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5 Motivations of a Righteous Person That the Psalms Reveal to Us

Ask 10 friends and acquaintances these two questions: “Who is the most ‘righteous’ person you know or have met?” and then “Why do you think they’re righteous?” You’ll likely hear a wide cross-section of answers to that second question. The answers may range from “They’re cool” to “They’ve done a lot of good for a lot of people.”

What motivates a truly righteous person? Ideally, (1) God’s infinite and eternal righteous character, (2) God’s eternal and righteous Word, (3) Judeo-Christian morality, (4) Judeo-Christian ethics, and (5) God’s vision of legal justice for all.

The words “right,” “upright,” “righteous,” and “righteousness” appear nearly 170 times in Psalms, far more than any other book of the Bible. So, what do the Psalms reveal about true righteousness? And how do its truths apply to our lives today?

1. God’s Infinite Righteousness

Does God’s infinite, eternal righteousness permeate every moment and millimeter of your life? Read some of the 32 hand-picked Psalms below that highlight His infinite righteousness. All are drawn from the celebration-filled Psalms, of which King David wrote half.

Fourteen verses that speak of God’s righteousness: Psalm 5:8, Psalm 7:17, Psalm 11:17, Psalm 35:28, Psalm 36:6, Psalm 36:10, Psalm 51:14, Psalm 71:19, Psalm 89:16, Psalm 111:3, Psalm 116:5, Psalm 119:142, Psalm 132:9, and Psalm 145:17.

Six verses that say God rules in righteousness (Psalm 9:8, Psalm 48:10, Psalm 85:11, Psalm 85:13, Psalm 89:14, and Psalm 97:2), three that speak of God’s righteousness and justice (Psalm 50:6 and Psalm 72:1-2), and two verses that say God is a righteous judge (Psalm 7:11 and Psalm 9:4).

Three verses speak of God as righteous (Psalm 4:1, Psalm 7:9, and Psalm 119:37). Six more verses speak of God’s righteous acts and deeds: Psalm 71:15-16, Psalm 71:19, Psalm 71:24, Psalm 88:12, Psalm 97:6, and Psalm 118:15.

Key verse: “Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God?” (Psalm 71:19).

2. God’s Righteous Word

Not only is God infinitely righteous, but His Word is eternally righteous as well. Read some of the 22 hand-picked verses below about the righteousness of God's Word.

In 8 verses, the psalmists themselves were writing by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration: Psalm 19:9, Psalm 22:31, Psalm 40:10, Psalm 48:10, Psalm 51:14, Psalm 71:15-16, and Psalm 71:19.

Not surprisingly, 14 more verses in Psalm 119 alone celebrate God’s righteous Word: Psalm 119:7, Psalm 119:40, Psalm 119:62, Psalm 119:75, Psalm 119: 106, Psalm 119:121, Psalm 119:123, Psalm 119:137-38, Psalm 119:142, Psalm 119:144, Psalm 119:160, Psalm 119:164, and Psalm 119:172.

Key verse: “May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous” (Psalm 119:172).

3. Judeo Morality

Another motivation of a righteous person is a Judeo-Christian morality. Read some of the 52 hand-picked Psalms below.

Unlike the evangelical drive to assume or expect the perfection of its religious heroes, historic Judaism simply asks that its heroes do more good than evil. Such heroes are called “the righteous.”

Ultimately, God has to impart a small part of His righteousness to such otherwise flawed heroes. This includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, and other patriarchs. This also includes Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David, and many other Jewish judges, prophets, priests, princes, and kings.

What’s more, Judeo morality speaks of God’s blessings of (1) protection, (2) provision, and (3) peace upon the righteous. This echoes the three-fold blessings of Numbers 6:24-26, which reverberate not only through the Psalms but throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

Two dozen verses speak of God’s blessing of the protection of the righteous: Psalm 1:6, Psalm 4:1, Psalm 5:8, Psalm 5:12, Psalm 7:8-9, Psalm 9:4, Psalm 31:1, Psalm 34:17, Psalm 34:19, Psalm 35:24, Psalm 37:17, Psalm 37:39, Psalm 58:11, Psalm 64:10, Psalm 65:5, Psalm 71:2, Psalm 75:10, Psalm 118:15, Psalm 141:5, Psalm 142:7, Psalm 143:1-2, and Psalm 143:11.

