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Proper 17A Psalm

Psalm 26:1-8

Michael Palmer

Nobody likes being judged. The feeling of someone casting suspicion on our behaviors or our motives can cause a great deal of conflict between persons. It’s no surprise, then, that a common trope in our society demanding others not judge me. It’s a common theme in music, film, and literature. As Tupac famously declared, “Only God can judge me.”Interestingly, our Psalm this week opens with a similar declaration by the Psalmist, David.

This is a Psalm which shows David as the recipient of critique and judgment from others. As such, we watch as he begins this Psalm by crying out, “Yahweh be my judge.”

At this moment, David is making a declaration which intentional directed at God. Doing this, David is making an appeal above family, friends, acquaintances or any other who might render judgment against the writer. This psalm, at its heart, is the plea of one person towards God- asking for help in a time of deep distress and need. It's as if, at this moment, David declares, “God, others have opinions of me. They are making judgments about my character and motives, but I will entrust judgment to you and you alone.”

David then makes a plea based on his integrity.

This is a fascinating declaration knowing David as we know him today. David failed profoundly on multiple occasions. He committed adultery, murder and went against direct orders given by God regarding the taking of census- a decision which cost the lives of many Israelites. However, David still makes the request that God examine his life. This opens us to an essential understanding of what integrity means in the life of the Christ-follower.

David, when writing this psalm, is making his plea and building his case based on an understanding of integrity as “wholeness, usually in the sense of wholeheartedness or sincerity, rather than faultlessness.”[1] In a Holiness tradition, it’s often easy to find ourselves demanding perfection from ourselves and others and couching it in the language of integrity. However, in his early plea for God to search him, David demonstrates something powerful; it is possible for someone who lived a far from “perfect” life to still be called a person after God’s own heart.”The writer, David, is, of course, aware that God is the only one who can see his heart, and is mindful of the fact that others will render incomplete verdicts based on their own imperfect assumptions. So he appeals to a higher and more perfect judge; God.

David seems to feel as though he could make this claim understanding his pleas were “not merely of his overall loyalty,” but instead offers a “plea to be searched and known…his requests no longer a demand…but a surrender.”[2] David then seems to stake that claim on the faithfulness of God.[3]

We then watch, in verses 4 and 5, as David begins to unpack those who seek to render judgment against him. The language here is pointed. The writer describing others as “deceitful, hypocrites, evil-doers” while following it up by declaring himself “innocent” and one who “proclaims aloud your wondrous praise.”

There’s more here than meets the eye, though. As scholar, Derek Kidner says,

“If these verses sound arrogant, we mistake them. These men are potential allies, potential enemies; and David has made his choice. Hating their company is not a matter of social preference but of spiritual alignment; ‘company’ here means congregation or party, a rival group to God’s own. David’s character and his kingdom were both at stake in this choice of associates, as is the character of any enterprise. In each of these two verses, there is a decisive tense followed by an open one; a clear-cut attitude and a resolve to maintain it.[4]

In this Psalm, we’re watching as David declares God to be his judge, and that David will surrender and submit to the deep work of Holiness in his life. David is also stating that no one else, no associate, no peer, no friend no social group will deter him from union with God. God and God alone.

This section of the Psalm then moves into a moment of celebration; David offering prayers of thanksgiving for everything the Lord has done for him. In response to the goodness and grace of God, David declares that he will proclaim to the world the wondrous deeds of the Father.

When we come to verse 8, we watch as David makes a fascinating parallel with verse 5. Whereas David declared in verse 5 that he “abhors” the assembly of evil doers, he then turns around in verse 8 and declares that he loves the house of God. As Kidner writes, this is “fundamentally an expression of choice: this is where his heart is, not with the worldly. But the heart has warmed to the choice and to the company.” [5]

So where is the heart residing? Or, where is the heart living in habitation? David is living where the Glory of God is. There’s some powerful phrasing here. When David declares the house of the Lord, he’s adding emphasis to the phrase, “where thy glory dwells.” There is so much beauty here in the knowledge that the presence of God dwells with us, inhabits us. in case we should miss the marvel of God’s taking up residence among us.

Kinder concludes, “In the wilderness his glory had dwelt visibly on the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34ff.), and in Judaism the word for ‘dwelling’, shekinah, which is akin to dwells here, became a standard term for this. But John 1:14 announces the reality foreshadowed in the cloud and fire: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt’—note the term—‘among us …; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”[6]

As we walk through this Psalm, it’s a great chance for us as pastors to invite our congregants to think about who they are taking up residence with. Who are they allowing to speak into their lives? Who are they allowing to cast judgment upon them? Are they living in the assembly of world-minded peers, friends or co-workers? Or are they dwelling in the house of the Lord? Are they living in the constant communion of the presence of God? Who is forming their heart?

Because, at the end of the day, whether in this life or next, only God will judge.

[1] Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 135). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Pastor, Napa Valley Church of the Nazarene

Michael Palmer

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