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Psalm 26

Plea for Justice and Declaration of Righteousness

Of David.


Vindicate me, O L ord,

for I have walked in my integrity,

and I have trusted in the L ord without wavering.


Prove me, O L ord, and try me;

test my heart and mind.


For your steadfast love is before my eyes,

and I walk in faithfulness to you.



I do not sit with the worthless,

nor do I consort with hypocrites;


I hate the company of evildoers,

and will not sit with the wicked.



I wash my hands in innocence,

and go around your altar, O L ord,


singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,

and telling all your wondrous deeds.



O L ord, I love the house in which you dwell,

and the place where your glory abides.


Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with the bloodthirsty,


those in whose hands are evil devices,

and whose right hands are full of bribes.



But as for me, I walk in my integrity;

redeem me, and be gracious to me.


My foot stands on level ground;

in the great congregation I will bless the L ord.

4. I have not sat with vain men. He again declares the very great dissimilarity which existed between him and his adversaries. For the contrast is always to be observed, that wicked men, by all the harm and mischief they wrought against him, could never drive him from the path of rectitude. This verse might likewise be joined with the former, as if completing the sentence, in this way, That David, by confiding in the favor of God, had withdrawn himself from deceivers. The words, sitting and walking, denote sharing in counsel and fellowship in working, according to what is said in the first psalm. David denies that he had any intercourse with vain and deceitful men. And certainly the best remedy to recall and save us from the assembly of the wicked is to fix our eyes upon God’s goodness; for he who walks in the confidence of God’s protection, committing all events to his providence, will never imitate their deceitfulness. Those whom he denominates in the first clause, men of vanity, he soon after terms נעלמים, naälamim, that is, close and wrapped up in craftiness. 569569     Horsley renders the word, “Those who seek concealment.” In like manner, the Chaldee paraphrases it, “They that hide themselves that they may do evil.” For in this consists the vanity of dissimulation, that deceitful men conceal in their hearts another thing than that which their tongues declare. It is, however, absurd to derive this word from עלם, alam, to play, for it is out of place here to compare their impostures to children’s play. I confess, indeed, that those who give themselves to craftiness are mockers; but why have recourse to such a forced exposition, when it is plain that the word shows the source from which all lying and deceit proceed? Thus faith, which steadily looks to God’s promises, is aptly opposed to all the crooked and iniquitous counsels in which unbelief involves us as often as we ascribe not proper honor to the guardianship of God. David teaches, by his own example, that we have not the slightest cause to fear that our integrity will make us a prey to the ungodly, when God promises us safety under his hand. The children of God, indeed, are prudent, but their prudence is altogether different from that of the flesh. Under the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit, they take every necessary precaution against snares, but in such a manner as not to practice any craftiness.

5. I hate the assembly. The Psalmist protests again how greatly he abhorred the ungodly. Formerly he denied that he had any fellowship with them; now he still more explicitly declares that he fled from their company with loathing, for that is the meaning of the phrase, I hate. It is indeed true, that the wicked are everywhere hated; but how few withdraw themselves from them, that they may not imitate their vices! David asserts both; he tells us that he hated their society, and that he had no communion with them, from which it appears that he warred not so much with their persons as with their evil doings. He mentions also as another qualification, that he shunned the wicked in such a manner as not on that account to forsake the congregation of God, or withdraw himself from the company of those with whom he was commanded by divine appointment to associate. Many err in this way grievously; imagining when they see the evil mingled with the good, that they will be infected with pollution, unless they immediately withdraw themselves from the whole congregation. This preciseness drove the Donatists of old, and prior to them the Cathari and the Novatians, into mischievous schisms. In our own times, too, the Anabaptists, from a similar conceit, have separated themselves from the sacred assemblies, because they reckoned them not so free from all defilement as could have been wished. Moreover, the Donatists made themselves a laughing-stock in a certain process, by tenaciously clinging to mere words. When an assembly was held to settle dissensions, and they were invited by the president of the meeting, with a view to do honor to them, to take a seat, they replied, they would stand, because it was not lawful to “sit with the wicked.” Why then, wittily replied Augustine, did your conscience permit you to come in amongst us? for the one is written as well as the other, I will not go in to the wicked, neither will I sit with the ungodly. David, therefore, prudently moderates his zeal, and while separating himself from the ungodly, ceases not to frequent the temple, as the divine commandment and the order prescribed in the law required. When he denominates them the assembly of the ungodly, we may unquestionably conclude, that their number was not few; nay, it is probable that they flaunted about at that time, as if they alone were exalted above the people of God, and were lords over them: yet this did not prevent David from coming as usual to the sacrifices. Public care, indeed, is to be used that the Church be not defiled by such wickedness, and every man ought privately to endeavor, in his own place, that his remissness and forbearance do not cherish the disorders which these vices occasion. Although, however, this strictness should not be exercised with that care which is necessary, there is nothing in this to hinder any of the faithful from piously and holily remaining in the fellowship of the Church. It is to be observed, in the meantime, that what retained David, was his communion with God and with sacred things.

