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A PLEA FOR VINDICATION AND PROTECTION
The title we have chosen for this psalm is that assigned by Leupold. The great problem confronted here is the authorship, which according to the ancient ascription is "A Psalm of David." "The psalm has all the notes of David's style, is full of his thoughts and imagery, and is allowed to be his by almost all critics."
What then constitutes the problem? It is simply this: `There is an innocence, integrity and sinlessness depicted in this psalm that never pertained to any mortal being, much less the Jewish King David.'
On this account, some respected-writers have rejected the Davidic authorship, claiming that, "The author is unknown," that "The psalmist was a Levite," "A Davidic king after David," "Some innocent person," or some other worshipper.
Certain others scale down the meaning of the extravagant protestations of innocence by supposing that, "David does not maintain here that he never sins, but that he is innocent of the accusations brought against him" at that particular time. Rawlinson also, allowing the Davidic authorship, assigned it to that period of David's life "Before his great sin" with Bathsheba. Kidner pointed out that:
"God Himself used the word integrity of David in 1 Kings 9:4 - `If thou wilt walk before me, As David thy father walked in integrity, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded, etc.' (1 Kings 9:4). The basic meaning, therefore, (of integrity, etc.) is wholeness, usually in the sense of wholeheartedness, or sincerity, rather than faultlessness."
Certainly, some such accommodation of the language must be adopted if indeed David was the author and that he was here speaking of himself.
Since God Himself allowed that David had walked before him in integrity and uprightness, we should, ourselves, do nothing less than this.
"Yes, David walked in integrity, although sinful, and far from being perfect; however, his son Solomon miserably failed to do any such thing. But there is another Son of David, who is both the root and the offspring of David, both David's Son and David's Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ."
It is of that Greater Son of David that these words are true in their fullest and most exalted meaning.
Perhaps we have in the psalm a statement of David's integrity, innocence and uprightness "in a relative sense," as contrasted with the generation in which he lived. The same kind of statement was made in the Bible concerning Noah, of whom God said, "Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation" (Genesis 7:1). This never meant that Noah was either righteous or perfect, but that he was so in contrast with the rest of mankind in his day. We may also understand this limitation as implied in the words of this psalm as they are applied to David.
As Leupold noted, "David is not here placing himself over against God, but over against certain accusers." As a matter of fact, it may be that David was not here speaking of his entire life as absolutely blameless, but of his innocence and blamelessness in regard to the source of the trouble then confronting him. It appears to us that this is the best explanation of the passage.
As to what situation that may have been, we cannot be certain. Adam Clarke applied the psalm to the time when David was fleeing from the wrath of Saul, an episode in which David indeed was without any blame whatever. He paraphrased Psalms 26:1, thus, "I have never plotted against the life or property of any man; I have neither coveted nor endeavored to possess myself of Saul's crown." Behold here the skill of the Holy Spirit. Although David used the glorious protestations of innocence in this psalm in the limited sense of their application to a certain event, nevertheless, they also stand in the sacred text where they also speak of Him in whom there was no guile or sin whatever. Christ alone, of all who ever trod the earth was "Without Sin"!
The two divisions of this psalm are (1) A plea for vindication (Psalms 26:1-8), and (2) A plea to be spared the fate of evil-doers (Psalms 26:9-12).
"Judge me, O Jehovah, for I have walked in mine integrity:
I have trusted also in Jehovah without wavering.
Examine me, O Jehovah, and prove me;
Try my heart and my mind.
For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes;
And I have walked in thy truth.
I have not sat with men of falsehood;
Neither will I go in with dissemblers.
I hate the assembly of evil-doers,
And will not sit with the wicked.
I will wash my hands in innocency:
So will I compass thy alter, O Jehovah;
That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard,
And tell all thy wondrous works.
Jehovah, I love the habitation of thy house,
And the place where thy glory dwelleth."
As Maclaren said, such extravagant claims of integrity and innocence, "Grate upon the ears of one accustomed to the tone of the New Testament." Such a view fails to take in consideration of the fact that David is not here speaking of "his sinless life," but of his innocence in a given situation, and as contrasted with the wickedness of his enemies.
The absolute certainty of David's confidence regarding his innocence in this situation is emphasized by such words as "Judge me," "Prove me" and "Try me."
