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The Eighteenth Day of Advent – December 20

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:7

Through the end of 2023, you can go out early on a clear morning, look to the eastern sky, and see the steady, shining light, commonly called the Morning Star. It is our earth’s twin planet Venus, outshining all other planets to herald the coming new day. Significantly, Jesus calls Himself the “bright morning star”, closing out the Bible with the promise of His return: “I am the root and descendent of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). As you can watch the Morning Star chase away the darkness, so Jesus will bring to an end our long night of sin and death. He comes as David’s Lord and David’s Son, David’s root and David’s descendent, gathering up all promises made to David. His coming will mean for us “endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.”

In today’s scripture Isaiah specifies that Jesus will establish His eternal kingdom “with justice and righteousness”, two attributes of God frequently paired in the Bible. The psalmist praises God as “He loves righteousness and justice” (Psalm 33:5). He delights in God’s assurance “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne” (Psalm 89:14). Thus, in his very dark time the prophet Amos pleaded with God: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Isaiah is granted visions of God’s answer to Amos’ and our prayers as Jesus returns: “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field” (Isaiah 32:16).

Persecuted Christians long for the coming of God’s “justice”, and so do we. But today’s scripture promises that Jesus will come not only with “justice” but with her longed-for twin, “righteousness”. The Hebrew word tsedeq, translated “righteousness”, means “to conform to a norm”. (Norman Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament) Thus, in the Old Testament a weight or measure is tsedeq when it conforms to the norm of proper standards (Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:15). A sacrifice is said to be tsedeq when it is correct and proper (Deuteronomy 33:19; Psalm 51:19). Pathways are tsedeq, or, “paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3), when they conform to the norm of what a pathway is meant to do: lead somewhere.

Important for our understanding of today’s scripture is that the Bible often connects God’s “righteousness” with God’s salvation. Note this connection in Isaiah’s parallelism of righteousness and salvation: “Shower, O heavens, from above, let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open that salvation may spring up” (Isaiah 45:8, emphasis added). God shows His righteousness in bringing salvation! “There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior, there is no one besides me” (Isaiah 45:21c). God displays His righteousness by conforming to the norm of who He is: rescuing the lost and undeserving!

Thus, “The righteousness of God is the divine covenant faithfulness, which is both a quality upon which God’s people may rely and something visible in the great covenant-fulfilling actions of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit.” (N. T. Wright, Pauline Perspectives) The New Testament rejoices in the righteousness of God manifested in bringing salvation. The Gospel is the revelation of “the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith…For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith” (Romans 1:16-17, emphasis added).

The God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ will bring us into the reign of God on earth “with justice and with righteousness.” We shall join heaven and a renewed creation in rejoicing that Jesus has come:

“Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness
(Psalm 96:12b-13)

Jesus is the bright Morning Star, heralding the new day of righteousness and salvation for the world. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!


Light of our lives, we are not blind to the troubles of the world. As You once raised up prophets to cry for justice, so we join them today. You were laid in a barnyard manger and had no place to lay Your head. You touched the untouchable, washed dirty feet, and stretched out Your hands on a cross to save a dark, sinful world. We rest now, entrusting to You the cause of justice, asking to use us in the coming of Your kingdom. Bless the world through us until that day Your Kingdom comes, and Your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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