Theme: How We Stand
This week’s lessons teach us that it is in Christ that God’s people confidently stand, and what the fruits are that mark one on this level ground.
Scripture: Psalm 26:1-12
There are two phrases in the English translation of Psalm 26 that I would like to place together, except that they occur in different translations. The first phrase is from the New International Version and is the one from which I derived the title for this study. It is from verse 12, “on level ground.” The other is from verse 1 of the King James Version: “therefore I shall not slide.” I would like to put them together, because they unify the psalm, teaching that the one who trusts God will have a level foundation on which to build a life while the one who does not trust God is on slippery terrain.
To my mind the most memorable line in the psalm is the one about standing on level ground. The others do not command much special attention. On the other hand, the other lines do link the psalm to other psalms in the Psalter.
There are similarities to Psalm 25, the one immediately preceding. Both express a quiet confidence in God (cp. 25:2 with 26:1). Both claim personal integrity for the psalmist (cp. 25:21 with 26:1 and 11). Both pray for deliverance (cp. 25:16-22 with 26:9-11). There are echoes of Psalm 1 in Psalm 25, particularly verses 4 and 5. They remind us of Psalm 1:1. Similarly, there are connections between this psalm and Psalms 15 and 24, which have to do with the moral character necessary for a human being to approach God. Psalm 15 asks, “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary” (v. 1)? Psalm 24 inquires, “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place (v. 3)? Psalm 26 seems to give answers, since in it David claims to be such a person.
Some scholars link Psalms 26, 27 and 28, since all mention the temple in some way.1 Harry Ironside saw a pattern linking the block of fifteen psalms from Psalm 26 to Psalm 39. “The first five of them, Psalms 25-29, deal largely with the basis or the ground of the soul’s confidence before God…. In the second section, Psalms 30-34, we seem to move on a step and find these psalms occupied with the heart’s appropriation of God’s salvation. … In the third section, Psalms 35-39, … we are occupied largely with the question of personal holiness.”2
In my judgment there is a natural connection between Psalm 25 and this one, but it is not to be found in verbal similarities so much as in a natural development of themes. What was the theme of Psalm 25? In that psalm David was afraid that he would be put to shame or be shown to have built upon a bad foundation in the day of testing. He asks God to teach him his ways so he will be able to walk in them and so that will not happen. In Psalm 26 he tells us that this is exactly what God and he have done. God has taught him, and he has walked in God’s ways. He has led a blameless life. Therefore, he stands (and expects to continue standing) on level ground.
I think that is the way we have to take the appeal of the opening two verses, which set the tone for the psalm. David pleads for vindication in verse 1 (“Vindicate me, O LORD”), adding in verse 2, “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.”
What are some similarities between Psalm 26 and the preceding Psalm 25?
How do Psalms 25 and 26 fit together in terms of how their themes are developed?
For Further Study: If you would like to have your own copy of James Boice’s studies on the Psalms, order yours today and receive 25% off the regular set price.
1Derek Kidner is one example. He writes, “In Psalm 26 the worshipper, as he approaches is searched by God’s demand for sincerity (cf. Ps. 15 and 24) and, in the last verse, rejoices to have found access. In Psalm 27 he sees this house as sanctuary from his enemies, and as the place of vision, face to face with God. In Psalm 28 he brings forward his petition, spreading his hands as a supplicant towards the holy of holies, and receives his answer” (Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalter [Leicester, England and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973], p. 117).2H. A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1952), p. 153.