Few people are willing to let others judge or examine them. Some hate any kind of test of their mental or physical abilities. Most people do not wished to be critiqued regarding their personal conduct. On the other hand, all humanity will one day stand before God’s Judgment. Solomon conclude his work Ecclesiastes with these words:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” [Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14 KJV]
The Nazarene taught the same:
“Out of the good person’s heart comes a treasure of goodness; and expelled out of the wicked person’s wicked treasure comes wickedness. But I tell you that every fruitless word human’s speak will be held to account on Judgment Day. For by your words you will be declared ‘Not Guilty,’ and by your words you will be accursed.” [Matthew 12:36, 37 NCMM]
Despite these Scriptural warnings, most people are like the person James describes:
“This person is like a man observing his physical face in a mirror, and having departed, immediately forgets what he looks like.” [James 1:23, 24 NCMM]
Perhaps such a person does not want to admit what kind of person he saw in that mirror of self-reflection.
So we find it refreshing to find a person who welcomes a personal examination. This man is David, the one who wrote one of the most famous poems or hymns in all literature - the Twenty-third Psalm. In Psalm 26 he actually welcomes his God Yehowah to test, prove or examine him. “Test or examine what?” we ask. What assurances does David possess? How would we stand up under a similar investigation? Something that is going to happen to us anyway? Consider this request to God for just such an examination in Psalm 26.
David asks Yehowah to “be my judge.” [Or, RSV: vindicate me; RHM: do me justice; HAR: do what is right by me.] Compare Psalm 7:8. Not many people would invite God to judge, test, or examine them. Some are afraid to even take a good look in the mirror for fear what they will discover - or already know. [See notes on James 1:23, 24.]
David’s freedom and outspokenness to ask for this examine is because he has “walked” in a certain way of life. [Or, conduct myself.] The word “walk” is used in both the Hebrew and Christian Bible as a metaphor for conduct or life-style. David says he has walked in his “integrity.” [Or, blamelessness.] Compare Proverbs 20:7. The English word “integrity” means complete, unbroken, whole, unimpaired, morally sound, principled, honest and sincere. The word occurs most often in Psalms and Proverbs.
The basis for this is David’s faith for he has “trusted” in God. [Or, unswerving faith.] The word “trust” is a synonym for faith, belief, or conviction. A form occurs over 50 times in the Psalms. He promises his God Yehowah that he “will never vacillate.” [Or, slide, fall, falter, waver, wobble.] David is consistent. He does not waver or wobble in his conviction. Compare the “indecisive” person in James 1:7, 8.
David asks God to “test me.” [Or, examine, search, try.] The Hebrew is BACHAN [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 974] and is most often rendered “try” in the KJV. Whether one wants this “test” or not, Psalm 11:4 states that God examines all humanity. Compare a similar request in Psalm 139:23. He also says, “examine me.” [Or, prove, test; put me to the proof [KNX].] The Hebrew poetic parallel is NACAH [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 5254] and often rendered “prove.” Paul makes a similar appeal in 2 Corinthians 13:5 for a self-examination, “Continue to test yourselves if you are in the faith, continue to prove yourselves.” [NCMM] But, what kind of examination?
