Introduction: The Psalms teach believers how to live their lives while waiting for Jesus’ return. Here, during one of the many times when David faced attacks against him, he turned to God in prayer. In response to God’s faithfulness, David made pledges for the life that he would seek to lead out of gratitude. David would fail in his vows. But it was his intent to stay as close to God as possible that mattered. From David’s statements, God reveals seven ways that believers should live their lives to stay close to Him while waiting for Jesus’ return. These include: (1) prayer, (2) submission, (3) separation, (4) repentance, (5) hope, (6) dependence, and (7) worship.
First, during one of the many attacks that David faced, David cried out to God to vindicate him. To stay close to God, God also wants you to pray to Him any time you face a trial or attack. Second, because he knew that his heart was prone to sin, David invited God to test and examine his heart in order to guide his actions. To stay close to God, God also wants you to submit to His testing and guidance. Third, also because he knew that he was prone to sin, David pledged to separate himself from evil influences. To stay close to God, God also wants you to separate yourself from evil influences. Fourth, because David knew that he would fail in his vows, he committed to repenting when he did sin. To stay close to God, God also wants you to confess your sins to Jesus and repent when you do sin. Fifth, during his struggles, David professed that his greatest hope was to dwell with God. To stay close to God, God also wants you to place your hope in Jesus’ eternal fellowship. Sixth, because David had blood on his hands, he pleaded with God to show him mercy and grace and spare his soul from the fate of sinners. To stay close to God, God also wants you to depend upon His mercy and grace. Finally, because of God’s faithfulness, David promised to respond with grateful worship. To stay close to God and keep your eyes off of your own problems, God also wants you to turn to Him with gratitude.
1. Prayer: To Stay Close to God, Pray to Him Any Time You Face a Trial. Ps. 26:1.
David cried out to God and trusted Him to vindicate him during an attack. During one of the many times when David’s enemy’s attacked him, he prayed to God to vindicate him: “A Psalm of David. 1 Vindicate me, Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” (Ps. 26:1). David frequently prayed for God to vindicate him when he was attacked: “ . . . vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me.” (Ps. 7:8b). He also trusted in God for deliverance instead of taking matters into his own hands. He further trusted that God had purified his sins to be able to hear his prayers: “Like Job, David asserts his ‘integrity,’ and in the same qualified sense. He is sincere in his endeavors to do right. Yet, still he needs mercy and redemption (see ver. 11).” (Pulpit Commentary on Ps. 26:1).
Turn to God through prayer when you are under attack or in need of deliverance. When King Hezekiah faced death from an illness, he also cried out for deliverance: “Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, ‘please, LORD, just remember how I have walked before You wholeheartedly and in truth, and have done what is good in Your sight!’ And Hezekiah wept profusely.” (2 Kgs. 20:2-3). Whenever you are under attack or face a trial, God also wants you to cry out to Him through prayer.
Trust in God’s faithfulness when you turn to Him in prayer. David also prayed with faith. He trusted God to be faithful to keep His Word: “But I have trusted in Your faithfulness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” (Ps. 13:5). “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart triumphs, and with my song I shall thank Him.” (Ps. 28:7). “For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.” (Ps. 33:21). The author of the book of Hebrews also exhorts believers to pray with hope in God’s faithfulness: “Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;” (Heb. 10:23). If you have doubt when you pray, you should not expect to have God answer your prayers: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,” (Jam. 1:6-7). Thus, pray with confidence that God will answer your prayers. But remember that He will answer according to His will regarding what is best and, in His timing, not yours (Ro. 8:28).
2. Submission: To Stay Close to God, Submit to His Testing and Guidance. Ps. 26:2-3.
David invited God to examine his heart and mind. David also submitted to God by inviting Him to examine his heart and mind to refine him to walk in God’s truth: “2 Examine me, Lord, and put me to the test; refine my mind and my heart. 3 For Your goodness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth.” (Ps. 26:2-3). Like all persons, David knew that he was a sinner. He also knew that God would not hear the prayers of sinners. Thus, he prayed for God to continually examine and refine him to keep him on the right path: “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, and His ears are toward their cry for help.” (Ps. 34:15). “We know that God does not listen to sinners; but if someone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him.” (Jo. 9:31).
Invite God to examine your heart to refine your heart and your walk. God called David a man after His heart (Acts 13:22). This was not because David was without sin. He committed terrible sins like murder and adultery. What made him a man after God’s heart was his willingness to constantly submit his heart to God for examination and then repent and change his ways when God exposed his sins: “You have put my heart to the test; You have visited me by night; You have sifted me and You find nothing; my intent is that my mouth will not offend.” (Ps. 17:3). “For You have put us to the test, God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Ps. 66:10). “A Psalm of David. LORD, You have searched me and known me. . . Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps. 139:1, 23). During Job’s trials, he also professed with faith that God would refine him through his trials: “But He knows the way I take; when He has put me to the test, I will come out as gold.” (Job 23:10). Are you inviting God to examine your heart and mind to expose and correct your sins?
