Right And Wrong Are Not Enough: God Is The Only Context For True Morality

In order to live a good, moral life, it is necessary not only to know the difference between good and evil, but to develop the self-discipline to choose the good and to avoid evil more and more regularly. To be a good Christian is a matter of developing the habits of virtuous character, that is, the habits of obeying the commandments of God.

This psalm by David starts with an element of wisdom tradition. He states very simply: “I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (verse 1) The wicked fear only the loss or the denial of their own selfish desires. Because the wicked do not fear God there can be no wisdom in them. They may be seen as brilliant in the ways of the world, and they are certainly clever in their abilities to defraud, to delude, and to defy for their own selfish benefits. Because there is no fear of God in them, there is no capacity for love in them. “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” (verse 2) They lie to themselves and in so doing they, “fail to act wisely or do good.” (verse 3) In their blindness they do not see that, “His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:50)

In the middle of the psalm, David contrasts the rule of sin over the wicked with the rule of divine love and mercy over those who are in relationship with God. He speaks of God’s love, which is priceless and unfailing. He describes God’s righteousness and faithfulness. Those who have come to know this about God know that they can “take refuge under the shadow of his wings,” that they can, “feast on the abundance of God’s house.” (verses 7&8) Indeed, because they have come to know the Lord, they fear the loss of his love and, therefore, they willingly choose to obey his statutes. Why? Because they have come to know the wisdom of loving in the manner that they have been loved. God’s love, for them and within them, is the source and the goal of their fidelity. It is what nurtures their righteousness. This is why they can say with David: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (verse 9)

David ends the psalm with a prayer. Let it be our prayer as well. “Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright of heart.” (verse 10) Lord, let your light shine upon us. Increase in us the desire to drink only from your abundant fountain so that we may live forever with you in your heavenly kingdom. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.