Our founding fathers had a pretty good understanding of man’s tendency to sin — specifically to abuse power. All were not biblical scholars. However, whatever evidence they lacked due to ignorance of the Bible, King George III was able to provide with Redcoats. As a result, in the United States, our constitution requires a separation of powers. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches have equal but distinct and limited authority with checks on the other branches. So, how can we find refuge in an all-powerful God who is simultaneously the law maker, enforcement officer, and judge? Quite simply, the answer is found in God’s righteousness.
The heading of Psalm 7 indicates that David composed the song in response to “the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.” Like the rest of us, David had plenty of faults and did not need the aggravation of invented accusations. Evidently, that is what Cush had done. He was from the tribe of Benjamin — the tribe of King Saul. Whether this psalm was written after David had fallen into disfavor with Saul or after he had replaced Saul as king, we can safely assume that Cush’s word were politically motivated. Lest we think this merely an ancient form of mud slinging, keep in mind that political defeats back then usually resulted in the execution of the losing party.
O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. (vv. 1-2)
We can think of God as our refuge in a couple of ways. In this psalm, David is referring specifically to those who are maligning him and seeking to destroy him with lies. In other words, he is seeking refuge in God from the accusations of man. That only will work if we are in the right. If the accusations against us are true, we have no refuge in God from our opponent. He does not show favoritism. David acknowledges this in his prayer:
O LORD, my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
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 (vv. 3-5)
The LORD judges the peoples;
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me. (v. 8)
If we are in the right, we can take refuge in the righteous God who will, in his own time, judge our case and bring the truth to light.
Our Cautious Claims
As evangelical Christians, we often find David’s language confusing when he says things like, “Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.” We know that, in the absolute sense, God has already proclaimed his verdict regarding fallen man:
God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one. (Rom. 3:10-12)
David is not claiming that he meets God’s impeccable standard of righteousness. He is calling upon God to come to his aid in this dispute with a lying enemy. David’s confidence is in the justice of God, not in his ability to rally political support.
God’s Righteous Wrath
The One who holds the gavel also bears the sword. So, David cries out for both vindication and victory:
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! (v. 9)
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts. (vv. 12-13)
Talking about God in this way is not popular, but it is very biblical. The word of God is filled with hopeful anticipation of coming divine judgment (e.g. 2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 16:5-7; 18:20; 19:1-3). We all share a longing for wrongs to be made right. God’s righteousness is one aspect of his beauty, and we should desire that beauty to be more clearly seen.
There is a second way in which the righteous God is our refuge. It has to do not with the accusations of man, but with the accusations of Satan (Rev. 12:10). When Satan tries to accuse God’s saints , we take refuge in our perfectly righteous substitute.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
Though none of us meet God’s impeccable standard of righteousness, Jesus does. Though none of us could ever satisfy God’s justice against our sin, Jesus did. In the cross of Christ, God displayed the beauty of both his impartial, unwavering justice and his boundless love and grace. In Christ, we have a righteous refuge that will keep us eternally safe in the arms of our righteous Father.
A Reason to Give Thanks
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, let us follow David’s example and give thanks for God’s righteousness:
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. (v. 17)