Intro: Psalm 26’s tone is foreign to most protestants’ ears. We hear the strain of self justification, but David has an important lesson to teach on how to pray.
26:1 Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. 2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. 3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.
4 I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. 5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, 7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
8 O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. 9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, 10 in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. 12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord
Main Point: It is unclear what the dilemma is that David is facing, but it is clear that David is facing some sort of accusation. Given that he mentions walking in his integrity twice, it was probably about his truthfulness. David reminds the Lord of the way that he has been faithful to follow his laws. David doesn’t have in view here perfection, or that God is somehow obligated to act because of his actions. But he does use his action in building a case for why God should act.
He reminds the Lord of how he has followed his commandments, and how does not associate with those who oppose the Lord. In addition, David is vocal in giving thanks and telling those with whom he comes into contact about the wondrous deeds of the Lord. David has reminded God that he has trusted in Him, and has not wavered in that trust.
David says wholeheartedly that he still needs redemption, and needs grace in verse 11. David is not stating that he has earned salvation or that God is now obligated to bless him with anything. But like a servant who has been faithful to his master he asks that he Lord see him in his time of trouble and deliver him. Giving the Lord reasons for Him to act on his behalf is natural for David and should be for us also. After all even in the New Testament we are told that the prayer of a righteous man is highly effective.
All the great saints of old were willing to present bold cases before God in their prayers. Think of Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Think of Moses after the israelites have made the Golden Calf and the Lord thinks he might wipe them off the face of the map.
However, we must never think that our reasons for asking God to act ever obligate him to do so. His ways are higher than our ways, and His reason are far wiser than ours. There are at times , no matter how skilled the prayer or the faithfulness of the person praying, they do not result in the Lord’s action on our behalf. Even his own son Jesus prayed for the cup of his redemptive death to be removed from him if his father was willing. And yet it was not.
There was no more a righteous recipient to be found than Jesus. If anyone should have all his request granted it should be him. Yet it was not. Yet it did result in his glorification, and triumph. It resulted in our rescue and salvation.
So we, like David, should actively present cases before the Lord as to why he should act in our behalf. Not because we believe that it earns our salvation or merit, or even because it obligates God to act. We are still all in desperate need of his grace. But because that is the way that the Lord has taught his church how to pray, and he has promised that he hears the prayers of those who are faithful to him. And though he has not promised to answer them all exactly the way that we present them, he has promised to work all things for our own good and His glory.
Emotional reaction: I still have a very difficult time presenting a case before God about why he should act on my behalf. I would have a very difficult time asserting my own righteousness like David. So it is hard for me to connect emotionally here with this Psalm. Although I can identify with David when he makes it clear that with out the Lord’s help and favor he will be swept away like every other sinner.