Psalm 26 – Standing in an Even Place
Psalm 26 is simply titled A Psalm of David. Attempts to place it at a specific time in David’s life are unsure. It shares themes with many psalms, but we note that despite the danger of evil associates, David remained confident that he would not slip, and that he would securely stand in an even place.
A. Innocence proclaimed.
1. (1-3) A plea for vindication and the reason for it.
Vindicate me, O LORD,
For I have walked in my integrity.
I have also trusted in the LORD;
I shall not slip.
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me;
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
a. Vindicate me, O LORD: Like many of David’s psalms, this song was written from a time of great trouble. He here pleaded for God to vindicate him, presumably by his enemies. The request carries with it the implication that David himself was unable to vindicate himself or had chosen not to.
i. “It is not David’s reputation in the eyes of other people that concerns him but rather God’s reputation that he covets.” (Boice)
b. For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the LORD; I shall not slip: David had confidence that God would answer his prayer and vindicate him, because he had faith in God (trusted in the LORD) which he demonstrated by a faithful life (I have walked in my integrity). Therefore, despite his present difficulty, he could say, “I shall not slip.”
c. Examine me, O LORD, and prove me: David was confident enough in his demonstrated life of faith that he asked God to examine and try him. If David were not in fact trusting in God or walking rightly, he wanted God to show him and teach him.
i. The request to examine, prove, and try refers mainly to the inward working of a man or woman – the mind and the heart.
d. For Your lovingkindess is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth: David here again combined the ideas of trusting in God and His mercy (God’s lovingkindness), and in his demonstrated life of faith (I have walked in Your truth).
i. Your lovingkindess is before my eyes: David knew the value of sustained examination and meditation upon the lovingkindess of God. “Brethren, depend upon it that you shall find, each of you when you get dull and flagging in the practical part of your religion, that the proper way to revive it is to think more than you have done upon the lovingkindness of God.” (Spurgeon)
· His lovingkindness is a good subject.
· His lovingkindness is a wide subject.
· His lovingkindness is a pleasing subject.
· His lovingkindness is a plain and simple subject.
· His lovingkindness is an always suitable and seasonable subject.
· His lovingkindness begins in eternity.
· His lovingkindness is given freely.
· His lovingkindness is certain.
· His lovingkindness is faithful.
· His lovingkindness goes into the smallest details.
e. And I have walked in Your truth: The idea of walkedspeaks of action, of manner of living. David knew the importance of both a right inward life (mind and heart) and right actions and deeds.
i. “We need people who have been taught and who then also walk in that way so that they demonstrate to unbelievers that the path of faith and morality is the happy and successful way to live.” (Boice)
ii. “If our actions are evil, it is vain to take comfort from our thoughts. If actions speak louder than words, they may well speak louder than thoughts.” (Spurgeon)
2. (4-8) Innocence proclaimed.
I have not sat with idolatrous mortals,
Nor will I go in with hypocrites.
I have hated the assembly of evildoers,
And will not sit with the wicked.
I will wash my hands in innocence;
So I will go about Your altar, O LORD,
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,
And tell of all Your wondrous works.
LORD, I have loved the habitation of Your house,
And the place where Your glory dwells.
a. I have not sat with idolatrous mortals: Having stated the fact of his faithful life to God, David then described several specific ways that his life demonstrated a living faith. He did not associate with idolaters, hypocrites, evildoers, or the wicked.
i. “I have not sat, i.e. chosen or used to converse with them; for sitting is a posture of ease and continuance.” (Poole)
ii. David described idol worshippers as mortals because it was helpful for him to remember and for them to know that their lives were short, and they would soon enough have to answer to the true and living God, instead of idols of their own making.
iii. David did this under the assumption that at least some kind of association with these people was morally wrong. One might say that he took 1 Corinthians 15:33 to heart a thousand years before Paul wrote the words by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: Evil company corrupts good habits.
iv. Hypocrites: “The hidden ones, the dark designers, the secret plotters.” (Clarke)
b. And will not sit with the wicked: David had in mind the people he chose to associate with. We have little or no control over many contacts and associations in life; but of those we do, we are obligated to choose and value our associations with a heavenly perspective, not an earthly one.
i. In the modern world this idea takes on an entirely different dimension, in many ways unknown to King David. We choose associations in our entertainment, and we often choose very poorly. We allow the wicked to amuse us, then to be our examples, then our models, and finally our idols. David’s statement here also applies to these kind of contacts and associations.
