Righteousness: Seeking God in the Garden

Tsedeq– Righteousness

Hebrew 3 letter root: צֶ֫דֶק (tsade-dalet-qof)

This is a time of Harvest when we bring in the goods of our garden and prepare for the lean months of winter. Hebrew scripture is overflowing with farming metaphor of the garden and the gardener. It is interesting to note that the Biblical metaphor of gardening and the concept of righteousness are closely connected, something that is often overlooked.

Isaiah 61:11

For as the earth brings forth her sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord YHWY will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

To be righteous is not to be holier than thou or self-righteous. We’ve been taught that to be righteous is to follow a moral compass of what is good and right and pure. It has nothing to do with pointing fingers or seeing yourself as better than someone else. But to be truly righteous you have to look inward and then seek God in an outward way. According to the Psalms righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne and so it needs to be part of who we are as children of God.

Psalm 89:14-15

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. How blessed are the people who know the shouts of joy! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance.

If you want to live and possess what God offers you MUST pursue righteousness.

Deuteronomy 16:20- Double righteousness!

Righteousness… righteousness you shall pursue so that you may live and possess the land which YHWH your God is giving you.

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ֣ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃

Hebrew has no punctuation: no question marks, no apostrophes, no exclamation points… so one of the ways to create emphasis is to duplicate words. As you read above: Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue. Seeking out righteousness will put you on the right path of life. In the time of the book of Deuteronomy it was seeking out the Promised Land through righteousness.

[Side note: almost all Bible translations translate Deut. 16:20 as “justice” you shall pursue. The Hebrew language has a different word for justice, mishpat, which we’ll look at next week. The translation of these two words- righteousness and justice- are a bit of a tangled mess throughout most OT translations, frequently flip-flopping between the two. Deut. 16:20 should be read as righteousness, not justice].

Today, as it was in Moses day, it is not possible for us to live a 100% purely righteous life. But God had a plan for humanity’s salvation.

Isaiah 56:1

Thus says the YHWH,, “Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come. And My righteousness to be revealed.

As followers of Jesus the Messiah (Yeshua HaMashiach), we believe that Jesus is the salvation that God promises. His name, Yeshua in Hebrew, is the literal translation of the word “salvation” AND He is God’s righteousness revealed. Yeshua (salvation) dying on the cross for the salvation for mankind means we don’t have to live up to the impossible. Sincerely trying your best to live in righteousness AND continuously seeking out the Creator is what we are asked to do.

Psalms 132:9-11

Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your Godly ones sing for joy. For the sake of David, your servant, do not turn away the face of your Messiah. The LORD has sworn to David a truth from which He will not turn back: “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne”.

Jesus was a descendant of King David and is known as the Righteous Branch of David:

Jeremiah 33:15-16

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she [Jerusalem] will be called: YHWH is our righteousness.

GardenGethsemane
Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. (Photo by Don Knebel). Site

It is not surprising that Mary Magdalene, when she comes across Jesus after he was resurrected from the dead, confuses Jesus as the gardener. She wasn’t wrong!

John 20:15-16

“Woman, why are you weeping?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him off, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” she turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 

At the sound of her name she recognized Jesus. There is praise in her voice when she calls out “Rabboni”! She sought Him out (“Who are you looking for?”) and was rewarded. Mary Magdalene, by no means perfect, is one of the best examples of righteousness. Because righteous is not just following a moral compass, it is also continuously seeking out God.

Hosea 10:12

Sow for yourself righteousness (tsedeq); reap according to lovingkindness (chesed). Break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek YHWH, until He comes and rains righteousness upon you.

YHWH is our righteousness… and, according to Scripture, YHWH connects with His people through the Messiah Yeshua, the Righteous Branch, of the Nations.

There is a calling to live in righteousness AND seek YHWH… but not necessarily in that order. If you feel that living in righteousness is not attainable right now, then just SEEK God out. Search, dig, investigate, claw your way to God, and if you do that in sincerity and truth, He will rain righteousness upon you! Open the floodgates because you are redeemed!

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