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Deeper Commentary


Psa 26:1 By David.
Judge me, Yahweh, for I have walked in my integrity. I have trusted also in Yahweh without wavering-
What David learnt from the Bathsheba failure is in essence what we all have to learn. Psalm 26 was surely written before he sinned with her. He speaks of how he had walked in integrity before God “without wavering” (Ps. 26:1 RV), and how his foot did not slip (Ps. 26:12). He was yet to "walk" upon the roof of his house and lust after Bathsheba. What else does this evidently pre-Bathsheba Psalm indicate about David’s attitude, and what changed after Bathsheba? He speaks in Ps. 26:5 of how he refuses to sit at table with sinners. Yet the Lord rejoiced to do just this. He contrasts his righteousness with the sinfulness of the wicked (Ps. 26:10,11)- a far cry from Paul’s insistence in Romans that we have sinned just as much as the world has, in the sense that we desperately need salvation by grace. When David asks for forgiveness in Ps. 26:11 (“redeem me, and be merciful unto me”), he therefore was apparently asking for mercy in an almost technical way, perhaps seeing the only mercy he required as a resurrection from the dead.  All these attitudes changed radically after his Bathsheba experience. He could look back and reflect how “As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved” (Ps. 30:6), perhaps looking back to Ps. 26:10, where he had felt confident his foot had never been moved. And he speaks of how he only stands strong because of God’s gracious favour (Ps. 30:7). God works through sin and failure- to bring us to know His grace. We follow the same learning curve as David, if we are truly God’s man or woman.

“I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” is surely a collapse of faith (1 Sam. 27:1). And it led to the way in which David deceived Achish by pretending he was attacking Jewish towns, when in fact he was going out and attacking the Amalekite settlements, killing all men, women and children in them so that nobody was left alive to tell that it was David who had attacked them (1 Sam. 27:8-10). Innocent people were slain by David’s sword for the ‘political’ reason that he had to keep Achish ‘in the dark’ about what he was really up to. And so in case a 5 year old say something incriminating later, David simply killed the little boy. Indeed, when Achish later says that David would be best not to go with him to fight Saul, David hypocritically says: “But what have I done? And what have you found in your servant so long as I have been with you unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies [i.e. Saul] of my lord the king?” (1 Sam. 29:8). This was hardly an example of the “integrity” and “uprightness” which David glorifies in his Psalms, and which he insisted he was full of (Ps. 25:21). Indeed he claims that his integrity is the basis of his acceptance by God (Ps. 26:1).

Psa 26:2 Examine me, Yahweh, and prove me; test my heart and my mind-
David was confident not only of legalistic obedience but also of a heart in which God would find nothing wrong. Indeed David had been considered a man after God's own heart  (1 Sam. 13:14), but it seems this led David to assume that from then on, his heart would be always found perfect before God. He didn't remain the idealistic, spiritually minded shepherd boy. And this assumption that how he was at one point in his life was how he would always be... led him into his sin with Bathsheba.

Psa 26:3 For Your grace is before my eyes, I have walked in Your truth-
Grace and truth often refer to the covenant with Abraham, which David so often alludes to and feels bound to. We notice that his eyes were not upon the path of his feet, but were toward God and His grace; that meant that in practice, he would walk in "truth". The same idea is in Ps. 25:15 "My eyes are ever on Yahweh, for He will pluck my feet out of the net". The metaphor suggests that instead of looking carefully at his feet to ensure he didn't step into a net or trap, David's eyes instead were looking upwards to Yahweh. And so here too, if the focus of our eyes is upward towards God's grace, then we will naturally walk in the path of truth. So often religious people have put the emphasis the other way around; truth in the sense of theoretical purity of understanding has been given the priority, and with eyes down upon that, the wonder of God's grace has not been the guiding light of their walk.

Psa 26:4 I have not sat with deceitful men, neither will I go in with hypocrites-
So often David makes reference to his hypocritical enemies within Israel, and the judgments to come upon the wicked (Ps. 1:1; 4:3; 5:5; 15:4; 26:4,5; 35:3-8; 45:7; 52:6; 58:6; 104:35; 109:5-20; 137:8,9; 139:21). The hypocrisy in view may refer to the prevalent idolatry which was deceit against God, and not simply to their two faced behaviour to David personally.

