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The Suffering Tzaddik

The Suffering Tzaddik -

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Rabbot Ra'ot Tzaddik

by John J. Parsons

Psalm 34:20 (BHS)

Many are the afflictions of the righteous:
but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19[20h])

Portrait of a Tzaddik

In the Jewish tradition, a tzaddik is a guru-like figure who has devoted his entire life to the study of the Torah and the practice of its commandments. According to Jewish legend, at all times there are said to be "Lamed-Vav tzaddikim," 36 hidden saints, whose virtue and faith are said to withhold God's judgment from destroying the world.

The Scriptures declare that the Lord Jesus is the only True Tzaddik, since He alone truly fulfilled the Torah of Moses and gave Himself as a sacrificial offering upon the cross to save the world from the wrath of God (2 Cor. 5:19; John 3:36). Those who trust in Him are also justified as tzaddikim, since "the tzaddik shall live by faith" (see Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11).

Yeshua - the True Suffering Tzaddik

Jesus told us that tzaddikim will suffer many troubles in this life (John 16:33), and the Apostle Paul wrote: "For unto you it is given on behalf of Messiah, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29):

Phil. 1:29 (HNT, Friberg NT)

In other words, many of the evils we face come not because we lack faith, but because we have it: Rabbot ra'ot tzaddik.

We tend to think of suffering as a bad thing, perhaps as a consequence for our sins. But there is another dimension to suffering - righteous suffering - which is born out of love. Righteous suffering takes on the pain of others and bears it in their place. It is patient, kind, and provides healing for that which is broken. Indeed, the righteous suffering of the tzaddikim "fills up what is lacking in Messiah's afflictions for the sake of the church"
(Col. 1:24), and manifests the resurrection life of Adonai Tzidkeinu, the Lord our Righteousness, within the heart of faith.

Despite the afflictions of the tzaddik, God has promised ultimate deliverance: umikullam yatzilenu Adonai – "the Lord will deliver him out of them all." Interestingly, the word yatzilenu comes from natzal, a verb that means to physically snatch away, suggesting the rapture of the tzaddikim just before the Great Tribulation breaks out.

While a life lived by faith, hope, and love may cause us heartache and pain, suffering is not the last word, since love will be one day be fulfilled and perfected when we are in the Presence of the Lord Himself.


Psalm 34:20 (BHS) Transliteration

rabbot ra'ot tzaddik, u'mikkullam yatzilenu Adonai

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