David asks to be put to the “test.” [Or, try, purify, cleanse, examine, assay.] The Hebrew TSARAPH [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 6884] is a word from the smelter and the refinement of gold. What is to put in the Assayer’s furnace? David says his “deepest motivations and inclinations.” [Or, motives and my mind [HAR], kidneys and heart [NWT], inmost desires and thoughts [KNX].] What is it David is willing to have God examine? Two words in Hebrew are used. The first one is KILYAH [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 3629, kidneys = seat of emotions and affections]. Thus, the inner most thoughts at the root of motivations. The second word is LEB [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 3820, heart = inner person, mind, inclinations, resolution, determination]. Thus, David is willing to have his conscience and moral character exposed to God for examination. In other words, “What am I down deep inside, in my inner most being?” [Compare 1 Corinthians 4:5]
David is a focused person. Focused on what? He says, God’s “covenant-loyalty.” [Or, loving-kindness, steadfast love [RSV], gracious love [HAR], kindness [YLT].] The Hebrew is CHECED [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 2617, goodness, kindness, loyalty]. David has focused his life on God’s “covenant-loyalty.” That is, God’s own promises and contracts based on genuine love and kindness. If one is to be judged any person would prefer a judge of impeccable honesty, fairness, and loyalty to law. David really wants to know what kind of person lies within and we wants “the Judge of all the earth” to make this examination. [Genesis 14]
In this regard, David has also focused on an honest life. That is, God’s own Truth has been the center of his life. [Or, before mind eyes [KJV], at the forefront of my mind [HAR].] In other words David says, “I have lived by your principles of truth.” [HAR]. This is a unique human being, and few among humankind today can make such honest claims. But, David gives his proof for why he can say this.
David states with confidence in the facts that he has not even “sat down” together with certain types of people. By ‘sitting down’ he may mean: dwelt with [PBV], sat with [ASV], consort with [RSV], mix with [HAR], not associated with [BER]. David has shunned certain types of people. “Sat down” is poetically paralleled with “joined” or “fellowship.” So David has certain boundaries regarding what kind of people he will associate or fellowship with. Who are these persons?
David calls them “deceitful persons.” [Or, vain, false, deceptive.] David has learned who these are because they have given evidence of such deceitfulness. These exist within the Christian Church also and disciples of the Nazarene are warned against such persons. [2 Corinthians 11:13, 14]
Parallel with this thought, David confirms that he has not “joinded” with “pretenders.” [Or, go in with [KJV], fellowship [PBV], associate [HAR], fellowship [BER].] David does not associate or fellowship with certain types of persons. Paul warned of the same thing within the Christian Church. [1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18] These “pretenders” are also identified as dissemblers [KJV], deceitful [PBV], hypocrites [HAR]. David has learned to recognize the two-faced hypocrite. The Hebrew is ‘ALAM [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 5956] and infers a person who conceals or hides what they truly are. [James 3:17]
Such persons are even found in “church” David says. Here the word “church” may also be rendered congregation [KJV], company [HAR], convocation [RHM]. The Hebrew is QAHAL [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 6951] and suggests an assembly for religious purposes, or an organized body. The Greek [LXX] is ECCLESIAN [ecclesia]. Even in a religious or worshipful environment David exercises caution and refuses to associate and fellowship with deceitful hypocrites.
Such persons are also “harmful.” That is, evildoers [KJV], criminals HAR], sinners [TAY]. Evil or wickedness is almost always harmful or hurtful of others. Certainly the height of such is murder or manslaughter. Such persons “have no everlasting life remaining in them,” John warns, and according to him this can involve just hate. [1 John 3:15] Nor does David “sit with” [Or, go in with [KJV], fellowship [PBV], consort with [RSV], associate with [HAR], fellowship with [HAR] with “lawless persons.” [Or, wicked [KJV], reprobates [AAT]] Thee are persons who are habitually sinners against humans and God.
