Written by Paul J. Bucknell on September, 26, 2019
Psalm 84:11 Interpretation of God’s Abounding Love
Psalm 84:11 stands tall as a magnificent promise, but it’s often accompanied by misinterpretations which, in turn, spawn dangerous conclusions. After analyzing the theology behind this verse, I reveal two wrong applications that have hurt this generation’s families and social policies.
“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
Who would think Psalm 84:11 could be wrongly interpreted? After all, our spectacular God delivers abundant hope to the believer through His promises affirming that He is on the believer’s side, providing the very best for each Christian. God’s love is constantly directed toward every believer—powerfully radiating His goodness, leaving no good thing withheld. Although this promise is targeted towards all believers, it is not equally applied because there is a condition to the promise—we need to walk uprightly.
God’s abounding love is seen on the cross when Jesus died for His people, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things” (Rom 8:32)? The Bible everywhere affirms the truth of God’s goodness that rings from the words in Psalm 84:11. We don’t want to negate this powerful truth of His constant willingness to bring goodness into our lives. God’s love and kind treatment constantly flow toward all of God’s people, but some have abused the very purpose for which God stated this promise, and so, it begs for clarity.
God’s Good Promise
The promise in Psalm 84:11 should make us take a double look on what it practically means to receive God’s goodness and how it relates to our lives. The love of God for His people, is one of the most fundamental teachings throughout the Scriptures—though portrayed in many ways. This promise is meant to undergird every believer, giving them extra hope and strength to join in His mission to care for others.
As we faithfully seek the Lord, bad things will happen to us, but even trials can be trumped by His steady oversight of our lives, negating the pain and trouble that we often experience. This is what we found with Jesus, God’s only Son, who suffered and yet triumphed over death. God keeps our faith steady by His promises, assuring us that all is well no matter how sour some life events turn.
Wrong teachings will issue from false understandings of verses like Psalm 84:11 and its New Testament counterpart, Romans 8:32. We need to be aware of them. I will share two misinterpretations.
Improper Interpretations of Psalm 84:11
Wrong teachings will issue from false understandings of verses like Psalm 84:11 and its New Testament counterpart, Romans 8:32. We need to be aware of them. I will share two misinterpretations.
Misinterpretation #1Goodness is equated with material blessing.
Some people, focusing on their lusts, rewrite the meaning of “good” to mean something they want. Perhaps their parents have spoiled them when young (against the Scripture’s injunctions) based on the assumption that God the good Father will give His children anything they insist on. Those who interpret “good” or “all things” to mean anything that satisfies us are wholly mistaken.
Prosperity preachers take this misapplication even further by rebuking the believer who does not insist asking for material things like fancy cars. The “good” warps into the “not good at all” of Philippians 3:18-19.
“For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Phil 3:18-19)
The Lord is not saying in Psalm 84:11 that He will give all His people a supply of material blessings in this world. The promised “goodness” represents much more than prosperity. The most blessed of all, Jesus, identified with even the poorest among us. God’s goodness reaches far beneath the surface of our lives into our hearts and spiritual welfare. Ignore this and one will miss believing in the gospel and finding Jesus.
Another distortion of Psalm 84:11 arises by reshaping God into a pandering God. Like a well-working machine, God is expected to deliver the goods no matter what our state. This interpretation chiefly arises from reinterpreting the text “those who walk uprightly” to mean “anyone who believes in Jesus.” This is a stretch of an interpretation but happens to be prevalent today among believers who insist that their belief in Jesus is their righteousness, erasing any obligation of them to live uprightly. And yet, they sense they can claim all the good promises of God.
Misinterpretation #2Applying the promise to all without regard to the condition.
This approach, however, counters God’s higher purpose to improve our character and cause us to live out holy lives. Yes, through Christ God’s people gain a righteous standing and God’s grace. But when one does not take the text seriously, making a theological misstep becomes easy. One’s preferences, then, shape one’s interpretation.
The text makes the promise of experiencing God’s full goodness conditional on those who “walk uprightly.” This term “upright” describes the believer who walks close to God and so his life is shaped by God. For example, the wife who incessantly complains about her husband or the guy who dips into porn each week should not assume they receive the very best from the Lord.
