Tuesday, July 03, 2012
joH'a' vo' wIj QaQtaHghach.
God of my righteousness.
(click for podcast)
When David calls out for help in Psalm 4, he uses a curious title for the almighty: Elohi tzediki - God of my righteousness, or in the KLV, joH'a' vo' wIj QaQtaHghach.
That's quite a title - but what does it mean?
The word here for righteousness is tzaddeq - and occurs quite a few times in the scriptures. This Hebrew word shows up over one hundred times - in other forms, around 600. Adding in the related Greek word dikaios there are over 700 occurences of the term through the Bible. Some may recognize a form of the word, familiar to those who know of the practice of a "pushke" or Tzeddekah box; a small coin box used for collecting spare change for the poor.
Tzaddik and Dikaios mean "righteousness" in the sense of things being, or being made RIGHT. It is translated in a variety of ways across the scriptures - in the KJV you'll find cleanse, clear self, equity, even, judgment, just, justification, justly, ordinance, righteously and righteousness, - to name a few.
So - what does God my righteousness MEAN?
Well - consider. Humans often agree with Klingons in an approach to addressing wrongs - "might makes RIGHT." That is, with sufficient resources WE can correct the wrongs of the world. Thinking about that helps us approach this definition - if only by giving us a contrast: SELF-righteousness, the smug (even if pious) feeling that making things right is possible by our own power and virtue.
THAT isn't the Bible's approach.
To be righteous is to be dependant on God's mercy and gifts, NOT autonomous. The prophet Habakkuk spells this out (And St. Paul later quotes him) comparing the self-righteous to the truly right:
yIlegh, Daj qa' ghaH puffed Dung. 'oH ghaH ghobe' upright Daq ghaH, 'ach the QaQtaHghach DichDaq yIn Sum Daj HartaHghach.
Behold, his soul is puffed up. It is not upright in him, but the righteous will live by his faith. Hab 2:4
Only by faith, by trust in God are we going to discover this. The NLT translates this phrase, "God my righteousness," from Psalm 4 as "God who declares me innocent." That is, HE sets me right - not by any effort of mine.
Do you feel tempted - as I know I am in my more Klingon moments to say "might makes right?" It surely is hard to avoid feeling like that on those top-of-the-world days when we feel we can do it all.
But those days don't last. In the end, what a gift it is to know that, not only MUST we depend on God to set things right - but that indeed is his promise, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us:
Don't you be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)