The source of our righteousness
Here is the intorduction to Psalm 18.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.
(David celebrated his deliverance from the hand of his enemies and from the hand of Saul. Even though Saul had often tried to kill him, David apparently didn’t consider him an enemy.)
David begins the psalm by describing past troubles when his life seemed to be in danger. He called to God for help and God rescured him and gave him victory over his enemies. He said that God delivered him because of his righteousness.
The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. (Psalm 18:20-24)
I have read this psalm many times and I always assumed that David was claiming that he deserved God’s help because of the way he lived, but recently I noticed something else he said.
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. (Psalm 18:31-34)
David’s righteousness was not an inherent part of his character but, like the deliverance God delivered, was a gift from God. He continues to ascribe his victories to God’s help rather than to his own skills.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed. (Psalm 18:38-40)
Salvation is a free gift of God. We can do nothing to earn or deserve it. Once we are saved we are given the opportunity to earn rewards by serving God. What we often fail to realize is that even the desire to work and earn these rewards is a gift of God and not something for which we can take credit. The Bible speaks of crowns that we can receive for faithful service. When we get to Heaven we will return those crowns to God because we will realize that he is the one who truly deserves them.
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:9-11)