- Psalm 26 is another psalm of David. The theme of this psalm quickly jumps to our eyes when we read the first verse and the last verse of the psalm. Verse 1 says, “Vindicate me, Lord, because I have lived with integrity and have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” Most of the versions use the phrase “without wavering.” The KJV says “I shall not slide” and the NKJV says “I shall not slip.” The Hebrew word here means “to slip; to shake” so either translation is acceptable.
- But now read verse 12, “My foot stands on level ground.” The bookends of this psalm state for us the theme of David’s writing. David has confidence that God has placed him on level ground and he will not slip or waver. As Christians, we are to have the same confidence that we will not slip nor waver from the level ground God has placed us upon. In this lesson we will look at how we can stand on level ground and know that our feet will not slip as David proclaimed.
I. David’s Call to God (26:1-3)
A. Vindicate me
- David begins this psalm with a call for vindication from the Lord. Vindication is a call for justice. There are a couple of aspects concerning David’s call for vindication that we ought to consider.
- First, this is a call for personal vindication. David bases his call for justice upon two things: “I have lived with integrity” and “I have trusted in the Lord.” These are the two great reasons why David makes his declaration for vindication to God. David has lived a righteous and godly life. But is that all there is to the motive for David’s desire for vindication? Does David merely want all the people to know that he really is a righteous person, though others may cast dispersions upon him? I think we must see that David is appealing to the Lord with something more than simply a personal need for recognition of the truth.
- The second aspect of this call for vindication is that it is based upon vindicating God. Now, David does not expressly state this in the psalm, but it is a natural outgrowth of a person who lives with integrity and trusts in the Lord. If we have lived our lives for the Lord, then our vindication is not about showing that we are righteous, but to show that our faith is valuable. We want to prove God to be true to His word. If we simply want ourselves to be justified in the sight of others, we are simply caving into the sin of pride. However, we want to be vindicated so that people will know that our faith in God is not in vain.
- I believe this is the nature of David’s call for vindication. We do not want the world to think that our integrity has no value. We do not want the world to look at us and think that our hope and faith are in vain. We want them to see the Lord in our lives. We want our lives to be an example to others about how God is true to His word. We are to be the proof of God’s promises.
- Too often we have self-centered attitudes reflected in our self-centered prayers desiring things in life to God the way we want them to go. Our prayers consist of merely doing things for us alone. But we are supposed to have a greater focus than upon ourselves. It is one thing to destroy my reputation, slander my name, and try to bring me to ruin. I can be upset because I want things to go the way I want them to go. But that is not profitable. What should be our greater concern is when we are leading righteous lives, these slanderous words bring a reproach against God. Therefore, the call is not to salvage my own name, but to salvage the glory of God through me.
B. Test me/examine me/try me
- This need to vindicate the glory of God in my life leads to David’s next request. David says “test me, Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind.” We must have purified lives and purified faith for us to expect to be vindicated for God’s righteousness and glory.
- Notice the examination begins in the heart and the mind. Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “ The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks .” The examination of the heart and the mind is always necessary for these are source of our actions. A filthy heart and mind will lead to filthy actions. A clean heart and mind will lead to righteous actions.
- But notice more closely who David says is examining his heart and mind. David calls for God to examine his heart and mind. Clearly, David had already made a self-examination and now turns to God to check his heart and mind also. Can you say to God right now: examine my heart and mind? Will God find our integrity in our hearts and minds or will He find evil and corruption?
- The first way we can know that we are standing on level ground and will not slip is stated in verse 3. “For Your faithful love is before my eyes, and I live by Your truth.” God is called upon to be David’s examiner because he allows the love of the Lord to lead his steps. We need to the Lord to test our hearts and cannot fear the trials that refine our faith. Further, we must be able to also say that God’s faithful love is always before my eyes and I live by His truth. Walking with God will stabilize our lives because of the faith we have in God to carry us through any circumstance.
II. Description of Godly Character (26:4-7)
A. Do not sit with the worthless
- David now describes four characteristics of those who stand on level ground and will not slip. David begins with those who do not sit with the worthless. He does not associate with those who practice falsehood. The type of falsehood David is identifying is clear from the rest of verse 4, “or associate with hypocrites.” The falsehood and worthlessness that David is identifying are the hypocrites. Clearly David is speaking about spiritual hypocrisy.
- How sad it is that so many who can claim to be followers of God pursue activities of ungodliness. The hypocrisy can be as great as tolerating the evident sins of the flesh. But the hypocrisy also reaches down to the level that we can find ourselves engaging in, like backbiting, whisperings, gossiping, and slander. Those who we would expect better of can fall prey to this divisive and condemned sin. David says he does not sit with the worthless or the hypocrites. He does not spend time with them and they are not in his close realm of friends.
