O God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs…
“In the Lord have I righteousness”
February 13, 2012Posted by on
As we pray for Felix and for Phil’s work in the prisons, my thoughts run a little further into the bigger picture when you mention in one breath both the impressive passion and wisdom and yet the vehemence with which these orthodox Jews protest against Jesus and particularly other Jews that preach Him.
There are precious things in Judaism that are excellent and much to be approved. Yet this is the paradox of the mystery. The great tragedy, which should be so instructive for the church is how amazingly close, yet so far.
Once in NY when Art and I had been in and out of the home of a precious family of the most ultra orthodox of Crown Heights, he asked if I did not agree that they were the closest to the kingdom of any we had met. After a moment’s thought, I said, “you know, Art, they are indeed the ‘closest’, but that’s precisely why they’re the farthest.” That is why, as you point out, there is such a shocking vehemence and antipathy against Jesus among these pious, much more than Jews in general. It is a paradox that holds much instruction if the church would lean in to understand.
When such nobility of soul can succeed so far in every appearance of excellence in righteousness, how will they be convinced that all of this counts for nothing when it comes to eternal salvation? But such is Paul’s radical gospel, as particularly anticipated in Jesus’ remarkable reply to the rich young ruler. All such righteousness, however impressive, has one fatal flaw; it is ‘their own’.
This was Paul’s anguish. It was also his pathos and pity, since he knew that apart from a sovereign revelation, he too would never have known what he would later call, “the mystery of the gospel.”
It is no wonder then that Paul, who had built up this kind of righteousness nearly to heaven, understood as few others that the righteousness revealed in the gospel is an ‘apocalyptic righteousness,’ which is to say, a righteousness that can only be known by the revelation of the Spirit, as wholly other.
This raises the question for the church. How far have we distinguished between these two kinds of righteousness? All the crisis of the end time in the calculated offense of the controversy of Zion in the finishing of the mystery of God has this as its greatest purpose and design. This is what the corporate election of Israel, the city, and the Land is designed to flush into the foreground. This is how the issue of the Jew will embody again the scandal of the gospel.
What an offense it will be to the self-righteous that a hated nation that has brought the world to the brink of Armageddon is in travail to be “born in one day” by a sudden and supernatural revelation of Him whom they pierced. What a scandal that God has built the end of the age around this great act of sovereign revelation, as gloriously anticipated in the conversion of Paul.
The corporate election of Israel will be the offense that will flush out every demon of hell. It will discover, more than any creed or doctrine. how each one has understood for themselves the grace by which they stand, the kind of righteousness that Paul calls, “the righteousness of faith.” Luther called it an ‘alien iustitia’. It is the righteousness of another. One kind is possible to man; the other is not.
How can the church communicate this point of covenant contention with Israel if it has not understood it for itself? This is the “everlasting righteousness” promised in the prophets (Jer 32:40 with Dan 9:24), which has come already to the church, as first fruits, but must at length include ‘all Israel’, so that Israel might at last and forever “lie down in safety and none make them afraid’ (Lev 26:6; Deut 33:28-29; Isa 14:29-32; Mic 4:3-4; Jer 23:6; 32:37; 33:16; Eze 34:25, 28; Hos 2:18; Zeph 3:13; Zech 14:11).
That is the climax of the covenant, which guarantees a future earthly millennium of actual ‘Jewish’ fulfillment (the ‘natural branches’) for its ultimate vindication (Eze 39:21-29). But behind and aback of all this great drama of the end time travail of Zion is the great divine contention concerning the only single source of acceptable righteousness, which alone perfectly fulfills and satisfies all the demand of the law. The presumption to stand in any other in that day will end in shock and terror (Mt 22:12-13). This is the righteousness that has absolutely no point of intersection with the flesh; it is not possible to man, and THAT is the offense of the gospel.
The further end time extension of this same essential offense is Israel’s irrevocable election of God, as central to the covenant of promise, which says that just as miraculously as Paul was arrested on the road to Damascus, a surviving remnant from among the natural branches will come to faith in one day (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22, 28-29; Zech 3:9,12:10). Why MUST this be? Because, “this is my covenant unto THEM” (Isa 59:21; Ro 11:26-29).
That is why we say, in order for the church to be what it must to Israel, it must know for itself the power and the glory that redeemed Israel will one day confess when the nation of the Jews will come to say, “in the Lord have I righteousness” (Isa 45:24), even as God will say of them, “their righteousness if of me” (Isa 54:17).