Psalms 26:3-5 give five reasons why the psalmist believes God will vindicate him against all charges of wrong doing:
(1) "Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes" (Psalms 26:3). He does this continually, never allowing it out of his sight.
(2) "I have walked in thy truth" (Psalms 26:3). He clings to faith in God.
(3) "I have not sat with men of falsehood" (Psalms 26:4). He has not cultivated nor received the friendship of wicked men. The word here rendered "falsehood" in the Hebrew is "vanity."
(4) "Neither will I go in with dissemblers" (Psalms 26:4). This is a reference to hypocrites (dissemblers). "This verse (Psalms 26:4) argues that the psalmist, has neither thrown in his lot with light, vain persons who make no presence of religion, nor with the hypocrites, the pretenders, who have a form of religion but who have denied the power thereof."
(5) "I hate the assembly of evil-doers" (Psalms 26:5). As Spurgeon interpreted these verses, "We must needs see, and speak, and trade with the men of this world, but we must on no account take our rest and solace in their empty society. Not only the profane, but the vain are to be shunned by us. All those who live for this life only are vain, chaffy, frothy men, quite unworthy of a Christian's friendship."
"I will wash my hands in innocency" (Psalms 26:6). "This figure is probably taken from the practice of the priests (Exodus 30:17-21) or from that of the city elders (Deuteronomy 21:6,7)." We recall also the maneuver of Pilate (Matthew 27:4).
"So will I compass thine altar O Jehovah" (Psalms 26:6). The psalmist truly desires to worship God, but here he may only contemplate such worship as something that he will do in the future. This fits the thought that David was at that time fleeing either from King Saul, or because of the rebellion of Absalom.
"The voice of thanksgiving ... all thy wondrous works" (Psalms 26:7). Again, these words envision a time when the psalmist will again be privileged to come to God's altar with a sacrifice, shouting his words of thanksgiving and telling of God's wonderful works.
"Jehovah, I love the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy glory dwelleth" (Psalms 26:8). Delitzsch noted that, "The poet supports his position by declaring his motive to be his love for the sanctuary of God, from which he is now far removed, without any fault of his own." See additional note on this at the end of the chapter.
"Gather not my soul with sinners,
Nor my life with men of blood;
In whose hands is wickedness,
And their right hand is full of bribes.
But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity:
Redeem me, and be merciful unto me.
My foot standeth in an even place:
In the congregations will I bless Jehovah."
"Their right hand is full of bribes" (Psalms 26:10). "This is a reference to persons in office who took bribes to pervert judgment and justice."
Adam Clarke also tabulated the several references to wicked men in this psalm.
They are vain, irreligious persons (Psalms 26:4).
They are deep, dark men, saying one thing, meaning something else (Psalms 26:4).
They are malignant, doing everything for their own ends (Psalms 26:5).
They regard neither God nor holy religion (Psalms 26:5).
They are blood-thirsty murderers, "men of blood" (Psalms 26:9).
They are traffickers in wickedness (Psalms 26:9).
They are ready with their hands to execute the wicked schemes of their hearts (Psalms 26:10).
They are lovers of bribes, perverting judgment for the sake of money.
All of these verses are a plea from David that God will not appoint his portion with the wicked; and Psalms 26:12 carries the assurance that God has heard his prayer.
"My foot standeth on an even place" (Psalms 26:12). "These words are a symbol of comfort and safety." "The psalmist is sure that his desire of compassing God's altar with praise will be fulfilled, and that, instead of compulsory association with `the congregation of evil-doers,' he will bless Jehovah `in the congregation' where God's name is loved and that he will find himself among those who, like himself, delight in the praise of God."
Delitzsch also agreed that, "The prayer here changes to rejoicing due to the certainty that the answer shall be given. Hitherto, as it were, shut in by deep trackless gorges, he now feels himself to be standing upon a pleasant plain."
Note: The notion that God's "habitation" mentioned in Psalms 26:8 is the Jewish Temple is sometimes advanced as proof that David could not have written this psalm; but the American Standard Version margin reveals that the Hebrew text in Psalms 26:8 actually has the words, "The house of the tabernacle of thy glory."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 26". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany