I am continuing to look at the Hebrew letters that make up the word yatsar, translated ‘form’ in my study passage of Isaiah 45:7. Last week I looked at the first letter, Yod-Spirituality, and this week I am looking at the second: Tzadi-Righteousness & Humility.
צ Tzadi = Righteousness & Humility
The New World dictionary defines righteous as “acting in an upright manner; doing what is right; virtuous.” However, before it ever gets into the definition of righteous, the dictionary states that righteous comes from the Old English ‘rightwise’. I looked up ‘rightwise’ online and found the same meaning as given in the New World dictionary but also this definition: “by a rightward path, rightwards, rightwardly, clockwise”.
I remembered how many times I find the mention of ‘paths’ in the Psalms: “smooth paths”, “teach me your path”, “all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth” and so many more. It’s in Psalm 23 that I find ‘paths’ linked with ‘righteousness’: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” I love this idea of God’s righteousness being walked out in our daily lives. It is His attribute and He longs to teach it to us. I hear this longing in Isaiah 48:17-18: “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.’”
The beauty of being alive in this day of the Lord is that this teaching is no longer something that comes from outside of us. The voice that was heard in the OT behind us saying, “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21) is now the voice speaking inside of us. Righteousness is no longer something to be learned from the law but is now become our identity. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We are taught of Him, certainly, but He does not give us rules and regulations to follow but rather lives His righteousness in us. Paul states this so clearly in Galatians: “…the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (2:20). This righteousness that is ours in Christ Jesus is not only our identity but becomes our very garments. This is something I want to come back to in a later study but, for now, I will share Revelation 19:7-8: “‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
I was fascinated to see righteousness and humility together in the same Hebrew letter. It seems fitting because it really is impossible to have one without the other. Our Self with all of its righteousness is crucified with Christ and we now live not only His righteousness but His humility. What is His humility?
In my studies, I have come across a truly horrendous idea of humility. I am told that, if I am constantly reminding God of my sins-or worse, expecting Him to remind me of them-, if I come crawling before Him with words of my unworthiness on my lips, and remind Him I am acceptable because of the death of His Son; then I am being humble. How grateful I am for the Holy Spirit as my teacher! How grateful I am He is with me when I read scripture! Jesus has come! As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12)! The curse to crawl on the belly was to the serpent, not humankind! We come boldly before the throne of grace, not ashamed, sure in our acceptance because the love of the Father has been shed abroad in our hearts by His Spirit (See Hebrews 4:16 and Romans 5:5). This is our identity in the Lord Jesus Christ and, because we are in Him and walk by His Spirit, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
I am aware of scriptures like 1 John 1:8-9. As I study the passage, I find the word confess here is the Greek word homologeo (G3670) and it means “to assent, i.e. covenant, acknowledge.” Acknowledge what? Jesus. The finished work of the Cross. I don’t see here the necessity of raking my sins over the coals nor does it mean to air my dirty laundry. I assent, I say with the covenant God that He sent His son, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, and His blood doesn’t just cover my sin but washes me clean. He establishes me and presents me to Himself holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). This is who I am! It doesn’t sound very humble though, does it?
I read the best definition of humility I’ve ever found in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible. The entry for humility begins with: “Trench defines ‘humility’ as the esteeming of ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so; the thinking truly, and because truly, therefore lowlily, of ourselves. Alford, Ellicott, Salmond, Vincent, and many others agree. It is an inadequate and faulty definition. A man may be small and may realize his smallness, and yet be far from being humble. His spirit may be full of envy instead of humility. He may be depressed in spirit because he sees his own meanness and general worthlessness, and yet he may be as rebellious against his lot or his constitutional proclivities as he is clearly cognizant of them. Low-mindedness is not lowly-mindedness. The exhortation of Ph 2:3 does not mean that every man ought to think that everybody else is better than himself in moral character, or in outward conduct, or in natural or inherited powers. That would be impossible in some cases and untruthful in many others. It is not an exhortation to either an impossibility or an untruthfulness. A better definition of the Christian grace of humility is found in the union of highest self-respect with uttermost abandon of sacrifice in service.”
James Hastings then points to John 13:3-5, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, as the classic NT example of humility. Mr. Hastings says, “The consciousness of His own transcendent worth was in no respect inconsistent with His humility. Genuine humility leads the strong to serve the weak. It never underestimates its own worth, but in utter unselfishness it is ready to sacrifice its own claims at any moment for the general good. Genuine humility loses all its self-conceit but never loses its self-respect. It is consistent with the highest dignity of character and life. Hence we may rightly call the Incarnation the Humiliation of Christ. He stood at the head of the heavenly hierarchies. He was equal with God. There was no dignity in the universe like unto His. Yet He humbled Himself to become a man. He made Himself of no reputation. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. He was the servant of all. There was no humility in the universe like unto His. He never forgot His dignity. When Pilate asked Him if He were a king, He answered that He was. He stood in kingly majesty before the mob, in kingly serenity before the magistrates; He hung as King upon the cross. Yet He never forgot His humility. Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. St. Paul exhorts, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Ph 2:5-11). God giveth grace to all who are this humble (Ja 4:6).”
I have no need to creep and crawl before my Creator. My identity is Jesus Christ. I am His Beloved and, because I am in Him, everything He has is mine. In utter humility, I acknowledge that all of this is true because He has made it so and not because of any merit of mine. I speak the same words as my Lord and Saviour: “I can of myself do nothing” (John 5:30) and “not what I will but what You will” (Mark 14:36) and I know that “He who calls me is faithful and who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24) I look at my talents and offer them up knowing that “every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). I know that as He is, so am I in this world (1 John 4:17) which means that the one who has bestowed upon me His own transcendent worth will make me into the same sort of servant; humble and meek.
In joyful humility, I cast myself utterly on Jesus and know that He will cause me to walk paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, William Collins+World Publishing Company, Cleveland • New York, 1976
Haralik, Robert M., The Inner Meaning of the Hebrew Letters, Jason Aronson, Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1995
Hastings, James, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 2001, Humility, Page 372
Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990