Surrounded by the Righteous

Surrounded by the Righteous

Surrounded by the Righteous.

“Free me from my prison, Lord, that I may praise your name. The righteous (tzaddiyq) will surround me, the upright shall gather around me, because of your goodness to me. Because you deal so bountifully with me, your people can form a circle around me and you will bring me showers of blessing.” (Psalm 142:7).

THE RIGHTEOUS – Greek, “tsaddiyq” (tsad-deek) = a person who is upright, just, godly, in right standing with God; who lives according to God’s standards; a title in Judaism given to people who are especially outstanding in piety, holiness and righteousness; the “tzaddik” has been described as someone who oozes goodness, who takes joy in justice, who loves to blamelessly puts things right. A righteous person is one who lives a life pleasing to God. In Christ, a righteous person is one who lives by faith and is growing in the goodness of Jesus as a result.

Psalm 142 has traditionally been understood as written by David in “the cave” (1 Samuel 22). So it is likely that David wrote this psalm while in his famous cave of Adullam. Notice who gathers around him, those he considers “righteous” who surround him while he is on the run.

The Cave. The cave system of Adullam was an unlikely place of fascinating importance; a gigantic cavern in the Judean wilderness, 12 miles from Jerusalem, on the south border of the valley where David slew Goliath. It was the secret headquarters for David and his band of merry men, probably around 600 in number. This cave has been discovered and can be entered even now. Inside the opening is a winding passage that leads to a huge room of about 5,000 square feet. There are many more passages that branch out from that room which lead to other big rooms. It is said that the entire cave system could house at least a thousand men. It is in this very cave where David found refuge when Saul was in hot pursuit. In this hidden cavern, a scene of young David’s glory, his anointing was evident to all who knew him. “David left Bath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of his family heard about it, they came down to him there. He was joined by all those who were in difficulties, or in debt, or who were embittered, and he became their leader.” (1 Samuel 22:1-2). What kind of man, while in an outlaw’s hideout, would attract the needy like nails to a magnet? Like a man after God’s own heart, a true tzaddik.

Community. David formed his own community while surrounded by the righteous there in the cave. In the spirit of God he began developing what we see a thousand years later in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended to the Father… “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, the breaking of bread together, and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all. All the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had… They shared their meals together with great joy and sincere hearts, all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people… All the believers were united in heart and mind. They shared everything they had. There were no needy people among them.” (Acts 2:43-45 and 4:32-35). This is a picture of Christian community, when believers surround each other with love and praise, knowing that their righteousness is only found in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Koinonia. St. Paul, certainly another example of a tzaddik, closes his second letter to the Corinthians with an interesting observation concerning the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). After praying for them to be blessed in the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, Paul completes the blessing by praying that they would experience the “koinonia” of the Holy Spirit. Koinonia is another rich Greek biblical term, meaning communion, participation in, companionship, intimate partnership with, deep fellowship with. We are not only joined into the community of the Trinity through the Spirit, but we are plugged into a profound fellowship with other believers as well. There would be no communion with other people were it not for the source of all communion, the intimate unity of the triune God. We are one with other believers only because of our oneness with the Trinity. Believers are welcomed into the relationship of the Trinity, and through that spiritual source of oneness we have the possibility of intimate fellowship with fellow believers. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, along with the Father and the Son, and thus we are able to live inside the Trinity while the Trinity lives within us and we live within the community of believers. The Holy Spirit, our true Companion, our intimate “Friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

One Another. What does it look like when the righteous surround each other in community? How do the righteous treat each other? If a thriving community is a shiny diamond containing many facets, the One Another’s are those facets. The One Another’s reveal what it looks like to lay down your life for your friends, to put your self on the shelf in a daily martyrdom, sacrificing yourself for someone else’s benefit out of love. These One Another’s described below describe what it takes for the righteous in Christ to live in a healthy community. With the transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can indeed enjoy a life together that reflects the eternal Kingdom of God, a community that has a heart for one another, where everyone is surrounded by the righteous .

