From Psalms 26-31
In today’s Psalm David requests that the LORD vindicate him. He speaks about his integrity and his trust in God. David asks God to test him. He contrasts himself with evildoers around him.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. (Ps 26.1-3)
David asks the LORD to justify (vindicate) him. To show him to be righteous. Hence the repetition of similar requests ‘vindicate me’, ‘prove me’ and ‘try me’.
Some may not believe what David says about vindication (justification) here. He requests the LORD vindicate him because he has walked in integrity and trusted in the LORD without wavering. Both are considered qualities which the LORD commends and the basis for a persons vindication (cf. Jas 2.21-24).
Can we really believe these statements are true? That being righteous in God’s sight is a matter of walking in integrity and trusting the LORD?
He has made similar statements about himself like this before noting his righteousness as well (cf. Ps 7.8-11; 18.20-24; 35.23-28; 2 Sam 22.21-31). David keeps saying things like this because at that moment of time he is not struggling with his sin and believes them to be true. And if we want to believe the scripture, then we need to accept that walking in integrity and trusting in the LORD are both required for justification.
He asks for vindication and does not fear the LORD’s judgment because he walks in integrity and trusts in the LORD without wavering.
The reason why David walks in his integrity and has this trust in the LORD is because his focus is on the LORD’s steadfast love. The LORD has been faithful to him (an expression of his covenant faithfulness) many times and this encourages him to walk in integrity. David’s confidence in the LORD overflows into how he lives his life.
4 I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. (Ps 26.4-5)
David refers to himself repeatedly using the personal pronoun ‘I’ and differentiates himself from the wicked. Liars and hypocrites. He wants nothing to do with evildoers.
Perhaps they have been called to repent, but persist in sin. David avoids them. He behaves differently. David’s may not be so much putting them down in order to raise himself up. Rather his focus is on walking differently and apart from them by his orientation towards the LORD.
6 I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD,
7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
8 O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. (Ps 26.6-8)
David is at the altar worshiping the LORD. He is sincere. David’s hands are clean because he has washed them. Its a ritual purity thing. Its all to easy for some to go about the motions of the ritual without really caring, living a lifestyle of sin. David washes his hand in innocence because he is sincere in his dependence on God and desire to live with integrity. He is not a hypocrite.
When he does so he gives thanks aloud to the LORD and tells others about all God has done.
He makes his faith public. He lives in a manner that encourages others to do the same. He loves spending time with the LORD at his place. The glory of the LORD dwells at the tent of meeting at this point. David loves the place.
9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. (Ps 26.9-10)
David is aware the LORD judges and punishes wrongdoing in the world. He asks the LORD not to be included with the sinners when he does so (e.g. Gen 18.22-33).
The request makes sense of his earlier statements about his own integrity and the wickedness of those he avoids. David knows they will be judged. But he depends on God to vindicate him.
11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD. (Ps 26.11-12)
David contrasts himself to the sinners who will be swept away. He vows to continue to walk in integrity.
His requests express his dependence on the LORD for redemption and grace.
He asks the LORD to redeem him. To buy him. The LORD will be his master. He asks the LORD for his grace to remain on level ground. The LORD’s grace can manifest itself in many ways. David’s request is in light of his walk and where his feet lay. He does not want to stumble or be shaken. Among others David wants to praise the LORD, thank him and bless him.
In the Psalm, David does not acknowledge any sin or wrongdoing on his own part. There are other times when he does that (e.g. Ps 32,51).
That doesn’t necessarily mean he is boasting, proud or arrogant. He is confident, assured, and grateful because he knows he walks in integrity and trusts in the LORD without wavering. He is searching his conscience (‘prove me’, ‘try me’) but doesn’t find anything to condemn. Above all I think he keeps the LORD in mind, he trusts him and relies on him.
Story of Israel
David does acknowledge sin in his life (2 Sam 12.13; Ps 32). But he doesn’t in this Psalm. He has a well known sin as the author of Kings highlights;
4 Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. (1 Ki 15:4–5)
We’ve been through this in Samuel. David commited adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed.
Psalm 26 is one of several which highlight the authors clean conscience and lack of awareness of sin. There are some occasions where the authors are not aware of anything against them. Consequently their is no plea for forgiveness and they do not fear judgment. Rather they welcome it, because they continue to walk in integrity and trust in the LORD.
If we jump forward to the New Testament, the apostle Paul went to great pains to make sure his conscience was clear.
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. (Acts 24:14–16)
Like David, at times he examined his conscience and believed he had behaved appropriately.
23 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23.1)
At times, Paul like David searched his own conscience and felt he was in good standing before the LORD. He did this in light of knowing he was going to be judged.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor 5:6–10)
Like David, Paul knew he was going to be judged by the LORD (vindicated) and he was of good courage at this point in his life.
Story of Jesus
There is a danger however in putting trust in ourselves and neglecting the LORD altogether. In the gospel, Jesus addresses this problem.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:9–14)
I’ve already blogged on this passage here.
What are the core differences between David and the Pharisee? David commends himself to the LORD as does the Pharisee? David distances himself from the wicked as does the Pharisee?
The core difference between David and the Pharisee is: David expressed dependence in the LORD to vindicate him. He glorified God by recognising He is the judge, not himself. In this way David humbled himself before God.
The LORD’s steadfast love and faithfulness are before his eyes (Ps 26.3). He is thankful for the LORD’s wondrous deeds (Ps 26.7). He acknowledges the LORD’s glory and longs to be there (Ps 26.8). He seeks the LORD’s grace (Ps 26.11).
His unwavering trust and dependence on the LORD has made a difference in other areas of his life. Foremost of these is his walk in integrity, his sincere ritual worship (‘washing hands’), his peace about being judged (‘vindicate me’) and his desire to avoid sin (‘I do not sit with the wicked’).
The Psalm is not about a sinner finding mercy. The Psalm describes what marks out the people of God. This is what the righteous look like. They walk in integrity, they have unwavering trust and dependence on God.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.