David says, “I will wash my hands in purity.” [Or, innocency [KJV], pureness [RHM], innocence [JB].] David now begins to make some promises about his future conduct. Compare his repentant heart in Psalm 51. No matter the degree of sin, God welcomes the repentant heart that makes serious efforts to change. This attitude is encouraged by John, “Now every person with this hope purifies themselves exactly as the Son is pure.” [1 John 3:3 NCMM]
He will also remain steady in his worship at God’s “altar.” David has in mind that altar within the courtyard of the Mosaic tabernacle where sacrifices ascended to God. The Christian Church has its own “altar” around which Christians worship God. [Hebrews 13:10] And this may involve “singing loudly” in order to “retell” God’s wondrous activities. Like Paul later, David’s faith moves him to speak about the focus of his life. [2 Corinthians 4:12, 13]
David is not just a perfunctory worshipper, but he actually loves it. David is God-centered and His worship is a focus of his life. All else is secondary. He loves to worship his God and he loves to be present where such worship is taking place. As a result of this he asks God, “Do not eliminate my soul” along with sinners and men of intrigue. Others render this phrase regarding David’s soul, gather not my soul [KJV], sweep me not away [RSV], share not the fate [JB]. A text indicating soul mortality out of over 120 occurrences. Here “sinners” are poetically paralleled with the blood-guilty and persons given to “intrigue” or, mischief [KJV], evil devices [RSV], crime [DEW], stained with outrage [MOF], soiled with villainy [HAR], stained with guilt [JB]. These sinners or blood-guilty persons are further paralleled with such intrigue and bribery.
David makes a big promise regarding his future walk: “I will walk in integrity.” The Hebrew word here for “integrity” is TOM [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #8537] and suggest someone who is completely upright and totally honest, virtuous, honorable, moral, principled, and good. David feels confident that he can do this because he says, “I will take my stance on solid ground.” [Or, stands on level ground [RSV], sure ground [KNX].] David is not wobbly or unsteady, but stands on the solid ground of sure faith and deep love. He is sure-footed and not indecisive. [James 1:7, 8]
Paul writes in a similar vein: “Therefore, raise those hands that droop, and straighten out those weak knees [Isaiah 35:3]. Continue to make straight tracks with your feet [Proverbs 4:26], so that which is lame may not become disjointed, but rather that it should be healed.” [NCMM] Such sure-footedness may be found among “those at church,” as David says. That is within the congregations [KJV], assemblies [DEW], where his people gather [KNX], meetings of the people [BAS]. The Greek [LXX] is ECCLESIAIS [ecclesia]. Despite his shunning of those described above within the Ecclesia, David continues to seek out honest and true worshippers of God.
Paul gives a similar caution to Timothy:
“In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay - some for an honorable use, and some for a dishonorable use. Therefore, anyone who keeps clear of the latter will remain a vessel for an honorable use, sanctified and very useful to the Master of the house, prepared for every good work. … Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peaceful harmony with others who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart. … [The former have] an outward appearance of reverence but resisting its influence. Avoid such people!” [2 Timothy 2:20-22; 3:5 NCMM]
As we have seen from David’s psalm asking God to “test” us means to allow Him to examine us. And not just a precursory glance, but a real examination of what we are deep down inside. Will we have the courage and confidence of David to welcome God to look into our deep emotions, motivations, and inclinations? We may be moved to resist such an idea, but in the end, it is not something we can avoid.
The prophet Malachi foretold a time of such judgment and inspection of God’s own people. The prophet writes,
“‘And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to His temple, even the angel of the covenant in whom you delight. Look, he will surely arrive,’ says Yehowah of Hosts. However, who will be able to endure the day of his arrival, and who will remain standing when he appears? For he will be like a smelter’s fire and like a cleaner’s lye. And he must sit as a smelter and a purifier of silver to cleanse the sons of Levi. And he must clarify them like gold and silver. … And a log of remembrance was written in His presence for all those in fear of Yehowah and for those who thought on His Name. … So all of you will return and see the difference between the law-abiding and the lawless - between a person who serves God and one that does not serve Him.” [Malachi 3:1-3, 17, 18 NCMM]
Judging from David’s psalm several factors will be the focus of such an examination. The first is “purity.” The Nazarene taught, “Blessed the pure in heart for they will see The God.” [Matthew 5:8 NCMM] Surely such purity means that we need to be guileless and without agendas. Also, we would strive to think and act out of purity, so that our morals are upright and our dispositions clean. Paul urges such an effort:
“As a result, having these promises, beloved, we should cleanse ourselves from every fleshly and spiritual pollution, perfecting holiness in godly fear.” [2 Corinthians 7:1 NCMM]
Second is truth and honesty. Jesus taught that true worship must involve “truth” when he said:
“True Worshippers will [render] worship to the Father spiritually and in harmony with Truth, because the Father is searching for such persons to worship Him. The God [is] Pneuma, and those worshipping Him must of necessity worship spiritually and in harmony with Truth.” [John 4:23, 24 NCMM]
Not only must our worship and knowledge be based on truth, but this ought to move us to become truthful and honest in our dealings with one another. Thus, there would be no room for lying deceit in the family, work, or school. Rather, people should learn that what they see and hear is a truthful and honest person who never takes advantage of other people.