- We must also have the same attitude toward such. When we see other Christians not acting according to the scriptures, we cannot listen to their empty words nor follow the example of their lives. We often attracted to those who engage in these sins, but we must steer clear so that we are not also sucked into their sins.
B. Hate evildoers
- Not only can we not spend time with hypocrites, but we need to hate what they are doing. Again, David says he does not sit with the wicked and despises the crowd of evildoers.
- What is our attitude toward hypocrisy? What is our attitude toward those who speak godly words at one moment then turn and speak slanderous, divisive words the next moment? What is our attitude toward those who act godly in one moment, but turn and act ungodly when they believe no one will know? We cannot accept these kinds of people for they are dangerous not only to themselves, for they are involved in sin, but also to others because others can be carried away by their words. This is why Paul said “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Romans 16:17). We must keep away from those who act ungodly. We must hate evildoers and workers of lawlessness.
C. Have innocent hands
- David turns to his own deeds and says that he is washed his hands in innocence. David will do anything in his power to keep away from those who are not innocent and who are evildoers. We cannot be timid when we know people are doing evil. We are fearful to say something to someone, that their words are gossip and that their actions constitute sin. We do not want to say that their actions are not like Christ’s example.
- But when we turn a blind eye to sin, our hands become just as guilty. We are no longer innocent in the sight of God for we have been charged to confront those who have committed error. Now, teaching my neighbor and rebuking my brother does not mean I have to be ugly toward them. But we must expose the unfruitful works of darkness through our words and through our lives. Having innocent hands is important for it is the only way that we can approach God.
D. Worship God
- With his innocent hands, David says that he will worship the Lord. David is able to approach the Lord and raises his voice in thanksgiving. One of the greatest aspects of our worship is to praise the Lord and be thankful to the Lord for the great blessings He has given us. We have true blessings that God has given us that we must not take for granted. Even if all our physical blessings were stripped away from us, we ought to be able to say “blessed be the name of the Lord” because we would still have the unsearchable riches of His grace. We would still have a relationship with God, the love of God, the guidance of God, and the protection of God.
- I believe David is recognizing this, that while he is seeing a need for vindication, he is able to go around the altar of the Lord with thanksgiving. Let us come to worship the Lord with the thanksgiving the Lord deserves.
- David also says he will tell about the wonderful works of the Lord. What has God done for you? When is the last time you recounted the wonderful deeds of the Lord to yourself and to others? To stand on level ground with the Lord we must hate all forms of evil, even the subtle, small things that we tend to overlook and remember and be thankful for the great blessings of God in our lives.
III. Righteous Call to God (26:8-12)
A. Love to be near God
- As we look to the third section of this psalm, I would like to ask another question: do you like to be near God? Do you enjoy spiritual pursuits? Do you enjoy prayer? Do you enjoy reading God’s word? Do you enjoy the company of other disciples? I love what David says in verse 8, “Lord, I love the house where You dwell, the place where your glory resides.” David is not describing a love for the physical parts that comprised the tabernacle where God dwelled. David is saying he loves to be around God.
- David loves to be in the presence of the Lord. This is the third characteristic needed to be set on level ground where we will not slip is that we love to be with God. This is fascinating language because we know that David is speaking on a spiritual level. David was not a priest that he would have ever entered into the tabernacle of God. Yet he speaks as if he has been in God’s house and seen the glory of God in the Holy of Holies. David is describing the intimate relationship that he enjoys with God.
- How near are you to God? Do we realize that we can be as close to God as we want to be? If we feel distant from God, draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
B. Do not let my fate be the same as the evildoers
- David presents his fourth reason that he stands on level ground and will not slip. This argument is very simply and very straightforward: David does not act like the rest of the world. He does not live like them and does not act like them, therefore his fate should not be with theirs.
- For the first time, we see that David feels that he is in a physically dangerous situation. He knows the fate of the wicked and the sinners and does not want his life to go with the life of the wicked. Thus, David declares “But I live with integrity.” Again, David’s life is different than the world’s way of living. David says that he has lived righteously. This is cause for David to ask God to be redeemed and for God to be gracious to him. The psalm concludes, “My foot stands on level ground; I will praise the Lord in the assemblies.“
- We can have a steadiness in the Lord when are doing what David describes in this psalm. First, we must allow the Lord to test our minds and hearts. Let God changes us and mold us into who we need to be and not be resistant to His work. Second, we must hate evil and live with innocent hands. We cannot overlook people’s sins nor can we participate with the worthless hypocrites. Third, we need to draw near to God.
- We can have confidence with God. Our confidence is built upon God’s faithfulness and love. Our confidence is also built upon our own purity and holiness. God remains true to His promises. Let us strive to be like Him and walk the level ground with God to the promised land of heaven.