Let me begin with three scenarios for your consideration:
Scenario 1: A mother and father have a child with a severe cognitive disability. This disability impairs the child's ability to understand the message of the gospel. The parents are concerned that their child does not understand the gospel to the extent that he or she can profess faith. What will God "do" with their child?
Scenario 2: A skeptic objects to the exclusive nature of the Christian faith. He says, "If Jesus is the only way to God, then how is it fair that there are millions of people in the world who have never heard of Jesus who will be condemned to hell? What about people who live in remote parts of the jungle? Will they go to hell simply because they were born in a remote part of the world and never heard about Jesus?" What is the answer to this question?
Scenario 3: An elderly man is coming to the end of his life. For years, his children have been pleading with him to believe the gospel. Finally, he does - or at least says he does - and passes away. Upon further reflection however, his children suspect that he may have simply told them what they want to hear, or that he was merely reacting to the fear of coming to the end of his life. His children are devastated that they do not know if their father was a believer. What assurance can you give them?
Psalm 31 helps us to answer each of these questions in a roundabout way. In Psalm 31 David finds himself in an unjust situation: people are telling lies about him, and it is affecting his relationships, and his emotional and physical health, and he's being unjustly accused to the point that his life is in danger. In response, he calls upon God: "In your righteousness deliver me!" (Psalm 31.1) We all have an intrinsic desire for justice and righteousness in our lives. We want things to be fair; we want things to be just; we want the scales to be balanced. This desire in our lives comes from our Maker, as he has shared with us his sense of justice. As beings who have been made in the image of God, we long for justice and righteousness. This is why the scenarios listed above trouble us. We perceive an injustice in those scenarios, and it bothers us, and rightly so.
In David's scenario, he is counting on God to do what is right in his situation, and he appeals to God's righteousness. God is a God of righteousness, in that he will always do what is right, just, and fair (Genesis 18.25). In other words, God will always see that the scales are balanced. He will never act in a way that is unjust or unfair, nor does he manipulate circumstances to achieve an unjust result. In David's situation, this meant that David would find deliverance from his unjust treatment - if not in this life, then in the next - and that his oppressors would likewise receive justice for their oppression and wickedness toward him. David called upon God to balance the scales in his life, and God will always respond - either in this life or in eternity - because he is righteous.
There are at least four applications that we can make from knowing that God is righteous and that he will always act righteously:
1. No matter what injustice we may experience, God will balance the scales in the end. We might not experience his deliverance today, tomorrow, or even in this life, but God will always do what is right in every situation. This is a difficult truth to latch onto, however, and it is one that we must continually remind ourselves of, especially when we are in the midst of suffering unfair treatment.
2. Those who have disabilities to the extent that they are not able to understand and believe the message of the gospel will be treated fairly by God. He will do what is right in their situation, just as he does in every situation. Personally, I believe that God will not hold those accountable who are so limited by the diminished power of their minds to the same standards as those who are not. In other words, I believe that God will be merciful toward those with mental disabilities. But whatever the case, we can rest assured that God will do what is right.
3. The same is true for those who live in remote parts of the world and have never heard the gospel. God will judge them in a way that takes their situation into account, and his judgment of them will be just - it will be right, because God is righteous.
4. Finally, we can have the same confidence when it comes to those who have died. Even if we are uncertain about a loved one's faith at the time of their death, we can know that God will treat them fairly. He will not give them something they do not deserve. Even in the midst of uncertainty and sadness, we can praise God that he is righteous.
Psalm 31.5 says, "Into your hand I commit my spirit." David knew that God was so faithful - so trustworthy to do the right and righteous thing - that he was comfortable entrusting everything in his being to God. And so should we.