Psalm 26 The Vindicator

Standard
Questions: Do we want God to judge us? Should we? On what basis? To what end? Do we walk in integrity? Can we? How can we know for sure? What does it allow us to ask of God?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 26

Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity

While many commentators seem to wrestle most with the imprecatory psalms, I’ve usually felt most uncomfortable with the “self-righteous” ones, where — at least at first glance — David seems to be celebrating his own virtue:

I have trusted also in the LORD; [therefore] I shall not slide.

Naively, one could read this as “God, see what a good person I am?”, which presumably would be followed by, “Therefore, I insist you give me what I want, or feel I deserve.”

But, that’s not what is happening here at all:

Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

Whoa! This isn’t about David asserting his righteousness, but rather about submitting it to God. It is the difference between saying “I can whup you” versus “Give me your best shot”, or between forging a diploma instead of taking the exam. The former is falsely claiming unmerited credit, the latter is being willing to demonstrate a legitimate right to that credit.

In that light, the way David asserts his righteousness is crucial, and not merely defensible but praiseworthy. How often are we willing to say, “God, I may not be perfect, but I really have sought you with my whole heart in this matter. Go ahead, put me to the test, and see that my faith really is genuine and selfless.” That takes considerable guts, as well as self-knowledge and deep sincerity.

Moreover, it is as wonderful lesson for us, as David describes what that entails:

* thy lovingkindness [is] before mine eyes

* I have walked in thy truth

* I have not sat with vain personsdissemblersevil doersthe wicked

* I have loved the habitation of thy house

and what that enables:

*

I will wash mine hands in innocency

* so will I compass thine altar

* I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving

* tell of all thy wondrous works

To be sure, he does seem to use this as the basis of a request:

Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: In whose hands [is] mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.

actually, multiple requests:

But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.

Which raises the question: what is his integrity? More importantly, can he validly assert that he is walking in it? And what, if anything, can he legitimately ask God for on that basis?

These are weighty issues, and any answer I give will necessarily be tentative. However, I think the key is to understand David’s heart, not just his words. In particular, what I see David asserting is that:

a. there is a real difference between righteousness
b. God cares about that difference
c. we can know what that is
d. God is pleased when we choose righteousness over wickedness
e. He (David) has done so, and knows it

These points may seem trite, but anyone who’s ever wrestled with a real moral dilemma — or faced self-justifying evil — knows that these are actually the difference between life and death. And David is not writing out of some intellectual hypothesis (like, say, me :-), but as a shepherd, soldier, and king who is intimately familiar with the price of false confidence.

From that perspective, David’s psalm is actually something we should all aspire to pray. We too should cultivate such a knowledge of virtue — and practice of it! — that in the day of testing we can boldly stand before God and confess, in all humility:

Lord, you alone are the righteous judge. Your ways alone are right, and you deserve all honor and glory. I submit myself to you, and ask you to judge and examine me by your standards, not my own. Nonetheless, I declare to you that I do love your law, and have organized my life in pursuit of you, and shunned evil to the best of my knowledge. I ask for nothing more than to walk in your presence, and bask in your love. Redeem me, my savior; not because I deserve you, but because I genuinely want you. And would gladly surrender everything else merely to be with you.

Or, as David put it:

My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD.

Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title, from verse 1, sounds like a great name for a super-hero, though I realize it’s already been used.

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