Without the confession of sin found in the previous psalm, this psalm taken by itself could be seen as arrogant or self-righteous. We always need the whole counsel of God. But in our day, we are far more likely to ignore the sentiments found here than we are to neglect the sentiments that urge us to self-inspection.
Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide. Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked. I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD: That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth. Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me. My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD (Ps. 26:1-12)
David invites the judgment of God (v. 1). The foundation of David’s integrity is the fact of his faith, and that is the reason he has not slid (v. 1). He uses three different verbs in requesting this judgment—examine, prove, and try (v. 2). He asks that God do this in his innermost being (his heart and reins). The lovingkindness of the Lord is before him, and he has walked in truth (v. 3). He does not sit with vain persons, or accompany liars (v. 4). He hates the assembly of wickedness (v. 5). He washes his hands in innocence, and walks around the altar that way (v. 6). The reason for this is that he might be grateful, and publish that gratitude (v. 7). He loves the house of God, and he loves to honor God (v. 8). He cannot abide sinners here, and so he asks that he not be gathered with them at the end (v. 9). They are fully occupied with making mischief, and they love to corrupt others (v. 10). David is not like this at all; he walks in integrity, and asks for redemption and mercy (v. 11). God has set him upright, and so he will bless the Lord (v. 12).
WE PREACH NOT OURSELVES
The apostle Paul is very clear on the task that lies before the preacher. “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). A preacher is a herald, a messenger. His task is to declare the Word of God, and to apply it to the field of ministry before him. This task is applicatory, and he must not shrink from that. But at the same time, the pulpit is never the place for the settling of personal scores, or a place where anecdotal or autobiographical stories should intrude themselves. “We preach not ourselves,” Paul says. And yet at the same time, I feel constrained to note that the decision to preach through the psalms periodically, ten at a time, was a decision made a long time ago. This has to be noted because it has become impossible to read the psalms, or sing them, without making direct and immediate applications to the situation our church has been in for the last several years. This is good and right, and should be an enormous comfort to us — precisely because it is the work of the Spirit.
JUDGE ME, O LORD
A common plea from God’s people in Scripture is the plea for Him to enter into judgment. This is not because they were unaware of their sinfulness. Rather, their awareness of this reality was biblically tempered and balanced. By faith alone (for this is the only way it is possible) a man can say to God that he has walked in integrity. He can say he has not slid because of his trust. This is not trust in self, but trust in God. The boldness that results is astonishing. “Take me apart, O God, and examine all the pieces!ö This is not impudence; it is what biblical faith looks like, and sounds like.
At the great harvest, David does not want to be gathered in with the sinners. He has confidence to ask not to be gathered with them then because he despises their company now (v. 9). Differences in the judgment are differences that are manifested now. Why should a dove spend time with the vultures? Why should a virgin stand with the hookers? Why should one who does not want to be mistaken for a moral idiot spend time with moral idiots?
What does it look like? He does not walk with dissemblers, with liars (v. 4). Don’t be naive; the world is full of liars, and they will tell you stories with their eyes wide with wonder. He hates the congregation of the wicked (v. 5). You do not love God if you do not hate what He hates. David will not sit with the wicked (v. 5). He will not sit with vain persons (v. 4).
What does sitting involve? First, sitting indicates a choice. Second, sitting shows comfort or pleasure. And third, sitting is a posture of staying, abiding, or remaining. It is not sufficient to say that you will therefore avoid the company of open atheists, or those who have been excommunicated from the church for murder. David will not sit with vain persons. The line for church discipline and the line for friendship are set in two different places. This is not said to sow discord, but rather is said so that we will be used to stir one another up to love and good works.