Psalm 26:1

It seems evident that this psalm was written by some Old Testament saint who was surrounded by ungodly men, by whom he was assailed, reproached, and slandered. From them he appeals to God. By the heading of the psalm we are pointed to David as the author. And there is no reason for questioning that. Mr. Fausset, in his most suggestive book, 'Horae Psalmicae,' working along the line of "undesigned coincidences," remarks, "Another feature of undesigned coincidence is the unmistakable identity of David's character, as he reveals it in the Psalms, and as the independent historian describes it in the Books of Samuel and Chronicles. Thus the same ardent love to the house of God appears in both. How instinctively one feels the harmony between the character self-portrayed in Psalm 26:8; Psalm 27:4; and Psalm 69:9! Compare the historian's record of his words to Zadok (2 Samuel 15:25), and still more in 1 Chronicles 29:2, 3." Undoubtedly, thus read and compared, the Psalms and the history mutually throw light upon and confirm each other. But in following out our plan in this section - of dealing with each psalm as a unity - we find this, as well as all the rest, furnishing material for pulpit exposition, which we could ill afford to lose. Our topic is - Assailed integrity's final appeal.

I. WE HAVE HERE THE CHARACTER OF AN UPRIGHT MAN, SKETCHED BY HIMSELF. It may not be a very wholesome exercise for a man to be engaged in - to sketch a moral portraiture of himself. Painters have often painted their own portraits; that requires but an outward gaze on one's outer self; but to delineate one's own likeness morally requires much introspection. Few can carry on much of that without becoming morbid through the process; and fewer still, perhaps, have fidelity enough to do it adequately and correctly. Yet there may be circumstances under which such abnormal work becomes even necessary (as we shall point out presently). And when such is the case, it is well if we can honestly point to such features of character and life as are presented to us here.

1. The psalmist has a goodly foundation on which his life was built up.

(1) Trust in Jehovah (ver. 1).

(2) God's loving-kindness (ver. 3).

(3) God's truth (ver. 3); i.e. God's faithfulness.

Note: That all the supports of the psalmist's integrity were outside himself. Happy is the man that, under all the circumstances of life, can stay his mind and heart on Divine faithfulness and love. If such underlying props cease to sustain, moral and spiritual worth will soon pine from lack of motive and hope. It is one of the evils of the day that some of our most popular novelists delineate religion without God.

2. The life built up on this foundation was one which may with advantage be imitated. It was a life of:

(1) Integrity (ver. 11).

(2) Straightforward progress (ver. 1). No sliding.

(3) Avoidance of evil associations (vers. 4, 5).

(4) Cultivation of holy worship, song, and thanksgiving in the sanctuary (vers. 6-8, 12).


(a) Those to whom God is the support of their life, will show a life worthy of such support.

(b) Those who most value communion with God and a life hidden with him, will most fully appreciate and most diligently cultivate that stimulus and comfort which come from mingling with God's people in the worship of the sanctuary.

II. THE MOST UPRIGHT OF MEN MAY BE MISUNDERSTOOD, UNAPPRECIATED, MISREPRESENTED, AND ASSAILED. Speaking roughly and generally, it is no doubt true that, on the whole, a man's reputation will be the reflection of what he is, and that most men go for what they are worth. And yet, so long as there are envious hearts, jealous dispositions, unbridled tongues, few can be regarded as absolutely safe from detraction and slander. Our Lord Jesus implies and even states as much as this (cf. Matthew 5:44; Matthew 10:25; Matthew 18:6, 7; John 15:18). See Peter's words (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 4:14); see Paul's words (Romans 12:18, 19). Paul had to boar much in the way of depreciation from some who even denied his apostleship. Job was surrounded with "miserable comforters," who thought, by defaming him, to defend God! Such trials are hard to bear. They may arise

(1) from the occasional foibles of a good man being magnified by the slanderer into sins;

(2) from the utter impossibility of bad men reading aright the character of the just and pure. Having no virtue themselves, they cannot credit others with any. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" "He hath a devil," etc. Many can say the words in Psalm 56:5.

III. IT IS AN INFINITE RELIEF, UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, THAT THE RELIEVER CAN APPEAL TO HIS GOD. The whole psalm is such an appeal. True, the Infinite Eye can discern flaws and faults where we suspect none; but then the same perfect gaze discerns the desire after being right and pure and true, however far the believer may be from realizing his own ideal. The suppliant has to do, moreover, with One who never misunderstands, and whose glory is in his loving-kindness and truth. And from a Christian point of view we must remember that we have a High Priest who was in all points tried like as we are, yet without sin, and who can therefore pity what is frail, and pardon what is wrong. What a mercy to have such a throne of grace to which to flee

IV. THE APPEAL WILL BE MARKED BY SPECIFIC ENTREATY. Here there are four lines of supplication.

1. That God would vindicate him, and not let him be mixed up in confusion with the men whose sin he hates (vers. 1, 9, 10). He looks to God, as Job did, as his Vindicator (Job 19:25).

