Psalm 26 (“Standing on Level Ground”)
1. SCRIPTURE READING:
Ps.26:1- (ESV) ~ “Of David. 1Vindicate me (Afrikaans = “verdedig”), O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. 2Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. 3For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. 4I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. 5I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. 6I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, 7proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. 😯 Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. 9Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, 10in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. 11But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. 12My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.”
2. INTRODUCTION (vss.1-2):
In order to understand Ps.26 better, we have to first look at the immediate context and therefore, just a short explanation of Ps.25.
In Ps.25 the general tone is that of prayer for deliverance and preservation from David’s enemies; for divine instruction on the correct way to live; and for forgiveness on the basis of the Lord’s tender, compassionate message to Israel. The Psalmist has a deep sense of sin and he humbles himself before the Lord.
We find the same tone in Ps.26, except that he is not confessing his sins in this Psalm. What distinguishes this Psalm further, is that David supports his appeal for vindication with a convincing affirmation of his loyalty to God alone.
Lastly, the context from which the Psalm comes seems to be worship at the tabernacle. The Psalmist renounces connection with ungodly men (vss.4-5, 9-10), and longs to be in the assembly of the righteous, proclaiming the wonderful deeds of the Lord (vss.6-8, 12). His love is for God’s altar (vs.6), God’s house (vs.8), and God’s people (vs.12).
3. DAVID’S PRAYER FOR EXAMINATION (vss.2-8):
The first two verses introduce the subject and set the tone for this Psalm. It is an urgent appeal for vindication of the righteous, whom malicious enemies were sent on destroying.
〈 Vindicate me (vss.1-2): The appeal of the Psalm is introduced with the imperative, “vindicate me.” This verb (“vindicate” = “Shafat”) means “to judge” or “to pass judgement.”
David knows that all authority is of God, who is going to preside at the last great
judgement. To Him David cries again for vindication, since the central issue of his life is his relationship with his God.
David reigned as king of Israel, but false charges called into question his ability to lead the nation, challenging his spiritual fitness to approach God in the Temple. What is worse, these charges against David were brought by “deceitful men” (vs.4) and “hypocrites” (vs.4) who were “bloodthirsty” (vs.9), seeking his abdication and death. They would stop at nothing, even resorting to bribery to bring about the king’s downfall. The goal was to destroy David and to bring him down.
In the face of such personal attacks, David went to the house of God (vss.4-6) to focus on the glory of God (vs.8) and to appeal for God’s defence.
In the light if this, it is understandable that David cries out to the Lord. Asking Him to test him – to vindicate him, in order to clear him from all blame and/or suspicion; to prove his innocence of the false accusations made against him by his enemies.
There are two reasons for this plea of David:
– The first is that he walks with integrity. That is why he says in vs.1 ~ “for I have walked in my integrity.” He led a balanced and blameless life and his motives were God centred and God honouring. Listen to what the Lord told Solomon about his father David ~ “And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules” (1 Kings 9:4). David tells the Lord that his life is in order, in thought and in deed. He doesn’t sound like a Calvinist when he says this, does he? It almost sounds as if he is contradicting the doctrine of sin here. It sounds as if he says he is not totally depraved. In fact, it seems as if he is contradicting what he says in Ps.143:2 ~ “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.”
What do we understand about this proclamation by David? Firstly, we can say that we are blameless because of the imputed righteousness of God. But note secondly, that David is not saying that he is sinless. David is saying, that he is faithful in his service to God and his participation in God’s covenant of grace; that he dedicated his life to the Lord. He says, “Lord I am Yours.” For example, when you and I would say, “I am a true believer, not perfectly, but truly.” David wants to draw a line here between himself and the wicked – the wicked – those who despise God; who hate God; who recklessly violate His covenant. He is explaining that he is not one of the wicked and therefore, when he stands before God in the light of the holiness and perfection of God, he says ~ “…Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Ps.143:2).
– The second reason why David can direct this plea to God, is because he has an unwavering trust in the Lord (Afrikaans = “onwankelbare vertroue”) ~ “I have trusted in the Lord without wavering” (vs.1). The verb “unwavering” means that there is no slip; no slide; no “backsliding.”
Because of David’s integrity and trust in God, he asks the Lord to test him, to vindicate him, in order to see that his claim is correct ~ “Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind” (vs.2).
〈 Exonerate me (vss.3-8): David goes on in vss.3-8 to motivate why he says that the Lord can vindicate him in order to prove his innocence against the false accusations and to clear him from all blame – to exonerate him in other words (Afrikaans = “onthef”), but he feels that general claims of his innocence is not enough; he wants to detail how he lives.
In vs.3, David turns to a positive assertion (Afrikaans = “stelling”). He says that he saw and experienced God’s “lovingkindness” or covenant-love and walked the path of divine Truth. To see God’s love is to see His redemptive, saving work towards his people. To walk in God’s Truth is to obey His Word, His law, His will. Israel was redeemed out of bondage in Egypt and brought to Sinai in order to be God’s obedient people in the world. David stands in this covenant tradition – he holds onto the Truth.
This positive assertion is followed by a fourfold negative assertion in vss.4-5:
– First, David has not sat with “men of falsehood” (vs.4). he does not associate with sinners. This is a reminder of Ps.1:1 ~ “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”
– Second, David will not “consort with hypocrites” (vs.4). The literal meaning of the word “hypocrite” is that of a person who acts in such a way as to conceal real feelings, motives, or behaviour which is unacceptable – it is a false person in other words. David does not desire to be in constant contact with them as individuals, for they are utterly deceitful.
