Summary: How the wonderful Messiah-God Name, ’Yahweh-Tsidkenu’, speaks to us today.
Today the Names of God series continues. In most cultures, as in the cultures of the OT, people’s names are significant and have a meaning. And the name Yahweh showed Israel that God was not just a force or power, but in some wonderful way, He was a person – someone they could relate to. It was the wonderful covenant name of the God who reveals himself as accessible to those who enter into covenant with him.
The names of God in the Old and New Testaments are a GREAT way of getting to know and understand God, BUT the primary name by which we know God is the name of JESUS. His is the supreme and superior name; and if we want to know what God is like, who he is, how he acts, we only need to take a long look at Jesus, and read the gospels.
So it’s fitting for us today to look at one of the divine names that is at one and the same time a name of God AND a name of God’s Messiah. Jeremiah looks to the future and sees a glorious and mysterious future King, and says, “This is the name by which he will be called: ‘Yahweh-tsidkenu’ - ‘The LORD Our Righteousness’. In the original, ‘Yahweh-tsidkenu’.
Revelation of the Name
To understand the name Yahweh-tsidkenu, we have to understand the context in which the name was revealed; and to do that we have to go back to the dark and violent years of around 600 BC. In Jeremiah 23 we find a prophecy that bad shepherds will be replaced by a good one, that an unrighteous king will be replaced by a righteous one, and that the first exodus will be dwarfed by a second one.
In verses 1-4, we find God speaking words of judgement to a Jewish nation that was being led astray by wicked rulers. God says his sheep are being destroyed and scattered, they are uncared for, and their shepherds are to blame. Imagine that! A shepherd destroying and scattering the flock! It was the time of King Zedekiah, and he was that shepherd. A hundred years or so before, the northern Kingdom of Israel had been defeated and led off into an Assyrian exile. And now the Southern kingdom of Judah, was had been annexed by Babylon. Zedekiah was the 21st and last king of Judah, set up by Nebuchadnezzar as a puppet king. Jeremiah had prophesied it was God’s will that Judah and Jerusalem submit to Babylon; part of God’s plan of punishment and restoration, and Judah was to accept it. Zedekiah had other plans though, and rebelled against Babylon. It’s all in 2 Kings 24-25.
But it all went wrong, Jerusalem was surrounded, Zedekiah tried to escape from the city, was captured by Babylonian troops, his young sons executed in front of him, and then his eyes were gauged out. He was led off to spend the rest of his days in Babylonian prison. He was 32 years old.
This was Zedekiah. This was the man whose name meant ‘The LORD is my Righteousness.’ Yes, Zedekiah’s name was similar to the name of the future righteous King. Yet in so many ways Yahweh was not Zedekiah’s righteousness and Zedekiah himself was far from righteous. Time after time the Prophet Jeremiah bewails Zedekiah’s unrighteous rule of Judah. Zedekiah was unrighteous in that he didn’t listen to God, allowed idol worship and occultism to flourish and didn’t point people to God and His ways. Judah was an unjust, unethical, unfair and unkind place to live. And Zedekiah didn’t live up to his name; he was an unrighteous king in an unrighteous land.
You see righteousness at the very heart of God’s character. The word stems from the biblical root word tsedik, which means “straightness.” It carries the meanings of ‘Right standing and just and right behaviour within a community – both a rightness with God and with others.’ And Zedekiah didn’t have either.
Into this situation, and in deliberate contrast to Zedekiah, comes a new revelation from God. A new name; and God says in verses 5-6, ‘I’m going to raise up a new king, a wise king, a righteous king, who will save Israel and he WILL be righteous. He will be like his name and his name will be ‘The LORD our Righteousness’ – Yahweh-tsidkenu. He’ll be what Zedekiah was not. He’ll be a righteous king in a righteous land. He will be what his name is. He’ll be called ‘The LORD’, ‘The LORD our Righteousness’.
Expansion & Application
Well, that’s nice. But some might ask, so what? What difference does it make to us? How’s it relevant to me? Well, this name can mean at least 5 things to us:
1. For those struggling with the idea of the divinity or Godhood of the Lord Jesus, this name helps.