when it came to covetousness, he was helplessly guilty and wretched. In the Passover celebration, you see in that ceremony the children asking the father “Why do we do this every year?” and thus giving the opportunity for instruction and reminder. The reason for Deuteronomy (the second law) was that the parents failed in their duty, and the first generation (Exodus-Leviticus) had all perished in the wilderness, and so Moses had to again instruct their children to instruct their children, and so forth.
I hope this encourages you to take a deeper look at your spiritual life and how you are choosing (hopefully) to follow God.