We don’t hear a lot about righteousness these days, but it’s one of the keys to our relationship with the Lord. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines righteousness as “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin.” Our moral law comes from God, so if we act in accordance with that, we experience freedom. In our fallen state, however, it’s an impossible task for us to live and walk in such a way that we have freedom from guilt or sin in and of ourselves.
Even in the Old Testament we see that righteousness came through someone else. In Genesis 14 Abram’s (Abraham) nephew Lot was taken by hostile forces. When Abram learned of this, he took those loyal to him and rescued Lot against overwhelming odds. Upon his returning victorious with all the goods he’d captured, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, came out to bless Abram.
Through this blessing, Abram in return gave Melchizedek a tithe of ten percent of all that he’d gained. Why would he do this, i.e. giving so much of the spoils of war to a man he may not even have known?
Melchizedek was both a priest and a king. Most importantly, he served as priest of God Most High. Melchizedek was a Canaanite, yet he served the One true God just like Abram. Because of how Hebrews 7:3 describes Melchizedek, many people believe that he was a divine being, perhaps the incarnate Christ:
He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
In actuality, there’s no Biblical evidence to support this idea besides the language in Hebrews. This notion arose in the Intertestamental, or Second Temple, period, but Old Testament Scripture doesn’t give any indication of divinity. More than likely, he was simply a human foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.
Here’s where it gets interesting because of the connecting words and meanings in the Hebrew. One of the meanings of Melchizedek’s name is “My King is Righteous.” The king that Melchizedek served was God, i.e. Yahweh. Another name for God is Jehovah-Tsidkenu. Tsidkenu derives from the last part of Melchizedek’s name, i.e. tsedek (tsedeq). Tsedek according to Strong’s #6664 means righteousness. Jehovah-Tsidkenu means “The Lord our Righteousness.”
Abram knew that God is just and righteous and that Yahweh gave Abram this astounding victory. As a result, Abram gave the tithe to Melchizedek who served God Most High so as to bless God in return for His blessings on Abram’s endeavors. Although this event occurred prior to the time when Abram would be tested as to whether he would sacrifice his own son Isaac for the sake of obedience to the Lord, it was one of many times in his life that Abram proved faithful and demonstrated where his heart lay. It rested with God. This act of sacrifice—and that’s what it was, i.e. the giving of a portion of the spoils of war—showed Abram’s heart and his faith in God. Through this Old Testament example, we see Abram believing that the God he served could grant him righteousness. It wasn’t through his own efforts, but through the One to whom he looked for his salvation.
In these New Testament times, in a way, it’s simpler for us. When we believe the blood of Jesus is sufficient to remove all of our sins and we become new creations in Christ, it’s His cloak of righteous that we wear. Just like with Abram who knew he couldn’t be righteous unto himself, neither are we. But as believers in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, we are righteous even as He is righteous.
When we gain something, be it a paycheck, a financial windfall, or a blessing of some other kind, and from that we give a tithe of what we’ve received, and we do it with a heart of gratitude to the Provider of all things, that act is one that blesses God. We’re not under an obligation to sacrifice or give, but God certainly smiles upon a willing heart that looks upon the Lord and wants to please Him.
Jehovah-Jireh is truly “The Lord our Provider.” He is the source of all blessings: all that we have in this life. When we give back to Him through our tithes and offerings, we’re simply thanking Him in return for His gifts to us.
In these last days, Jesus asked whether He would find faith on the earth when He returns. I think one way that we can inoculate ourselves against the falseness and lawlessness of this age is to bless God with everything we have—even our very lives. In doing this, we remain under the protective umbrella of God’s grace and actually strengthen our faith as a result. His righteousness reigns and draws us nearer to Him.