How to do Right When You’ve Been Done Wrong (Psalm 26)

In the movie “The Interpreter” Sylvia Broom (played by Nicole Kidman) is an interpreter working for the United Nations. She overhears a plot to assassinate the president of an African nation. Coincidentally, she was born there. And the president was responsible for the deaths of her parents when she was an adolescent. When the Secret Service question Sylvia about what she has overheard, they doubt her story and suspect that she is actually the one who is plotting the death of the president. In one particular scene, the Secret Service agent is questioning Sylvia:

“How do you feel about Zuwanie? Never mind ’I don’t care for him.’” “I feel disappointed,” replies Sylvia. “That’s a lover’s word,” Keller responds. “What about rage? Of all the people that I have looked into since this thing started, the one with the darkest Zuwanie history is you. It was his land mines that killed…” “Shhh,” says Sylvia, as she places her fingers over his lips. “We don’t name the dead. Everybody who loses somebody wants revenge on someone. On God if they can’t find anyone else. But in Africa, in Mantobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the drowning-man trial. There’s an all-night party beside the river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat, he’s taken out in the water, and he’s dropped. He’s bound so that he cannot swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown, or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they’ll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn’t always just, that very act can take away their sorrow. Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.”

How do you respond when others do you wrong? Remember the last time you felt wronged? Unfairly criticised? Wrongly accused? The subject of gossip or slander?  How did you feel? How did you react? Did you regret it? Did it give you peace of mind? Or compound the grief with guilt?

Just after Christmas a Christian leader wrote to Bishop Christopher about me, accusing me of various things and calling on the Bishop to censure me. That’s fine. I welcome constructive criticism. But the individual went one stage further. He wrote to each of our staff personally highlighting his concerns. Then a week later, a colleague of his wrote to all the staff once more with even more serious complaints calling on Bishop Christopher to sack me. Thankfully, Bishop Christopher did the opposite. He defended me for which I am grateful. If you want to see how I responded, check out my blog.

In Psalm 26, David’s pen pricks our conscience like a needle. His words touch a sensitive nerve. They expose our conditioned reflex when wronged – to retaliate. Common sense whispers: Defend yourself. The media shouts: “Don’t get mad, get even!” Like a rattlesnake, coiled within us, our carnal nature lies ready to strike. Retaliation it seems remains one of our favourite sports. But, as we shall learn in this Psalm, there’s a supernatural alternative to our natural reaction. Please turn with me to Psalm 26. David begins with an emotional plea,

“Vindicate me, LORD, for I have led a blameless life. I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.” (Psalm 26:1)

David has suffered some undeserved wrong and it has been painful to endure. But he has refused to retaliate.  Read the verse again slowly.

“Vindicate me, LORD, for I have led a blameless life. I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.” (Psalm 26:1)

The word translated “falter” means to slip or slide or totter. How could David say so confidently “I have not faltered”? What kept him upright? What enabled him to do right when he had been done wrong? We can draw out seven reasons from this Psalm. Seven simple steps that will ensure we too can do right when you’ve been done wrong.

1. Talk to God About it

“Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;” (Psalm 26:2)

David asks the Lord to prove his inner motivation in three ways:

1.1 Test me
The word in Hebrew means to smelt, refine and test gold and precious metals in order to remove the dross and impurities.

1.2 Try me
The word describes an intensive and rigorous examination so that the real condition of the heart might be exposed

1.3 Examine me
The word means to scrutinize carefully and in detail.

Do you get the first principle? When you are wronged, talk to God about it. Ask him specifically to examine your life, your motives and character. Ask him to undertake an intensive, in-depth investigation of the condition of your heart. Ask him to refine you, melt you, mould you and remove any dross and impurity that this mistreatment has brought to the surface. Use any wrong done to you as an invitation to be transparent before the Lord. Let it be a learning experience, an opportunity for growth and maturity. This is how the Apostle James understood this first principle:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

When you are wronged, talk to God about it.

2. Remember God’s Loving Faithfulness

“for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” (Psalm 26:3)

When David was wronged he didn’t focus on the wrong but focussed his eyes on God’s loving faithfulness. What happens when we forget God’s love or fail to reply on his faithfulness? We feel alone and insecure and we get depressed and defensive. But when you are confident that someone really loves you, when you know deep down inside that you are loved, they energise you, you draw strength from them.

They motivate you to keep going when others treat you badly. Jesus once said,

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

When you are wronged, first, talk to God about it. Second, remember God’s loving faithfulness.