– Third, David hates the “assembly of evil-doers.” David does not have fellowship with godless people who are not part of the covenant and do not follow the standard of righteousness that the believer does. Such people lack stability in life, as if tossed in a stormy sea ~ “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt” (Is.57:20). He will pollute himself if sitting constantly in the company of these people.
– Fourth, David refuses to “sit with the wicked” (vs.5).
Now that David has been vindicated and exonerated by the Lord, he is ready to worship God. But, before he can enter into the Lord’s Holy presence, he must first “wash his hands in innocence” (vs.6). This is in keeping with Ps.24:4 ~ “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” The washing of hands was a ceremonial sign of purity or innocence ~ “You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water” (Ex.29:4), or Ps.51:7 ~ “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
After the ceremonial “washing of the hands,” David will walk “around the altar,” offering worship to Yahweh with “the voice of thanksgiving.” His praise is public and vocal. Worship becomes the witness as David promises to tell of all of God’s “wondrous deeds” (vs.6). These “wondrous deeds” continue to be expected in the New Testament church. Luke tells us in Acts 2:43 ~ “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” And we are experiencing these “wondrous deeds” in our days as well – just think of the salvation of people all around us – that is a “wondrous deed” by our gracious God – the salvation of a lost soul!
To David, worship was not a mere ritual, he loved the house of the Lord, because to him, the house of the Lord was the place where the “glory cloud” was present (the same cloud that filled the temple when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the temple during Solomon’s reign – 1 Kings 8:10), which symbolised the presence of God Himself and that was where he always wanted to be.
4. DAVID’S PRAYER FOR SALVATION (vss.9-11):
Now, that David has declared his sincere way of living, his unquestioning sincerity and loyalty towards God and his separation from evil, he prays a prayer of salvation.
〈 Rescue me (vss.9-10): David prays that he would escape the fate and doom of the wicked and be handled with all the grace of God. Paul refers in Rom.3:23 to these wicked, as those who… ~ “…have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The sinners are those who have given themselves to a life of sin and rebellion against God. But David is not one of them.
David also asks to be separated from bloodthirsty men, those who scheme and accept bribes in order to pervert justice. Perhaps these are the same men who are bringing false charges against David, triggering his cry for vindication.
〈 Redeem me (vs.11): In vs.11 David asks the Lord to “redeem” him and to be “gracious” to him. David asks the Lord to protect him from the evildoers’ sins. He does not want to be part with them under the wrath of God. This plea is in accordance to Ps.25:22 where David, prayed for Israel, when saying ~ “Redeem Israel, O God out of all his troubles,” as well as Ps.4:1 ~ “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” Being set free from these evildoers, now and in the future, will be the vindication of the righteousness that David is asking for.
5. DAVID’S PRAYER OF CONFIRMATION (vs.12):
In vs.12 the Psalmist re-iterate his integrity and determination to praise the Lord.
〈 A voice of confidence (vs.12a): At the beginning of the Psalm, David declared his trust in the Lord. He would trust the Lord without wavering and not slip away from the path of righteousness (vs.1). How could he declare such a thing?
Because he stood on level, solid ground. The expression, “level ground” that David is using here is a metaphor for personal stability and a correct relationship with the Lord.
This “level ground” – this firm foundation was the faithfulness of the Lord himself. By the Lord’s power, David was confident that he would continue to trust in God and not fall into sin.
〈 A voice of praise (vs.12b): David concludes his prayer with a word of praise, saying, “I will bless the Lord.” What does it mean to bless the Lord? Some people think that they can stretch out their arms, look up into the air and literally bless the Lord – how can we as mortal beings, ever bless the almighty, holy God? No, it simply means that when the Word says that someone blessed the Lord, that they praised His holy Name.
So, David praises the name of the Lord and he does so in the House of the Lord. We read the following in Ps.22:22 ~ “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” To praise God’s Name not only implicates praising the Lord through singing and praying, but also testifying about the Lord’s goodness, His grace and His love. David promises that he will do this in the House of the Lord ~ “…in the midst of the congregation” (vs.12).
6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Beloved, there are so much to be learned from this Psalm and so many questions that we must ask ourselves according to what David said in this Psalm.
David led a balanced and blameless life and his motives were God centred and God honouring. Can we in all honesty say the same? Can we genuinely say, ‘I’m living a balanced and blameless life?’ Can I in all honesty declare that my motives; my life; my thought processes; my emotions; my questions; my struggles, are God centred and God honouring? Can we really say that our lives are in order – in thought and in deed?
Do we have an unwavering trust in the Lord and do we hold onto the Truth?
If we are truly Christians, we must be able to answer in all honesty, positively on these questions.
Are we really pure and innocent through the imputed righteousness of God?
In who’s company do we like to sit – the wicked, the sinners, the scoffers?
Is our worship just a mere ritual, or do we sincerely love the House of the Lord – is the House of the Lord really the place where God’s “glory cloud” is present – where the Lord is really present? Is His House – His presence, the place where you always want to be?
Lastly, are we really praising the name of the Lord everywhere, but especially here in His House through singing, praying and testifying about His goodness, grace and love?