October 2, 2021
Bob Hayes, Clergy, Smoky Mountain District
Psalm 26 NRSV1 Vindicate me, O Lord,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and mind.
3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in faithfulness to you.[a]
4 I do not sit with the worthless,
nor do I consort with hypocrites;
5 I hate the company of evildoers,
and will not sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence,
and go around your altar, O Lord,
7 singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.
8 O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,
and the place where your glory abides.
9 Do not sweep me away with sinners,
nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
10 those in whose hands are evil devices,
and whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I walk in my integrity;
redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground;
in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.
DevotionThe year was 1969. A friend and I were on our way to take the test that would license us as amateur radio operators. In those days, you had to demonstrate that you could send and receive Morse code at fifteen words per minute, plus pass a technical exam on vacuum tube circuitry. We had practiced together long enough to know that we were pretty good, but were we good enough? As I drove, I wondered: Would I confuse “F” with “L”? Would I remember the function of the screen grid? Was I good enough?
The author of the 26th Psalm is obviously a good man, possibly a priest since he mentions serving at the altar. Much of the psalm consists of reminding God of how faithful he has been, how diligent in avoiding every kind of evil. Yet, his words don't come across as boasting or bragging. Then we read (verse 9): “Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty.”
Perhaps the psalmist was bothered by the same worry that bothered me on that day in 1969. He knew he was good; but was he good enough? What if he didn't quite measure up? Would God sweep him away to whatever punishment was reserved for those who didn't even try to be good? The last verse suggests that perhaps this troubled man eventually received some assurance of God's grace and mercy, “My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.”
When we do our best to serve God faithfully and trust in God's mercy, we need never be tormented by the question, “Am I good enough?” O, by the way, my friend and I both passed the ham radio exam, and we enjoyed the hobby for many years to come.