3. Refuse to Listen to Ungodly Advice

“I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites. I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.” (Psalm 26:4-5)

Why did David say this? Because he knew the kind of advice these people would give. “Why put up with all this. Get your own back”. When we are wronged, we are going to be influenced by people around us. They will instinctively give us advice based on their own values and experience. That is why it is so important whom we spend time with, whom we hang out with. They will influence us especially when we’re vulnerable and hurting.
So, when you are wronged, talk to God about it, remember God’s loving faithfulness, and refuse to listen to ungodly advice.

4. Keep Your Hands Clean and Your Heart Thankful

“I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, LORD, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 26:6-7)

David is referring to the Temple and the purification a priest underwent before approaching the altar (Exodus 30:17-21). When wronged, David stayed near his Lord, making sure his sins were confessed, his heart attitude pure. David actually gave thanks for being mistreated. Why? Because it brought him closer and more reliant on God. This is precisely what Jesus promised:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).

A good example of this principle occurred when the Apostles were thrown into prison for proclaiming Jesus in Acts 5. After being humiliated, beaten up and condemned by the religious leaders, they did what?

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:41-42)

Praise and thanksgiving is usually the first thing to go out the window when you get hit by unfair criticism, undeserved criticism or ungodly behaviour. When it happens, and it will, sooner or later, remember Psalm 26. Talk to God about it. Remember God’s loving faithfulness. Refuse to listen to ungodly advice. Keep your hands clean and your heart thankful.

5. Delight in Praise and Worship

“LORD, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8)

For David, the Temple was where he could meet with God. We know from Jesus that we can worship God anywhere: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). However, the Lord inhabits the praises of his people and there is no better place to draw strength in the face of adversity than among God’s people gathered together on a Sunday. When wronged, David looked up to heaven in praise and in worship among God’s people. Likewise, Hebrews says

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

How do we do right when we’ve been done wrong? Talk to God about it. Remember God’s loving faithfulness. Refuse to listen to ungodly advice. Keep your hands clean and your heart thankful. Delight in praise and worship.

6. Maintain Your Integrity

“Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with those who are bloodthirsty, in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes.” (Psalm 26:9-10)

Although revenge may taste sweet initially it leaves an after taste that is bitter and soon turns sour. Retaliation merely incites further retaliation and in the downward spiral, we lose our integrity. Last week someone commented that another Christian and I had been going at each other in the press.

I pointed out that this was not true. I had not mentioned the individual once in public, nor criticised them directly or indirectly. David disassociated himself from behaviour that might question or threaten his integrity. Lose your integrity and you lose everything. This is how we do right when we’ve been done wrong: Talk to God about it. Remember God’s loving faithfulness. Refuse to listen to ungodly advice. Keep your hands clean and your heart thankful. Delight in praise and worship. Maintain your integrity. Finally,

7. Ask God to Deliver You

“I lead a blameless life; deliver me and be merciful to me. (Psalm 26:11-12)

The word “deliver me” means to redeem, to ransom. It describes  someone who is in a life threatening situation, someone who is helpless and needs rescue. David knows he is in need of rescue. He knows that only God can deliver him from evil.

We’ve looked at seven steps that help us do right when we’ve been done wrong:

1.  Talk to God about it.

2.  Remember God’s loving faithfulness.

3.  Refuse to listen to ungodly advice.

4.  Keep your hands clean and your heart thankful.

5.  Delight in praise and worship.

6.  Maintain your integrity.

7.  Ask God to deliver you.

And the result? Take these simple steps and we will have the assurance found in verse 12:

“My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the LORD.” (Psalm 26:12)

“My feet stand on level ground” David says confidently. Level ground. The word can mean “smooth” or “straight” It also conveys the idea of a place with a commanding view, with clear vision. Do you get the picture in David’s summary? He is pleased to wait quietly on the Lord for vindication. He can see things objectively. He can see things from God’s perspective. He can therefore be an inspiration to others in the congregation. He can do right even when being done wrong.

And the point is – these seven steps are here for you and me too. When we patiently wait for the Lord’s deliverance, can stay calm and wise in the midst of mistreatment. We can count on him to be gracious and to vindicate us at the right time. And all the while we can have the assurance of standing on level ground, of seeing things clearly from his perspective. So,

1.  Talk to God about it.

2.  Remember God’s loving faithfulness.

3.  Refuse to listen to ungodly advice.

4.  Keep your hands clean and your heart thankful.

5.  Delight in praise and worship.

6.  Maintain your integrity.

7.  Ask God to deliver you.

“For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God… if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:19-21)

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen.

May God bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen.

May God bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. Amen.

May God bless you with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

And the blessing of God, who creates, redeems and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more. Amen.

With thanks to Chuck Swindoll and his book Living Beyond the Daily Grind for inspiration and content for this sermon.