I walk in my integrity;
and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
in the great congregation
I will bless the Lord.
2 Chronicles 33:14-34:33
King Manasseh built a wall to protect Jerusalem from foreign aggressors. He also cleansed the temple from foreign gods and idols (as a protection from internal aggressors?). His successor Amon returned to the practice of giving allegiance to foreign gods. He was assassinated and his eight-year-old son Josiah was made king.
Breaking with the customary practice of his predecessors, Josiah returned to faithfulness of the God that his ancestor King David had worshiped. He purged Judah and Jerusalem of images of and altars for worship of other gods. Money was assessed to repair the house of God. During the reconstruction, they found the book of the law that the Lord had given Moses.
Hearing the reading of the book, King Josiah was struck with how sinful the people had been, how much they deserved the wrath of the Lord. Emissaries of the king went to the prophet Huldah to determine if the king's assessment was accurate. She said that the Lord would indeed bring disaster on these people because of their sinning. However, because of Josiah's repentance, the Lord would postpone the disaster.
At the end of this letter, Paul commends several faithful disciples, a list that mentions specifically several women. He concludes (or, as some scholars believe, someone has added this portion to his letter to them) by reminding his readers who God is and what God has done for them. "The good news was a secret to you for a long time. The prophets spoke to their own. Now the good news is available for you, too. God wants you to be included. Those who have not been a part of the family of God can now share in the faith. We give thanks to Jesus the Messiah."
Psalm 26 gives us words to assert .... Here's where I had trouble. I started to say our "righteousness" (a word in the heading for the psalm in the Bible I was using (NRSV)). But that word carries the connotation of "self-righeousness," so I tried "innocence," but that wasn't quite what the psalm was asserting. I'm settling on "deservedness, " although it isn't actually a word.
The prayer begins with a request for vindication coupled with the assertion that I deserve it--my integrity--and that the Lord can be trusted.
That request and that assurance are repeated and that deservedness are repeated.
The reasons for the verdict are expounded: I don't associate with the worthless, with hypocrites, evildoers, or the wicked. (I might have to skip this verse if I were praying honestly. Partly it would depend on what "worthless" meant. Moreover, how would I actually avoid all hypocrites? Am I overanalyzing?)
The psalm, having asked for a trial, given reasons for a good verdict, then expresses the love for going to the place of worship.
This psalm follows the reminders with a plea for help, a plea that is based on the psalmist's innocence: Don't give me the punishment that sinners deserve, those who murder, scheme, or defraud. I don't deserve that punishment because I am blameless.
Most of us would have a pretty tough time praying those verses expressing innocence as honestly as Job could have. But, we can be just as sincere asking for protection and mercy.
The psalmist was pretty certain that God was going to make things right. The last verse is "My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord."
Back to us: if we do get protected, if we do benefit from God's mercy, do we remember to give thanks?
A gossip reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a babbler.
Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, instill within us the will and the strength to remove from our lives all the distractions that keep us from paying attention to what you consider important. And we give you thanks for all the times that you have forgiven us for our lapses in attention. Amen.