Topic: “Psalm”

The hope of a righteous God

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

One of the more striking features of the Psalms is the fact that it is so often God’s righteousness that comforts the Psalmist. In an enormous array of situations, David and the other poet/songwriters who penned the Psalms turn from their distress and are comforted – but not by the things we might suppose. I find that I tend to look at the kindness and mercy of God when I am struggling. His compassion, his tender heart, and his love are attributes that easily lend themselves to our cultural bent.

Yet when David faced trials (as when he was facing accusations from someone he had thought was friendly toward him), it was often God’s righteousness he called on.

As I have chewed on this reality through the day, a couple things have become clear. First, I do not spend much time reflecting on the righteousness of God as grounds for my comfort or hope, and I should. David provides a good model to imitate here. When we encounter hostility or persecution – especially for those of us in ministry – we have the promise of God’s correction or vindication to fall back on. This is David’s pattern in the Psalm: he calls on God to act righteously toward David if he wronged someone at peace with him, and then calls on God to rise up against his enemies if David has been wronged. That’s a foreign concept to many of us, but perhaps only because we have little experience of suffering for the gospel. For those who do suffer for the gospel, the promise of God’s righteous vindication is very obviously good news. For those of us who do not often suffer, the promise that God will righteously correct us is good news, too.

Second, given the centrality of the righteousness of God throughout Scripture, this pattern in the Psalms really shouldn’t be a surprise. It is not an overstatement1 to say that God’s vindication of his own righteousness is one of the dominant themes of Scripture – one of the hinges on which everything else turns. It is because of God’s righteousness that we are saved at all, not only from earthly trials, but from our damnation. Paul makes this clear in Romans 3: Christ died so that God can be both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. If the narrative of Scripture is the story of God’s redemption of his people, it is thus necessarily also the story of his vindication of his own righteousness.

We would not want a God who made nothing of sin – who let envy and gossip and slander and greed slide, to say nothing of rape or murder – any more than we would want a judge who just shrugs at every misdemeanor or felony. Such a being would not be good or worthy of worship; he would not be righteous. Nor would we find good a God without mercy and love – he, too, would be unrighteous. But God is righteous, and to show himself righteous he both graciously forgives sins and pays the penalty for those sins.

Because he is righteous, and vindicated his righteousness in graciously showing us his mercy, we are saved. More than that, Jesus became our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30), and now… Now, we are the very righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). Hallelujah.

  1. It would be an overstatement to claim this is the only or even the most important theme in Scripture. But it is clearly one of the central themes, and many others are closely connected to it. 

“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.

Revelation and Salvation in Psalm 19

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.

Psalm 19

The Meaning of the Text

Broadly speaking, the Psalm runs from revelation to salvation. David begins with natural revelation: in verses 1–4a he indicates that the heavens declare the glory of God, and in verses 4b–6 he illustrates this thesis with the sun. He then considers supernatural revelation in the form of Yahweh’s word: his law, testimony, precepts, commandment, rules, and (interestingly) the fear of him. These, he declares, are better than gold and sweeter than honey; they warn and reward.

He then turns toward salvation: he admits he cannot see his own sins clearly, recognizes the need for innocence even of hidden failings, and pleads for salvation from willful sins. Concluding, he pleads that he might be acceptable to Yahweh.

Yahweh’s self-revelation is undeniable and gloriously good, and salvation from the guilt and power of sin are to be found only in him. Read on, intrepid explorer →