Today christianity.com posted my, “When You Are Wronged,” a brief look at Psalm 26. I am grateful for their ministry and graciousness toward me.
Vindication is something we all desire, because injustices are committed toward us in this life. On a lesser scale it could be a simple spat between spouses in which the one accuses the other of moving an item, when the other has evidence of things being very different. On a larger scale it could be that family promises were not kept, or lies and cover-ups had the wrong person thrown out of school, found innocent a criminal who harmed your loved one, or cost you an unwarranted demotion at work.
In Psalm 26, one reads, “Vindicate Me, O Lord.” The word translated as “vindication” has judgmentat its core. David is praying, “Judge me, O Lord. Look at the wicked and me, see that I have lived a life of integrity and depended on you without wavering.” David’s prayer reveals three things:
1. When you call for vindication, make sure integrity is your foundation (1-3).
The basis by which David cries for vindication makes no reference to the wrongdoing of anyone else. David starts (and he will end) in the mirror. “Lord, I have integrity; I am wholly dependent on you.”
The Hebrew terms behind “heart” and “mind” are words for “kidneys” and “heart.” In the Hebrew mind, the kidneys (or innards) were the organ driving us in the way we would describe the “heart” of emotions and motive, and the “heart” was more what we would describe as the place of thinking and will. David says in effect, “Look at my heart and mind with your all-penetrating eyes and see that I am whole and holy.”
Typically, when we pray for vindication, we act like children on the schoolyard who have been hurt and run to the teacher: “He hit me! Get him!” “She called me a bad name! Take her recess away! Do it in front of me so I can have the satisfaction of seeing her humbled!”
In that cry to the authority we want three things: Judgment that sets the scales right, vengeance against the enemy, and a public display that we are right. David wants a fourth thing: Judgment of the one requesting vindication. To make that call of vindication, you must know that you yourself are a person of integrity before God and not just correct in the current situation.
2. When you claim your own justification, you should be prepared to meet strict standards of Divine evaluation (4-8).
David offers four areas of life for God to judge. First he offers truth (26:4). Men of falsehood (vanity) are not part of his company. Neither does he keep company with “hypocrites”—people who keep their activities covered so others cannot see what they are doing. David is saying that he keeps the 9th Commandment’s prohibition against false witness.
Second, David offers righteousness (26:5). When evildoers gathered for their form of “worship” (for “assembly” is a cultic term related to worship), David had complete disdain for their dishonoring authority, murdering, adultery, and stealing. He keeps the 5th-8th and 10th Commandments.
Third, David offers purity in worship (26:6). David thinks of integrity in terms of the 1st through 4thCommandments—those that deal with loving God with one’s whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. He understands that love for our neighbor flows from our love for God. You cannot be a person of integrity – wholeness before God, and not simply before men – if you treat everyone decently but do not acknowledge God’s standards for coming to God. No idolater or atheist could pray, “Vindicate me” to God and hope for anything short of his wrath for all eternity, for the judgment would reveal wickedness even in the motives of his service toward humanity.
Fourth, David offers himself as a devoted worshipper (26:8). David is a Sabbath-keeper who loves God! It is not the house of the Lord that David loves, but the resident of the house—God and his glory! “Measure me by this,” says David!
This poses a dilemma for all of us: Not one of us perfectly keeps the Commandments. We stand without hope of vindication before our enemies, because we cannot say, “Lord, get them but ignore me,” for this would not be just for a holy God.
What hope is there for we who need both vindication and the righteousness that God requires?
3. When you cry out for separation, remember that it is the Lord’s grace that brings redemption (9-12).
God will sweep away the souls of sinners, including the bloodthirsty, who can be manipulated by bribes and have evil devices to carry out their schemes. They can threaten your life, but their own lives are at stake before the Almighty Judge and King.
David, even as one claiming to have absolute integrity, still knows that he will be found short and could be swept away into the torrents of eternal damnation. So he makes pleas to avoid the judgment of the wicked: “Redeem me and be gracious to me”
God is not under obligation to rescue David, and he ultimately cannot present his integrity as sufficient to avoid the wrath of a perfect God. So what is David’s hope? God, by your grace, redeem me! This is exactly what God does for us in Christ.
Christ comes in the perfect righteousness of God: Complete in truth, righteousness, purity in worship, and devotion in worship to God. God condemned Christ in place of our condemnation, crucifying him to his death on the Cross.
God offers us eternal life through Christ’s righteousness as the only one righteous enough to beat death, as demonstrated in his resurrection from the dead. God offers to redeem us by grace—a gift to us, not something we earn. We receive this gift by believing in Christ. When, therefore, we are in need of vindication, we keep trusting this same Christ.
Eric C. Redmond is Executive Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @EricCRedmond