ii. “Many Christians can trace a lost youth or fruitless middle years to the bad influence of evil persons, whom they looked up to and even envied at one time.” (Boice)
iii. “Many people have a very strong desire to meet celebrated or ‘important’ people, including those whom they disapprove…. But I am inclined to think a Christian would be wise to avoid, where he decently can, any meeting with people who are bullies, or lascivious, cruel, dishonest, spiteful and so forth. Not because we are ‘too good’ for them. In a sense we are not good enough. We are not good enough to cope with all the temptations, nor clever enough to cope with all the problems, which an evening spent in such society produces.” (C.S. Lewis, cited in Boice)
c. I will wash my hands in innocence; so will I go about Your altar, O LORD: David did not believe he was sinless or perfect. He did need to wash his hands, but he could do so in the innocence of a clear conscience before God. He availed himself of God’s altar, both for atonement and for offerings of thanksgiving.
i. Probably people wash or cleanse their hands more today than ever before in history. Perhaps every time we do, we should remind ourselves to receive the cleansing that comes from Jesus and His work on the cross, and our responsibility to cleanse our hands from wicked actions, our mouth from wicked words, and our heart from wicked desires. Outward cleanliness is good, but worth little for eternity if our life and heart are filthy before God.
ii. So will I go about Your altar: To the best of our knowledge, there was no ritual practice of walking around or dancing around God’s altar among the ancient Hebrews. It may be that David had in mind the spiritual sacrifices of praise, and he joined a happy circle of worshippers (as Maclaren thought). Or, if David meant literal sacrifice, he probably had in mind the idea of offering so many animals to God at one time that the sacrifices themselves circled the altar in a sense. “He implies that he would offer many sacrifices together, which would employ the priests about the altar.” (Poole)
d. I have loved the habitation of Your house: For David, a right walk with God was more than the avoidance of evil. It was also a simple yet deep love for God and His presence. He loved the tabernacle because it represented the house of God; it was the place of God’s glory.
i. Obedience cannot be sustained without the sweetness of God’s presence and glory.
ii. “The habitation must mean the holy of holies, where the Divine Presence was manifest; and the place of the tabernacle must refer to the mercy-seat, or the place where the glory of the Lord appeared between the cherubim, upon the lid or cover of the ark of the covenant.” (Clarke)
B. What David wants from God.
1. (9-10) What David does not want God to do.
Do not gather my soul with sinners,
Nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
In whose hands is a sinister scheme,
And whose right hand is full of bribes.
a. Do not gather my soul with sinners: In light of David’s great need and his great trust in God, he asked God to preserve his life. He refused to associate with the wicked in life; he asked God to keep him from sinners in death.
i. “The worst and most abandoned wretch on earth agrees with David in this. Sinners do not wish to be gathered with sinners. Balaam’s prayer is, ‘Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his,’ which only differs in words from David’s petition, ‘Gather not my soul with sinners.’” (Spurgeon)
b. In whose hands is a sinister scheme: David knew of many wicked men with evil plots who were full of greedy bribes; he considered it a curse to be associated with them either in the present age or in death.
i. Many who would never think of taking bribes from a businessman still take bribes of a sort; they take bribes from sin. A bribe simply is a reward for doing something morally wrong. Sin may bribe us with momentary pleasure, attention, fame of a sort, excitement, comfort of life, or whatever. We should never be willing to do something morally wrong because it is rewarded in some way.
ii. “A soul walking in its integrity will take bribes neither from men, nor sin itself.” (William Gurnall, cited in Spurgeon)
2. (11-12) What David wants God to do.
But as for me, I will walk in my integrity;
Redeem me and be merciful to me.
My foot stands in an even place;
In the congregations I will bless the LORD.
a. But as for me, I will walk in my integrity: We note David’s confident proclamation. Despite the danger to his life, despite the presence of the wicked, he – God helping him – would walk in his integrity.
b. Redeem me and be merciful to me: David had appropriate resolve, but even more appropriate trust in God. He could only walk in integrityif God would redeem him and be merciful to him.
c. My foot stands in an even place:With this combination of appropriate resolve and trust in God, David – despite the dangers all around – could be confident of his position (my foot stands). He stood on level ground, in an even place – a repeat of his confidence in the first verse, I shall not slip.
i. “He seems to say to them all, ‘Hoot at me if you will: seek to trip me up as you please: God is high above you all, and in him I shall still stand my ground, for, blessed be his name, notwithstanding every attempt of the enemy to throw me down, my foot standeth in an even place, and in the congregation will I bless the Lord.’” (Spurgeon)
d. In the congregations I will bless the LORD: He was so confident that he said that he would bless and praise God publicly, among others (in the congregations), not as an outcast or castaway.
i. “The song began in the minor, but it has now reached the major key. Saints often sing themselves into happiness. The even place upon which our foot stands is the sure, covenant faithfulness, eternal promise and immutable oath of the Lord of Hosts; there is no fear of falling from this solid basis, or of its being removed from under us.” (Spurgeon)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org