Friday, November 15, 2013

Personal Righteousness Delivers from Death

I'm reading through Ezekiel nowadays for my soul's breakfast most mornings. And I came across Ezek. 14:12-14 today:
And the word of YHWH came to me: "Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the sovereign YHWH."
Despite what the false prophets were spewing about "peace" (Ezek. 13:10; cf. Jer. 6:14), Ezekiel had a God-given message of impending divine judgment for Jerusalem. Divine judgment was inevitable. And not even Noah, Daniel, and Job could deliver Jerusalem by their righteousness.

But, and here's what I really want to point out, the righteousness of Noah, Daniel, and Job would avail to deliver their own lives (Ezek. 14:14).

Now, it appears to me that all too often today people speak as though Protestants have no room for personal righteousness as significant in the day of wrath (Prov. 11:4-6). I don't think that's the case, however, and certainly not for historic, classical Protestantism of the Puritan variety.

So I dipped into Matthew Henry's commentary on Ezekiel this morning to see how he interpreted the righteousness of Noah, Daniel, and Job in Ezek. 14:14. Would he simply say this is Christ's righteousness, period? Would he say this is merely hypothetical, or the like? Here's his commentary (italics original):
Though pious praying men may not prevail to deliver others, yet they shall deliver their own souls by their righteousness, so that, though they may suffer in the common calamity, yet to them the property of it is altered; it is not to them what it is to the wicked; it is unstrung, and does them no hurt; it is sanctified, and does them good. Sometimes their souls (their lives) are remarkably delivered, and given them for a prey; at least their souls (their spiritual interests) are secured. If their bodies be not delivered, yet their souls are. Riches indeed profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death, from so great a death, so many deaths as are here threatened. This should encourage us to keep our integrity in times of common apostasy, that, if we do so, we shall be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, 4:651-652). 
So, here's a staunch confessional Protestant of the historic, classic variety expounding Ezek. 14:14 and saying our own personal righteousness and integrity matter in the day of judgment.

This is my heritage, whatever any might say of Protestantism. This is Protestantism, whatever may go by that name today.

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