  1. Bear One Another’s Burdens:  To lift up and carry; to take up and walk with; to intercede for someone else, whether through prayer or caregiving, whether tangible or intangible; to relieve someone of something that weighs heavily on them.
  2. Build Up One Another: To edify; to strengthen; to empower; to affirm certain qualities; to help someone or a group to grow to maturity; to construct a building, an edifice, of faith and character in another person or group.
  3. Warn One Another: To admonish; to caution; to place into someone’s awareness; to reprove gently; to call attention to; to alert another person’s thinking; to offer sound advice and guidance.
  4. Encourage One Another: To “paraclete” each other: Called to come alongside someone in need, in order to help and bear burdens by Pointing to God, Advising, Reminding, Advocating for, Comforting, Listening, Exhorting, Teaching and Encouraging.
  5. Restore One Another: To set right; to repair; to refit; to mend; to rejoin; to bring back to its original state; to heal.
  6. Honor One Another: To show deference to; to prefer over one’s self; to highly esteem; to greatly respect; to revere; to focus on the importance of another.
  7. Bear With One Another: To put up with; to make allowances for; to willingly endure; forbearance; to tolerate; to have patience with; to accept someone despite their weaknesses.
  8. Exhort One Another: To urge to continue in the Faith; to beseech in strong terms; to come alongside to offer encouraging guidance; to inspire courage and hope; to call upon someone to act; to give affirming words that strengthens others.
  9. Confess to One Another: To acknowledge openly; to freely admit to wrongdoing; to announce one’s guilt; to concede one’s shortcomings; to repent of sins; to agree with God that one’s sin is a sin.
  10. Wash One Another’s Feet: A simple act of hospitality; a house servant’s task; involves placing someone else’s dirty, smelly feet into a bowl of water and carefully using one’s hands to cleanse those feet of all dirt, grime and sweat, and then drying the feet with a clean towel; a common, menial act of service and humility; exercising the ministry of touch to the untouchable; the powerful sacrament of servanthood.
  11. Harmonize with One Another. When separate parts intentionally combine into a beautiful whole; to reconcile apparent differences into a combined unity; to adjust in order to fit together; to be of the same mind; to unite in the same direction in will, affection and conscience; to join together in unity of spirit and purpose, with one heart and one passion; to be agreeable and get along; mutual understanding.

The Robe of Righteousness. The Trinity, the One-in-Three, is the only source of righteousness since the Trinity is naturally and completely righteous. In the Father, through the Spirit, Jesus is the truly Righteous One. When we put on Christ in faith, when we wear God’s righteousness, we become partakers of His divine nature. We share in His goodness. We become members of His godly priesthood. We participate in His righteous character. When we put on His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), He declares us righteous. We haven’t all of a sudden become purity supreme. We are good through God’s goodness. Because of our union with Jesus, when God looks at us, He sees Jesus and His righteousness. It is our new position before God.

The Breastplate of Righteousness. Because of our faith in Him, God sets us apart, and asks to “put on” something. We are to put on the holy breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14) as well as a robe of righteousness, garments of blamelessness, virtue, justice, goodness. In fact, what else is this but simply “putting on the Lord Jesus” (Romans 13:14)? God has graciously provided the Lord’s righteousness as we live into his life. His breastplate of righteousness means that this not a breastplate of our own construction. One of the names our Father gave to the Messiah in Jeremiah 23:6 is “The Lord Is Our Righteousness.” Jesus Himself is our righteousness, He is our breastplate. When we put on Jesus and His righteousness, we are participating in His perfect righteousness, and not merely depending on our own righteousness to suffice as our ultimate protection. Jesus was strong to resist temptation in the wilderness and throughout His life. Wearing His breastplate will do the same for us. After all, as it is with all other aspects of our Christian life, it’s not about us. It’s about putting on Jesus and living into His righteousness. Because He is holy, we are to be holy: in the way we live, the decisions we make, the behavior we demonstrate. When we put on the robe and the breastplate, we are “clothing ourselves in Christ” (Galatians 3:27). We are “putting on the new self which is in the likeness of God and has been created in righteousness and holiness in the truth” (Eph. 4:24). Our breastplate is described well in Colossians 3:12: “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other. And beyond all these things, put on love.” That is what our robe and breastplate of righteousness looks like. These are the holy virtues of Christ, our new wardrobe in the Faith.

After we put on the robe and the breastplate, they are sized a little too big, so we grow into them. We are expected to mature in His righteousness. We are called to live into His goodness as we participate in His nature. We don’t become gods, we become like God as we share in His righteousness. We become the righteous of God who surround each other in love.