Refuge in Jesus (Psalm 37:39-40)

Psalm 37:39-40


39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.


            There is a telling phrase in these two verses that we do not want to miss as we look over this psalm. In verse 39, we see that the Lord brings salvation to the righteous. This concept, of course, sounds like all the world religions that exist. Most people grow up believing that their salvation or at least their reward from their deity will come to them based upon their own righteousness.


            But how do we deal with this concept? Christianity is not a religion in which we are granted salvation because of our own righteousness. It is an alien righteousness, a foreign righteousness, an imputed righteousness that saves us. We are saved by God, not because of our righteousness, but because God has granted us his righteousness in Christ. In an amazing exchange, God places our guilt on Jesus and Jesus’ righteousness on us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).


            Is Psalm 37:39 contradicting New Testament Christianity? Of course it is not. Nor do we need to look far to find the answer. Peek at verse 40. What is the reason that God saves the righteous? Salvation does not come to them because of their righteousness. Instead, we see that salvation comes to those who have taken refuge in the Lord.


            Now, let’s not misconstrue any of this. The salvation being spoken of in this psalm is salvation from physical harm and death. We understand that, in a thoroughly biblical picture of eternal salvation, we only take refuge in God if he first moves us to do so. Salvation is a gift of God and the work of God from start to finish. Yet, it is also true that we are saved by God by grace through faith in Christ. Faith in Christ, in a very simple sense, is to take refuge in him. Faith is to run to Jesus, to plead for his mercy, and to hide under the shelter of his life, death, and resurrection.


            Does the picture in Psalm 37 look like the gospel? Of course it does. We need to be rescued. Only the righteous are rescued—however, it is the righteousness of Christ that is applied to the rescued. Nobody is rescued because of his or her own righteousness. How do we receive salvation? How do we have the righteousness of Christ applied to us? We take refuge in him. We do not earn anything. We do not bring anything favorable to the table. We simply run to Jesus and hide in him.