Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
Do not put yourself forward
It is better to be given the righteousness of Christ than to try to earn your own. It is better to approach the Father on the basis of the work of his Son than on the basis of the works of your flesh. It is better to humble yourself to receive His forgiveness than to exalt yourself before Him as if you don’t need it.
- Luke 18:10-14; “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Pharisee put himself forward in the presence of the King. The tax collector humbled himself instead. The latter was justified, the first condemned.
Or stand in the place of the great
When we humble ourselves before God, He lifts us up.
- 1 Peter 5:6-7; Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
It is better to be told, “Come up here”
When we recognize that we are not fit for heaven, He qualifies us.
- Colossians 1:11-12; May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
It is when we acknowledge our complete dependence on Him and our own inability to attain to His righteous standards that He says, “Come up here”.
- Philippians 3:4-9; Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
2 Samuel 22:21-25
“The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt. And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.”
According to my righteousness
I am struck by David’s boldness. How could a man, especially this man, stand before a nation, much less God, and claim he has perfectly kept God’s law? David the adulterer? David the murderer? How could he say his way was blameless? How could he claim that he was guiltless, innocent, or clean? As is says in the Proverbs, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?”
“The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness,” he says in this Psalm, and I am tempted to laugh. I would consider him to be delusional at best, or heretical at worst if I didn’t look at the rest of the bible.
In the Psalms David reveals the reasoning behind his boldness. He says here in this text that God deals with him according to his righteousness, but in other Psalms he takes it a step further.
- Psalm 103:10-12; “[God] does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us;” Psalms 103:10-12.
- Psalm 32:1-2; “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Blameless before him
David understood that his righteousness was not a result of his ability to maintain his own perfection. David trusted in God who justifies the ungodly.
- Romans 4:4-8; “To the one who does not work [toil and strive to make himself right before God] but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'”
These words were not written for David’s sake alone, “but for ours also,” Paul continues in verse 24 of the same chapter. “[Righteousness] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
We, like David, can confidently believe and confidently say that we are blameless. Not because we have kept the law or because we have abstained from immorality, but because Jesus Christ was killed for our trespasses and then raised from the dead for our justification: to declare us innocent.
- Colossians 1:20-22; “[Through Christ God reconciled] to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
- Ephesians 1:4-7; “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
Like David, we can say with confidence that we’re blameless, and we can say with confidence we are guiltless.
- 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; “[God] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We are blameless, we are guiltless, we are righteous.
- Romans 3:21-25; “The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:21; “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- Philippians 3:8-9; “Indeed, I count everything [all my self attained righteousness] as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
Righteousness before God is not something that is earned, it is something that is given. It is not something that fluctuates, it is something that is sure and stable. It is not something that can be lost but something that is kept by God in Christ. We stand before Him, if we have faith in Jesus Christ, 100% pure, 100% clean, 100% righteous, 100% perfect. We can share in David’s boldness because we are persuaged that we share in David’s blessing.
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life;” Titus 3:3-7
“You shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day.”
Webster’s 1828 dictionary of American English defines cling as “To adhere closely; to stick to; to hold fast upon, especially by winding round or embracing; as, the tendril of a vine clings to its support. To adhere closely and firmly, in interest or affection; as, men of a party cling to their leader.” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions defines the Hebrew word here translated as cling as “to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch.”
Clinging to the Lord is clinging to His word. It’s holding fast to the promise He has given us of eternal life. It’s believing Him. It’s regarding Him as faithful. It’s abiding in His love. It’s continuing with confidence in the gospel He has preached to us through Jesus Christ. It’s hanging on the certainty of forgiveness, righteousness, justification, salvation, eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
- Psalms 119:31; “I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!”
- Luke 8:15; “As for [the seed that fell] in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
- Hebrews 3:5-12; “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.” As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”‘ Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”
- Hebrews 4:14-16; “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
- Hebrews 6:17-20; “When God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
- Hebrews 10:19-23; “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
“You received without paying; give without pay.”
Even though it means the same thing, I like the way this verse reads in the New King James Version better: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Since you have been blessed and have received free gifts abundantly from God (who the Psalmist says “daily loads us with benefits”), you must also give without expecting payment in return. You have received freely, therefore freely give.
You received without paying
God has given to us with no strings attached. Every good and perfect thing comes down from Him, the Father of lights. A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. How graciously He has given to us who only deserve His wrath!
He has given us eternal life
- Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- John 3:14-16 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
- John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life , and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
He has given us righteousness & justification
- Romans 3:21-25 “The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith….”
He has given us His Holy Spirit
- Luke 11:13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
- John 3:34 “He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”
He has given us salvation through faith
- Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
What marvelous gifts the Lord has given to us! How thankful we ought to be! How ready we ought to be to give back to Him and to others of our lives!
Give without pay
Not only has the Lord given us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21), but He has also given us His Holy Spirit. With His Holy Spirit inside of us we gain the desire to give to others. He compels us, through the knowledge of the vastness of the love of Christ, to live our lives for Him giving to others just as freely as He has given to us.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
- 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
- 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
- Luke 6:30-35 “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Knowing how much God has given to us, let us be impassioned to give back to Him by giving to others expecting nothing in return. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”