Don’t Destroy Your Foundation of Righteousness

By : Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr

(Shabbat, 30/07/2011) 

What gives you confidence as a believer? Faith in Christ is one (Eph. 3:12; 1 John 2:28); another is the blood and death of Jesus (Heb. 10:19, 9:12-15; 1 Cor. 1:18; Gal. 6:14); and yet another is answered prayer (1 John 5:14; Acts 4:31).

But that’s not all. A believer also derives confidence from righteousness and a clear conscience. Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee when no man pursues; but the righteous are bold as a lion". An incident in the life of David illustrates just the opposite effect of an unrighteous act on the believer. Instead of confidence, it makes him feel weak!

In the story, Saul has fallen in battle, and the political situation in Israel is in some mess.  David has been anointed king over Judah in Hebron, while Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, has been made king "over Benjamin and over all Israel" in Mahanaim (2 Sam. 2:4-10). As is to be expected, a protracted war ensues between the rival kings, "but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker" (2 Sam. 3:1). One day, Abner, Ishbosheth’s kingmaker and right-hand man (2 Sam. 2:8-9; 3:6), makes overtures to David in Hebron, after a quarrel with his ‘master’ over Saul’s concubine, Rizpah, whom Abner has taken as lover (2 Sam.3:7-11). The king is obviously alarmed because he sees Abner’s action as an attempt to usurp the throne (see 2 Sam. 16:21; 1 Kings 2:13-25) but rests the matter because he is afraid of him. In making an alliance with Abner, one condition David gives is the restoration of Saul’s daughter Michal to him as his wife (2 Sam. 3:12-16). 

Eventually, Abner visits David in Hebron to seal the deal to turn over the whole kingdom to David. During the visit, David makes a feast for Abner, who promises to make David reign over all Israel, and sends him away in peace. (vv. 17-21).  Shortly afterwards, Joab, King David’s army chief (1 Chron. 11:6, 27:34; 2 Sam.20:23) and nephew by his sister Zeruiah (1 Chron. 2:15-16), returns from a raid and is informed of Abner’s visit and subsequent return in peace (vv. 22-23). Joab scolds the king for the friendly reception accorded Abner and imputes ill motives to his visit (2 Sam. 3:24-25).

Seeing in Abner a potential rival for his position as well as nursing a revenge against Abner for the death of his brother Asahel, whom Abner killed in self-defence after having ignored repeated warnings to back off (2 Sam. 2:17-24), Joab sends for Abner while yet on his way (obviously in the king’s name) and murders him in cold blood (2 Sam. 3:26-27). On hearing of the murder, David, gripped with grief, declares: "I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the LORD for the blood of Abner the son of Ner.  May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!" (vv. 28-29 ESV).

To show his sorrow and innocence, the king follows the bier carrying Abner’s body to the graveside, mourning and weeping over him with all the people (vv. 31-37). Then he makes a statement from the depths of his heart which reveals his true feelings and source of worry: "And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel? And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the LORD reward the wicked doer according to his wickedness" (vv. 38-39 KJV).

David, the righteous, anointed king, felt "weak" because of the wicked deed committed by Joab, his associate, in his backyard. He was so stung by this callous, unrighteous act of Joab that he carried the pain all his life, and instructed his son Solomon, on his deathbed,  not to let Joab’s gray head (for he was now an old man) "go down to the grave in peace" (1 Kings 2:5-6).

It was this Psalmist-king who wrote in Ps. 11:3: "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

So, how crucial is it for the righteous to maintain his righteous stand? What will he lose should his foundations of righteousness be destroyed?  The answer is in the subsequent verses:  First, the righteous must realize that God examines him as examines all other men from His throne of majesty in heaven (v. 4-5a).  Second, he must realize that God hates and punishes wickedness and the wicked, and so he exposes himself to similar punishment when he falls short of God’s standards by indulging in violence and other wicked deeds (vv. 5b-6). Finally, the righteous must realize that God loves him because He loves His righteous deeds, and he shall live in His Presence (v. 7). Thus when all is said and done, we see that God examines men to differentiate the wicked, whom His soul hates, from the righteous whom He loves.

