George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 26

1. Structure

This psalm has been analyzed in half a dozen different ways, all of them with a certain element of artificiality about them. Yet, in truth, the psalm hardly needs any subdividing, for it is difficult to find another as homogeneous in character and theme as is this one. The personal pro-noun dominates every verse except one (10). Yet this is not the egotism of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-20) whose “” — incessantly repeated — are intended to grate on the ear. Here, rather, is the relaxed mind of one who has known the deep satisfactions of a life dedicated to God and who has every intention that it shall so continue.

2. Links with Psalm 25

Psalm 26

Psalm 25
Mercy, truth
2 (and 27:3)
16 (and 27:7)

3. Historical setting

Possibly the psalm belongs to the checkered experiences of David in 1 Samuel 20 and 21 — thus:

David’s avoidance of the feasts at Saul’s court.
His refuge and brief rest at the sanctuary at Nob (cp. 27:4).
A contrast with evil bloodthirsty Doeg.

But the element of dissembling (1 Sam. 20:28,29; 21:2,13) shows a David at a spiritually low ebb which does not harmonize too well with this psalm’s consistent closeness to God — unless it was composed, in retrospect of these incidents, a considerable time later.

So an alternative is to read the psalm against the background of David’s later days, when the main troubles of his reign were over, and when he could give himself with sustained satisfaction to the God whom he loved, all earlier deplorable lapses notwithstanding. Verses 9 and 10 then have special reference to such as Joab, and the remarkable priestly passage (vv. 6-8) either looks back to the time when David himself was a Melchizedek priest (2 Sam. 6:12-19), or looks forward to the matchless temple in Zion for which he was already making elaborate preparations.

4. Messianic reference

On more than one occasion and in quite a few psalms David knew that his own experiences prefigured those of the great Son of David who was promised. Here every verse fits the Messiah, verses 6-8 in his Melchizedek priesthood and the rest in the days of his flesh.

Note especially the unselfconscious declarations of integrity and innocence (vv. 1a, 2a, 6a, 11a); yet there is a known need for redemption and mercy (v. 11) such as befits only a son of Adam. Also:

Try my reins, as though the sacrifice were speaking to the priest! (See Lev. 3:4; 4:9; etc. — s.w.). In his great redemptive work, Jesus was both priest and sacrifice! And altar (Heb. 13:10) and “mercy- seat” (Rom. 3:25). And his flesh was also the “veil” of the Most Holy (Heb. 10:20). In fact, Jesus was the “temple” (John 2:19-21)!
He did meet with vain persons (LXX: a Sanhedrin of worthlessness), as in Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1, yet in spirit he was always separate from them — i.e. he did not “sit” (Psa. 1:1) with them! Thus he exemplified the true separateness of the dedicated disciple (2 Cor. 6:17).
I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked. Christ hated the depravity and willfulness of these men, yet always he sought to save them from it.
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. Every phrase here describes a priest on duty at altar and temple — true especially of the greater than David.
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and v. 12b. Jesus at the Feasts of the Lord and joining in the praise of God in temple psalms — an aspect of his worship not commonly contemplated!
Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house. Hence his drastic purifying of it, on two distinct occasions: (1) John 2:12-22; (2) Matt. 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48.
And their right hand is full of bribes. This is Pilate (cp. Mic. 7:3; see Whittaker, Studies in the Gospels, p. 750).
Congregations. An intensive plural, perhaps meaning: the “great congregation” (RSV) of the redeemed (22:25; 40:9; 68:26; 89:5).

5. Other details

Judge me, O Lord. The man who lives a truly God-centered life can afford to disregard the judgment of both friends and enemies. So the righteous Hezekiah appealed to God on the basis of his own integrity: 2 Kings 20:3.

Integrity: v. 11; 25:21; Job 1:1. Used of David in 1 Kings 9:4. If the earlier suggested historical context is correct, then David is saying, ‘I have not coveted the crown of Saul.’

I shall not slide. Compare the “even place” of v. 12. LXX has s.w. as 2 Thes. 2:2; Matt. 11:7.
Examine me: Psa. 7:9; 17:3; 139:23. Also LXX s.w. 1 Pet. 4:12; 1:6,7.

Prove me: s.w. Gen. 22:1: “God did tempt Abraham”.

Try, as a refiner of metal. “Try by fire” (LXX).
Note the three positives and three negatives. Here is intention, choice of a way of life, dedication to a right way.
I have walked, not sat (v. 4), nor stood (v. 12). Here is a sustained response to Psa. 1:1. Also see Heb. 11:5,6 (LXX s.w.) and Gen. 5:24: Enoch walking with God.

In thy truth: 86:11; 1 Kings 2:4; 3:6; Isa. 38:3; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 John 1:6,7; 2 John 4; 3 John 3,4.
Dissemblers. “Dark designers”; hypocrites, secret plotters. From root “hidden, concealed”. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5).
I will not sit with the wicked. Parallelism: I have hated.
I will wash my hands, as a priest on duty (Exod. 30:18-21; 40:30-32). Psa. 27:4 also suggests a king-priest: note James 4:8; 1 Tim. 2:8. Also, this is a symbolic gesture of innocence (Deut. 21:6,7; and — in a sad parody of the form — Pilate in Matt. 27:24!).

So will I compass thine altar. According to Jewish tradition, this was done with palm branches at the Feast of Tabernacles. Only one with clean hands may stand in the holy place: Psa. 24:3,4. Only one who is reconciled to his brother may offer a gift at the altar: Matt. 5:23,24; cp. Mark 11:25.
Tell of all thy wondrous works: s.w. Luke 1:1: declaration.
I have loved. Contrast v. 5: I have hated.

Thy house, mentioned also in Psalms 17, 18, and 29; cp. also 23:6. David loved the house of God because of (but not instead of) Him who dwelt there. Those who love God’s house rather than God are idolators.

The place where thine honour dwelleth. Here every word identifies the Holy of Holies: Place (maqom) means a holy place or sanctuary (cp. 24:3). Honour is really kabod, glory. And dwelleth is mishkan, tabernacle (suggesting the Shekinah Glory). In David’s life these words were hardly applicable before 2 Sam. 6, when the Ark was brought to Zion.
Gather not my soul with sinners. The verb normally means ‘gather for destruction’, as in Matt. 13:30; s.w. Heb. 11:31 (perished). Contrast Psa. 27:10.
Their right hand is full of bribes. The hand that was supposed to be “consecrated”, or filled with the offerings of their holy office (Exod. 28:41, mg.; 29:9, mg.), was instead filled with filthy lucre! “By bribes they are consecrated to wickedness.” Contrast the law concerning bribes in Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19.

Samuel Butler has this succinct comment about the “bribes” that masquerade as minister’s salaries:

        “What makes all doctrines plain and clear?

        About two hundred pounds a year.

        And that which was proved true before,

        Proved false again? Two hundred more.”

Three hundred years of inflation may have rendered the sum insignificant, but the sentiment is, sadly, right up to date!
I will walk. Contrast v. 3: I have walked. Here is loyalty, the will to persist. And the plea Be merciful implies a humble disposition. Key virtues, both!
My foot standeth in an even place. A place of security, where there is no danger of falling: cp. 27:11; 40:2.

In the congregation. Either a reference to the various Feasts of the Lord, or as in Par. 4 above.

Next Next Next