6. I will wash my hands in purity. Referring, in these words, to the ordinary use of the sacrifices, he makes a distinction between himself and those who professed to offer the same divine worship, and thrust themselves forward in the services of the sanctuary, as if they alone had the sole right to perform them. As David, therefore, and these hypocrites were one in this respect, that they entered the sanctuary, and surrounded the sacred altar together, he proceeds to show that he was a true worshipper, declaring, that he not only diligently attended to the external rites, but came to worship God with unfeigned devotion. It is obvious that he alludes to the solemn rite of washing which was practiced under the law. 571571     The washing of the hands in solemn protestation of innocence, on particular occasions, was enjoined by the Mosaic ritual, and was common among the Jews, Deuteronomy 21:6, 7. It was in common use among them before prayer; and the priests, in particular, were not to perform any sacred office in the sanctuary until they had poured water from the laver, which was set in the temple for that purpose, and washed their hands, Exodus 40:30-33. He, accordingly, reproves the gross superstition of hypocrites, who in seeking only the purification of water, neglected true purification; whereas it was God’s design, in the appointment of the outward sign, to put men in mind of their inward pollution, and thus to encourage them to repentance. The outward washing alone, instead of profiting hypocrites, kept them at a greater distance from God. When the Psalmist, therefore, says, I will wash my hands in innocence, he intimates that they only gather more pollution and filth by their washings. The Hebrew word נקיון, nikkayon, signifies the cleanness of any thing, and is figuratively used for innocence. We thus see, that as hypocrites derive no moral purity whatever from their washings, David mocks at the labor with which they vainly toil and torment themselves in such rites. However high, therefore, the wicked may be exalted in the Church, and though crowds of them should fill our sanctuaries, let us, after the example of David, celebrate the outward profession of our faith in such a manner as not deceitfully to substitute its external rites in the room of true devotion. Thus shall we be pure and free from all stain of wickedness. Moreover, as the people were not permitted to touch the altar, David uses the word encompass. 572572     Mudge conjectures that the expression, encompass, is probably taken from the custom of forming a ring round the altar at the time of worship. And Goodwyn informs us, that at the feast of tabernacles the people, on the seventh day, encompassed the altar seven times, carrying branches of palm trees in their hands in remembrance of the overthrow of Jericho, and singing hosannas. — Moses and Aaron, p. 132. David, however, may refer to the practice of the priests, who, when they offered sacrifices, went round about the altar; and his meaning may simply be, that as the priests first washed their hands, and then performed their sacred office at the altar; so he deeply felt the necessity of personal purity, in order to his engaging in the service of God.

7. That I may make men to hear, etc In these words, he shows that he referred the sacrifices to their proper use and design, which hypocrites were far from doing. They neither know, nor do they consider, for what purpose God appointed the services of worship, but think it sufficient to thrust themselves into the divine presence with the pomp and form of their dissimulation. David, therefore, wishing to distinguish spiritual worship from that which is fictitious and counterfeit, affirms that he came into the sanctuary to set forth the praise of God’s name. There is, however, a synecdoche in his words, as only one kind of worship is mentioned, although, in offering the sacrifices, the exercise of repentance and faith was required, as well as the giving of thanks. But as the ultimate design of the sacrifices, or at least their principal object was to celebrate the goodness of God in thus acknowledging his blessings, there was no impropriety in comprehending the other parts of worship under this. Thus, in Psalm 50:14, the sacrifice of praise is preferred to all external ceremonies, as if the whole of devotion consisted in it alone. Likewise in Psalm 116:12, it is said, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” Moreover, that he may the better commend the acknowledged power of God, and more impressively extol his benefits, David employs the phrase wondrous; as if he had said, that it was in no ordinary way that God had helped him.

