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I'm meditating on Psalm 36. In v. 10 the psalmist asks for God's unfailing love and righteousness for the godly. But I can't figure out in what sense the psalmist is asking for the righteousness of God. Is he doing it in the same sense as Psalm 31:1, when he asks for the deliverance of the Lord as an expression of Its justice?

Ps 36:10 - Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, And Your righteousness to the upright in heart. (NKJV)

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  • He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3, ESV)
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 9, 2023 at 1:04

2 Answers 2

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The righteousness of the LORD appears a few times in the OT:

  • Ps 5:8 - Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make straight Your way before me.
  • Ps 36:10 - Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, And Your righteousness to the upright in heart. (see also V6
  • Ps 40:10 - I have not covered up Your righteousness in my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and salvation; I have not concealed Your loving devotion and faithfulness from the great assembly.
  • Ps 72:1 - Of Solomon. Endow the king with Your justice, O God, and the son of the king with Your righteousness.
  • Ps 119:142 - Your righteousness is everlasting and Your law is true.
  • Isa 58:8 - Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Note that in all of these, the righteousness of the LORD is something that is possessed by God's people - indeed, this is the distinguishing characteristic of God's people who possess the LORD's righteousness.

This is explained in the NT:

  • Rom 1:17 - For the gospel reveals the righteousness of God that comes by faith from start to finish, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
  • Rom 3:9 - and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.
  • Rom 3:21 - But now apart from Law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, being borne witness to by the Law and the Prophets.
  • Rom 10:3 - Because they were ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
  • 2 Cor 5:21 - God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • James 1:20 - for man's anger does not produce the righteousness of God
  • 2 Peter 1:1 - Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours

Note that in Paul's theology, the saved possess the righteousness of God - a transformed life that has the righteousness of God "imputed" to the converted sinner who becomes the "righteousness of God" through faith in Christ.

  • Phil 1:11 - filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
  • Rom 10:4 - For Christ is the end of the law, to bring righteousness to everyone who believes.
  • Rom 5:17 - For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
  • Phil 3:9 - and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.
  • Rom 3:21, 22 - But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, as attested by the Law and the Prophets. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction,

Thus, the OT theology aligns with NT theology.

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In Psalm 36 the righteousness of God is mentioned twice. Verse 6 (the verse in question) and verse 10 - "O continue thy loving-kindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart." A.V.

Of paramount importance is the fact that both verses speak of God's righteousness, not any supposed righteousness of the Psalmist. It must also be borne in mind that the Psalmist knew full well the significance of one of the names of the Almighty - Jehovah Tsidkenu - the LORD our RIGHTEOUSNESS.

This is in the Hebrew scriptures, from the book of Deuteronomy 4:21-24 where Moses reminded the people that he would not be allowed to go into the Promised Land, but that when they did, they must not forget the covenant of the Lord;

"For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." A.V. 'Jehovah Tsidkenu' - consuming fire.

Only God is righteous, and he is altogether divinely righteous. He is the Judge of all the Earth, who shall do rightly, and if he does, who then can stand? Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? - Isaiah 33:14:

"The sinners in Zion are afraid: fearfulness has surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off." Isaiah 33:14-17 A.V.

Moses saw the beauty of the Lord, and he beheld the distant land - but only on this Earth. The significance is that those who uphold the Lord's righteousness (not any supposed righteousness of themselves, for they have none) will behold the beauty of the Lord in the land that will no more be distant to them, but in heaven itself. Jehovah Tsidkenu is depicted in the last book of the Bible in all his righteous glory, and the Psalmist (long before knowing of that Revelation) had faith that the righteousness of the Lord would be the portion of all who feared the Lord (Psalm 36:1).

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