Let God also transform your behavior. David knew that it was not enough to have God point out his sins. David also needed to commit to changing his behavior: “. . . and I have walked in Your truth.” (Ps. 26:3). According to one commentator, “The idea of ‘walked’ speaks of action, of manner of living. David knew the importance of both a right inward life (mind and heart) and right actions and deeds.” (David Guzik on Ps. 26) (italics original).2 When the Holy Spirit exposes your sins, God also wants you to respond by letting Him transform your mind and your behavior: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2).
3. Separation: To Stay Close to God, Separate Yourself from Evil. Ps. 26:4-5.
David stated that he would separate himself from sinners. To keep himself on the right walk with God, David also carefully separated himself from potentially evil influences: “4 I do not sit with deceitful people, nor will I go with pretenders. 5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.” (Ps. 26:4-5). David knew that his heart was weak. Thus, he knew that he could be pulled off his walk if he failed to guard his heart.
God called upon the Jews to be holy. Because the Jews were God’s representatives, He called upon them to be holy: “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”’ (Lev. 19:2, 11:44-45). “You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. . . So you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have singled you out from the peoples to be Mine.” (Lev. 20:7, 26). “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His personal possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Dt. 14:2). “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil,” (Is. 1:16). The holy path that He set for His people was narrow: “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.” (Is. 35:8).
Jesus also calls upon you to be holy. Because Jesus paid the ultimate price for your sins, He also expects you to lead a holy life for Him: “For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:20). “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”’ (Eph. 1:4). “because it is written: ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16). “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Ro. 12:1). Are your actions honoring the price that Jesus paid for you?
God promises to bless those who separate themselves from evil influences. If you honor God by separating yourself from evil, He promises to bless you: “Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Ps. 1:1). His blessings are based upon grace and are in His timing.
Failing to separate yourself from evil may corrupt your walk. If you ignore God’s warnings and embrace those who reject His standards of morality, your walk may also become corrupted: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.”’ (1 Cor. 15:33). “Psalm 26 is a reminder for all the righteous to maintain their innocence in this corrupt world, to keep their attention on the loyal love of the LORD, and to enter his courts with praise for His wonderful acts.” (Allen Ross, A Commentary of the Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41), Kregel Academic (2011) p. 619). Corrupting influences exist everywhere. Are you protecting yourself and your kids from potentially evil influences?
4. Repentance: To Stay Close to God, Confess Your Sins to Jesus. Ps. 26:6-7.
David promised to regularly repent when he sinned to maintain God’s fellowship. David knew that he could not stay pure. Thus, he committed to repenting whenever he sinned: “6 I will wash my hands in innocence, and I will go around Your altar, Lord, 7 that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders.” (Ps. 26:6-7). Because he had faith in God to cleanse his sins, he promised to thank God for His mercy.
Repent when you sin. David knew that he was a sinner. Thus, he regularly confessed his sins: “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.” (Ps. 19:12). “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithfulness; according to the greatness of Your compassion, wipe out my wrongdoings. Wash me thoroughly from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps. 51:1-2). God also calls upon you to repent and return to Him when you sin: “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19).
When you repent, Jesus is faithful to forgive your sins. God promised the Jews that He would forget their sins when they repented and sought atonement: ‘“I have wiped out your wrongdoings like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”’ (Is. 44:22). Jesus came to fulfill this promise. When you repent, He is faithful to forgive and blot out your sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—” (Rev. 1:5). There is no sin that is too big for Jesus to forgive and forget.
Give thanks for God’s mercy in forgiving your sins. Because David knew that he did not deserve God’s mercy, he promised to thank God for His mercy and grace: “7 that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders.” (Ps. 26:7). “A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” (Ps. 9:1). “We give thanks to You, God, we give thanks, for Your name is near; people declare Your wondrous works.” (Ps. 75:1). “I will give thanks to You, Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forever.” (Ps. 86:12). “Then you will say on that day, ‘I will give thanks to You, LORD; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.”’ (Is. 12:1). Do you regularly express your gratitude in your prayers for Jesus’ mercy and grace?
5. Hope: To Stay Close to God, Place Your Hope in Jesus. Ps. 26:8.
David’s ultimate goal was to dwell forever with God. David had the faith to know that the greatest gift that God could ever give him was the chance to dwell forever with Him: “8 Lord, I love the dwelling of Your house, and the place where Your glory remains.” (Ps. 26:8). Jesus also offers you His fellowship both here on Earth and in heaven.
David’s greatest desire was to dwell in God’s presence. In Jesus’ day, the Sadducees were infamous for doubting the existence of heaven. But David had the faith to know that he could spend an eternity living with God: “Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps. 23:6). “Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah” (Ps. 61:4). “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.” (Ps. 27:4). Even if he could not dwell forever with God, David knew that just one day in God’s presence would be better than spending thousands of days living anywhere else: “For a day in Your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 84:10). When you feel defeated or under attack, God also wants you to place your hope in Him and not in the things of the world.
