From Psalm 14
“God is present in the company of the righteous” (Psalm 14:5 NIV). I think there are two ways we might react to this verse.
One group feels assurance, gratitude, confidence in the Lord as their “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). They sing with the psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength.” They rest easy and breathe great big sighs of relief, kicking back like a tourist on the shoreline. They close their eyes and dig their toes into sands of contentment and peace.
Good for them.
But what about the rest of us? What about those who read a verse like Psalm 14:5 and think, “Great, another standard I can’t reach. I’m doing my best, but I know the many ways I’ve messed up—just this week. This morning, even. I’ve already lost my patience. I’ve already thrown off my priorities. How in the world can I ever be ‘righteous’?”
The highest peak I’ve ever climbed is Mount LeConte in the Smokies. Sitting at 6,593 feet, you end up hiking 5.5 miles (11 miles round-trip), ascending an elevation of 2,763 feet. When you’re not an experienced climber (I’m not), this hike is challenging. I mean, you don’t wear a harness or hang from a rock face or anything like that, but you do hike nearly six miles, ascending all the way, and some treacherous spots add a handrail for safety.
My fear of heights led me to fake (or, at least, really ham up) an ankle injury the first time I had an opportunity to climb this mountain. About a decade later, I returned, ready to conquer my fear and take the peak.
You already know how I got there: one step at a time.
I think some of us view righteousness the way I first viewed this peak. We focus on the highest spot, and suddenly, we feel very small and inadequate. Maybe we hear stories of a narrow pass, and before we even begin, we make an excuse: I’m too this or too that to make it. The first group? They heard others’ stories and thought, “They did it—I can too!” And they got started by focusing on the trail, not the seemingly unattainable peak.
“God is present in the company of the righteous” (Psalm 14:5). Earlier in this psalm, we learn who the righteous are: those “who seek God” (v. 2). This is the trail. We seek God through prayer, through learning and applying His Word, through relationships with His people, through service and obedience. And God is present—not “one day,” not later, not when you make it. But right now, as you take your next step toward the peak.
Oh, and one more thing the other group might teach us: there are rest stops along the way. Places where we can rest, catch our breath, and kick back in surprise and delight by how far we’ve already come. “God is our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1). Yes, it makes sense now why they sing it.
It’s our song too.
Next week’s reading: Psalm 21–27.