“O God of my righteousness”

I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.

Genesis 2 stands in stark contrast to Psalms 3 and 4, Proverbs 16, and Matthew 2 in an entirely different way. In Genesis 2, Moses describes the creation of humankind in considerable detail, elaborating and expanding on the description he gave in chapter 1. Everything is good. There is a garden in which man is to work; marriage was instituted but unbroken (and man’s desire for someone like him was fulfilled), and the world was as it should be.

And David pleads for the aid of God, and notes that he slept and woke again only because Yahweh kept him from the hand of his murderous enemy – that is, from his son.

Arise, O Yahweh!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked

Salvation belongs to Yahweh;
your blessing be on your people!
—Psalm 3:7–8

And again, in Psalm 4, David pleads for God’s salvation. These are not the words of a man whose life is painless and perfect:

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
—Psalm 4:1–2

Matthew, too, has a tale of woe. Herod deceives the wise men who come seeking the Messiah, and then in his rage murders little children. Mothers and fathers saw their young ones struck down because a wicked man thought he could thwart the plan of God – a plan he misunderstood utterly, though no more than any of his peers.

So there is a sharp and biting contrast between the world of Genesis 2 and the worlds of the Psalms and Matthew. It is in the continuity that I found joy, though: the God of Genesis 2, who made all things good, who delighted to bring the man a helper suitable for him, is the God who is David’s savior, and who sent angels to protect Joseph and Mary and the God-child. So in a fallen world, David can write not only his pleas for help, but also:

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
—Psalm 4:3

And again:

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put rmore joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
—Psalm 4:6

Grain and wine are good things; their abounding are a legitimate cause for rejoicing. But knowing God is a better joy, and a great cause for rejoicing.

But above all, in the context of these contrasts, this one phrase (in Psalm 4:1) stands out: “Oh God of my righteousness.” David is pleading with the God who is the source of his righteousness. The righteousness that Adam and Eve had is lost – so broken and twisted and distorted until king kills infants and son seeks to take his own father’s life. David has nothing (I have nothing) but the righteousness God gives. And that righteousness was in the form of a man. He was made like us in every respect (see Hebrews 2). That little baby had dirty swaddling clothes that his parents had to change; he went through long nights of teething; he was sometimes inexplicably fussy. All that so that I might, with David, call on the God of our righteousness.

Pipe up!

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