Psalms 1-8 Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness

From Psalms 1-8

19 Psalms Fragment

Today we begin working through the Psalms. In today’s Psalm David has been unjustly accused of an act of treachery, including the breach of covenant obligations. He asks God to justify him and let the false accusations and their consequences rebound onto the head of the accuser. The Psalm highlights the optimism David has regarding his righteousness and the LORD’s judgment over him. The gospel teaches, when Jesus comes to judge the righteous will inherit eternal life.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The Psalm is traditionally attributed to David. It describes an instance where he was being accused of some sort of transgression by his opponents. It brings up some interesting elements associated with salvation and judgment.

7 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,

2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. (Ps 7.1-2)

David’s prayer for deliverance is based upon his past history and relationship with God.

It is possible to say “save me” and “deliver me” now, only because in the past “I have sought refuge in you”. The experience of deliverance which David sought would be a part of his continuing relationship with God, not a sudden new experience of religion evoked only by the enormity of the crisis.

3 O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands,

4 if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause,

5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah (Ps 7.3-5)

They are accusing David of betraying his friend and plundering his enemies without cause. David appeals to his former behavior. He repeatedly states if he has been guilty of the crime they are accusing him, he will offer himself up to be punished. David says all this because he believes himself to be innocent of wrongdoing.

6 Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.

7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high.

8 The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.

9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! (Ps 7.6-9)

The solemn oath sworn by David, and the accusations laid against him, invite arbitration and a judgment concerning innocence and guilt. So David’s prayer turns to a petition for the establishment of a court of judgment. The language is figurative, but the outcome desired was real and would have historical reality. David is requesting vindication and deliverance.

David asks to be judged according to his “righteousness” and “integrity”.

He does not claim sinless perfection, rather he claims to be righteous as the bible normally understands it, to have kept the law. David also claims he is innocent of the false charges which have been laid against him.

In this divine court will the wicked “come to an end” and the righteous be established. God, the Judge, is righteous, and by virtue of his divine ability to scrutinize the innermost thoughts and emotions of the persons standing in court — David and his accusers. God will establish the righteous and terminate the wicked.

10 My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.

11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. (Ps 7.10-11)

David is optimistic that the LORD will judge him in the right.

God is his shield. His protection from harm. God saves the upright in heart. The righteous. God himself is a righteous judge. He can be expected to make a just judgment over David and his accusers.

“In the Jewish law court Paul would have known, there is no Director of Public Prosecutions; there is a judge, with a plaintiff and a defendant appearing before him. When the case has been heard, the judge finds in favour of one party and against the other. Once that has happened, the vindicated party possesses the status ‘righteous’ – not itself a moral statement, we note, but a statement of how things stand in terms of the now completed lawsuit. As someone said to me yesterday, it all depends what you mean by ‘righteous’.

But this status of righteousness has nothing to do with the righteousness of the judge.

For the judge to be righteous, it is necessary that he try the case fairly, refuse bribes or other favouritism, uphold the law, and take special note for the helpless, the widows, and so on.

When either the plaintiff or the defendant is declared ‘righteous’ at the end of the case, there is no sense that in either case the judge’s own righteousness has been passed on to them, by imputation, impartation, or any other process. What they have is a status of ‘righteous’ which comes from the judge.” (

God will punish wrongdoing. David believes the behavior and accusations of those who oppose him anger God.

12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow;

13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.

15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.

16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. (Ps 7.12-16)

God is a righteous Judge. The implication of this positive statement is that God will stand in judgment over the wicked who refuse to repent. The description of God’s potential violence against the wicked is pursued in the military terminology which mark the earlier part of the psalm. God does not act immediately. He makes preparations for action. “He whets his sword” and “has bent and readied his bow” and the flaming arrows are all ready for shooting. But God is not said to act: he is set, primed and ready. Action does not take place until finally triggered by the wicked.

17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,

and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. (Ps 7.17)

David began his prayer in distress which had limited his vision. He could think only of the false accusations made against him and of his need for deliverance. In the beginning of his prayer, the enemies overshadowed God in their plotting against him.

But as the prayer ends with a note of praise, balance has returned.

God’s righteousness is greater than the wickedness of enemies, and thus praise was called for more than prayer.

Story of Jesus

In the gospel, Jesus likewise says in the future judgment he will encounter the righteous and the wicked.

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37 He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear’. (Mt 13.36-43)

David appeals to God who is the righteous judge on the basis of his existing relationship with God, his righteousness and innocence regarding the crimes they accuse him of. He is optimistic the LORD will vindicate him and turn the tables on those who accuse him. He ends in praise confident God will do this.

Jesus in the gospel says he will come back, to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is the righteous judge. He will save the righteous and punish the wicked. This is something to look forward to.

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