Got Righteousness? (Thoughts on Psalm 24)

mountains-sunThe unity of the Bible is a wonderful thing. This treasure chest of divine truth can be viewed as both a library of 66 books and one sacred volume. It has but one Author, and so we would expect there to be consistency throughout on one of its major themes: the salvation of sinners and how to obtain it.

Unfortunately, some have interpreted the Bible to have at least two methods of receiving salvation: by works in the Old Testament and by faith in the New Testament. I prefer the view that says there is only one method of salvation presented in Scripture: by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The more I read the Bible, the more obvious it becomes that this is the teaching of the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

So I get quite excited when I see Old Testament verses that teach salvation as a gift to be received rather than a wage to be earned. There are many such passages; some are obvious, some more subtle.

Psalm 24 is a good example of a passage that at first glance may appear to teach salvation by works. David asks the question, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:3). His answer: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully” (Psalm 24:4).

Well, if this is what it takes to enter the presence of God, either in this life or the next, does anyone qualify? I think not. Both my hands and my heart are neither clean nor pure. What is a filthy sinner to do?

Fortunately, Psalm 24:5 follows Psalm 24:4. “He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Ah, now this is Good News! This is the Gospel According to David.

To enter the presence of a holy God, we need a righteousness that we don’t have. And praise God, He has promised to present this righteousness to us as a gift. It cannot be earned. Our good works will never be good enough to warrant an audience with the King of glory. God views our so-called righteousness as filthy rags, for “All of us have become like one who is unclean” (see Isaiah 64:6).

So God has seen fit to grant us His righteousness freely, not because we deserve it, but because He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). We deserve the death sentence for the crimes of treason committed against our King. But since Jesus died and paid the penalty for our sins, God can credit the righteousness of Christ to our account, pronounce us “not guilty” in the courtroom of heaven, and pour out a blessing on repentant believers that staggers the imagination, for He is, “the God of our salvation” (Psalm 24:5).

The glorious truth of justification by faith unpacked by Paul in the New Testament letters of Romans and Galatians is also found in Old Testament passages such as Genesis 15:6, Habakkuk 2:4, and right here in Psalm 24:5.

The Bible is one book with one Author and one way of salvation. I’m so thankful for that. How about you?

Wayne Davies

Wayne Davies

To receive 2 free gifts to help you read, study and understand the Bible, just click on my picture (to the left) or my name (directly above).
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