Over the years I have come to see that God requires His own kind of balance. Nearly every major fault of His people has come with that old pendulum swing—from one extreme to the other. From undisciplined emotionalism to empty ritualism, from faith only to works salvation—we struggle all the time to get the balance just right. “Obedience from the heart,” Paul calls it in Rom 6:17. And it has been so for thousands of years.
In our Psalms class, we came upon another passage recently that emphasized yet again the problem of balance. Over and over and over you read things like this:
…you have tested me and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress, 17:4
I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from God, 18:21.
Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering, 26:1.
It always bothered me a little when I saw passages like this, especially the ones written by David, as these three are. Isn’t he being a little arrogant? Especially him?
But, as with all the Bible, you have to put things together to find the balance point. Psalm 130, one of the Psalms of Ascents, certainly shows the opposite feeling: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? v 3. After that, another quickly came to mind: Enter not for judgment with your servant; for in your sight no man living is righteous, 143:2.
The psalmists all seemed to understand the balance. No one deserves salvation, but yes, we can be righteous in God’s eyes when we do our best to serve Him, when obedience is offered willingly, when adoration, reverence, and gratitude are the motivations behind every thought and action, when we don’t just do some right things, we become righteous. The author of Psalms 130 goes on to say, “But there is forgiveness with you…” and “with Jehovah there is lovingkindness and…plenteous redemption.”
These men saw that salvation was a matter of a relationship with God, not ritualistic obedience nor self-serving obsequiousness, both of which are more about “me” than the God I claim to worship. They proclaimed the balance that would fall before the Lord in reverence and service and yet stand before a Father singing praise and thanksgiving.
And I love that they did not feel required to offer qualifications to what they said. “I am righteous,” they said, not bothering to add, “but I know I have sinned in the past, and may sin in the future.” They never let the false beliefs of others compel them to soften a strong statement of faith in their Lord to do what He says He will—be merciful. Why are we always dampening the assurance of our hope by pandering to the false teaching of others? Let’s strive for perfect balance with this long ago anonymous brother: With Jehovah there is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem us!
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom Jehovah does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile, Ps 32:1-2.
These things have I written…that you may know you have eternal life, 1 John 5:13