Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind (Psalm 26:2).
Psalm 26 is an interesting psalm, for on the surface it appears to run against the humility that always attends those who know their God. Hear David’s claim: “I have walked in my integrity, I have trusted in the LORD without wavering… I do not sit with men of falsehood… I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds....” How is this not pride? How is this different from the Pharisee who prayed in the Temple, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12).
The difference is simple, and profound. The Pharisee, measuring himself against those he deemed less worthy, made a case for his righteousness before God. That was the entire content of his prayer. David, on the other hand, prays in a spirit of worship: “O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.” He asserts his righteousness not to lift himself above others, but rather to appeal to God for help.
I don’t believe that David is saying here that he is without sin. We know too much of David’s life and too much about David’s own understanding of himself, particularly as revealed in the Psalms (see, e.g. Psalms 32, 51, 103). But David loves God. And he knows that God loves him (26:3). In the end, humility and the commitment to walk in righteousness comes from the same place, knowing God loves us and loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
It is a good thing to determine to walk righteously. And it is a good thing to recognize the practical effects of so doing. Where we go wrong is when our pursuit of righteousness is something different that our pursuit of God, when we love our own sanctity at the expense of loving the Lord who himself is holy. But to determine to walk righteously according to the word of the Lord, and out of love for the Lord, is hardly pride. It is the mark of humility. Would that men and women of God would approach God with that same kind of humble and practical resolution.
If you were to write your own Psalm 26, what would you say?