God Is Righteous

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—
   yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
   the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
   the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
He will delight in obeying the Lord.
   He will not judge by appearance
   nor make a decision based on hearsay.
He will give justice to the poor
   and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
   and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
He will wear righteousness like a belt
   and truth like an undergarment. (Isaiah 11:1–5 NLT)

Comedian Mitch Hedberg was known for his shorty, punchy jokes about everyday objects. He once said, “My belt holds my pants up, but the belt loops hold my belt up. I don’t really know what’s happening down there. Who is the real hero?”

As Hedberg points out, belts and pants are intrinsically connected, and while the Israelites of old did not wear pants, their belts and undergarments were similarly related, which is why Isaiah uses them to link righteousness and truth when talking about the armor worn by the Messiah. If truth is knowing what is right, then righteousness is putting the truth into action.

Paul makes the same connection between the two virtues when talking about the armor that should be put on by the people of God: “the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). In fact, Paul took most of the pieces of armor listed in Ephesians 6 from Isaiah 11 and 59, with a dash of 52:7. But Paul made one major change: much of the armor listed in Isaiah is worn by the Lord or the Messiah, but Paul places it firmly on us. He takes these godly characteristics and instructs us to – through the power of Christ – wear them as our own armor.

N. T. Wright said in a 2013 interview, “For Paul, ‘righteousness’ and ‘justice’ are the same word, as they were in Hebrew. Paul clearly believes that helping the poor is a central and ongoing part of Christian commitment, precisely because in Jesus Christ God has unveiled and launched his plan for the rescue, redemption, and renewal of the whole creation. Justification and justice go very closely together.”

When Paul instructs us to “put on every piece of God’s armor,” he is calling us to action (Ephesians 6:13). To simply wear the belt of truth without also donning the body armor of God’s righteousness – to hold onto the truth without also allowing it to guide and inform our actions – is to reject God’s invitation to wear his armor. And unlike David trying on the armor made for Saul and finding it cumbersome and ill-fitting, God’s armor is well-suited for each of our unique frames.

How are you ensuring you are rooting yourself in God’s truth? And in what ways are you putting that truth into practice, living out God’s righteousness/justice in your relationships and in your community?