He prays, “Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life. I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind, for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth” (Psalm 26:1-3).
It sounds like David is saying, “Look at me, God. I’m doing quite well! I’m living a righteous life and have no sin to speak of. Take a close look at me and you’ll see how spiritual I am.”
But we know better. David’s sins are well documented in 1 and 2 Samuel. And in the psalms, David’s prayers of confession and repentance are some of the most humble, transparent passages in all of Scripture. You don’t have to go very far from Psalm 26 to see David acknowledging both his iniquity and his need of God’s mercy. “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways . . . Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins” (Psalm 25:7, 18).
Then it struck me. We know that David was the victim of much unjust treatment at the hands of wicked men. He was hunted like an animal for no good reason. And he was slandered repeatedly, indicted for crimes he did not commit.
Who prays a prayer like Psalm 26:1? A man who has been wrongly accused and is pleading his case in the courtroom of heaven. David is not bragging about a life of spiritual superiority. He’s not boasting. He is simply saying, “These accusations are false. I did not do what people are saying I did. I am coming to you, Lord, because you know the truth. You know everything about me, and before You I can say, I am not guilty and deserve to be acquitted. Please intervene and see that justice prevails.”
Does that make sense? Any number of situations in David’s life could have put him in this position.
What is the takeaway for us? Perhaps you’ve never been the victim of slander. But if you have, you know exactly how David felt. The frustration of unfair treatment, especially verbal harassment, can be unbearable. Certainly physical persecution causes pain that many Christians have yet to experience. And for those who do get beaten for their faith, our heart breaks.
Verbal persecution causes another type of pain. Many believers find themselves the target of such treatment, and the emotional suffering can be overwhelming. David’s prayer in Psalm 26 shows us that it is appropriate for persecuted saints to cry out to God, pleading their innocence and asking for mercy.
Reading this psalm also points us to the David’s Greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for He was the victim of both physical and verbal abuse beyond comprehension. “Nobody was more worthy of being treated well than Jesus, and nobody more willingly was treated more badly” (John Piper).
Who can pray a prayer like this? Jesus. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cried and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7).
The life of Jesus was a life of great suffering followed by even greater joy. May we follow Him on that path, all the days of our life, all the way to glory.