“. . . . righteousness and peace have kissed . . . .”
Above all the history of the world is written: The Righteousness of God!
That explains all the blood and tears of the human race.
And that is not all: it also spells inexpressible suffering for the future. There is one question thrusting itself upon our consciousness continually: How shalt thou, O man, appear righteous before the Face of God?
And there is also one hunger and thirst in the heart of the godly: righteousness! It is worth more to us than life.
If no righteousness is forthcoming, there is only one thing remaining, and that one thing is hell!
Our text is the everlasting Gospel: righteousness and peace have kissed!
Righteousness: what is it?
We will have to begin with God. From everlasting righteousness roots in the Essence of God. And therefore His paths were always equity and justice.
First, with respect to Himself.
He is and does all things in harmony with the highest Good, and that is Himself. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are always right over against one another. There is not the least ripple of discord on the infinite Ocean of God’s Being. All Three in One delight in righteousness.
Therefore, the Triune God is right and just over against His creatures. He is right to them, and He demands right from them. And there is no exception unto all eternity. Righteousness is the basis unto all eternity for the first world as well as the second and last. Witness the nameless sorrows now, and presently in the lake of fire for devils and wicked men. Hell and its utmost agony must be explained from this righteousness.
For this God is eternal, and so His virtues are eternal. He cannot change; He may not change; and He will not change. Even in the sweetest chorus of the Gospel you will ever hear the refrain: Zion is redeemed with judgment and His converts with righteousness.
But this same God is also Peace, and, mind you, with regard to some happy men who also had sinned.
Now peace and love are akin to one another.
Peace is that virtue of God wherein He is eternally in harmony with Himself in the glorious Covenant life. Always dwelling in love and loving-kindness with Himself in the adorable Essence of God.
Its very opposite is discord, rebellion, strife and war.
And the eternal Gospel tells us that God has had thoughts of peace towards us from all eternity.
These thoughts of peace toward His people are irresistible. They are from everlasting to everlasting. And they proceed through creation, the fall into sin, through death and corruption until all God’s people are at peace with Him in the heavenly Paradise. Hence, He is always at peace with His own.
Listen to the eternal Word of God that cannot lie: Great peace have they that love Thy law!
But that poses a problem.
How can both righteousness and peace go to work with fallen man? They exclude one another. How are they ever to be harmonized with me?
Look at righteousness at work.
It destroys me. It kills me. Righteousness is the virtue of God that always rewards the good and damns the guilty everlastingly. And no exception ever.
But then we are lost. Because we are evil from our youth and add daily to our sin and guilt and damnworthiness. There is finally an eternal mountain of guilt that has to be paid somehow.
Listen to God: There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked. And every day, and every minute there are a thousand voices that cry out in my hearing: You are wicked! And my sad heart answers: Amen!
And I like to add a postscript here: That is the reason why the Christian’s life is such a tragedy. I have heard wonderful men cry out: O wretched man that I am! Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes! O God, be merciful to me, the sinner! Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! and so forth.
The righteousness of God pierces us, and we see whom we have pierced.
And now, see the peace of God at work.
God is the Peace-Maker, and so is Christ. His name is the Prince of peace.
Peace for the fallen race of men is absolute restoration to quietness, harmony with God, rest for the weary soul and body in God’s House.
It means that all war and rebellion is taken away.
Historically we see God slaughtering an animal, and taking its hide to cover Adam and Eve.
Later, we see the High Priest Joshua with his filthy clothing in heaven, and the devil to resist him. But there comes the sweet voice of the Lord, and he said: Take away the filthy garments from him. And: I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
Peace is at work.
Later, we see Mary of Bethany kneeling at the feet of Jesus, looking up into the eyes of the Savior. She is at peace with Jehovah.
But why enumerate more? The whole Church of God we see and hear as they cry out with great rapture: I love Thee, Lord! You sing it sometimes in church.
Yes, righteousness is at work both on this sorry earth and in the present hell. And many men weep. Even the Church of God is weeping often as they lament their sin and guilt. Listen to some of David’s psalms. You will weep with him. Or listen to Heman, the Ezrahite in the 88th Psalm. Read it sometime.
But also peace of God is at work.
Throughout all the six thousand years of the world’s existence God’s peace was tasted by the church. All through their weary pilgrimage the children of God were visited by the Dayspring from on high, and they sang of peace, blessed peace. From a great distance they even saw the roseate beauty of another Paradise, the glory of a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness would dwell. And subjectively they experienced this blessed peace.
Righteousness and peace?
There is a dilemma, a paradox. How can they be harmonized?
The text says: they have kissed.
Here is the question: How can God make peace for us when His righteousness forbids it?
The answer is beautiful.
Very simply stated, the answer is THE BLOOD.
A little while ago I spoke of the roseate beauty of another Paradise. Well, the church saw it through the prism of that BLOOD.
The Gospel in the Old Testament consisted of Jehovah and blood, even though it was merely the blood of animals. But blood, nevertheless.
And with that Jehovah and Blood there was the Word of prophecy. It was explained to the saints. Some of them received a very clear view. For instance Isaiah.
The blood of the sacrifices slowly on pointed to a Man, and what a Man! From the blood of animals Isaiah was transported to a view of the Cross of Golgotha. He ceased speaking of lambs and oxen, and spoke of that Man of Sorrows. He saw Him hanging on the cross in utmost misery. And the eyes of everyone turned away from this Man. We hid as it were our faces from Him. We esteemed Him not. His very name was a reproach.
But here is the heart of it: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him!
Oh, what a beautiful story!
It is ever new: we never tire of it. We will sing of it unto all eternity. It solves all our riddles, our questions, our wonder. There is no dilemma or paradox anymore. It is very plain, even though marvelously wonderful.
From the point of view of this great and glorious Man it is a matter of strictest justice. But from the point of view of the saints of both Old and New Testament it is a matter of sweetest mercy.
Remember the paradox?
How can God maintain His equity, justice and righteousness which must be satisfied, and at the same time show marvelous love, loving-kindness and peace to the earth.
The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord.
His very name is The Lord, our Righteousness.
All the sin of the church, all their guilt and damnworthiness was loaded on this Man of sorrows.
We read that the wrath of God is revealed from God in heaven over all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. ‘That is a foretaste of the wrath of God which shall one day be revealed without mixture upon the reprobate world. In one word, that will be awful. And the smoke of their burning and suffering shall ascend forever.
Well, the wrath of God that would have been the portion of the elect world howled around about Jesus Christ from the moment of His birth. And the greatest onslaught of that wrath descended on the Lamb of God when He hung in the three hours’ darkness on the cross of Calvary.
Yes, we have heard the tornadoes of nature. It is nothing compared to the tornado which descended on Jesus. What awful hour!
And it howled and burned until the majestic righteousness of God was completely satisfied.
Satisfied! There you have a word rich in the writings of Reformed Divines. God must be satisfied. There is no exception. Not even when God’s beloved Son roared in all His sufferings. Listen to the pitiful cry: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!?
And on that cross and in that Jesus my text is fulfilled: RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE HAVE KISSED!
It grows still around that cross. Listen: It is finished!