It is a confident person who asks Yahweh to judge him, and yet, this is what David does in this psalm and this is not the first time we have seen this language for vindication and deliverance in the Psalms. His confidence is based on truthfulness and the fact that he has placed his trust in Yahweh and pledges that his trust will always be with Yahweh. Let’s look at some of the words and what they mean.
Psalm 26:1 – When is the last time you heard a Christian praying for God to judge him? Probably never – because for us it is the same as asking God to decide at that moment to take us to heaven or send us to hell! The Christian concept of “judge” is not the same as that Judaism. We approach the word from the standpoint of “final judgment”; ours is an end-times viewpoint.
For the psalmist judgment is more like what would be found in a court of law. It is not necessarily one’s whole life that is reviewed to decide his eternal fate; it is the situation that is at hand at that particular moment in time and the petitioner’s hope for vindication.
He is using truthfulness, (some versions use the word integrity, here defined as innocence or simplicity), as an argument in his defense. I think I like the word integrity more because it also speaks to the writer’s morals and knowledge. Note that he writes: I have walked in my integrity. He is in no wise trying to say that he is on a par with God in the department of integrity. I think he is saying he walks in the truth of the facts of the situation as an innocent and he took the best action he could according to the knowledge he had. The Hebrew word for judge is shaphat, meaning to judge, govern, vindicate or punish.
Psalm 26:2 – This portion of the psalm uses terms related to smelting and purification. A miner brings a sample of the ore he has taken from the ground to the assayer whose job it is to determine its worth based on the amount of precious metals in the sample. He reports his findings to the miner who then decides if continuing to work that particular patch of ground is worth his effort and time.
Like the miner, the psalmist is offering himself to Yahweh for examination (Hebrew: bachan – examine, try, prove, scrutinize, test) like the assayer would assay a sample of ore and he wants the scrutiny to go to the very core of his being. He is saying “prove me, put me to the test” and “smelt me – refine me” and see that I am not telling the truth. Go to my very center of being and see what’s there.
Here, some translations use the term reins, which literally means kidneys. This is where the medical term renal comes from. The kidneys are deep within the body, and figuratively speaking, reins is used to describe the seat of the emotions and affections. So he is saying go deep inside and investigate my emotions. If that wasn’t enough, he invites Yahweh to prove (try) his heart, the seat of the inner man, the mind, the will, the soul, the conscience, the moral character, the courage, and cast (form) the proof (testimony) of them.
Psalm 26:3, 4, 5 – Now we come to the root of the psalmist’s confidence: his belief in Yahweh’s lovingkindness (v. 3). God’s lovingkindness is conspicuously around him. It is there, right before his very eyes to see. He sees God’s grace and mercy everywhere. Equally important, he has walked in Yahweh’s truth. In verses four through eight he tells how he is walking in the walk with God.
He doesn’t keep company with those who lie and this includes hypocrites, which some translate the former as vain people and the latter as dissemblers. A vain person is a person who is insincere and untruthful – not genuine. A dissembler is one who conceals or hides his real character or intention. The writer is not actively involved with them, and he makes it a practice to be not seen or associated with them.
In verse five, the author hates those who gather to plot against man and God and refuses to be associated with them. By stating these words, he his saying that he has been and remains on his walk in God’s truth and that those people who sit with the evil doers and the liars are wicked and he will not sit in their company.
Thus, he testifies that he honestly walks in the truth of Yahweh.
Psalm 26:6,7,8 – In the last three verses, the psalmist has stated what he has not done; in these three verses, he is stating what he has done, is doing, or what his honest purpose has been.
Innocence refers to cleanness and purity, and the psalmist is washing his hands in innocence – he is making himself pure – sothat he may worship God. His worship consists of praise, proclaiming all the good the God’s lovingkindness and all he has done, and compassing the altar. Does this mean that he walked around the altar in prayer or that he literally held it in his arms or that he reveres or respects it? I don’t know. It could be any or all of these – they all apply.
Verse seven fits so wonderfully into the contents of verse eight in that he says that he loves the house of the Lord – the place where Yahweh dwells. That is where the altar is and so he praises God in the place that he also admires and loves.
Psalm 26:9,10 – The psalmist asks that he not be included or associated with those who sin by choice or with those who are violent to their fellow man – robbers and murderers. Again, these are people who are insincere in speech and deed and they are not above offering bribes, in one way or another, to get their way at the expense of others.
This is a follow-up to the previous three verses. Now he is referring to eternal life, whereas in past verses he was not. He implies that because he has shunned the wicked, that God would consider him separate from them; that his life would not be gathered with men of blood to the place where the wicked will spend eternity. These people, he writes, offer gifts – bribes – to escape the due punishment of their crimes.
Psalm 26:11 – Instead of plotting and offering bribes, he purposes to walk in his integrity, his truthfulness. “Redeem me,” he says which implies that he knows he is not perfect, a perfect person does not need redemption, but his truthfulness is not hypocrisy or lying or bribing and so he looks to Yahweh’s mercy for vindication.
Our integrity is not, nor can it ever be, as perfect as God’s integrity, but as David shows us in this psalm, our integrity (truth as we know it), in addition to God’s word, are the tools we have to guide us in leading a truthful and upright life. We must read the word and meditate on it and work to live by that word.
Sometimes the situations we are thrust into require us to make our own judgments as to the action we need to take, and so, we must rely on our own integrity which has been formed by knowing God’s laws and by our own decisions.
By reading the Psalms, at least those we have looked at thus far, it seems that David was constantly under attack by factions under his rule. He was forced to make hard decisions regarding his people. In this psalm, it is apparent that he had to deal with liars of all kinds out of necessity, knowing all along they were lying. I would wager that he was in the “assembly of evil doers” only as long as he had to be to hear their petitions or their complaints and he hated what it was they were trying to accomplish because he saw through them and knew they were lying.
To purposely refuse to lower one’s self to the level of the wicked and to walk in Yahweh’s truth is a step toward innocence and righteousness. When we do this, our life is pleasing to God and we are inviting His influence in our life. We are then able to wash our hands in innocence and to get up in front of the congregation and sing praises of thanksgiving to Him and tell, in all truthfulness, of the works He has done in our lives even though our integrity is corrupt in comparison to God’s integrity.
Verse 12 says he stands in an even place – he knows Yahweh is just and that he will be vindicated. He knows he will sing praises to Yahweh before the congregation because of God’s justice.
Thank you for reading and may Yahweh, the creator and sustainer of us all, bless you in every way.
A note for readers: Beginning with this post, all the Psalms will now be filed under Categories and not under Psalms pages. The Psalms already in the Psalms navigation menu will be converted to blog entries in time. Until then Psalms 1 through 25 will be found under the Psalms navigation and Psalms 26 through (eventually) 150 will be found under Categories>Bible Study>Psalms. Thank you.