Psa 26:5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked-
Throughout David’s Psalms in Ps. 1-72, he repeatedly asks for torture upon the sinners and blessing upon himself as the righteous. He speaks of how sinners should be “contemned” in the eyes of the righteous (Ps. 15:4), the gatherings of sinners should be “hated” and sinners should not be fellowshipped (Ps. 26:4-6; Ps. 31:6) and how God’s uprightness is shown to the upright and His judgment to the judgmental (Ps. 18:25,26; Ps. 33:22). He invites God’s judgment upon himself and others according to their and his works (Ps. 28:4). Frequently he alludes to Saul as “the violent man”- even though David committed his share of violence- and asks judgment upon him (Ps. 18:48). Only those with clean hands and pure heart like himself could have fellowship with God (Ps. 24:3,4). Psalm 37 doesn’t indicate any desire to convert the sinners but rather an expectation of their judgment and destruction. God and David laugh at the wicked because their day is coming (Ps. 37:13). There’s no spirit of grace here at all- perhaps that’s why Zech. 12:10 specifically says that the spirit of grace will have to be poured out upon the house of David in the last days. This attitude changed after the sin with Bathsheba, but still something of the old self righteousness and judgmental attitudes are to be found in David in Psalms written after that.

Psa 26:6 I will wash my hands in innocence-
David's insistence upon his own purity (see on :2) may not necessarily be naive self-righteousness, but rather a reflection of his faith in God's cleansing, which has thereby made him innocent before God. This is also an allusion to the priests washing before they came to the altar (Ex. 30:17-21). We note David acted as a priest even though he was not a Levite.

So I will go around Your altar, Yahweh- Walking around the altar in procession was not required by the Mosaic law, but was clearly done by other religions. We recall the priests of Baal doing so on Mount Carmel. Perhaps this and other Psalms were sung during such processions around the altar.

Psa 26:7 that I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard, and tell of all Your wondrous works-
As noted on :6, it would appear that whilst marching around the altar, this and other Psalms were sung in praise, including the recounting of God's works in history.

Psa 26:8 Yahweh, I love the habitation of Your dwelling place, the place where Your glory dwells-
David contrasts his love of the sanctuary (where God dwelt, Ex. 25:8) and the shekinah glory with his dislike of the gatherings of sinners (:5). The implication could be that those gatherings also had a religious dimension, which involved idolatry. We see the power of idolatry in that despite the visible presence of the shekinah, men still worshipped idols- proof enough that visible miracle is no absolute basis for faith or spiritual behaviour.   

Whilst on the run from Saul, David longed to be in the "place... and habitation / dwelling" of Yahweh, at the sanctuary operated by Samuel. There was no temple, but Yahweh still had a place and dwelling on earth. But later in Ps. 132:5 David seems to feel that Yahweh needed a more grandiose "place... dwelling" (s.w.), otherwise He would have no dwelling place. Over the years, he had come to focus more upon the physical and external rather than upon the essential and the spiritual. This is a tendency for all of us.   

Psa 26:9 Don’t gather my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men-
In describing his feelings after the Bathsheba experience, David comments that he was "as a man that hears not [the taunts of others against him], and in whose mouth are no rebukes" (Ps. 38:14). The pre-Bathsheba Psalms present David as a man who was so easily hurt by the taunts of others, and whose mouth was indeed full of rebuke of others. Psalms 24, 25 and 26 are full of David explaining that fellowship with God was dependent upon a man's "integrity", walking in truth, hating sinners, personal innocence, "uprightness", clean hands and pure heart. And throughout these Psalms, David holds up himself as the great example.

Psa 26:10 in whose hands is wickedness, their right hand is full of bribes-
This appears to be commentary upon the state of affairs under Saul's kingship and Absalom's corruption; but the later prophets so often criticize the leadership of Israel for taking bribes, and perhaps this was rewritten in order to make this point to those later generations.

Psa 26:11 But as for me, I will walk in my integrity. Redeem me, and be merciful to me-
The two halves of this verse are an intentional contrast. David is persuaded of his own integrity, but he realizes he still needs mercy and redemption; he therefore asked for forgiveness for his sins of ignorance.  Paul had a similar sense (1 Cor. 4:4). It was this abiding sense of the need for God's mercy which was David's salvation.

Psa 26:12 My foot stands in an even place-
The idea may be as in Ps. 27:11, that he felt he was being led in a path where there were no spiritual stumblingblocks. 

In the congregations I will bless Yahweh- It is the struggle of every spiritually minded and righteous man to humble himself to accept he is only part of a far wider congregation, comprised of believers who may frankly be less spiritually minded than himself (Ps. 26:12; 35:18; 68:26). David and the Lord Jesus are parade examples of achieving this sense.