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(Click or hover over the above Scripture reference link to read the passage.)
Upon first reading Psalm 26, it’s easy for our initial impression to be, “Sure you have…” Sure you have led a blameless life. Sure you have not faltered (ever??). Sure you have always been mindful of God’s unfailing love. And so on. In this light, it almost has a Pharisaical ring to it, or at the very least like it’s coming from a person who doesn’t understand their own depravity and desperate need for grace.
Seeing the “Of David” written below the Psalm number might also be confusing. David had committed some of the most public sins of consequence there are with adultery that led to a pregnancy and then the murder of the man married to the woman he committed adultery with. It’s hard to imagine the same person wrote Psalm 26 who wrote Psalm 51. Scholars and commentators will debate on which Psalms David actually wrote and which ones were credited to him or were written in his honor as king, a common practice in the ancient Near East. There are a few we are quite confident that David wrote because they match up with narratives of his life (like Psalm 51), but in general I think it’s important to take a humble stance on who actually wrote each Psalm, rather than a false confidence that it must have been David simply because tradition attributed his name to it.
I don’t mean for us to get lost in the academic weeds. I just want to set the table as the language of this Psalm can be a little confusing. It’s possible the psalmist was looking at his life through the lens of grace, that grace is what made his life blameless. Or that he was only referencing the current season of obedience in his life and not his past failures (like with David’s life). But all of that still comes short of the point and purpose of the psalm. So without further ado, let’s dive into that…
Despite our depravity (that we all need Jesus’ grace, no matter how “good” we are–and that it is his grace that makes us righteous before God), there is such a thing as living a righteous life (an obedient life) versus living in disobedience and rebellion. Again, let’s try to not get lost in the debates of the theological weeds. I think what the psalmist is setting up for us here is that obeying God is sweet. Living according to God’s commands is good and sweet and life-giving. Worshiping God and being in communion with God is worth it. There are always going to be those around us who hate God, who live in direct disobedience of God’s commands, and/or who have completely removed God from their life. The temptations will come and go that these people have got it right. That it would be better to live the way they are living than the way Scripture lays out for us. In Psalm 26, the psalmist is reminding us not to do this. This psalm reminds me of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. None of us want to be the servant who buries his talent in the ground. We want to hear God say, “Well done my good and faithful servant,” when we see him someday. Yes, we are saved by his grace and his work to save us. But the New Testament is clear time and time again that a heart regenerated by his grace will produce works (Jesus and James are so crystal clear on this). Psalm 26 brings us back to this place of finding joy, peace, and confidence in obeying God now.
So many in our world today are drowning in the deception of sin and the allusion that they can be their own gods. Be reminded today that following Jesus puts your feet on level ground (verse 12). Rest in the peace, joy, and assurance of this today.
Prayer for the day: Jesus, thank you for saving me. Thank you that I am made righteous by your completed work on the cross, not by any works I can do. Work in me to produce love and obedience and worship. Remind me that your ways are true. Give me strength to be steadfast. Help me when I am tempted. Tempted to think the world has it right. Tempted to think I’d be better off without you. Thank you that you are with me! Thank you that I am not alone! Thank you that you let my feet stand on level ground.
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