Psalmist's basis of righteous standing

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nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Psalm 7:8 "The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me."

Psalm 18:20-24 "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight."

When I was younger, I had a dispensational study Bible that basically said that those people who were declared "righteous" in the OT (Noah, Job, etc) were declared so...because they followed and obeyed God's Law. This still gives me a hard time when I read certain parts of the Old Testament...to clearly see that God, not their works, is always the basis of the individual's righteousness.

I need some help understanding the basis of righteousness in the Psalms. Oftentimes, it seems very clear to me that the Lord is the basis of the psalmist's righteousness...but sometimes it almost seems as if the psalmist is declaring himself to be "righteous" because he obeys God's Law and walks in God's ways.

How am I to understand psalms of that nature? Should I assume, since he's speaking in the context of revealed Scripture by the Holy Spirit, that he's silently assuming the Lord is the basis of his righteousness? Is there a way to understand these psalms and answer this question in the context of the specific psalm?
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
"The Psalms, like the rest of Scripture, contain hard sayings which force Christians humbly to ask the Spirit’s help to comprehend them. Some Psalms, especially the Psalms of innocence and the Psalms of imprecation, cannot be sung simply as our own. We sing them as the word of Christ himself; we in him beseech God for justice. Just as Psalm 22:1, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? is Christ’s cry of desolation, and Psalm 31:5, Into your hand I commit my spirit expresses his faith, so all the Psalms belong to Christ. In the Psalms, Christ confesses a sinfulness which is ours, and we confess an innocence which is his (2 Corinthians 5:21). Especially in those Psalms that we cannot sing as our own, we recognize that it must be someone else praying, none other than Jesus Christ himself. When Christians sing the Psalms, they sing with Christ."

"The Psalmody of the Church," RPCNA Synod Study Paper 2004

We may only sing the Psalms aright if we do so in union with Christ, who is the True Israel of God. Think of Christ as the Psalm Singer and yourself as a psalm singer by virtue of your union with him. Not only does Christ claim our sin and guilt in the psalms, but we claim his righteousness based on perfect obedience to God's Law!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I'm quite convinced that the proper way to read "righteous" in the Psalms, Proverbs, indeed the whole OT, is first and foremost with the connotation: "forgiven." All other senses spring from this one at root; and where it is lacking, there is hypocrisy. In what sense could anyone be a "lawkeeper" who did not also obey all religious ceremonies, and from the heart? An outward adherence was no adherence in God's eyes. [BIBLE]Is. 1:11-14[/BIBLE]
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The righteous man is the justified man and the justified man has certain characteristics e.g. he is an upright person before God and in his heart - "Jeshurun" - one of the idealistic names of Israel. He is right with God and that is evinced in his heart and life, not perfectly so as we see from the lives of the OT saints, although they are sometimes characterised using words like "blameless" and " the man after God's own heart."

This is a different answer to Bryan's. The subject probably merits further study on my own part.

Where a Psalm is clearly Messianic then Bryan's point should be taken into consideration.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Ps 1, ESV)

Is he blessed because he does these things in evidence of his blessedness or does he do these things (imperfectly) because he is blessed or both? Is he righteous/just because he does these things in evidence of his justification or does he do these things (imperfectly) because he's righteous/just or both?
 

Hebrew Student

Puritan Board Freshman
nwink,

How am I to understand psalms of that nature? Should I assume, since he's speaking in the context of revealed Scripture by the Holy Spirit, that he's silently assuming the Lord is the basis of his righteousness? Is there a way to understand these psalms and answer this question in the context of the specific psalm?

I would say that you have to be careful to remember that words have different meanings in different contexts. Only very rarely [and usually with proper names] does a word have one, and only one meaning. Language is very plastic, and there are many factors in language that determine the meaning of a text.

The same is true with the Hebrew term צדקה, meaning "righteousness," and various noun and verb forms derived from that same root. They have a wide range of meaning. They can, and certainly do, refer to righteousness in the legal, forensic sense before God. However, it can also refer to righteousness in the moral sense, that is, "uprightness" [cf. Genesis 6:9]. It can also refer to someone who is innocent of an immoral deed that someone else claims they have done. Hence, are we talking about righteousness in the context of some specific accusation, are we talking about righteousness in the context of moral behavior, or are we talking about righteousness in terms of our standing before God?

I would say that Psalm 7, since there seems to be an accusation against David in verse 4 [3 Eng.], I would say that David is talking about his righteousness in terms of not doing what he has been accused of doing. In other words, he is innocent [righteous], and those who are accusing him have slandered him.