8. O Jehovah! I have loved, etc In this verse he confirms what he had said before, that he came not into the sanctuary in a careless manner, but with serious devotion. Irreligious men, although they often resort to the sacred assemblies, frequent them merely as lurking places, where they may escape the eye of God. On the contrary, the truly pious and pure in heart resort to them, not for the sake of vain ostentation, but as they are sincerely bent on seeking God, they willingly and affectionately employ the helps which he there affords them; and the advantage which they derive from them creates love to them in their hearts, and longings after them. This declaration farther shows, that however David excelled others in faith, yet he was not without fear lest the violence of his enemies might deprive him of the ordinary means of instruction which God had conferred on his Church. He felt his need of the Church’s common discipline and order, and he therefore anxiously labored to retain his enjoyment of them. From this we infer the impious pride of those who look with contempt on the services of religion as unnecessary, although David himself could not live without them. Another consideration, indeed, existed in those days, I confess, while the law, like a schoolmaster, held the ancient people in a state of servitude compared with ours. Our case, however, is one with theirs in this respect, that the weakness of our faith requires help as well as theirs. And as God for this purpose has appointed the sacraments, as well as the whole order of the Church, woe to the pride of those who recklessly desert the services which we perceive to have been held in such high esteem by the pious servants of God. The Hebrew word מעון, me-on, according to some, is derived from a word 575575     Namely עיך, ayin. which signifies an eye; and they translate it comeliness, or appearance. This is the translation of the Septuagint. 576576     The word which it employs is ἐυπρέρπεια But as the word is almost every where used to signify a dwelling-place, which is more simple, I prefer to retain it. The sanctuary is called God’s house, and the dwelling-place of his glory; and we know how frequently expressions of this kind are employed in Scripture to bear testimony to the presence of God. Not that God either dwelt in a tent, or wished to confine the minds of his people to earthly symbols; but it was needful to remind the faithful of God’s present goodness, that they might not think they sought him in vain, as we have elsewhere already said. Now, that God’s glory may dwell among us, it is necessary that a lively image of it should shine forth in word and sacraments. From this it follows, that the temples which are reckoned such among Papists are only filthy brothels of Satan.

9. Gather not my soul with wicked men. Having now affirmed his innocence, he has recourse again to prayer, and calls upon God to defend him. At first sight, indeed, it appears strange to pray that God would not involve a righteous man in the same destruction with the wicked; but God, with paternal indulgence, allows this freedom in prayer, that his people may themselves in this way correct their anxieties, and overcome the fears with which they are tempted. David, when he conceived this supplication, in order to free himself from anxiety and fear, placed before his eyes the righteous judgment of God, to whom nothing is more abhorrent than to mingle good and bad together without distinction. The Hebrew word אספ, asaph, sometimes signifies to gather together, and sometimes to destroy. In this place, I am of opinion it signifies to gather into a heap, as was wont to be the case in a confused slaughter. This was the objection stated by Abraham,

“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee.” (Genesis 18:25,)

Let us remember, therefore, that these forms of prayer are dictated by the Holy Spirit, in order that the faithful may unhesitatingly assure themselves that God still sits in inquisition upon every man’s case, in order to give righteous judgment at last. In the second clause, instead of the phrase, wicked men, he uses bloody men, amplifying what he had said. For although many wicked men rush not all at once to murder, yet in process of time they harden themselves to cruelty; nor does Satan allow them to rest until he precipitate them into deeds of blood.

10. For in their hands is maliciousness. The Hebrew word זמה, zimmah, signifies properly an inward stratagem, or device. But here it is not improperly applied to the hands, because David wished to intimate, that the wicked, of whom he was speaking, not only secretly imagined deceits, but also vigorously executed with their hands the malice which their hearts devised. When he farther says, Their right hands are full of bribes, we may infer from this, that it was not the common people whom he pointed out for observation, but the nobility themselves, who were most guilty of practising this corruption. Although the common and baser sort of men may be hired for reward, and suborned as agents in wickedness, yet we know that bribes are offered chiefly to judges, and other great men who are in power; and we likewise know, that at the time referred to here the worst of men bore sway. It was no wonder, therefore, that David complained that justice was exposed to sale. We are farther admonished by this expression, that those who delight in gifts can scarcely do otherwise than sell themselves to iniquity. Nor is it in vain, unquestionably, that God declares that

“gifts blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the hearts of the righteous,”
(Deuteronomy 16:19.)

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