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Confident faith when your integrity is on the line
I remember a time early in my ministry when someone attacked me, questioned my integrity, and made accusations about me to others. And my attempts to discuss their concerns only seemed to exacerbate the situation. As things escalated, I felt increasingly self-protective, to the point of being tempted to dismiss anything they had to say entirely. And I felt temptations toward self-promotion, not only wanting to clear my name and prove myself but also to discredit them to others.
I wasn’t entirely pure. There was a lot of room for personal and professional growth if I was willing to submit myself and listen to their perspectives with humility and curiosity. But I wasn’t guilty of what I was being charged with either. I was angry and hurt over what felt like an injustice. And in my hurt, I was tempted toward sinful responses rather than entrusting my integrity and reputation to God.
Psalm 26 could be a temple entry psalm—a song worshipers sing before they enter the temple. But David also could have written this psalm while walking through a situation similar to mine. While we don’t know the exact nature of this psalm’s origination, we can still be nurtured by its truths.
The heat of circumstances can expose us and reveal what we trust in or turn to. And here, amid David’s circumstances, we discover a heart that is turned toward the Lord, not toward self-reliant, self-protective behaviors. Right away, David appeals to God’s just nature,
Vs. 1. “Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.”
David’s conscience is so clear that he confidently and boldly declares his faithfulness and integrity—he has lived honestly before God and man. But we know David was no super saint. Failures in his family, in his leadership, and abuses of his power are all part of David’s legacy. So how can he boldly proclaim purity before the Lord?
We all have seasons or circumstances when our faith is strong, and we live with integrity and faithfulness. And we have times when our faith wavers, and we make choices that hurt ourselves and others. The life of faith is dynamic, not static. It ebbs and flows with the tide. None of us will get through this life blameless. But that doesn’t mean every aspect of our lives is corrupt. The same is true of David.
A barometer of our spiritual health is what we do when our integrity is called into question. To whom or to what do we turn? And this is where we can learn from David. Rather than pursuing justice in his own way, he turns to the Lord for vindication. And he can do this because he is crystal clear about God’s character! God’s very nature is just, which means David can boldly appeal to God to clear him of false accusations of wrongdoing—and entrust himself to God’s faithful care.
Vs. 2-3 “Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.”
This is a bold prayer! He’s, in essence, saying to God, “Go ahead. Look. Examine me. Put me on trial. See if you can find anything in me that you find offensive.” Again, how can David pray with such bold confidence before a holy God? For David, it is better to be exposed by a loving God than revered by sinful humanity. So he invites God’s thorough investigation because he trusts the goodness and steadfast loving-kindness (hesed) of the God who searches him—not to condemn him but to transform him.
Now David lays out his case before the Lord,
Vs. 4-5 “I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.”
Here is where a couple of distinctions could be helpful. First, all of us struggle with sin. David is not talking about sins common to man because of the weakness of our flesh. If that were the case, none of us could gather together. We would all be guilty of sitting among the wicked. Instead, David appears to be talking about those who are willfully determined to do what is evil without remorse in the sight of God.
Second, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love or associate with those who don’t live and believe as we do. Jesus dined with men and women that the religious of his day rejected—tax collectors, sinners, and the unclean. But just because he loved and gathered with them doesn’t mean he condoned or adopted their way of life. His associations with them were an invitation to hope, healing, and freedom—to wholeheartedness. But Jesus’ heart was fully aligned with the Father’s, loving what he loves and hating what he hates.
This is about alignment. David was professing his allegiance to Yahweh. His affections and desires have been informed and shaped by the God he loves. And those affections draw him in worship to the altar—the symbolic place where God offers humanity the riches of forgiveness of sins and communion with him through a blood sacrifice,
v 6-10. “I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
David is so taken by God’s loving kindness and faithfulness that he cannot contain his joy. He circles the altar, unashamedly proclaiming his gratitude and telling anyone who will listen about Yahweh’s extraordinary faithfulness.
When we’ve tasted the riches, wisdom, and knowledge in the gospel, we can’t help but respond in praise and thanksgiving. We love and long for the Lord’s presence in our lives more than anything else. His love so transforms us that we want to align our desires with his—to follow his ways rather than adopting the patterns of those who delight in evil.
That isn’t always true of me. I forget about the extravagant riches of God afforded me by the gospel, and I chase after empty things. Or I try to pursue justice in unjust ways. Or I seek to clear my name by discrediting another. Or I seek a name among my peers rather than being content being known by God. But when I look up and encounter Jesus — or as David says, when I set his steadfast love ever before my eyes — I am reminded again how good it is to wait on the Lord and to dwell in his presence.
v 11-12 “But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.”
David has seen what the world offers and found it lacking. Not even vindicating his own name can compare to what Yahweh has for him. So he appeals to the Lord’s grace and reaffirms his commitment to him alone.
Perhaps my favorite part of this psalm is in verse 12, where he says, “I will bless the LORD in the great assembly.”
As I read that, I can’t help but think that David is right now in the presence of the Lord, among the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12), proclaiming God’s glory, faithfulness, and lovingkindness. What he saw then only dimly, he now sees in full. And it was worth every act of faith. Every choice to wait on the Lord to act on his behalf. And that day is coming for us too.
Look up, friends.
All my love,
If you’d like to explore this further, schedule some time to work through the following exercises.
Read Psalm 26 in a couple of different translations. Then answer the following questions:
Based on this psalm, what does David value?
What aspects of God’s nature does David appeal to within this psalm? How did these aspects of God’s character shape David’s response to his circumstances?
Explore Your Story:
Can you recall a time when you faced unjust criticism? What thoughts came to mind? How did you respond?
what did the Holy Spirit draw your attention to as you read the passage? What parts of your story does it bring to mind? Take time to reflect in prayer, asking the Lord what he wants you to know regarding this psalm and how it intersects with your life.
Read 1 Peter 2:23 in The Message translation. How is this similar to David’s response in Psalm 26?
How might living the truer story of the gospel—that in Christ you are called, loved, and kept—enable you to respond differently when someone unjustly accuses you or speaks negatively about you?
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