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In this week’s thought we are focusing on a liberating concept communicated by Isaiah’s use of a device commonly used in Hebrew poetry. Whereas traditional English poetry is characterised by rhyming words at the ends of lines, Hebrew poetry is characterised by parallel thoughts or concepts – where two, or sometimes more, lines use different words to express the same truth. A very simple example of this is if I said ‘I am happy’ and then repeated that same thought with the words ‘I feel glad.’ You can see this use of parallel thoughts throughout the Psalms and in the poetry sections of other books.

The previous Thought for the Week quoted from Isaiah 61:10. Here is that verse in full:

‘I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like as priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.’

In this verse there are three sets of parallel concepts:

One: delighting in the Lord parallels rejoicing in God.
Two: being clothed with garments of salvation parallels being arrayed in a robe of righteousness.
Three: ‘like a bridegroom...’ parallels ‘as a bride ...’

For some, the second set of parallel concepts is surprising – that ‘righteousness’ parallels ‘salvation’. This is because they understand ‘righteousness’ in terms of God’s justice, a justice that demands of us an unattainable standard of personal righteousness; a justice that, given our lack of personal righteousness, threatens us with inescapable condemnation and punishment.

Isaiah similarly parallels ‘righteousness’ and ‘salvation’ in the following:

‘I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away;
and my salvation will not be delayed’ – 46:13.

‘My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way’ – 51:5.

‘My salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail’ – 51:6.

‘My righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations’ – 51:8.

In all of these, and more, Isaiah anticipates the righteousness of the Gospel, in which God declares ‘righteous’ (that is legally innocent) all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. This ‘righteousness’ is part of the comprehensive salvation freely given in Christ.

Paul explained it this way:

‘For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last’ – Romans 1:17.

‘...no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ – Romans 3:20 – 24.

‘Christ Jesus, who has become for us ...our righteousness’ - 1Corinthians 1:30.

‘We too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified (= declared righteous/acquitted) by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified’ – Galatians 2:16.

May we all therefore, with Isaiah in 61:10, delight greatly in the Lord, and rejoice in Christ our Saviour, fully confident of this salvation, this ‘righteousness’ that is ours in Christ.

Go to this study and the next for a comprehensive study on righteousness/justification.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2023