Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper…
After his conversion the apostle Paul must continually have been meditating on the state of Israel. Much as he loved the Gentiles, and clearly as he saw the disposition of God that now the Gentiles should be brought in, he never could forget Israel. What shall we say then? he exclaims. Look at Israel. look at the Gentile nation! Israel for centuries has been striving most anxiously after one thing, to be righteous before Jehovah; they have not attained it. Why then has Israel not attained it? Because they sought it not by faith but by works (Romans 10:3). Why have the Gentiles attained it? Because by the grace of God they have been made willing to receive Jesus as their righteousness." Now look at the Jews going about to establish their own righteousness. They wish to be righteous before God. They wish to be such men as God approves — to be counted righteous and just so that He may be pleased. Therefore their idea of righteousness before God entirely depends upon their idea of God and of God's requirements. God has not left them in ignorance about this. If men who have not the revelation of God form a conception of God according to their own ideas it will be exactly in proportion to their moral condition; therefore the heathen nations made unto themselves gods like unto themselves, as ambitious, as impatient, as self-indulgent, as impure, as changeable as they were themselves. Israel knew the Lord. "I am Jehovah; I am God, and not man, spirit and not flesh; I am holy, be ye also holy." And not simply had God revealed Himself unto them, but He had given unto them also the law as a mirror in which they should see what His idea of men was. Israel had the law of God, and in the law of God they had the character of the righteous One described. And now Israel went about to establish a righteousness of their own. In this process those of them who were sincere in themselves and those of them who really sought not merely to be righteous, but to be righteous before God in order that they might have communion with God, very soon came into the knowledge of their sin, and into the most painful consciousness of their defilement, and, therefore, wishing to he righteous before God, they soon began to cry unto God out of the depth, and to know that innumerable sins had taken hold upon them, and that woe is unto them because they are undone and of unclean lips, and unto such through the knowledge of the law there came death under the law, a longing after pardon, and after the power of God's Spirit operating on their hearts. But those were always the exceptions, the small minority, the "remnant according to the election of grace." The majority of the nation lowered their standard of God, and lowered their standard of the law, and so far did this deteriorating process go on that they not merely came into the idea that they were able to fulfil the law, but they came even to the idea that they were able to do more than the law commanded; that they were able, by extra exertions and by observing precepts which God never has enjoined, to have a treasury of merits, works of supererogation. Curious inconsistency — as long as men go about establishing their own righteousness they are proud before God. But then you would think that if a man is proud, and if he has got the kind of self-consciousness so that he can stand, as it were, before God, that then he would be sure of his salvation. One of their most celebrated prophets, whom they called the "law of the world," was on his death-bed, and one of his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, what sayest thou now?" The Rabbi said, "Heaven and hell are before me, and I know not whither I am going. If I were to be summoned into the presence of an earthly king I might well be afraid, and yet his displeasure would only last a few years, and his punishment, however severe it may be, must come to an end; but I am now going into the presence of the Lord God Most High, whose wrath is everlasting, and His punishment is infinite, and I know not whether I shall be acquitted." Going about establishing a righteousness of their own, lowering the idea of God, lowering the standard of the law, proud and unbroken in spirit, and yet without any peace or assurance of the favour of God. Such a one, also, was the apostle Paul before he was converted; he went about establishing his own righteousness, and afterwards he said that he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, according to the law blameless, but now he wishes not to have his own righteousness, which is by the law. There is another righteousness of which both the law and the prophets have continually testified; which is apart from the law, which man does not work out, which is as much given to man as bread is given to a hungry person, and as water is given to a thirsty person. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness." What is the sad condition of the Jews? They do not see two things: they do not know that Jesus is Jehovah, and they do not know that this is our only righteousness. "Jesus our Righteousness." And what is the lamentable condition of Christians who do not know the Lord? Simply the same thing, for if they knew Jehovah-Tsidkenu then they would have the knowledge of salvation, they would put no confidence in the works of the law, they would simply rejoice in Christ Jesus. Then this Jesus is Jehovah When He was an infant He had angels already calling Him Lord, and it was quite right that the wise men of the East worshipped Him. He is Jehovah, but He is "God manifest in the flesh" There is in all human beings, however far they may be from God, this peculiarity: that without union with God they cannot have life. When we think of this union with God, that God should be all in all, that we should be one with God, unless we go by the Word of God we may fall into great depths of error, and into that which is very ungodly. And here is a very peculiar thing, that you find among all the Eastern nations a striving after this being absorbed in God. You find it in India, you find it in China — almost wherever you go; you find it among the Arabs and the Persians. Mystics in all nations, what do they want? They have a feeling that there is in God the only true existence, the only life and blessedness; that everything else apart from God is transitory, is imperfect, is unsatisfactory; they wish to be one with Him; they wish to be absorbed in Him. But the great error which they commit, the great evil into which they are landed is this, that they do not see that sin is sin, that it is wrong, that it is evil. They imagine that sin is necessary, something through which we have to pass, something for which we are not accountable; and thus they deafen the voice of conscience, and declare evil not to be evil, and that there can be no real difference between good and evil. But round it is the truth which God has taught us, that we are to be one with God; we are to be in such a close union with Jehovah that it may be said, "We live, yet not we, but Jehovah lives in us." But how union with God? Because we believe in Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and in this faith in Jesus submitting to the righteousness of God there are three elements. "No boasting." You can judge any religion, simply by that one point — is all the glory given to God and no glory to man? Secondly, there is no uncertainty, for we have a perfect and Divine righteousness. Thirdly, there is no compromise with sin, because, if we believe that Jesus died for us, we believe that God condemned sin in the flesh. We must depart from all unrighteousness, nay, we are "crucified unto the world," and the world unto us.
(A. Saphir, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.