Thirteen verses speak of God’s blessing of gracious provision of everything we need: Psalm 34:15, Psalm 36:10, Psalm 37:16, Psalm 37:21, Psalm 37:25, Psalm 37:29-30, Psalm 55:22, Psalm 92:12, Psalm 97:11, Psalm 103:17, Psalm 112:3, and Psalm 145:7.

Fifteen verses speak of God’s blessing of lasting peace, happiness, and rejoicing: Psalm 4:5, Psalm 15:2, Psalm 18:20, Psalm 18:24, Psalm 32:11, Psalm 33:1, Psalm 37:6, Psalm 68:3, Psalm 85:10, Psalm 97:12, Psalm 106:31, Psalm 112:4, Psalm 112:6, Psalm 132:9, and Psalm 140:13.

Key verse: “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10).

4. Judeo Ethics

Does Judeo-Christian ethics permeate every moment of your life? Celebrate, and yet mourn, as you read some of the 24 hand-picked verses below.

This tends to be the flip side of the previous motivation. Those who rebel and who do lots of evil and wickedness, are called “the unrighteous” and judged accordingly. We’re not talking a little more evil than good. We’re talking about terrible, oppressive, and destructive ways of rebelling against God, His Word, and His righteous commands for living. God, as the righteous judge, will bring an end to all of their rebellious, hard-hearted ways.

Two dozen verses reiterate this important, difficult theme: Psalm 1:6, Psalm 7:9, Psalm 7:11, Psalm 11:3, Psalm 11:4, Psalm 14:5, Psalm 31:18, Psalm 34:21, Psalm 35:24, Psalm 37:12, Psalm 37:16-17, Psalm 37:21, Psalm 37:32, Psalm 52:6, Psalm 58:10, Psalm 69:28, Psalm 71:24, Psalm 75:10, Psalm 94:21, Psalm 125:3, Psalm 129:4, Psalm 141:5, and Psalm 143:2.

Key verse: “My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion” (Psalm 71:24).

5. Legal Justice for All

The last motivation of a righteous person is God’s vision of legal justice for all. Again, celebrate as well as mourn while you read some of the 22 hand-picked Psalms below.

The victims of the unrighteous are in view here. The righteous (often as a local group of elders, Psalm 1:5 and Psalm 40:10) do all they can to ensure justice for their area’s widows, orphans, Levites, foreigners, and crippled. This also includes the afflicted (Psalm 72:2-3), oppressed (Psalm 103:6), poor (Psalm 112:9), blind (Psalm 146:8), and bowed down (Psalm 146:8).

Ultimately, the righteous Lord God, maker of heaven and earth, will reign and judge all the earth: Psalm 9:8, Psalm 11:7, Psalm 33:5, Psalm 36:6, Psalm 65:5, Psalm 72:2-3, Psalm 94:15, Psalm 96:13, Psalm 97:6, Psalm 98:2, Psalm 98:9, and Psalm 116:5.

Key verse: “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness” (Psalm 96:13).

Relevance to Us Today

I’m so thankful our righteous God deeply cares for you and me. Too often, however, His rich blessings go unclaimed because people refuse to listen to Him or follow His ways (Psalm 81:11-16). This has been true since days of old (Psalm 78:7-8). Still, God stands ever ready to bless people if they will but turn to Him in repentance (Psalm 106:4-6), no matter what their current situation (Psalm 107).

What’s more, David declared this divine truth: riches without a real relationship with our righteous God are worthless (Psalm 49:20).

What about you? Do you believe your righteous God cares for you? More than ever, believe it today!

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/CaseyHillPhoto 


headshot of David Sanford new 2020 David Sanford’s book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His newest book is Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s new book, Life Map Devotional for Women.

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