December 22: A False Form of Righteousness
Jeremiah 42:1–43:13; Romans 9:30–10:21; Proverbs 24:23–34
Zeal can be treacherous if it’s misplaced. It may lead us to set and strictly follow standards that have nothing to do with God’s work—standards that make us feel like good people but that can devastate our lives and the lives of others.
Paul addresses the misplaced zeal of many Jewish people in his letter to the Roman church: “Brothers, the desire of my heart and my prayer to God on behalf of them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For ignoring the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:1–4).
Many Jewish people who had rejected the Messiah were attempting to make themselves right with God by keeping the OT law. In doing so, they missed God by seeking their own righteousness. Paul tells the Romans that these Jewish people ignored the “righteousness of God”—God’s work of salvation in Jesus Christ. It’s only by submitting to God that they could be “right with God” through Jesus Christ.
This lesson isn’t applicable only to the Jewish people and their relationship to the law. Jesus restored relationship with God when we couldn’t. We only have to believe in Him. Yet a dangerous zeal can still trip us up. If we rest in anything except Christ’s work and try to reach God by being good people, we are sure to miss Him. And in the process, we can become stumbling blocks in the lives of others.
Are you trying to attain righteousness through your own effort? How does your life reflect humility because of Christ’s work in you? How can you lovingly point others toward the righteousness of God, found only through His son, Jesus Christ?
What are you trying to attain? How can you focus your hope and the hope of others on Christ and the righteousness He has attained for you?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- Then all the captains of the host, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant (for we are left, but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold) That the Lord thy God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. Then Jeremiah the Prophet said unto them, I have heard you: behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words, and whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you: I will keep nothing back from you. Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a witness of truth, and faith between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good or evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord God, to whom we send thee, that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God. And so after ten days came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah. Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the host, which were with him, and all the people from the least to the most, And said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your prayers before him, If ye will dwell in this land, then I will build you, and not destroy you, and I will plant you, and not root you out: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Fear not for the king of Babel, of whom ye are afraid: be not afraid of him, saith the Lord: for I am with you, to save you, and to deliver you from his hand, And I will grant you mercy that he may have compassion upon you, and he shall cause you to dwell in your own land. But if we say, We will not dwell in this land, neither hear the voice of the Lord your God, Saying, Nay, but we will go into the land of Egypt, wher we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread, and there will we dwell, (And now therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah: thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, If ye set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to dwell there,) Then the sword that ye feared, shall take you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, and by the pestilence, and none of them shall remain, nor escape from the plague, that I will bring upon them. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, As mine anger and my wrath hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem: so shall my wrath be poured forth upon you, when he shall enter into Egypt, and ye shall be a detestation, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach, and ye shall see this place no more. O ye remnant of Judah, the Lord hath said concerning you, Go not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day. Surely ye dissembled in your hearts when ye sent me unto the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us unto the Lord our God, and declare unto us even according unto all that the Lord our God shall say, and we will do it. Therefore I have this daay declared it you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God, nor anything for the which he hath sent me unto you. Now therefore, know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence in the place whither ye desire to go and dwell. Now when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto the whole people all the words of the Lord our God, for the which the Lord their God had sent him to them, even all these words. Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to dwell there. But Baruch the son of Neriah provoketh thee against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might slay us, and carry us away captives into Babel. So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the host, and all the people obeyed nor the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah. But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the host took all the remnant of Judah that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell int he land of Judah: Even men and women, and children, and the king’s daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the chief steward had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the Prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah. So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: thus came they to Tahpanhes. Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brick kiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes in the sight of the men of Judah, And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel, Behold, I will send and bring Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babel my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his pavilion over them. And when he shall come, he shall smite the land of Egypt: such as are appointed for death, to death, and such as are for captivity, to captivity, and such as are for the sword, to the sword. And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and carry them away captives, and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment, and shall depart fro thence in peace. He shall break also the image of Beth Shemesh, that is in the land of Egypt, and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire. Jeremiah 42:1–43:13
- What shall we say then? That the Gentiles which followed not righteousness, have attained unto righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel which followed the Law of righteousness could not attain unto the Law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the Law: for they have stumbled at the stumbling stone, As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone, and a rock to make men fall: and everyone that believeth in him, shall not be ashamed. Romans 9:30–10:21
- Also these things pertain to the wise, It is not good to have respect of any person in judgment. He that saith to the wicked, Thou art righteous, him shall the people curse, and the multitude shall abhor him. But to them that rebuke him, shall be pleasure, and upon them shall come the blessing of goodness. They shall kiss the lips of him that answereth upright words. Prepare thy work without cause: for wilt thou deceive with thy lips? Say not, I willl do to him as he hath done to me, I will recompense every man according to his work. I passed by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man destitute of understanding. And lo, it was grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I beheld, and I considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. so thy poverty cometh as one that traveleth by the way, and thy necessity like an armed man. Proverbs 24:23–34