Theme: Separation from the Wicked
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
The way of the righteous, which David claims to have been following, is outlined in verses 3-8. But verse 2 has something important to contribute to it. In that verse David asks God to examine both his “heart” and his “mind.” In other words, in order to walk in a right way David must be both instructed in God’s truth and be born again, which is the only way anyone ever acquires a heart that wants to go in God’s paths. He needs to know the way, but he also needs to want to follow it. These two ideas carry over into verse 3, for the idea of heart desire is preserved in the word “love,” and the idea of mind instruction is echoed in the word “truth”: “for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.”
But now we must go a step further and ask for some specifics. What are the marks of the “blameless” or righteous life? What will the godly person do if he or she is actually walking in God’s “truth”? There are several items.
1. Separation from wicked people (vv. 4, 5). The first specific David offers is also the most fully developed and the one that reminds us of Psalm 1. Psalm 1 described the happy person as one “who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers” (v. 1). In Psalm 26 David says, “I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.”
This is a far more difficult and delicate matter than we may at first be aware of. For, of course, it goes beyond merely doing evil ourselves. It is a matter of becoming involved and even associating with evildoers.
Why is it difficult? It is difficult because it is almost impossible to avoid evil people. We are constantly surrounded, not merely by sinners (we are all sinners) but by people who actually delight in doing evil. I do not mean people who murder other people and chop up their bodies for weekend fun necessarily. They don’t have to do that to be evil. I mean people who merely think nothing of cheating other people in business if they can get away with it, or people who deliberately circulate lies about a political or business rival to defeat them, or people who practice open sexual immorality, flaunting the laws both of God and man. We are surrounded all the time by such people, and it is difficult to know how to (or even if we can) disassociate ourselves from them.
Again, the matter is delicate, because honest attempts to put a distance between ourselves and “evil” people quite easily slide over into pharisaism, the outlook that assumes that we are inherently better than other people and love to be thought so. Clearly we seem to be caught between the horns of a dilemma. If we are often in the company of the unrighteous, we will be dragged down by them. If we work at disassociation, we incline to the equally damaging sin of pride.
What does it mean to walk in God’s truth? What are some benefits and challenges that will come?
What is the first mark of living a righteous life, and why is it both difficult and delicate?
How can you keep from becoming pharisaical in your pursuit of holiness?
Reflection: Are there any ways in which you need to separate yourself from a wicked association, so as to avoid the appearance of evil and strengthen your Christian witness?