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The date of this psalm is uncertain. It is supposed by some to refer to the assassination of Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-12); and by others to the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:18); but it is more probable that it was composed, like many others, in the dark time of Saul’s persecution (1 Samuel 18:24.). “It has some points of resemblance, both in thought and expression, to the last. Both open with the same declaration of trust in God (Psalms 25:2; Psalms 26:1); in both there is the same prayer that God would redeem (Psalms 25:22, Psalms 26:11), and be gracious (Psalms 25:16, Psalms 26:11) to His servants. Other points of contact may be found in Psalms 25:21, Psalms 26:11 and Psalms 25:5, Psalms 26:3. There is, however, this marked difference between the two, that there are wanting in this psalm those touching confessions of sinfulness and pleadings for forgiveness which in the other are thrice repeated. Here is only the avowal of conscious uprightness,—an avowal made as in the sight of the searcher of hearts, and deriving, no doubt, much of its intensity and almost impassioned force from the desire on the part of the singer to declare his entire separation from and aversion to the vain and evil men by whom he was surrounded.”—Perowne.
THE UPRIGHT MAN PLEADING FOR JUSTICE IN THE COURT OF HEAVEN
Calumny has been common in all ages. Jesus Christ Himself was defamed, and His disciples are warned to expect similar treatment from their enemies (John 15:20; Matthew 5:11). For such as suffer thus, the example of David is rich in counsel and comfort in time of trouble, he turns to God for redress and refuge. He appeals from a world where “the foundations are out of course” to a world where all is righteousness and peace. He appeals from man, whose judgments are false, to God, who judgeth righteously.
In considering David’s appeal, mark—
I. That it was made to the rigth Judge (Psalms 26:1). “Judge me, O Lord.” He had been wronged. His enemies had suspected and denounced him. Even the very king, anointed to do justly and to defend the oppressed, had turned against him, and madly sought his life (1 Samuel 24:11). But, though perplexed, he is not in despair; though persecuted, he is not forsaken. He appeals to God. “Judge me, O Lord.” Take up my cause, vindicate my character, deliver me from the machinations and malice of my foes. This is just like what he said to Saul at Engedi (1 Samuel 24:12), “The Lord judge between me and thee” (1 Samuel 24:15), “The Lord be judge, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.”
It is a solemn thing to stand before an earthly judge, but it is a far more solemn thing to come before the judgment-seat of God. This is the court of last resort. Here the Judge is personally acquainted with all the facts and circumstances of the case, and His judgments are absolutely just and final (1 Samuel 2:3).
II. It was presented in a proper spirit.
1. Deep seriousness. He feels that he is in the presence of the great Searcher of hearts. His very life is at stake; but there are two things which sustain him:
(1.) Conscious integrity. “For I have walked in mine integrity.” This is very bold. It startles us to hear such words from a sinful man. We are almost ready to say, “Surely this is to err, and to fall into pride and self-righteousness.” But the words are no boast. They have the ring of sincerity and truth. David does not claim moral perfection, but uprightness of heart. He felt that he had been true. In spite of sore provocations, he had not returned evil for evil; though coming short in many things, he had honestly endeavoured to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. “Walked:” this implied earnestness and definiteness of purpose, steadfast and delightsome progress in the right. “Integrity” was the air in which he had lived and moved. “Innocency itself is no fence to the name, though it is to the bosom, against the darts of calumny.”—M. Henry.
(2.) Confidence in God. “I have trusted also in the Lord: therefore I shall not slide.” There was everything in God to inspire trust. He was infinitely just and good. In His laws and government He was wholly and eternally opposed to all evil. However it might be amongst men, the Judge of all the earth could not but do right. David had trusted in Him in the past, and he would trust in Him for ever. Had he been conscious of insincerity, he could not have acted thus. Guile puts a bar between the soul and God; whereas, when there is no guile, there can be frank and confiding approach, and unwavering confidence. What a comforting thought that there is a God in heaven who judgeth righteously! Happy are those who trust in Him.
“True dignity abides with him alone
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
Can still suspect and still revere himself
In lowliness of heart.”—WORDSWORTH.
2. Readiness to submit to the most thorough investigation (Psalms 26:2). “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me.” The reference here is to the methods by which metals were tested (Psalms 12:6; Psalms 66:10). As gold and silver were tried in the furnace, as Israel had been tried in Egypt and the wilderness, so he was ready to be tried (Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 8:2). “Try my reins and my heart.” The “reins” may refer to the lower, and the “heart” to the higher passions of the soul. He thus craves that not only the outward but the inner man should be tested. He would hide nothing. He desires to be perfectly open, and to have all laid bare and sifted to the very core of his being. Whatever the Lord saw to be just, let Him do. The deepest desire of his heart was to be right. Let all dross of self-deception and sin be purged away in the fire of the Great Refiner, and let the true and the good remain. “The fining-pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord trieth the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3).
