Today’s Scripture Lesson: Psalm 71
As always, before you continue reading, I invite you to open your Bible and read the text in its entirety.
As I’ve been slowly studying the Psalms, I continually encounter specific words with a high degree of frequency. One such word is “righteousness.” In this Psalm alone, the psalmist uses the word 5 times.
Let’s highlight some verses from this Psalm which use the word “righteousness”:
- In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline Your ear to me and save me. (vs. 1-2)
- My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. (vs. 15-16)
- For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? (v. 19)
- My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; and my soul, which You have redeemed. My tongue also will utter Your righteousness all day long; for they are ashamed, for they are humiliated who seek my hurt. (vs.23-24)
Let’s add to these verses, two verses from the first chapter of James:
- …Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)
It may seem a bit out of left field that I chose this passage from James. It was for me too. Not long after I closed my Bible study time in this particular Psalm, I picked up a devotional, which used these two verses from James as the author wrote a beautiful and enlightening prose on the ill-effects of anger. Once again, the mirror of the Psalms was held up before my soul.
Let’s answer a few questions…
- Of whose righteousness does the psalmist speak?
- Of whose righteousness does James speak?
- Of whose anger does James speak?
The anger of man. The anger of humanity. My anger. Your anger. (These are all acceptable answers.)
The World is Angry
As I watch the anger unfold (and I fall into it, too), I can see one thing driving it all. Many are concerned about being “right”, and that means everyone else who disagrees needs to be proven, at the very least, “not necessarily right”. And, if you’re really good, you can prove them “wrong.” In other words, we are so consumed with our own personal “rightness” that we fail to experience the peace of God in His righteousness.
We have a new catchphrase in the church the last few years. Have you heard anyone say something like, “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship”?
Fair enough, Christianity is undeniably about relationship, and that is one of the beautiful wonders of covenant. However, James is emphatic that our faith is a religion:
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27)
So often I hear people argue for their anger. Certainly, Jesus demonstrated righteous anger. But I want you to consider what angered Jesus.
It came down to the misrepresentation of His heavenly Father by people seeking personal gain. Furthermore, Jesus didn’t walk in anger. Jesus walked in peace and mercy. Jesus never had to worry about being “right.” He knew He was covered in the righteousness of His Father, and He never allowed Himself to be stained by the world through the pursuit of His own personal “rightness.”
The Better Way to Righteousness
Our covenant of faith is our religion. By it, we walk in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, given to us through the blood He shed on the cross. By it, we show mercy and compassion. Through our faith, we seek the lost; we minister to the widow and orphan showing them the lovingkindness of God.
When we focus on His righteousness rather than our “rightness” our intent is pure, undefiled, and without stain. When we walk in His righteousness, we are free to show the lovingkindness of our Father without anger.
So, What’s the Play Call?
So much of seeking our “rightness” is rooted in worry. Worry is just a form of unbelief.
Do you believe God is Who He says He is? Do you believe He will do what He says He will do? There is no sense answering these questions dishonestly, Team.
Matthew 6:31-33 tells us, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ …for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
If you have trouble believing those things, it’s OK to pray the same words the man spoke to Jesus in Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
Finally, take time to pray that the Holy Spirit will bridle your tongue – and maybe your fingers when you’re sitting at the keyboard on your social media.