With faith, Jesus offers you eternal fellowship with Him. Jesus died to offer you the opportunity to dwell in fellowship with Him forever: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). Being saved is simply the first step. Jesus also wants you to seek out His fellowship. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Jesus offers eternal life as a free gift. The only thing that He requires is your faith in Him (Jo. 3:16).
Place your hope in Jesus when you suffer. Jesus warns that you will find tribulation in life (Jo. 16:33). When you feel under attack, you may feel the desire to turn to yourself, a strong person, or a political party. But Jesus wants you to place your hope in Him: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and reliable and one which enters within the veil,” (Heb. 6:19). Paul described the joy of heaven as something beyond what any have seen or experienced (1 Cor. 2:9). Are you placing your hope in Jesus?
6. Dependence: To Stay Close to God, Depend Upon Him. Ps. 26:9-11.
David pleaded with God to show him mercy and grace. David knew that he did not deserve to be saved. Thus, he prayed for God not to send his soul away with sinners: “9 Do not take my soul away along with sinners, nor my life with men of bloodshed, 10 in whose hands is a wicked scheme, and whose right hand is full of bribes. 11 But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.” (Ps. 26:9-11). It was the blood on David’s hands that prevented him from building God’s house where the ark would one day dwell: “But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you are a man of war and have shed blood.”’ (1 Chr. 28:3). Thus, David knew that he had to depend upon God’s mercy and grace to save his soul. In response to God’s mercy and grace, David repeated his prior pledge to walk in integrity and holiness.
Turn to God for your deliverance. David regularly turned to God for deliverance from his sins and the penalty that he deserved: “Do not drag me away with the wicked and with those who practice injustice, who speak peace with their neighbors, while evil is in their hearts.” (Ps. 28:3). “Save me from all my wrongdoings; do not make me an object of reproach for the foolish.” (Ps. 39:8). “Hide Your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilty deeds. . . Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.” (Ps. 51:9, 14). God also wants you to show your faith by turning to Him for your deliverance.
Depend upon God and lean not on your own understanding. David spoke to God with humility. He depended upon God for his deliverance. He did not believe that he could deliver himself by his own actions. God also wants you to depend upon Him alone: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6).
7. Worship: To Stay Close to God, Turn to Him With Grateful Worship. Ps. 26:12.
David committed to worshiping God for His goodness. Out of gratitude for God’s mercy and grace, David promised that he would worship and bless God before his people: “12 My foot stands on level ground; in the congregations I will bless the Lord.” (Ps. 26:12). When David worshiped God, he did not focus on himself. This placed his feet on “level ground.” Jesus is also worthy of your praise and worship. When you worship and keep your eyes on Him, He will also place you on His firm foundation (Jo. 16:33).
Jesus fulfilled the life that David could only pledge to live. Although David pledged to live with integrity, he would fall short of his aspirations. But Jesus fulfilled every word of David’s pledge: “No one more deserved Yahweh’s just vindication than Jesus (26:1b). No one trusted Yahweh more, and no one else could say that he never buckled under pressure (26:1c, d). Similarly, Jesus was perfected through what He suffered; He was tested, tried, and refined to completion (26:2; cf., Heb. 2:11). Jesus kept the Lord’s lovingkindness before Himself, walked in the Lord’s truth, refused to sit with the wicked, and was innocent like no one else (26:3-6). Jesus gave thanks and caused the voice of thanksgiving to be heard. He celebrated and accomplished the Lord’s wonder’s (26:7), and Jesus Himself became the dwelling place of Yahweh’s glory, tabernacling among us and causing God’s glory to be seen (26:8; cf., John 1:14). Jesus makes it so that the guilty can be acquitted, so that repentant sinners will not be swept away with the unrepentant (Ps. 26:9-10). Jesus walked in integrity to accomplish God’s gracious redemption (26:11), with the result that we stand on solid ground in the great assembly to bless the Lord (26:12).” (James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. I: Psalms 1-72) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 326).
Jesus is worthy of your gratitude and worship. To set an example, David regularly praised and worshiped God before his people: “I will proclaim Your name to my brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” (Ps. 22:22). The author of the book of Hebrews even quoted this verse “saying, ‘I will proclaim Your name to my brothers, in the midst of the assembly I will sing Your praise.”’ (Heb. 2:12). And David made many similar declarations of worship: “I will give You thanks in the great congregation; I will praise You among a mighty people.” (Ps. 35:18). “I have proclaimed good news of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, LORD, You know.” (Ps. 40:9). “Bless God in the congregations, even the LORD, you who are of the fountain of Israel.” (Ps. 68:26). “With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Your mouth.” (Ps. 119:13). Jesus paid the ultimate price to give you eternal life. Are you praising Him for all that He has done for you?