For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.(Romans 10:3-4)
What did Israel stumble over? What exactly was this lack of knowledge that has left her lost and estranged from God? It was no small detail that Israel got wrong, they literally lacked the only Knowledge that would save them!
Paul says that Israel was ignorant of God’s Righteousness. This means Israel was ignorant of what the Law of God truly demanded. He was not saying that Israel knew nothing about the Law, in fact she knew very much of the Law and by the Law. The word translated ignorant, means devoid of exact and precise knowledge.
Isaiah 53 says, “…By His knowledge, my Righteous servant shall Justify the many”.
But gradually Israel combined her incomplete knowledge of Righteousness, with a mixture of false teaching on the subject. Thus her “knowledge ” of righteousness
Israel stumbled over nothing less than the way of Righteousness, as revealed in the Law, prophets and in the Gospel. In spite of centuries of Divine teaching, dealings, temple instruction, ritual, prophecy and miracles and the entire experience of her history, Israel has failed to attain that which she strove for, God’s Righteousness.
What were the specific points that Israel stumbled over so fatally ?
* Israel underestimated the standards of true Righteousness-
Jesus warned us in the Sermon on the Mount that “Unless your Righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no wise enter into the Kingdom of God”.(Matthew 5:20)
God can only demand perfection! The Righteousness that He requires, is the Righteousness that His Righteousness requires Him to require.
What does God really demand of man? Behold the Pharisee’s boast, in the parable told by Jesus,
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.(Luke 18:10-12)
The Apostle calls this ‘ confidence in the flesh’. The emphasis is on self effort, external observation of rites, and pride by comparison with others. This is not true Righteousness, and it literally stands in the way of salvation.
True Righteousness is absolute conformity to all of God’s Law, not just external observance in comparison with others. The Law of God is internal as well as external, and can only be fulfilled by those who Love God with all their being.It is none less than Loving the Lord our God, with all of our heart, Soul,mind and strength. Can anyone says that they do this at all times?
* Israel didn’t Know the difference between Self Righteousness and the Righteousness of God – Israel wasn’t indifferent to Righteousness. The pious Jew made much strenuous effort to attain Righteousness, especially the Pharisees. They made it their life’s goal to fulfill all of the 614 commandments of God. A Tzadik, would make all of the pilgrimages, fast, tithe down to the anise seed, and pay any price to be separate, in order to amass a treasury of Righteousness.
Righteousness before God, to these disciples was a matter of self effort.This Self Righteousness is based on the false premise that Man in and of himself can satisfy the demands of God. One of the problems of Rabbinic Judaism is that she understates the doctrine of original sin.An has been ruined and can not by himself ever please God to satisfaction.
* Israel didn’t realize that God himself would be their righteousnessTime and again the teaching of Law and prophets assured Israel that the Lord Himself would be their Righteousness.
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. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.(Jeremiah 23:5-6)
God himself would be the Righteousness of Israel, He would impute to them His own Righteousness. Knowing what He (Jesus) would do for them, would become a “justifying knowledge” to the Believer.
* Israel didn’t understand that true Righteousness could only be attained as a gift of Love- But this kind of Righteousness can induce no pride, for it is not attained by self effort. All this Righteousness can ever engender would be humility.
This is the gospel, that what the Righteous God demands of us, He himself provides for us- His Righteousness.
We who believe and love Jesus ,sing with uplifted arms and trembling lips,”He is all my Righteousness, We stand complete in Him, and Worship Him”.
* Israel didn’t know that Righteousness was something we are to submit to- What a difference there is between “Attaining” and “Submission”!
The one who Attains, is the champion, and to be lauded and admired for by his striving he has conquered! No wonder proud people seek to attain their own righteousness by various religious efforts. “We Thank you Lord, we are not like these others…”.
But the one who Submits has been conquered, and humbly accepts from his conqueror what it pleases him to give him. How amazing that the one who confesses his own deep sinfulness, and submits to God, receives a gift from his conqueror, the LORD from Heaven…Right Standing with God.
Righteousness from God can never be attained by men, but only submitted to.
* They didn’t know the goal of the Law – What is the goal of the Law of God?
The goal is not Righteousness, but the Messiah. The Law cannot bring Righteousness, it can only reveal that humanly speaking, the demand of Righteousness is reasonable but unattainable to us sinners. The law shows us that we are unrighteous and deserving of death, under the condemnation of God.
The law is designed to drive us out of ourselves unto the Messiah himself, for He alone can give us Righteousness.