The Value of Practical Righteousness

In Psalm 37:25 and 35 the psalmist presents a striking contrast.

First he tells us, as the result of his matured and ripe experience, that he had “not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread”; whilst second, that he “had seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree,” adding, at the same time, that “he passed away, and lo, he was not.” His obliteration was complete. The psalmist had not seen the righteous forsaken. That is a most happy statement. He had doubtless seen them tried and tested, persecuted and afflicted, but he had not seen them forsaken of their God, nor their seed begging bread.

He certainly had not seen them spreading like a green bay tree, nor in the enjoyment of worldly sunshine. That was not their portion; but whatever their portion, they possessed and enjoyed the favour of God; and His “favour is better than life.”

To be at least “not forsaken” is better than “uncertain riches,” and to enjoy the conscious favour of God is nothing short of heaven below.

What a premium! What a signal honour is thus placed on practical righteousness! How wise to seek its holy and blessed ways and to trace in them the path of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Did not He enjoy the continuous sunshine of the Father’s love and favour? Was there ever a moment in His perfect life when He was forsaken of God?

Yes, there was, but that was when, in tenderest grace, He was under sin for us, when in three hours of darkness He “identified Himself with God’s judgment against sin,” and bore its awful curse. Then, and then only, and necessarily, was He forsaken. Blessed Redeemer!

Hence, in the fullest sense, the saint, the righteous, is not forsaken. And then Paul could speak of his own experience, and say that if he were “persecuted,” as he most certainly was, yet he was “not forsaken”! That happy condition remained; he had the abiding sense of God’s favour and presence. Nay, persecution but added to its sweetness, and made him “more than conqueror through Him that loved us.” The righteous is not forsaken. That is certain at the very least.

On the other hand, the wicked may spread, and flourish, and carry the outward marks of providential approval. They may not be in trouble like other men, and very possibly have no plagues in their death. They may, like the Indian asleep in his canoe as he was swept, all unconscious, on the bosom of the peaceful current that flowed silently to the mighty Niagara, pass on, blinded by earthly prosperity and Time’s absorbing interests, till at last they “pass away” altogether, and are not. They reach their end in time. They may die rich, only to spend a poor eternity. They were “without God in the world,” they will be the same for ever! Awful doom! Oh, the wisdom of knowing and enjoying day by day the favour of God, and of seeking, by grace, so to walk in godliness and in practical righteousness that if persecuted for Christ’s sake or afflicted and tried by the good and unerring hand of God our Father, we may at least realise that we are “not forsaken,” but that the rather we are the objects of His unfailing love and care.

And thus shall we join with the psalmist in his true and comforting testimony: “I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”