God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day. (v.11)
Righteousness is an unfamiliar term to modern ears. When it is used, it is often accompanied with sarcastic overtones to disparagingly describe a person with a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. This sort of baggage means that the word is often lost in translation. Yet Scripture resounds with the truth of the righteousness of God. As such, if we are to know God truly, it is necessary for us to recover a biblical understanding of the righteousness of God.
What does it mean for God to be righteous? The righteousness of God is an elusively difficult attribute to define. There is an element of judging in strict accordance with a moral standard. There is an element of God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, in which he remains true to his promises. But it seems to me that Piper hits the nail on the head with his definition: his absolute faithfulness always to act for his own name’s sake and for the preservation and display of his glory.
Yes, there is a judgment in strict accordance with a moral standard. But the moral standard does not stand apart from God, as if God is bound to external standards. The moral standard by which God judges the world is the standard of his glory. The indignation he feels every day is when his glory is not honoured as it ought to be, and people willingly exchange his glory for lesser things. God’s righteousness demands justice be served, yet he also makes a covenant with his people, promising an unbroken relationship with them. How can God be faithful to his covenant and to the honour of his name? The tension is clearly resolved in Romans 3:21-26. In and through Jesus, God’s glory is upheld and his people are brought back into relationship with him
But we are not in Romans 3 yet. Coming back to Psalm 7, God is called the righteous judge. Part of what it means for him to be a judge is seen in verse 12. “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword.” The psalmist understands that repentance is the means by which the punishment of God is averted. How can repentance feasibly cover the debt of life we owe to God? Already, there is an anticipation of the day that God sends his Son to die for the sins of the world.
For those who do not repent, God will prepare his deadly weapons (v.13). What are these deadly weapons? Interestingly, the psalmist points out that God has designed the world in such a way that evil always commits suicide. The wicked man always falls into the pit he has dug for others, and his mischief and violence always rebound on his own head. This does not convey the totality of eternal punishment, yet God in his wisdom has deemed it fitting to display the folly of evil by its inability to accomplish its own ends. The great irony of wickedness is that all acts of evil, while evil in themselves, always resolve into some greater good. Evil ultimately defeats itself.
The wisdom of God and the foolishness of evil are seen most brilliantly in the cross of Christ. There, Jesus “was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, to be crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.(Acts 2:23)” The greatest act of evil history will ever witness was committed that day. The most precious being in the universe, namely the Son of God, would suffer the ignominy of death. Yet this happened according to the plan of God, for he had planned to display his righteousness at the cross. Satan sought to deal a deathly blow to the incarnate glory of God, but in doing so committed suicide. For only through death could Jesus destroy the one who holds the power of death, and so ransom a people for himself who will sing his praises throughout all eternity:
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)