Psalm 4:1 - Righteousness (Path)
Psalm 4 is a psalm of David. While we don't know much about the background of this psalm, there are some amazing pillars of truth in just a few verses. Today we are only going to talk about the first sentence of verse 1.
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
Our first step should be to define RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now the Merriam Webster gives us a definition that may seem like it is leaning to a biblical definition…..Acting in accord with divine or moral law. However, we must know that this is absolutely not the biblical definition. Keep in mind that the term "divine law" can be ascribed to any so-called divinity……..that could be Buddha, Mohammed, Baal, and many others.
The Hebrew word for RIGHTEOUS is tsadiyq (pronounced tsa-deeq).
To get to a better meaning, we need to go back to the Hebrew understanding. Every Hebrew word in the mind of the Ancient Hebrews paints a picture of action. The first step in finding a more concrete meaning to a word is to find it being used in context. The problem with this is that righteousness or tsadiyq isn't necessarily used in a clear concrete context.
The next method is to compare its use in Hebrew poetry, where words are commonly paralleled with similar meaning words, such as in the following passage.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you UPRIGHT in heart! (Psalm 32:11 RSV). Now we have a parallel word (UPRIGHT) that would seem to help define and describe RIGHTEOUS……..UPRIGHT. The Hebrew word for upright is yashar.
The Hebrew words tsadiyq, translated as righteous, and yashar, translated as upright, are paralleled many times in the Bible indicating that in the Hebrew mind they were similar in meaning. Upright is another abstract word, but it is used in a concrete manner, such as in Jeremiah 31:9, where it means "straight" as in a straight path.
With weeping, they shall come,
and with pleas for mercy, I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
In the context of Jeremiah 31:9, the prophet was relaying that God was going to bring His people (Israel) back to Him. The Jews were a nomadic or wandering people, but the important thing to understand is why they wandered. They generally wandered because they were disobedient to Gods path, or totally neglected what God had commanded. Either way, they were not on the STRAIGHT PATH.
Based on all this information, according to the Hebrew language, a righteous person is not one who lives a religiously holy life, which is the common interpretation of this word, he is one who walks upright and follows the correct path, the path or way of God.
So now that we have a better understanding of the definition of righteousness, we need to know the "path" or "way" of God.
That's an age-old question that many struggle with; what is the way to God? This question was on the hearts and minds of the disciples as well, and they were physically with Jesus.
In the book of John chapters 13 and 14, Jesus had just washed the feet of the disciples, and predicted that one of them would betray Him. He then gave them the "new commandment" that they should love each other, then told them he was "going away."
Peter said, Lord, where are you going? Jesus told Peter that he could not go where He was going, but would follow later. Peter said, why can't I follow you now, I would lay down my life for you. Jesus told Peter that before the rooster crows, he, Peter, would deny Jesus 3 times.
Then Jesus goes into a well-known passage in John 14.
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
So how does this help us understand righteousness and the way of God? Jesus went to the cross, and on that cross, an amazing thing happened.
The Bible clearly states in many places that the unrighteous will not be in heaven. What was the amazing thing that happened on the cross?
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul and David knew something that we would do well to comprehend……that RIGHTEOUSNESS comes from God through the cross of Jesus.
Do you rely on God for righteousness?
Can you say with certainty that you are righteous before God based on the sacrifice that Jesus made?
How does the biblical view of righteousness contrast with the current cultural view?