Surprise! – it’s not the perfect man who is blessed – it’s the forgiven sinner?! A truly righteous and upright man (v 11) is the one who honestly confesses his sin and is forgiven (v 2). This irritates the Pharisee in every single human in history because it discounts our own goodness.
The darkness/sickness/fear that surrounds unconfessed sin and guilt is the mercy of God. It is his hand that is crushing us in order to turn us towards repentance (v 4).
There is a contrast between the one who tries to cover his own guilt and the LORD’s true covering of our iniquity. When we keep our sin “hidden”, it eats us. But when we bring it out of hiding and confess it to the LORD, he protects us from it. The hiding place in verse 7 is covenantal: there are no outside enemies here who are trying to attack David – it’s his own sin that is killing him!
The shouts/songs of deliverance are key here. God actually enjoys forgiving sinners. He sings about it. It glorifies him as the True Deliverer, the True Savior. Coming to Him while knowing ourselves to be sinners is an invitation, not a threat.
Given this, the comparison to a mule is humbling – why is our instinct to run and hide our sin from God? He is our only hope of covering. He has shown this to every human from Adam on down the line.
The only way to be righteous is to confess our unrighteousness. The only way for our sin to be covered is for it to be uncovered.
Verse 6 might be an expression of pride, but what if it is just a rephrasing of verse 1 from a personal perspective… maybe he’s not talking about personal fulfillment, but just actually understanding that because he has been lifted up by the LORD, he cannot be moved.
Within this context, verse 9 does not read as manipulative, but as again a correct understanding of what it means to be human: to praise God and declare His truth. Death seems to be equated with the silence of praise – an end to what it means to be truly human.
The psalm is personal because it does not deny the experience of being estranged from God, but it offers an eternal perspective that invades the personal. The anger/weeping/mourning/distance is temporary, but the singing/remembrance/praise/life/health/dancing/gladness is forever.
But this isn’t just a philosophy – it’s entirely real. The enemies/blood/grave are real. Death is real. This means that God’s rescue is real. He has turned the mourning into dancing. He has clothed us. He’s done this in real time so that we can be the people we’re supposed to be and praise him forever.
Give strength and glory (v 1,2) to the One who gives strength and glory (v 11). Again, glory/strength/power/rule is only something that can be received.
“The voice” – similar in structure and intent to “God said” in Genesis 1. God sits (v 10) and speaks. His Word is power.
The “voice list” is surrounded by water language. Is the water chaos? Or is it the outside nations (which are more specifically described in vs 3-9)? Either way his kingdom is described as well beyond the borders of Israel.
Movement language: Instead of sliding (v 1), he wants to stand firm (v 12). Instead of sitting (v 4,5) he walks (v 1,3,11). But how? Answer – by following the firm path of Psalm 1:6.
It’s as if the Psalmist is taking Psalm 1 and personalizing it:
- He does not sit with the wicked nor walk with the ungodly (Psalm 1:1).
- He does not want to be gathered with the wicked (harvest language of Psalm 1:4)
- He is focused on being rooted (Psalm 1:3)
- He is more concerned with the destination of the path than the current scene (compare Psalm 1:5,6)
As in Psalm 1, the focus could be more on the tree than on the river of water that feeds it. But this is foolish: David knows here that the place that the tree is planted (the habitation of God) is more important than the tree itself. The ability to stand firm is not a property of tree roots – it’s a property of the soil. Verse 11 connects the idea of the tree’s integrity being related to the mercy of God: God’s redemption gives the integrity/foothold.
The wicked also get a personal Psalm 1 report card – in Psalm 1 the wicked “cannot stand”, and here they are portrayed only as “sitting”. In Psalm 1 God knows the path, and here in Psalm 26 David is walking that path. It seems that the wicked are simply refusing to move down that path, and are happy with their own counsels/congregations instead of the path to God’s counsel/congregation.
Names/memories/memorials: David recounts (i.e. tells memories of) the Lord and sings praises to His name. The Lord blots out the name of the wicked as well as any memories of them. Therefore everyone should put their trust in His name and tell of His deeds.
Up/down language similar to Psalm 3 The wicked start on top, but are sinking down into the pit, and ultimately down into Sheol. But those who start on the bottom (David at the gates of death, the poor, the needy) will be lifted up. The Beatitudes were nothing new – they retell the original pattern of the original Kingdom.
Main question – what gives strength/sustenance?
Contrast: The wicked consume flesh, while David offers flesh as a sacrifice. The wicked violently destroy to gain control, while God provides the land of the living to those that wait.
Taking vs receiving. Who gives life?
Even if he physically faints, he will be sustained. Even if his familial connections are severed he will be secure. His connection to life is not through temporal means, but directly through the source. The house of the Lord is more important than the house of David. God’s face gives life.
Is there another connection to Adam here? The breath of life? The obedience to the command to seek God’s face (as in the garden), and the reversal of the curse in not being forsaken? (v 8,9)
Is the light in v. 1 another way of referencing the source/strength/life of God’s face – inner sustenance vs outer guidance?
(Not by bread alone, but by…)
The LORD makes small things strong in order to make His name great.
This is again Adamic fulfillment – Adam and Eve should’ve been singing this song in Eden instead of reaching for the glory of their own names.
We often misunderstand our importance – we may feel important because we find ourselves ruling, and ultimately convince ourselves that we deserve to rule based on our merit. However, true understanding of the greatness of God results in humility and service. Again – the kingship hierarchy discussed in Psalm 3 that should’ve been fulfilled by Adam, but is ultimately fulfilled in Christ’s servant-rule.