This promise of goodness does not mean God is not always good but that these individuals are missing God’s best. It is potentially theirs but because of their sin, they miss God’s fullest blessing. Some Christians demand for God to ignore the quality of their lifestyles. This insistence is not a “good thing” partly because they bypass God’s character-training program that the Lord has set in place for all His children (Hebrews 12:7-9).
By faith we enter into a grand salvation plan, but there remains before each of us a journey to test our hearts and prove our faithfulness to Him. Our efforts are not needed to gain access to God. That happens through faith in Jesus (Rom 5:1) allowing us to commune with Him and abide in His presence. Christ has made it all possible by giving us of His Spirit, but many Christians grieve the Spirit and do not allow the fullness of the Spirit to reign through them.
Seeking a Proper Interpretation of Psalm 84:11
There is a gap between those filled with the Spirit and those occupied with their desires (the flesh). Paul says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1). The believers bearing the fruit of the Spirit are filled with joy and peace, but those refusing to follow the Spirit have no joy, peace, and love because they carry out the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:16-25).
To seek a proper interpretation of this verse we must avoid the blinding theological filters that cause misinterpretations. Jesus repeatedly calls us to pay attention to our deeds and calls those who do not carry out His instructions fools.
26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. (Mat 7:26-27)
Each of the above false interpretations for Psalm 84:11 can be refuted by other scriptures, but our concern is how professing believers can lack the underlying theological grid preventing them to see the truth. Some believers, like a ship cut loose from its anchor, perilously drift off leaving the path of truth. They even produce false beliefs to justify their unbiblical practices. If we have a distorted concept of God as Father, will it not ruin our attempts to be a good father? I think so.
Before discussing erroneous applications, let us first present a biblical truth that provides theological support for the premise that God will judge and treat believers according to their behavior. By this, we can show how believers miss the full blessing of His will if we do not walk uprightly. Fortunately, due to God’s extremely gracious ways, an opportunity to get back on His path of blessing always awaits us.
 The above misinterpretations of Psalm 84:11 confuse sanctification with justification, assuming all the blessings of justification are given to the believers apart from the way they live out their lives. Justification asserts our saving righteousness in Christ while sanctification describes our holy, step by step, transformation into Christ’s image. This latter point is what Psalm 84:11’s condition refers to.
A Theological Assessment
Something more sinister affects believers for them to quickly adopt what is so easily refutable. Those that have received the good teaching of the Word of God are less susceptible to poor interpretations compared to those who haven’t. So what teachings are needed to ward off such false interpretations and remove any wrong theological filters from our minds?
• The danger of innate wayward desires
Let us start with the teaching of a fleshly heart, a heart which seeks to gratify one’s self over meeting the needs of others. If we allow our flesh to lead us, it will terrorize us. Our desires and wants should not lead us but God’s Spirit. This truth instructs us that our flesh can do no good thing and will always harm us. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Rom 7:18). This teaching demonstrates that nothing good will come from our evil desires. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Rom 6:1). Should we expect our holy God to reward us good for evil? Never. He cares too much for us.
There is grace, but grace works within the process of sanctification through genuine repentance, not usurping it. As our good Father, He understands what is best for us. He is willing to rebuke us so that overall down the road we can grow strong and be eternally blessed.
• Confusion on Understanding the Promise’s Condition
Many professing Christians confuse walking uprightly with having believed in Christ. The words, “walk uprightly” direct our attention to our lifestyles. Our saving faith in Jesus produces a genuine godly change in our lives. When God’s people see areas of sin, they repent and walk according to the Word of the Lord. “Walk uprightly” clearly does not speak of Christ’s righteous covering for us but of our very own righteous talk and walk gained from God’s work in us. Our quality of life is largely dependent on our obedience. The sins of Moses and David, left in the Bible for us to learn from, highlight that many difficulties in life are associated with disobedience. Obedience brings further blessings into our lives.
A quick glimpse at Revelation 2-3 reminds us that God is able and willing to rebuke those who choose not to seek Him. The group “who walk uprightly” clearly are taken from the larger group of all the saints of God—the genuine believers in Christ. They take the Christian life seriously. This is the point of Psalm 84:11’s condition.
