In its 24 verses, Psalm 71 contains five references to the righteousness of God and zero references to David’s own righteousness. Is this significant? You bet it is!
Deliver me in Your righteousness,
and cause me to escape:
incline Your ear unto me, and save me.
My mouth shall show forth Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day;
for I know not the numbers thereof.
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD:
I will make mention of Your righteousness, even of Yours only.
Your righteousness also, O God, is very high,
who has done great things:
O God, who is like unto You!
My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long:
for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt.
What is righteousness? I am not a Hebrew scholar, but I do have access to the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. According to Strong’s, our English word righteousness in Psalm 71 is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “rightness (abstractly), rectitude (subjectively), justice (objectively), virtue (morally), or prosperity (figuratively).” And this word comes from a root word meaning “to be right (in a moral or forensic sense).”
David exalted the righteousness of God—the rightness, rectitude, justice, virtue, and prosperity of God—not his own. And well he should.
So why did David not claim any righteousness of his own? Because he knew the same thing Isaiah knew, that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
Do you remember the Tide commercial where they show two white T-shirts, one washed in the “leading detergent,” and another washed in Tide? They show them separately, and both appear white. But put them side by side, and suddenly the one washed in the competitor’s detergent looks dingy and dirty, although it has just been washed. Well, although this may seem to be a good analogy for the comparison of God’s righteousness to our own, in truth it doesn’t even come close.
Allow me to draw a different picture for you….
(Warning: This is gross.) Imagine a man covered in oozing infectious sores all over his body. From time to time he uses a rag to wipe up the dripping pus. He wipes with one side of the rag until it is soaked, then folds it over and uses the other side. He spreads it out on a rock and lets it dry in the sun, then later on he uses the same rag to wipe his sores again. That, my friend, is what we look like to God on our best day. That is man’s righteousness. And that is why we need a Redeemer.
When you receive the gift of salvation, Jesus clothes you with His robe of righteousness so that when the Father looks at you, He does not see your filth, but instead He only sees the purity of His dear Son. We can turn once again to Isaiah to see this bright ray of hope:
Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness….
My righteousness will never do.
For acceptance in the sight of God, O Lord, I come to You
❧ ❧ ❧
Photo taken in Milton, Florida, 2018