2. That God would search and prove him (ver. 2; cf. Psalm 139:23, 24).

3. That God would purify him (ver. 3). So the word here rendered "try" indicates. He is upright before men, but he does not pretend to be perfect before God.

4. That God would entirely deliver him from the surroundings of ungenial and unholy men (vers. 9, 10). Whether the psalmist intended any reference to a future state or no, the believer now cannot help so applying the words. Who could endure the thought of evil and good always being mixed up together? The Divine mandate is, "Let both grow together until the harvest" (Matthew 13:13). Then will come the final severance.

V. THE RESULT OF SUCH APPEAL WILL NOT BE FRUITLESS OR VAIN. (Ver. 12.) "His prayer has been heard; he is safe; he stands on the open, level table-land, where he has room to move, and where his enemies cannot hem him in; and therefore he fulfils the resolve made before (ver. 7), and publicly pours out his thanksgivings to God" (Perowne). Whoever thus lays his complaints before God will find deliverance in God's own appointed time; we must leave, however, the "when" with the great Defender. Either

(1) on earth in our day,

(2) on earth after our day, or

(3) in heaven, God will bring us and our reputation out to the light. He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday (Psalm 37:5, 6). - C.

The meek will He teach His way.
The heathen moralists give many admirable counsels, but always forget humility. They had not, indeed, the word for it. The term "humility" before Christianity meant what is base, despicable, vile. Humility can only come with the knowledge of one's self, and man did not truly know himself until he had made a study of himself in the light of the holy God. Comparing himself only with his fellow men, he would never learn humility. There is something still more efficacious than the sight of the perfection of Jesus Christ to produce humility, it is the sight of His love. It is at the foot of the Cross humility is born. Christian humility should penetrate our entire being. Our intelligence must be humble. We are in danger of forgetting this in this age of criticism and discussion. Only that intelligence which humbles itself before God can readily teach. Our heart must be humble. We can submit our intelligence entirely to God, sacrifice our reason to Him, boast of a blind faith, and shelter in our hearts a whole world of pride. So far as humility has not yet reached and conquered our heart, it is but a theory. It happens, in the Church, that the men to whom God has dispensed the finest gifts advance in humility in the same measure as they advance in age and experience. Consider the promises which God makes to the humble. "The meek will He teach His way." Unless man be taught he will never find God's way. Today man's intelligence has assumed an immense and superb confidence in itself. It has faith in its powers; it thinks that it has come to an end of all problems, that it will surmount every obstacle. It is not in the power of ignorance and mediocrity to produce humility; very often they nourish pride. Let intelligence grow, but let it never forget its dependence on God. People talk of the benefits of trial. Yes, when it is accepted in humbleness of heart: otherwise it will rather harden. It is a marvellous thing that God has never wanted to be served by the strong, but always by the humble. Pass in review all those who have served His designs, all those by whom He has taught and saved men, you will see that they all have been formed in the school of humility. Let, then, those who work for God lay hold on the thought that to humble souls alone has God taught the way of success.

(E. Bersier, D. D.)

The righteous Lord will teach sinners His way; but the sinners, in order to be thus divinely taught, must be humble. Men are comparatively little attracted by the more quiet and passive virtues of life, and among these the virtue of humility is one of the least popular. The truth is, that we are still under the influence of pagan notions about it. The philosophers of the past never understood it. Christianity has transformed and ennobled the despised word by giving us the thing itself. In Christ we see that humility makes no man contemptible. The words before us present this virtue of humility under one special aspect. Man has something to learn, and God has something to teach, and humility is teachableness. Humility is the result of self-knowledge, and this cannot be obtained until man has learned to know himself in the light of God's wisdom and holiness. So long as he compares himself with his fellow creatures around him, it may seem to him that there is no necessity for such an element of character as this. God teaches us humility in another way. He shows us His love in Christ. How can we be proud when we know that God has loved us, and that Christ has died for us? The very faith which accepts the Gospel has its root in lowliness of mind. All our Christian life, in one aspect of it, is a growth in humility. This beautiful virtue affects our whole being, rescuing for God all that has been usurped by sin. Our reason must be humble. Our heart must be humble. Our conduct must be humble. God's promise to "teach His way" applies to our knowledge of Divine truth; the everyday dispensations of life; our bearing towards others; and to our Christian work.

(Clement Bailhache.)

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