Book 1 – Psalms 26 and 27 of 41: Jesus the innocent, seeking the face of the Father

Psalm 26

The chiastic apporach here emphasises firstly the Righteous Man’s integrity (v.1, 11); followed by His steadfast love (v.3), in which this Man loves to inhabit His house and the place where His glory dwells (v.8) – the key verse being v.6, the central verse of this chapter:  “I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD.”  This washing of hands around His brazen altar is a Levitical practice – the man who walks in integrity (v.1), whose heart and mind can be tested and found pure (v.2), who walks in His faithfulness (v.4), who dwells not with false men or hypocrites (v.5) or evildoers or the wicked (v.5), who constantly proclaims thanksgiving aloud (v.7), loving His dwelling place (v.8), to have his soul distinguished from the sinners and bloodthirsty men (v.9), whose foot stands on level ground and that this Righteous Man shall bless the LORD in the great church, the great assembly (v.12; c.f. Psalm 22).  Who is this but our Christ, the Man of integrity who fulfilled each and every single one of these elements?  Who can be so sinless and pure as to maintain this level of integrity and holiness but the One who intercedes for us, the One who can wash his hands confidently in innocence?

Psalm 27

Father, you are Christ’s light and salvation (Yehoshua in Hebrew) – whom shall Christ fear?  You are the stronghold of His life, of whom shall Jesus be afraid?  When evildoers assail him to eat up his flesh, his adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.  Though an army encamp against Him, His heart shall not fear, though war arise against Him, yet He will be confident.  One thing has He asked of the Father, that will He seek after – to dwell in His house (c.f. Psalm 26:8) all the days of His life, to gaze upon the Father’s beauty and to inquire in his temple.  For the Father will hide Jesus in His shelter in the day of trouble, concealed under the cover of His tent, his head lifted up above His enemies, with Jesus offering sacrifices with shouts of joy (c.f. Psalm 26:7).

These opening verses of chapter 27 are very similar to those in chapter 26 – indeed, it is a continuation of the expression of the Holy One.  As Paul Blackham states, “This psalm begins with a clear statement of the Messiah’s relationship to His Father.  The LORD is His light, salvation and stronghold.  It is not that He gives light, salvation and a stronghold, but that He is those things.  The powers of darkness, condemnation and persecution cannot overcome the Lord who is light, salvation and a stronghold.”

These verses are filled with temple imagery – the one thing Jesus asks (c.f. Hebrews 5:7) – is to dwell in the “house of the LORD” (v.4), to “inquire in his temple” (v.4), “conceal me under the cover of his tent” (v.5), “I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy” (v.6). Paul Blackham continues, “Only one thing is asked of the LORD.  We might expect all kinds of things to be asked: physical safety; lots of friends; popularity; material prosperity.  However, the one thing that is asked of the Lord is to see the beauty of the Lord where He lives in His temple.  Above all else He wants to live in His Father’s Presence.  If that is certain then all other matters fall into place.

Verse 4 takes us back to Psalm 23:6.  No matter what may happen in this life, no matter what suffering and rejection is suffered, if the resurrection hope is certain then all is well.  In the day of trouble (v.5) safety can be found with the Lord.

This is then shown by way of the requests: (i) keep me safe, (ii) hide me, and (iii) set me – set against, respectively, (i) in His dwelling, (ii) in His tabernacle, and (iii) upon a Rock (c.f. Psalm 28:1).

What is the purpose of all this temple imagery?  Just so that the true High Priest could seek the face of the Father (v.8-9), who is the salvation of the Christ. “The desire of His heart was to seek the face of the Lord.  It was the one thing that He couldn’t ignore.  The thought of Him turning His face away (v.9) is too terrible”.

V.10 – for even when his family forsakes him (the Hebrew “כי” (ki) gives the impression that Christ is not saying Joseph / Mary has forsaken him – rather, in the event that his family does forsake him; ki is a connecting term), the only One Whom Christ can rely on is His Father – He is the One who will take Christ in (v.10) as He hung on the cross to die for our sins. V.12 is a description of Jesus’ own trial (Mark 14:55-59), and Jesus does not vindicate Himself – even He looks to His Father for vindication.

So Christ looks forward to his resurrection – “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (v.13).  This is a strong hope in face of the rejection he prayed about in Psalm 22.  Wait for Him indeed – wait for Him (v.14).  Christ is teaching us the Father’s vindication would come for Him just as it would come for us.  Paul Blackham ends on this note in his Psalms commentary: “While He was hanging on the Cross it must have been so hard to trust that everything was in the hands of the Father, that He would receive such a resounding vindication so soon after His death in the resurrection.  However, He was able to be strong because He knew that the Lord would not let Him down.”  We will never be disappointed if we wait for the Lord, and seek His face.

Book 1 – Psalms 26 and 27 of 41: Jesus the innocent, seeking the face of the Father