Third, God will be interested with whom we associate or fellowship. As we have seen above this even includes those at “church.” Paul cautioned: “May you not be misled -- bad associations corrupt useful habits.” [1 Corinthians 15:33 NCMM] Obviously any “church” known to be connected with murder or manslaughter ought to be avoided. Any church that officially behaves in a hypocritical manner - saying one thing and doing another - ought to be avoided. Any church whose official stand on matters of morals shows them to actually be sinners before God ought to be avoided. Of course, this is a personal matter between the worshipper and God, but it is something God will be interested in.
Finally, God will want to find a person of integrity. A word filled with many meanings, but essentially conveying the idea of a principled person who never compromises when it comes to God’s righteousness. When God looks down deep does he such a person? Paul deal with this problem of judging others in these matters, but in the process he wrote: “So, do not judge anything before the season, until the Lord arrives. He will bring to the Light the hidden things of darkness and manifest the motives of [all] hearts.” [1 Corinthians 4:5 NCMM] Or, as one version puts it, “what we really are down deep in our hearts.” [TAY]
“How can I prepare for such a divine examination?” you might ask. One way is let God’s Word do is work in our hearts and minds. Paul writes about the power of His Word when he writes to Christian Jews:
“For the Word of The God is a living [thing], energizing and sharper than a two-edged sword. [God’s Word] cuts through so deep as to separate psyche and pneuma, even joints and marrow. It is a judger of thoughts and inner heart motives. There is not a creation not exposed in His sight. Everything is naked and laid wide open to the eyes of Him with whom we have an accounting.” [Hebrews 4:12, 13 NCMM]
So we make sure that each day we look into this “mirror” to find out what kind of person we are. A good place to begin is with the teachings of the Nazarene. Just the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount can teach us so many things about ourselves. We can take those handful of words and examine them against our own heart and mind. Are we pure? Are we meek? Are we truly hungering for righteousness? Are we peaceable? These thoughts are right there in the first few verses of Matthew chapter five. We can make a study of these words and the basic attitudes they reflect. We can prayerfully meditate on each one, searching our own soul and spirit - letting the Sword of the Spirit pierce deeply - and face up to what we are deep within.
Do not become discouraged at your progress. What God wants to see is someone trying to become a better person after the image of His own Son. As long as you continue to resist sin you will never become its slave. You may never perfect every attribute and characteristic but along the way - as people see you becoming a better person - strive to obey the two essential principles that are part of God’s “commandment” - a deep conviction along with a positive love for others. [1 John 3:23] Over time - and it may take years or even decades - you will be changed ever more into the image of His Son. As Paul writes,
“And so all of us, with faces unveiled, continue to reflect like mirrors ‘the Lord’s glory’ [Isaiah 40:5] - continually transformed into that very same image - from glory unto glory - even that of our spiritual Lord.” [2 Corinthians 3:18 NCMM]
Doing this with all our hearts we will be able to stand before the ultimate and final examination on the Day of Judgment. John writes of this when he says: “Now, little children, continue to abide in (Jesus) so when the time comes for him to be made visible we all might speak openly and freely at his Arrival and not experience embarrassment while standing before him … on the Day of Judgment.” [1 John 3:28; 4:17 NCMM] May you experience no embarrassment when before the “judgment throne of Christ” because you asked God, “Test me!” [2 Corinthians 5:10]
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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