Now we come to another Psalm, and it bears some similarities to the one we read yesterday. David is in trouble with his enemies: They're hunting him down and claiming that he’ll be at their mercy very soon. He's appealing to God as the righteous Judge to intervene on his behalf.
What does he appeal to? Well, it’s pretty hard not to notice: He’s asking the Lord to intervene on the basis of his (David's) righteousness. If this verse doesn’t make you uncomfortable or at least give you pause, then it should: “Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.” What?! Would you be comfortable making that statement? Doesn’t this contradict the book of Romans? Read 3:9-20 and count how many universal terms you find in Paul's indictment of humanity: “No one righteous,” “No one who understands,” “No one who seeks God,” “All have turned away,” “There is no one who does good,” etc. The whole point of the first three chapters of Romans is that no one is righteous before God. None of us measure up to his standard. That’s why we need Christ! It sure sounds like David is asking for the Lord to give him what he (David) deserves, which from a N.T. perspective sounds really strange if not outright heretical.
So, does this contradict Romans (and other Scripture which talks about our need for mercy and forgiveness)? Of course not! “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The Holy Spirit inspired (literally “breathed in”) the Psalms as much as he did the Gospels.
So what does it mean? How can we apply this? It’s actually not that hard to grasp if you can distinguish between blamelessness and sinlessness. David never claimed to be without sin. He knew better than most men how far he fell short of God’s holy standards, and that he needed mercy and forgiveness as much as anyone else. But he knew that as far as the accusations made against him by these enemies, he was blameless, innocent of those charges. When I use this term, I use it in the sense in which he was free from justifiable accusation by these men. He very specifically denied that he had guilt on his hands concerning them, or that he had “repaid [his] ally with evil or without cause. . . robbed [his] foe.” This is very similar to Job’s self-defense in chapters 29-31. Job didn’t claim that he was sinless anymore than David did, but he did claim that no one could justifiably accuse him on an issue in which Job had acted with injustice. In fact, they both invoked a self-maledictory oath, in which they called the Lord's curse down upon themselves if they were guilty of these specific charges. And in God’s speech at the end of the book, he never contradicted Job’s claims.
Please keep in mind that the ancient believers--much more than us, and that's a huge problem--had a much easier time seeing the Lord as the Judge of all mankind. Not just in the afterlife, but in the here and now. In the case of this Psalm (and many others), he was asking God--just like a literal judge--to officially adjudicate between himself and his enemies.
So we can’t be sinless (there’s only One man who can claim that category) but we can be blameless, at least in the sense we're talking about here. If there’s an issue between us and another person, especially another believer, we need to resolve it ASAP. If we’ve stolen something from someone, then (if possible) we need to make recompense. If we’ve hurt someone, then (again, if possible) we need to ask their forgiveness and resolve to do better. If we’re going to ask for the Lord's intervention like in David’s situation, then we need to be able to claim blamelessness like he did.
Lord Jesus, I know that your blood covers my sin, but you require that I have right relationships with others if I want to have one with you. If there’s some area in which I’ve hurt someone else or wronged them, please show it to me and let’s make it right.
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