Life-Study of Isaiah, by Witness Lee

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The Bible shows us that God has an economy, an eternal plan, to dispense Himself into us as our life, our person, and our everything. Unfortunately, however, after man was created, he became fallen. In man’s fall, man broke the requirements of God’s righteousness. As a result, man was condemned by the righteousness of God. Now, between us, the fallen sinners, and God there is the problem of condemnation. All the sinners, all the descendents of Adam, are under God’s condemnation because of the breaching of God’s righteousness. Thus, we need God’s justification to erase God’s condemnation. There is no other way for God to erase our condemnation but by God’s justification.

The Israelites, the people of God under the old testament, tried their best to establish their own righteousness so that they might be justified by God based on their own righteousness. But their righteousness was not up to the standard of God’s justification (Rom. 9:31; 10:3). God’s justification is according to the highest standard, the standard of His righteousness. Paul told us clearly that for this purpose God has given Christ to us as the righteousness of God. First Corinthians 1:30 says that God first put us into Christ and then made Christ His righteousness to us. Thus, the first item that Christ is to us is the righteousness of God. We do not need to establish our own righteousness. Needless to say, it is impossible for us to do this. Even if we were able to establish our own righteousness, that righteousness would not measure up to the standard of God’s righteousness.

Our righteousness is like yellow dust, whereas God’s righteousness is like bright yellow gold. The standard of our righteousness is far too low. Thus, if we bring our own righteousness to God, this means nothing. This is why the Bible says that no flesh, that is, no fallen man, shall be justified by God through his own works of keeping the law (Rom. 3:20). Whatever we do, regardless of how much we can accomplish according to the law, does not match God’s requirement and thus does not measure up to the standard of God’s justification. Only the righteousness of God is able to match such a standard.

The Old Testament gives us a good illustration, the illustration of Abraham’s gaining a son, to show that man’s righteousness cannot meet the standard of God’s justification. In a very real sense, Abraham’s son Isaac signifies God’s righteousness. God promised Abraham that he would have a son from God and that this son would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 15:3-5; 18:10, 14; 22:18). But Sarah, Abraham’s wife, proposed that he bear a son through her maidservant, Hagar, and Abraham accepted that proposal (Gen. 16:1-4a, 15). What Abraham produced by that means was Ishmael, who was rejected by God. God told Abraham to send Ishmael away (Gen. 21:10-12). Hence, what Abraham produced did not count. Only what God gave counted. Genesis 15:6 says that after hearing God’s word, Abraham believed God, and his believing was counted by God as righteousness.

Hence, God’s righteousness can be seen in the comparison between these two boys, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael surely did not match God’s righteousness. Only Isaac matched God’s righteousness. The unique way in which Abraham could receive such a son that equaled God’s righteousness was by faith. The apostle Paul said the same thing. He said that we should not endeavor to establish our own righteousness (Rom. 10:3; Phil. 3:9). That would produce Ishmael, and it would never be counted by God as what He desires. We must believe God; then we will receive something from Him, and that something is Christ as today’s Isaac. This Christ is the righteousness of God given to us as our righteousness, our acceptance by God, and this eventually becomes the blessing. Today God’s intention is to give Himself, embodied in Christ, as everything to us. So we need to receive Him first as our righteousness, then as our life, then as our person, then as our everything, and finally as our inheritance.

(Life-Study of Isaiah, Chapter 47, by Witness Lee)