King David knew the sting of unjust treatment as keenly as anyone in history. To keep mistreatment from undermining his relationship with God, he put some resolutions into a song. Having committed to remaining open before the Lord and to remembering His love, David committed to letting God be the judge of others' sin.
1. Resolved: I will refuse the temptation to get even (vv. 4–5)
I do not sit with deceitful men,
Nor will I go with pretenders.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
And I will not sit with the wicked.
This matter of getting involved with the wrong crowd is a by-product of doubting and drifting. We are especially vulnerable to this trap when we have been mistreated. You will always find a group of people who will take your side, encouraging compromise and rebellion—those who say, "Why put up with that? You deserve justice, so get even. Fight back!"
Consider David's plight. Perhaps it was when Saul hunted for him out of jealousy. David did not deserve such unfair treatment. Surely he had well-meaning friends who encouraged him to retaliate, to "get back" at Saul. On more than one occasion he deliberately resisted getting even, though a few of his friends urged him to do so. David felt that if the Lord was able to protect him, He was able to handle his enemies as well. (This would be a good time to stop and read 1 Samuel 24:1–20 and 26:6–12.)
Then again, David may have written this song while he was going through the torment of those days when his favoured son Absalom conspired against him and unfairly took the throne of Israel away from him (2 Samuel 15:1–6). The result? David was forced to run for his life. Wisely, even though mistreated, David never attempted to "get back" at his son or yield to the vengeful rhetoric of men around him.
Perhaps you have fallen prey to the unwise counsel of wrong associates. In the words of Psalm 26, when this happens you "sit with deceitful (worthless) men" and "go with pretenders (hypocrites)." Stop and ponder the words of 1 Corinthians 15:33: "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" How very true! You cannot identify yourself with wrong associates and walk away unaffected. The point is clear: do not let mistreatment cause you to turn to the godless crowd or adopt their way of handling things. It may seem logical, but getting even often backfires, and it never glorifies God!
2. Resolved: Maintain a positive attitude (vv. 6–7)
I shall wash my hands in innocence,
And I will go about Your altar, O Lord,
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving
And declare all Your wonders.
David was concerned that his heart remain right. Therefore, in his song, he refers to "washing his hands" and staying near "Your altar." These are word pictures familiar to the Jews. In Exodus 30:17–21, the laver (basin) of bronze that belonged in the tabernacle is mentioned. It was used for the washing of the priests' hands and feet before they approached the altar to minister. If they failed to wash, they risked death!
David picks up that very important and serious principle in his song on mistreatment and applies it to his situation. He stayed very near his Lord at this time, making sure his sins were confessed and his heart attitude was clean. By doing so, he remained pure and positive. This did not guarantee, however, that the mistreatment suddenly ended. Consider Psalm 73:13–14. In it, the composer admits the internal danger caused by mistreatment.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
And washed my hands in innocence;
For I have been stricken all day long
And chastened every morning.
Let's not think that a clean and clear life is immediately blessed with pleasant circumstances. But rest assured that maintaining the proper relationship with the Lord is still the very best way to endure mistreatment. Ultimately, it is rewarded.
Also note that Psalm 26:7 refers to an attitude of thanksgiving. David actually proclaimed words of thanksgiving to God for being mistreated. Is that remarkable, or what? Talk about a positive attitude! The crucial test of giving thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18) occurs when we suffer mistreatment. That is the supreme test on our attitude of gratitude. There is every temptation to forget to give God thanks for the privilege of being His example to others when we have been "done wrong." Learn to respond first with a genuine "Thanks, Lord," when some undeserved attack comes your way. If you do this, you will be unique. Furthermore, a positive attitude clears our minds of needless debris, mental garbage that never fails to counteract all scriptural counsel.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.