With righteousness, such as showing kindness to a brother in need, the believer attains a clear conscience and therefore has confidence before God:

"But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

"And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

"For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God" (1 John 3:17-21).

Beloved, God has given you conscience to act as a constant barometer of your relationship with Him (Rom. 2:15). Hence the moment you feel guilty in His presence is when your conscience alerts you that you don’t have right standing with God. And the recommended thing to do is to confess your fault or sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. The Word is that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).   

Righteousness certainly ensures  an excellent relationship with God. We read in Psalm 34:15: "The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry". In Isaiah 54, the LORD says to the righteous:

"In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.

"Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by Me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for Thy sake.

"Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.

"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of  Me, saith the LORD" (vv. 14-17).

Yahweh is a strong tower to the righteous; He is their place of refuge in time of trouble (Prov. 18:10; Nah. 1:7).

By doing righteousness, believers showcase the goodness of God with practical dividends. By the sheer testimony of our good works, unbelievers are compelled to glorify God in spite of themselves, while those  who would otherwise malign us out of prejudice are silenced (1 Pet. 2:12, 15; 3:16).  

The opposite is the case, however, when we are found wanting as believers.  The moment we falter in righteousness, we give unbelievers ammunition to attack God and His people. Prophet Nathan rebuked David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then  killed her husband Uriah to cover up the evil deed :"by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die" (2 Sam. 12:14).  In Romans 2 the Apostle Paul quoted Isaiah in reference to the hypocrites in Israel: "… the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of  you, even as it is written" (v. 24 RV, cp Isa. 52:5).

And yet, righteousness has been given to the believer to wear as part of his spiritual armour in his spiritual warfare with the devil.  Paul calls it "the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14), and we must put it on as an integral part of "the whole armour of God" which enables us to be "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (vv. 10-11).  The result is that with "the breastplate of righteousness", together with the other pieces of the armour, we are able withstand the forces of darkness spiritually fighting us (vv. 11-12). As ministers of God, one of the ways by which we prove ourselves is by holding "the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (2 Cor. 6:4,7).  The Good News Bible translation is quite interesting: "We have righteousness as our weapon, both to attack and to defend ourselves".

The image of righteousness as a weapon is borrowed from Isaiah 59 where God intervenes in a society flooded with evil and injustice to punish evil and to restore godliness. Verses 14-19 read:

"And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

"Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no judgment.

"And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore His arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

"For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon His head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.

"According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.

"So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him".

Surely, the Lord loves righteousness (Heb. 1:9) and so must all who profess to follow Him. In His commandments, given to His people to keep, are found this righteousness: "My tongue shall speak of Thy word: for all Thy commandments are righteousness" (Ps. 119:172; cp Rom. 7:12).

Unless we ourselves undo our foundation of righteousness through disobedience, there is no way Satan can condemn the believer justified by God. Romans 8:33-34 asks and then answers: "Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (ESV).

You have no reason to fear the devil if  you follow righteousness. The righteous are as bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1). The Apostle Peter assures us: "And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" (1 Peter 3:13).

Because of the great blessings of righteousness culminating in "the crown of righteousness" as the ultimate prize, the Apostle Paul never allowed anyone, not even himself, to undermine his righteous stand in God, even as he mingled with all sorts of  people, including unbelievers, lest he be ‘disqualified’ (1 Cor. 9:20-27; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).

As a believer in good standing, you have your garment of righteousness on (Rev. 19:8, 6:9; Isa. 52:1), so you had better heed the warning in Rev. 16:15: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame". Rev. 3:11 also warns us: "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown".

Righteousness is what makes you live in God’s holy Presence; it’s what  gives you power over the devil; don’t allow anyone to take it away from you. There is an enduring blessing in doing righteousness: "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever" (Isa. 32:17). Amen!