Psalm 97:11-12 Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
As we reflect on these verses, we need to ask ourselves, “Who ARE the righteous referred to by the Psalmist?” The Apostle Paul takes Psalms 14 and 53 to be declaring that “there is NO-ONE righteous, NOT EVEN ONE;” (Romans 3:10), so who ARE these people on whom ‘light’ and ‘joy’ are shed, and who are to REJOICE and PRAISE the LORD?
We need to understand that Paul is talking about our PERFORMANCE, whereas the Psalmist is talking about our STANDING before God. The point Paul is making is, that in terms of performance, NONE of us is righteous, which is why God sent us a SAVIOUR. He goes on to say: “Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:20-22). So, ever since Jesus died on the Cross, the ‘righteous’ are all those who put their trust in HIM as their Saviour.
In the OT, the ‘righteous’ are all those who recognised that their only hope was the GRACIOUS provision God would one day make on their behalf. A good example of this is Abraham – when he went up the mountain to sacrifice his special son, Isaac, in obedience to God’s strange call, and the boy asked him, “The fire and wood are here … but where is the LAMB for the burnt offering?”, Abraham answered, “GOD HIMSELF will provide the LAMB for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:7-8). This is what Jesus would have been referring to when he said to the Pharisees, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; HE SAW IT and WAS GLAD.” (John 8:56).
Thus, for the whole of human history since Adam, the ‘righteous’ are ALL those, BC as well as AD, whose worldview is CENTRED on GOD, the GRACIOUS and ONLY SAVIOUR. So, in the light of today’s verses, and because of the spiritual darkness that characterises our present world, let ALL of us who fall into this definition of ‘the righteous’, REJOICE in the LORD and PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME, with OVERT ENTHUSIASM. Why would we NOT do this as we experience the daily blessing of the LIGHT that he shines on our path (through the truth of his Word – see Psalm 119:105), and the JOY with which he floods our hearts, because of his AMAZING GRACE?