“What lives by life that is not Thine,
I yield it to Thy righteous doom;
What yet resists Thy law Divine,
O may Thy fire of love consume.”
3. Humble acquiescence in the result (Psalms 26:3). “For Thy loving-kindness is before mine eyes, and I have walked in Thy truth.” This implies that God’s love was the life of his heart. He understood and appreciated His “loving-kindness.” It was “before his eyes” (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8). It was the object of his constant meditation and delight. When he thought thereon, he could not but give thanks and take courage. “Perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). God’s will was the law of his life. That he might know and keep God’s commandments was his continual prayer. “I have walked in Thy truth.” This had been his habit. It was upon this principle that his life had been regulated. Hence he felt no fear. Whatever was brought to light, whether to his praise or to his blame, could not but be for his good. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (Psalms 97:11). “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved; but he that doeth truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God” (John 3:20-21). Blessed are they whose hearts are right with God. Let trials come, let them be subjected to sore discipline and heavy judgments, still they have peace within.
“Whate’er my God ordains is right,—
My light, my life is He.
He cannot will me aught but good—
I trust Him utterly;
For well I know,
In joy or woe,
We yet shall see as sunlight clear,
How faithful was our Guardian here.”
III. Supported by ample evidence
1. Negative (Psalms 26:4-5). The wicked are here characterised as “vain persons,” “dissemblers,” “evil-doers.” These terms are terribly significant. They are revelations of the heart. They are proofs of a state of society utterly alien and hostile to the life of God. David, in vindication of himself, declares his entire separation from all such people. He expresses his repugnance to their society. A man is known by the company he keeps. There is a power, for good or for evil, in the society we love. To be allied with the good is a blessing and an honour, but to be confederate with the had is to be doomed to infamy. David could appeal to his past life. He had no relish for the society of the bad. “I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.” He expresses his hatred of their character. His language is very strong: “I have hated the congregation of evil-doers.” It was not that he hated them as men, but that he hated their spirit and conduct—their character. “To hate the person, the existence, of any man, is wrong; it is to hate the workmanship of God. But to hate the character of a bad man is right, and even obligatory. God made the person, man made the character; and a bad character is an offence to the Almighty, and an injury to the universe: therefore it is holy to hate it.”—Dr. D. Thomas.
2. Positive (Psalms 26:6-8). “I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord; that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works. Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth.” David here declares his love for God’s house and worship. Instead of consorting with the wicked, his delight was with the people of God. Mark his earnest preparation (Psalms 26:6), “I will wash,” &c. The expression is figurative (cf. Genesis 20:5; Deuteronomy 21:6; Matthew 27:24). It is taken from Exodus 30:17-21, where Aaron and his sons are commanded to wash their hands and their feet before going into the tabernacle. “David, willing to express his coming with a pure heart to pray to God, doth it by this similitude of a priest, that as a priest washes his hands, and then offers oblation, so had he constantly joined purity and devotion together.”—Hammond. Mark his devout attendance upon ordinances (Psalms 26:6-7). “So will I compass,” &c. “The meaning is, that he will go round and round the altar, looking at it, looking at the blood on its base, and the blood on each of the four horns, towards north, south, east, and west, and beholding the smoke of the fire, and thinking of the sacrificial victim that has died there,—all in the way of joyful thanks for salvation provided for men.”—A. A. Bonar. Mark his great delight in the public worship of God (Psalms 26:8). “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house,” &c. It was the place where God’s glory dwelt, where God made Himself known as a just God and a Saviour. God’s presence is the attraction and life of all true worship. We should attend upon Divine ordinances with diligence, preparation, and prayer. If you come to church fresh from the company of the gay and the thoughtless, and with no real seriousness of spirit, it is no wonder if you are not benefited. But come with humility, come with sincere love of truth, come with hope in the boundless mercy of God and the grace of Christ, and you will not come in vain. Instructed and refreshed, your grateful song will be, “This is none other but the house of God, this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17).
IV. Enforced by strong and impassioned arguments (Psalms 26:9-11). “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. But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.” He here prays that God would judge him (Psalms 26:1), i.e., declare what he is by separating him from the wicked. But, in fact, his prayer is an argument, intensely earnest and powerful. That he should be condemned with the wicked was—
1. Contrary to the spirit of his past life. “Sinners,” “bloody men,” men whose evil designs led to violence and crime, and whose hands were “full of bribes” to corrupt and to betray, surrounded him. But though he could not altogether avoid them, he had always regarded them with aversion. Their character was hateful to him, and he abhorred their company as hell.
2. Revolting to his holiest aspirations and hopes. He was unchanged in his purpose. Truth was truth, and right was right, whatever men said or did. He was resolved to die as he had lived. His heart was fixed. But he shrank with horror from the doom of the wicked.