The words of the text are clear, but some have twisted the purpose of these words, distorting their power. Do you think the Psalmist here is boasting of the imputed righteousness of God? Clearly not! He instead speaks of God’s good work in his life. Although we all are susceptible to pride, the godly man knows deep in his heart that only by God’s sanctifying Spirit can he live out a godly life.
There is a path of sanctification for every believer. God will assess and judge believers at the end of time—no exceptions. Again, we are not denying the splendor of the believer’s salvation benefits stemming from our faith in Christ, opening a huge room filled with the awesome promises of God. But the “born again” saving experience also begins a path by which the believer can demonstrate his or her faithfulness to God.
• The Coming Judgment for Believers (1 Cor 3:13-15)
The Christians’ judgment at the end of the age will test each believer’s obedience, his gained intimacy with God, and the completion of his or her assignments (good works — Eph 2:10) done to God’s glory and through His strength.
Note in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 how each man’s work will be severely tested, including one’s motives while doing that good work.
“13 Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13-15, NASB)
The “quality of each man’s work” (13) will be tested with fire, showing the thoroughness of the examination. Equally important are the bestowed rewards according to one’s work (14). These derive from those works being done for God’s glory and through His strength.
What is being judged is not whether Christ’s righteousness is sufficient, but the quality of our anticipated works. Verse 15 depicts how some believers’ work will be burnt up. That does not mean their salvation is lost along with the potential reward for “he himself will be saved.” So these verses develop a clear teaching for genuine believers, those in Christ, who have or have not sincerely lived out the gospel.
From this judgment of believers, we should not conclude that “all believers will be equally rewarded.” God’s love is not so simplistic. God does not supply equal specific treatment regardless of how the believer lives. This generation’s false assumptions of equal treatment makes it easy to incorrectly interpret Psalm 84:11.
Equal love does not mean equal treatment!
Furthermore, it inspires the wrong conclusion, teaching that it is right—if not morally imperative—to equally reward those who work and don’t work (work being a proper response to God according to His decree). Christian final judgment proves that this concept of equal reward stems from bad theology. God creates a time when we will face reprimand by not receiving rewards while others will. God wants us to master our decisions, time, and gifting to accomplish His good purpose. Nothing is more important than this. God has a higher goal than to meet our immediate wants and desires.
God’s Rewarding Blessings
Let us follow up by clarifying this promise of God, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). I find that the condition of this promise—“those who walk uprightly”—forms a critical point of interpretation. Not every believer can take this promise as their own for not all are walking uprightly. Consider the wandering believer who discovers his selfish desires. He faces consequences for his greed or laziness, both now in part and more fully in the future at the believers’ judgment. A person should not condemn God or wonder why God hasn’t given him or her desirable things as He has given to others.
I immediately think of Joshua when he lost the battle of Ai. God rebukes Joshua for his false religiosity,
“10 So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them” (Joshua 7:10-11).
God offered to bless Joshua, but the blessing was contingent on not erring to the right or to the left (Joshua 1:7). Rewarding evil for evil does not manifest God’s goodness—even if people die as in Joshua 7. The greater good is to expose sinful behavior, less the whole become rotten and rejected (1 Cor 5:6; Gal 5:9). An example of this is found in how Christians face extra problems because they have focused on career and wealth rather than investing in having children as God commands couples to do (1 Timothy 2:15). The developing crisis in our society is just beginning to uncover the consequences of disobedience.
Misapplications of Psalm 84:11
Misapplication #1: Allows for Bad Parenting
This first misapplication guides parents to indiscriminately permit freedoms and give rewards. Meanwhile, they forget the particular shaping purpose of rewards. Our children, like God’s children, need to be shaped to walk uprightly. Our generation has an unbiblical belief that we should treat all children as if they never sinned! This worldly love opposes the truths appearing in many biblical passages, and yet Christian parents continue to spoil their children. Children are spoiled by receiving rewards even when they have been wicked—hitting their sister, bullying, speaking rudely, etc. “Oh, it could have been worse. Let’s all have an ice cream and forget what was done.”
They are our children and are equally part of our family. But when we ignore our parental shaping responsibilities and the way to develop godly responses, self-centered children are introduced to the world.