In Psalm 18, we appear to be talking about moral uprightness, as the context is the "statutes" of God, and his "ordinances," as well as David keeping himself from iniquity. Hence, we are not dealing with our standing before God having the righteousness of Christ, but we are dealing with the results of that, namely, a life that produces fruit honoring and pleasing to God. The following portion of the Psalm also makes me think this:

Psalm 18:31-36 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, 32 The God who girds me with strength And makes my way blameless? 33vHe makes my feet like hinds' feet, And sets me upon my high places. 34 He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, And Your right hand upholds me; And Your gentleness makes me great. 36 You enlarge my steps under me, And my feet have not slipped.

Therefore, I would say that neither of these two texts are in the context of David's standing before God. The first is in the context of a false accusation, and the second is in the context of the righteous life God was producing in David after he justified him. However, the Psalms do speak of the a man's standing before God, and the righteousness thereof:

Psalm 32:1-2 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

Psalm 130:3-8 If Thou, LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with Thee, That Thou mayest be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption. 8 And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.

I hope this helps!

God Bless,
Adam
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The Psalms are not a private collection of devotions. The Psalmist's standing as the Lord's anointed means that he is acting in a public capacity and bears specific responsibilities in relation to the congregation of Israel. The book is as equally concerned with salvation history as any other book of Scripture; only there is a strong tendency to internalise (Psalm 1) as well as universalise (Psalm 2) God's covenant enactments. This internalising and universalising process can sometimes make it look as if the Psalmist is speaking from a personal point of view, but it is as the Head of Israel that he always speaks. It follows from this insight that there are no "Messianic psalms" per se; the Psalter as a collection is Messianic by nature. The righteousness of the Psalmist is the righteousness of the Anointed over the congregation of Israel. It concerns things like his qualifications for office, the discharge of his duty, and his overall concern for the people who are under him; and it is founded upon the covenant relation of God to Israel, which is gracious by nature. Any application of the concept in the New Testament must take this redemptive-historical insight into consideration.
 

Hebrew Student

Puritan Board Freshman
armourbearer,

I think that is too simplistic. When was Aseph called "the anointed?" When were the Sons of Korah "the anointed?" Many of the Psalms are anonymous. It is way too simplistic, and, indeed, unprovable to say, "It is as the Head of Israel that he always speaks."

I would say that, instead, what you have in the book of Psalms is an argument. Take, for example, book three. Book three begins with a wisdom Psalm, and then moves on to a prayer that deals with the destruction of the temple. As the book moves along, even the southern kingdom gets destroyed in Psalm 89. This is the utter failure of physical Israel to bring about the promises. However, in book 5, one of the main themes is God sitting on the throne of David.

For example, in Psalm 132, you have the promises reiterated to David in verses 10-18, but, before this, you have these words:

Psalm 132:7-9 Let us go into His dwelling place; Let us worship at His footstool. 8 Arise, O LORD, to Thy resting place; Thou and the ark of Thy strength. 9 Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; And let Thy godly ones sing for joy.

Hence, it is worship of God at his footstool as king, in the context of the promise to David.

Likewise, you have:

Psalm 145:1 I Will extol Thee, my God, O King; And I will bless Thy name forever and ever.

Psalm 149:2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker; Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.

That is not to mention all of the praise Psalms in book five with royal imagery. We can also compare this to the royal imagery in Psalms 22-24. Given these facts, it is easy to see why the Psalms about David are applied to Christ. Because of the failure of the physical kingdom of Israel, God himself sits down on David's throne, a man after his own heart, and rules as king over his people.

Thus, the personal aspects of the Psalms are extremely important, since they show us our own frailty. They show our dependence upon God himself, and, in the case of Psalm 89, what happens when people try to live personally autonomous from God, and still expect his blessing. However, those who trust in God as king will have his promises, for they will not fail.

Thus, the themes of the book of Psalms are many varied, and complex. However, it is how they work together logically from Psalm to Psalm that is the key. The Davidic king whose kingdom will never be destroyed is God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. All who trust in him are part of a kingdom that will not end.

God Bless,
Adam
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
armourbearer,

I think that is too simplistic. When was Aseph called "the anointed?" When were the Sons of Korah "the anointed?" Many of the Psalms are anonymous. It is way too simplistic, and, indeed, unprovable to say, "It is as the Head of Israel that he always speaks."

It is good that you at least take seriously the superscriptions so as to be able to draw conclusions of authorship. I don't see anything in the testimony of Scripture which informs us of authorship apart from David and Asaph; and even in the case of Asaph we have one example where a Psalm of David is delivered to Asaph and another example where the seer prophesies at the order of the king. We also have later ascription given to David of psalms which are anonymous. The only basis for alleging other authorship is on the hypothesis of later psalms, which itself is based on unsupported internal conjectures.

The New Testament appeals to the Psalter with the simplistic understanding that it applies to the Lord's anointed. We are not at liberty to accept hypotheses which contradict the spirit of the gospel.
 
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