3. Inconsistent with his faith in God’s justice and mercy. “Redeem me, and be merciful unto me.” He is far from pride and presumption. He does not demand, but supplicates. His exclusive dependence is upon God. There was a moral impossibility in his being forsaken. “As there is a gathering time for the fruits of the earth, so there is a gathering-time for men. Death is the reaper. With his scythe he mows down the generations, and Justice gathers whom he mows,—some to misery, some to bliss. Who would be gathered with the sinners in the great world of retribution?”—Dr. D. Thomas.
V. Concludes with the expression of the most undoubting assurance (Psalms 26:12). “My foot standeth in an even place; in the congregations will I bless the Lord.” “His prayer has been heard. He is safe. He stands on the open tableland, where he has room to move, and where his enemies cannot hem him in, and therefore he fulfils the resolve made before (Psalms 26:7), and publicly pours out his thanksgivings to God.”—Perowne. But the words of the Psalmist may be understood as looking further than this earth. They not only imply present sure standing in the love of God, but they breathe the spirit of holy joy, in view of the serene and blissful heights of heaven, where there shall be no possibility of danger or of falling any more.
A GLORIOUS PICTURE
I. The subject. “Thy loving-kindness.” Creation, providence, redemption. What subject could be more noble and attractive?
II. The position. “Before mine eyes.” Much depends on the placing of a picture. The most excellent should have the most honourable place. “Before mine eyes.” Before the mind, the conscience, the heart. To be studied with adoring love and delight.
III. The effect upon the beholders.
3. Transforming. Soothes, strengthens, ennobles. “Beholding as In a glass the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image.” What interest has this picture for us? With what feelings do we regard it? “We needs must love the highest when we see it.”—Tennyson.
SURVEY OF REDEMPTION WORK
IT IS A FINISHED WORK.
IT IS A WONDROUS WORK.
IT IS AN INSPIRING WORK.
IT IS A GOD-GLORIFYING WORK.
LOVE OF GOD’S HOUSE
What the Tabernacle and the Temple were to the pious Jew, the house where we worship God should be to us. It should be dear because—
I. Hallowed by the Divine presence (2 Chronicles 6:18; Acts 7:49; Exodus 25:21-22; Matthew 18:20).
II. Consecrated to the holiest fellowship. “The congregation.” More; though physically shut in by the walls, in spirit we enter into fellowship with all God’s saints.
III. Devoted to the cause of righteousness and love. Not sectarianism, but “the truth as in Jesus.” “We preach Christ crucified.” Our ceaseless prayer is “Thy kingdom come.”
IV. Endeared by the most sacred associations. Here our fathers worshipped. Here our hearts have often been revived by the word of truth, and regaled by the bread of life sent down from heaven (Psalms 87:2-5).
V. Suggestive of the noblest hopes and inspirations (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 12:22-29; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
I. The good man is chiefly concerned about his soul. Many anxious as to health, earthly comforts, the security of their goods, &c. But the cry of the godly is “my soul.” Not in selfishness.
1. The soul is the man.
2. The salvation of the soul is necessary for the glory of God and the true ends of our being.
3. The soul is in desperate peril, and none but Christ can save.
II. The good man knows that the destiny of the soul is settled at death. “Gather not my soul,” &c. Death comes to all. “Gather” (cf. Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:29-33; Numbers 20:24; Numbers 27:13. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Judgment. Inferred by reason. Foreboded by conscience. Revealed by Scripture (Hebrews 9:27; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
III. The good man recoils with horror from being associated in destiny with the wicked. Why?
1. Because he abhors their character.
2. Their society.
3. Their doom. Evil without restraint. Misery without relief. Eternity without hope. Would we shrink from the society of the false, the impure, the revengeful, the slaves of lust and selfishness, how much more should we recoil from eternal fellowship with these and such as these!
Psalms 26:9-10. Social degeneracy. A corrupt people makes a corrupt magistracy.
Psalms 26:12. The connection between private and public worship.
Psalms 26:12. Rectitude is an “even place,” as contrasted with the crooked paths of the false, the hard way of transgressors, the slippery places of the world. “Certainly, it is heaven upon earth to have a man’s mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.”—Bacon.
SINCERITY NOT ENOUGH
It is a false and mistaken liberality to say, “If a man be sincere, he is all right” Sincerity is necessary. Unless a man is sincere, he cannot be truly religious. But sincerity is not enough. A man may be sincere in his opinions, and yet be grievously in error. So it was with Eli (1 Samuel 1:14) when he called Hannah drunken. A man may be sincere in his religious beliefs, even to zealotism, and yet be far off from true godliness. So it was with Saul when he made havoc of the Church, and did things which he afterwards bitterly repented (Acts 26:9-10). Sincerity implies being true to conscience; but conscience is no safe guide by itself. It needs to be cultivated and controlled by the Spirit of God.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 26". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent