Theme: Personal Innocence and Audible Testimony
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
Well, the problem of separating from evildoers may be both difficult and delicate, but it is obviously not unsolvable since there is a kind of separation recommended in this psalm. What is it? Like every other similar passage in Scripture, it is a separation based, not on a sense of our being better than others but of not being good enough to survive in such company. Jesus had no trouble in his associations with sinners, because he was not one of them. We are sinners and do have trouble. So, although we will be in the world and will associate with sinners daily for the gospel’s sake (we can hardly avoid it), we will not “consort with” or otherwise appear to condone those whose lives are openly opposed to God’s truth or morality.
1. S. Lewis has an excellent chapter on this problem in Reflections on the Psalms. It is on what he calls “connivance.” He writes wisely
Many people have a very strong desire to meet celebrated or ‘important’ people, including those whom they disapprove…. But I am inclined to think a Christian would be wise to avoid, where he decently can, any meeting with people who are bullies, lascivious, cruel, dishonest, spiteful and so forth. Not because we are ‘too good’ for them. In a sense because we are not good enough. We are not good enough to cope with all the temptations, nor clever enough to cope with all the problems, which an evening spent in such society produces.3
There are many Christians who can trace a lost youth or fruitless middle years to the bad influence of evil persons, whom they looked up to and even envied at one time.
2. Personal innocence (v. 6). We must not think that all the problems we face in trying to live a blameless life are due to other people, however. That is exactly opposite to the solution I proposed for dealing with people who are blatantly evil. On the contrary, we must know that we are sinners, inclined constantly to wrong ourselves, and therefore in continual need of confession, forgiveness and cleansing. What David says is that we need to be able to “wash our hands in innocence” (v. 6), a well-known symbolic gesture for being free of personal guilt in some matter.
We are reminded of Psalm 24, which asks, “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” The answer that is then given is, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false” (vv. 3, 4).
3. Audible testimony to God’s nature and deeds (vv. 6, 7). Verses 6-8 have been over emphasized by those who see them as a ritual followed by Jewish pilgrims as they stood before the temple gates. They would undergo a symbolic purification and then proceed into the courts of God with praise, according to this interpretation.4 Psalm 26 may have been used that way, of course. We do not have any evidence either for or against the idea. But it is not necessary to restrict the meaning of verses 6 and 7 in this fashion. David would have expressed his praise of God at the temple naturally, but the point is not the need for some ritual but rather for audible praise, which we and every one of God’s people can (and should) voice everywhere.
What is the point of such praise? It is a natural expression of our delight in God, of course. It is pleasing to God. But in the context of this psalm David’s thought is probably that such vocalized testimony identifies him with God and thus helps to hold him to that side.
What does David mean in verse 6 by the expression, “wash our hands in innocence”? How is this achieved?
What are some purposes of praise? From the lesson, what might praise accomplish in the life of David?
Reflection: Are you quick to pray for things you desire or are in need of, but slow to praise God when he answers?
3C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), p. 71.4Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), pp. 224, 227-228.