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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 6–12
Verses 6–12

In these verses,

I. David mentions, as further evidence of his integrity, the sincere affection he had to the ordinances of God, the constant care he took about them, and the pleasure he took in them. Hypocrites and dissemblers may indeed be found attending on God’s ordinances, as the proud Pharisee went up to the temple to pray with the penitent publican; but it is a good sign of sincerity if we attend upon them as David here tells us he did, Ps. 26:6-8.

1. He was very careful and conscientious in his preparation for holy ordinances: I will wash my hands in innocency. He not only refrained from the society of sinners, but kept himself clean from the pollutions of sin, and this with an eye to the place he had among those that compassed God’s altar. “I will wash, and so will I compass the altar, knowing that otherwise I shall not be welcome.” This is like that (1 Cor. 11:28), Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat, so prepared. This denotes, (1.) Habitual preparation: “I will wash my hands in innocency; I will carefully watch against all sin, and keep my conscience pure from those dead works which defile it and forbid my drawing nigh to God.” See Ps. 24:3, 4. (2.) Actual preparation. It alludes to the ceremony of the priests’ washing when they went in to minister, Exod. 30:20, 21. Though David was no priest, yet, as every worshipper ought, he would look to the substance of that which the priests were enjoined the shadow of. In our preparation for solemn ordinances we must not only be able to clear ourselves from the charge of reigning infidelity or hypocrisy, and to protest our innocency of that (which was signified by washing the hands, Deut. 21:6), but we must take pains to cleanse ourselves from the spots of remaining iniquity by renewing our repentance, and making fresh application of the blood of Christ to our consciences for the purifying and pacifying of them. He that is washed (that is, in a justified state) has need thus to wash his feet (John 13:10), to wash his hands, to wash them in innocency; he that is penitent is pene innocens—almost innocent; and he that is pardoned is so far innocent that his sins shall not be mentioned against him.

2. He was very diligent and serious in his attendance upon them: I will compass thy altar, alluding to the custom of the priests, who, while the sacrifice was in offering, walked round the altar, and probably the offerers likewise did so at some distance, denoting a diligent regard to what was done and a dutiful attendance in the service. “I will compass it; I will be among the crowds that do compass it, among the thickest of them.” David, a man of honour, a man of business, a man of war, thought it not below him to attend with the multitude on God’s altars and could find time for that attendance. Note, (1.) All God’s people will be sure to wait on God’s altar, in obedience to his commands and in pursuance of his favour. Christ is our altar, not as the altar in the Jewish church, which was fed by them, but an altar that we eat of and live upon, Heb. 13:10. (2.) It is a pleasant sight to see God’s altar compassed and to see ourselves among those that compass it.

3. In all his attendance on God’s ordinances he aimed at the glory of God and was much in the thankful praise and adoration of him. He had an eye to the place of worship as the place where God’s honor dwelt (Ps. 26:8), and therefore made it his business there to honour God and to give him the glory due to his name, to publish with the voice of thanksgiving all God’s wondrous works. God’s gracious works, which call for thanksgiving, are all wondrous works, which call for our admiration. We ought to publish them, and tell of them, for his glory, and the excitement of others to praise him; and we ought to do it with the voice of thanksgiving, as those that are sensible of our obligations, by all ways possible, to acknowledge with gratitude the favours we have received from God.

4. He did this with delight and from a principle of true affection to God and his institutions. Touching this he appeals to God: “Lord, thou knowest how dearly I have loved the habitation of thy house (Ps. 26:8), the tabernacle where thou art pleased to manifest thy residence among thy people and receive their homage, the place where thy honour dwells.” David was sometimes forced by persecution into the countries of idolaters and was hindered from attending God’s altars, which perhaps his persecutors, that laid him under that restraint, did themselves upbraid him with as his crime. See 1 Sam. 20:27. “But, Lord,” says he, “though I cannot come to the habitation of thy house, I love it; my heart is there, and it is my greatest trouble that I am not there.” Note, All that truly love God truly love the ordinances of God, and therefore love them because in them he manifests his honour and they have an opportunity of honoring him. Our Lord Jesus loved his Father’s honour, and made it his business to glorify him; he loved the habitation of his house, his church among men, loved it and gave himself for it, that he might build and consecrate it. Those who love communion with God, and delight in approaching him, find it to be a constant pleasure, a comfortable evidence of their integrity, and a comfortable earnest of their endless felicity.

II. David, having given proofs of his integrity, earnestly prays, with a humble confidence towards God (such as those have whose hearts condemn them not), that he might not fall under the doom of the wicked (Ps. 26:9, 10). Gather not my soul with sinners, Here, 1. David describes these sinners, whom he looked upon to be in a miserable condition, so miserable that he could not wish the worst enemy he had in the world to be in a worse. “They are bloody men, that thirst after blood and lie under a great deal of the guilt of blood. They do mischief, and mischief is always in their hands. Though they get by their wickedness (for their right hand is full of bribes which they have taken to pervert justice), yet that will make their case never the better; for what is a man profited if he gain the world and lose his soul?” 2. He dread having his lot with them. He never loved them, nor associated with them, in this world, and therefore could in faith pray that he might not have his lot with them in the other world. Our souls must shortly be gathered, to return to God that gave them and will call for them again. See Job 34:14. It concerns us to consider whether our souls will then be gathered with saints or with sinners, whether bound in the bundle of life with the Lord for ever, as the souls of the faithful are (1 Sam. 25:29), or bound in the bundle of tares for the fire, Matt. 13:30. Death gathers us to our people, to those that are our people while we live, whom we choose to associate with, and with whom we cast in our lot, to those death will gather us, and with them we must take our lot, to eternity. Balaam desired to die the death of the righteous; David dreaded dying the death of the wicked; so that both sides were of that mind, which if we be of, and will live up to it, we are happy for ever. Those that will not be companions with sinners in their mirth, nor eat of their dainties, may in faith pray not to be companions with them in their misery, nor to drink of their cup, their cup of trembling.

III. David, with a holy humble confidence, commits himself to the grace of God, Ps. 26:11, 12. 1. He promises that by the grace of God he would persevere in his duty: “As for me, whatever others do, I will walk in my integrity.” Note, When the testimony of our consciences for us that we have walked in our integrity is comfortable to us this should confirm our resolutions to continue therein. 2. He prays for the divine grace both to enable him to do so and to give him the comfort of it: “Redeem me out of the hands of my enemies, and be merciful to me, living and dying.” Be we ever so confident of our integrity, yet still we must rely upon God’s mercy and the great redemption Christ has wrought out, and pray for the benefit of them. 3. He pleases himself with his steadiness: “My foot stands in an even place, where I shall not stumble and whence I shall not fall.” This he speaks as one that found his resolutions fixed for God and godliness, not to be shaken by the temptations of the world, and his comforts firm in God and his grace, not to be disturbed by the crosses and troubles of the world. 4. He promises himself that he should yet have occasion to praise the Lord, that he should be furnished with matter for praise, that he should have a heart for praises, and that, though he was now perhaps banished from public ordinances, yet he should again have an opportunity of blessing God in the congregation of his people. Those that hate the congregation of evil-doers shall be joined to the congregation of the righteous and join with them in praising God; and it is pleasant doing that in good company; the more the better; it is the more like heaven.