Yes, I know God loves all, and we should equally love our children, but genuine love manifests itself through discipline and shaping of our children. It’s folly to separate our training from our expressions of love towards them. God knows that we need a rod of discipline to correct our sinful nature—kind and good treatment alone is insufficient. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
We need to shape our children as God shapes us: hold back reward to those who do wrong and variously reward our children when they do well. “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24). By violating God’s commands, we ruin our families and our churches.
The world presently has tricked many believers into thinking kind treatment will expunge all evil. Some Christian parents, due to a faulty understanding of God’s love and goodness, think that by always treating their children kindly they will learn to be good (i.e., the power of constant love will compel good behavior). The Book of Exodus illustrates that it does not work that way. Our children do not easily learn to obey because they have a selfish will called the flesh (Romans 8:1-4). They might abuse this love—take the gifts and act disrespectfully.
Therefore, we are not to wrongly apply Psalm 84:11 to approve the ungodly treatment of our children. The Book of Proverbs begs us to gain theological insight and apply it to our lives. Not a few Christian parents wonder what happened to their children. They take the promise of Psalm 84:11 but cannot see that because they refused to discipline their children, their children end up disrespecting God and others. It’s all connected. Instead of condemning themselves as parents or blaming God, they should humble themselves before God like Joshua and repent of their disobedience. They could have imbibed more of God’s goodness and shared it with their children, had they consistently corrected their children as needed.
Misapplication #2: Allows for Bad Political Policies
Christians sometimes wrongly conclude that God treats everyone equally by pouring out His great love upon all. This assumption is further adapted to political views making it so that our government ought to equally treat all, regardless of their labor and behavior—even excusing criminals.
Consider this example, Paul made reward conditional on their hard work, even for believers (2 Thes 3:8-10). Parts of our world talk utopian-like of a “no work; equal pay” society. I agree we have challenges with the increase of robots replacing our jobs. But people were made for work even in the Garden of Eden. We have a greater purpose than to simply exist. It’s crucial to realize God’s love does not apply itself equally. Rewards, including pay increases and bonuses, help shape our lives by helping us make better decisions and wholesome sacrifices.
Christ’s sacrifice on the cross displays the lavish love of God. But, this does not mean He treats believers the same in day-to-day life. God does not eliminate all hardship, difficulty or reproof. Nor does He equally reward them with wealth. We must avoid considering equal treatment as a moral given. God our Creator instead uses reward and judgment depending how we live in response to His work in our lives (Mat 13:23 100, 60, 30 fold).
Psalm 84:11 calls us to live uprightly that we would receive the full blessings of God. Poor understandings of this verse, however, have undermined this verse’s power. As a result, the world’s perspective has been too readily adopted, bringing dangerous results to the evangelical community. By discounting the importance of the promise’s condition, Christians have introduced and defended erring philosophies into parenting and social perspectives.
God’s love does not treat all of His people with the same kind of favor. He judges His people by bringing negative consequences to lead us away from wrong and sinful behaviors. On the other hand, He blesses His people by rewarding their upright behavior. We gain His fullest blessings! The sooner we allow the scriptures to fully direct our understanding, the better our families and societies will become.
 By continuing the biblical truths of justification and sanctification, they assume the blessings from justification by faith overrun biblical teaching on sanctification.
 This developed in https://bffbible.org/new-testament/view/1-cor3-10-15
Study Questions for Psalm 84:11
1. What does Psalm 84:11 promise? Be specific and define what “good” means.
2. What response does Psalm 84:11 create within us upon hearing it?
3. What condition is given to the promise?
4. Why is it wrong to change the condition’s meaning from “those who walk uprightly” to “those who believe in Jesus?”
5. Do you believe Psalm 84:11 teaches that God treats all believers the same regardless of their behavior? What does the verse say?
6. What is the difference between justification and sanctification? How does their confusion lead to misinterpretations of Psalm 84:11 mentioned by the author?
7. How does the coming judgment of believers prove God does not equally treat His people?
8. Some parents believe that they ought only positively to treat their children rather than disciplining or chastising them. Is this biblical? Back up your answer.
9. Read 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 and identify why the believer’s judgment conclusively disputes the conclusion that God treats all equal regardless of their behavior and labors.