Prayer for the Righteous
1 Of David.
O Lord, come to my defense,
for I have lived a blameless life.
I have placed my trust in the Lord,
and never have I wavered in that regard.
2 Test me, O Lord, and try me;
probe my heart and my mind.
3 For your kindness[b] is before my eyes,
and I am constantly guided by your truth.
4 I do not sit in the company of deceivers,
nor do I associate with hypocrites.
5 I abhor the assembly of the wicked,
and I refuse to associate with evildoers.
6 I wash my hands in innocence[c]
and join the procession around your altar, O Lord,
7 giving voice to your praises
and proclaiming all your wondrous deeds.[d]
8 I love the house where you dwell, O Lord,
the place where your glory resides.[e]
9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,
nor my life with those who thirst for blood,[f]
10 whose hands carry out evil schemes,
and whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 Rather, I choose to walk in innocence;
redeem me and be merciful to me.
12 My feet stand on level ground;[g]
in the full assembly I will bless the Lord.
- Psalm 26:1 This psalm is a prayer for God’s discerning mercies to spare his faithful servant from the death that overtakes the wicked. In the psalms of supplication, we often hear this protestation from those accused who call upon God to bear witness to their innocence. The prayer that we now read is perhaps that of a Levite, but certainly of a man who loves the life of the temple. He is very sure of his rectitude in the face of others’ accusations. Possibly he is also quite conscious of the faults that everyone has in his life.
He teaches us a great certainty: it is better to throw ourselves upon the judgment of God than to let ourselves be crushed by the judgment of others. This believer, who is at ease to praise the Lord in the temple, loves a clear and decided fidelity. Who would fail to be attracted by such a desire for uprightness and sincerity before God!
In praying this psalm, we can recall that since we share by faith and Baptism in the mystery of Christ dead and risen, our old self has been crucified with Christ so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might cease to be enslaved by sin. Divested of our old nature and invested with the new nature of Christ who becomes all in all (see Col 3:9-11), we share in his holiness and irreproachable innocence before God, being purified from all injustice (see Rom 8:1; 1 Jn 1:9).
- Psalm 26:3 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 26:6 Wash my hands in innocence: a liturgical action (see Ex 30:19, 21; 40:31f), which symbolized both inner and outer cleanliness (see Isa 1:16). Those who come to God must have “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:4). Around your altar: celebrating God’s saving acts beside his altar was regarded as a public act of devotion in which assembled worshipers could be invited to participate (see Ps 43:5).
- Psalm 26:7 Proclaiming . . . wondrous deeds: see note on Ps 9:2.
- Psalm 26:8 Where your glory resides: the presence of God’s glory meant the presence of God himself (see Ex 24:16; 33:22). His glory dwelt in the tabernacle (see Ex 40:35) and later in the temple (see 1 Ki 8:11). John 1:14 places that same presence in the Word made flesh who “dwelt among us.”
- Psalm 26:9 A premature death was a divine chastisement (see Pss 5:7; 28:4; 55:24).
- Psalm 26:12 Level ground: where there is safety and no danger of falling. Assembly: worshiping at the sanctuary (as in Pss 1:5; 22:26; 35:18; 40:10f; 111:1; 149:1).