Living in a Righteousness Orientation: Psalm 26

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Psalm 26 (NIV)

Vindicate me, Lord,
    for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
    and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

I do not sit with the deceitful,
    nor do I associate with hypocrites.
I abhor the assembly of evildoers
    and refuse to sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence,
    and go about your altar, Lord,
proclaiming aloud your praise
    and telling of all your wonderful deeds.

Lord, I love the house where you live,
    the place where your glory dwells.
Do not take away my soul along with sinners,
    my life with those who are bloodthirsty,
10 in whose hands are wicked schemes,
    whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 I lead a blameless life;
    deliver me and be merciful to me.

12 My feet stand on level ground;
    in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

To the Christian, Psalm 26 may seem at first glance like a journey into David’s self-righteousness. The psalm has at least seven assertions of his righteous purity: “I have led a blameless life” (v. 1); “I have trusted in the Lord without wavering” (v. 1); “I do not sit with deceitful men” (v. 4); “I abhor the assembly of evildoers” (v. 5); “I wash my hands in innocence” (v. 6); “I love the house where you live” (v. 8); and “I lead a blameless life” (v. 11). But the key to the psalm is in the opening words, which cry out for God’s judgment and vindication. David is not standing on his feet proclaiming his righteousness; he is prostrate before a holy God, asking for his divine judgment in a particular situation.

David’s claims about his righteousness should never be construed as a claim to sinlessness. Any Sunday school child knows that David did not lead a blameless life. Indeed, in the same verse where David says, “I lead a blameless life” he goes on to ask God to “redeem” him and to “be merciful” to him (v. 11). A blameless person needs neither redemption nor mercy if, by blameless, we mean living a life without sin.

In Psalm 26, David is truthfully asserting that he has not kept company with the wicked. He does not sit with them, or enter into their wicked schemes (vv. 4–5, 10). Instead, his greatest love is to be in the presence of the Lord, to dwell in his house, to declare God’s righteousness, and to sing his praises (vv. 6–8). In other words, David’s life is oriented toward the purposes of God. It was at the altar of repentance that David was rendered innocent. He has taken his stand in the covenant. Therefore, David is asking God to make a distinction between himself and the wicked, and to spare him from the coming judgment that will soon befall the wicked and sweep them away (v. 9).

As Christians, we cannot, or should not, claim to be without sin. However, our life can and should be oriented toward God and around the great, unfolding plan of God. We align ourselves with the righteousness of Christ, and we stand, even against a world of opposition, with the people of God, the redeemed of all the ages, who have trusted in God’s Word. This is where our lives are actually transformed into his likeness so that we can truly declare: “I walk continually in your truth” (v. 3). This is the final destiny of all true believers.

At the end of the psalm, it is God who raises David from his prostrate position and makes his “feet stand on level ground” (v. 12). As Christians, we know that God takes sinners and clothes them with the righteousness of Christ. He then works in us every good work, that the righteousness that was once merely imputed to us becomes, in real time, imparted to us, in ever-increasing measures. Only in the New Creation is this made fully complete, but sanctification is the call of every believer—to be set apart as holy—so that with full hearts, we can praise the Lord “in the great assembly” (v. 12).

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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