If you can read the ten commandments without being convicted of your sin, then I would encourage you to do an exercise: read the Larger Catechism’s exposition of the ten commandments along with the proof texts and my guess is that you will be in tears before a holy God. The reason we are reading the law before we go to the Lord’s Table is to emphasize that we do not come worthily to the table in our own righteousness. The only way we can come worthily is in the righteousness of God. And for our communion meditation I want to bring you the comfort of the Gospel through the name, Yehowah Tsidkenu, or as it is sometimes pronounced, Jehovah Tsidkenu, which means, Jehovah our righteousness. And I would like you to turn to Jeremiah 23:5-6.
Before I read this, let me explain the context. The context is a situation where the sinfulness of Israel and Israel’s shepherds was being highlighted. By this time Jeremiah had made it crystal clear that there was no salvation through their works because they were incurably sinful. Likewise, there could be no salvation through the religious leaders because they had sin. Nor through the king because he was sinful. Even Jeremiah is convicted of his sin in this book. All stand condemned in themselves because of the righteousness of God. His standard is absolute perfection. And of course none of us is perfect. Prior to salvation, we have this huge bundle of sin on us that keeps God from embracing us to Himself. Because He is righteous Scripture says that He hates all workers of iniquity. They are an abomination to Him. He cannot love them. We have a huge rift between God’s perfect righteousness and our own sinfulness. And we have to see how bad our sin is before we can appreciate the incredible security we have in the Gospel. J. Greshem Machen said something to the effect of: to more fully understand the wonder of the Gospel we must more fully understand the law.
Counterfeit religion downplays God’s righteousness in their version of salvation. They have to downplay it because otherwise they continually stand condemned. But Biblical salvation is an amazing salvation because it is a salvation that highlights God’s righteousness. It does not diminish it. Let’s read the passage together. Jeremiah 23:5-6.
Behold, the days are coming, ‘ says the LORD [or Jehovah], “that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;...
Now, to raise to David means that one of David’s descendants; one of his branches needs to be a branch of righteousness. And of course, this is a reference to Jesus Christ who was perfectly righteous having never committed sin. Verse 5 goes on to describe Christ’s work:
A King shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS [The Hebrew is Yehowah Tsidkenu] The LORD our Righteousness.
Jeremiah is indicating that the only way we could be declared righteous is through a substitute who would not only bear our sin (where He would legally become sin for us) but who would also give us His righteousness as a perfect gift (where we would legally be righteous). How can we have assurance of our salvation? It’s not by looking within, but looking to Jesus who alone can provide for our righteousness. He is Jehovah Tsidkenu. And when you begin to realize that your entire hope of salvation is in pleading Jesus’s sufficiency, you lose your fear of the law completely. People can point out your sinfulness and it doesn’t cast you down. And the reason it doesn't cast you down is that you know that you are 1000’s of times worse than anything people can throw at you. Scripture says,
What is man that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous? If God puts no trust in His saints, and the heavens are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is abominable, and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water! (Job 15:14-16)
Romans 3:10 says, "there is none righteous, no not one." Isaiah tells us that any good we might do is polluted by our sin and makes it look like filthy rags in God’s sight (Is. 64:6) - that is, unless our good deeds are covered at the same time by justification. Scripture asks, "How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be clean that is born of woman?” (Job 25:4).
And the answer is that the very righteousness of God which condemns us must also be the solution that justifies us. Since we have no righteousness in ourselves that is not defiled by sin, God must give us His very own righteousness to clothe us in justification, and that righteousness must then live with us forever. According to Jeremiah 23 Jesus had to be a man, a branch of David, or he could never represent men. He had to be one of us. But He also had to be Jehovah God Himself to represent God to man. And of course Jesus is perfect God and perfect Man without confusion yet without division.
Here is how Isaiah describes this remarkable work. It says that God the Son had to come to earth and take to Himself a human nature. He had to become a man while never ceasing to be God. And He had to bear our sins. It says,
All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to His own way. And the LORD has lain on Him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus became our substitute. God’s righteousness made Him pour out His wrath upon His beloved son and punish Him for everything we have committed. The realization of that makes us hate our sin. And in turn Jesus gives us a load of righteousness. We are treated legally as if we have never sinned and as if we have done every righteous deed that Jesus did. That is justification. It is wrapped up in the term Jehovah-Tsidkenu. That name means that every righteousness we could ever need whether legal or experiential comes from Jesus. And because justification covers our imperfect sanctification, our good deeds (also produced by His grace) can be seen as righteous and holy.
We come worthily to the table only as we have Jehovah’s perfect righteousness. And if you are clothed in the righteous garments of Jehovah Tsidkenu, you can come boldly and you can come filled with joy. Make this meal your pledge that you will look to Jehovah Tsidkenu and not despair by looking at yourself. Amen.