Tag Archive: David


A Plea for Vindication

June 21, 2012

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity,

and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

(Psalm 26:1)

In Ps. 26, David emphasizes that he has always been faithful to God. It appears that this reaction comes in response to his enemies who were maligning his character. Although the exact details are not revealed, it is clear that David was greatly troubled by the insinuation that he should be numbered among those who have no regard for God’s Word. David speaks of his love for God several times and also voices his disdain for the wicked and their schemes.

Note how this Psalm begins: “Vindicate me, O LORD.” The term translated as “vindicate” means “to judge” or “to decide controversy.” David wants God to give the true and final verdict, as it were. He knows that he cannot succeed by pleading his case to his enemies. They would continue spreading lies about him. Therefore, he turns to God, the only one able to judge impartially and the only one capable of knowing the whole truth.

David doesn’t ask God to correct those who are slandering him. There was nothing he could do to change the damage done and nothing he could do to force his enemies to recant. But he wants to be assured that he has lived righteously in the eyes of the LORD. Clearly, God’s opinion mattered most to David. He is able to make this request of God without fear because he knows that he has lived in obedience to God’s law, regardless of what some men were saying.

Three points need to be emphasized. First, the slanderer is never concerned for the truth. We shouldn’t expect him to be interested in it. Slander, by definition, is a sin and is contrary to the Ninth Commandment (“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”). The man who will lie reveals his genuine goal, which is destruction.

Second, the slanderer will normally “go public” with his accusations. His aim is to destroy his victim, as noted, and that takes public condemnation. The enemies of David wanted to insulate themselves from scrutiny by disappearing into a mob. David could not possibly confront every person who heard the slander, believed it, and repeated it. Once an accusation becomes the mantra of a mob, there is little hope of genuine and thorough exoneration.

And third, there is only one appeal that makes sense and only one that will bring relief. As David illustrates, we must appeal to God because He alone knows the truth and He alone knows the hearts of the attackers. If our aim is justice, this is the only course of action.

Sometimes, as much as we would like to have our enemies forsake their attack and admit their lies, we just have to live with what has been done and entrust ourselves (our reputation and our future) to the LORD. This is not an easy thing to do because, being made in the image of God, we naturally yearn for vindication in the eyes of all who have heard the lies. God’s judgment of such circumstances, however, is often not immediate. Therefore, if we have a clear conscience before God, we have to train ourselves to be at peace before Him regardless of what others say. We must remind ourselves that declaring something does not make it true and truth is what matters in the eyes of God.

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For I was envious of the arrogant, as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

(Ps. 73:3)

I am thankful for the realistic way in which Scripture represents our struggles. It does not by-pass the agony, doubts, anger, or depression of believers. This characteristic is particularly observable in the book of Psalms. Often, David describes his personal fears and reveals the questions that arose in his heart concerning the purposes of God, especially during times when he was suffering unjustly or facing an enemy that threatened his kingdom and his life.

One of the themes on which David comments many times is the apparent prosperity of the wicked while the righteous are oppressed and ill-treated. There were times, as the context for the verse above illustrates, when David knew that he was not guilty of any great offense toward God, yet his welfare was in jeopardy. At the same time, the king observed that the wicked were enjoying security and advancement. These kinds of situations forced David to recognize his own limitations and concede that the ways of God are sometimes mysterious.

When a believer is passing through a trial, perhaps one in which he is being falsely accused of sin, and he notices that those who are truly guilty of breaking God’s commandments face no particular hardship, it can create considerable turmoil in his heart as he wonders why God is letting him suffer, but letting his guilty neighbor remain untouched. In such circumstances, the believer may have very little insight regarding God’s intentions. How, therefore, should the believer react to this kind of challenge?

There is one essential truth to keep in mind when we are enduring the kind of testing I’ve just described. We must keep our focus on what we know to be true. We know, for example, that God’s nature makes Him incapable of treating His children unjustly or in a manner designed to do them harm just for the sake of harm.

Our eyes and ears may be telling us that we have been abandoned. Our observations may lead us to conclude that God is favoring the wicked over His own child. But, as noted, God’s righteous nature and the everlasting validity of His promises make this kind of explanation absolutely invalid.

When we find ourselves in discouraging situations where our discernment is weak and the test we are facing is severe, we should turn our attention to the nature of God. By doing so, our fears will be subdued and our doubts about God’s regard for us will be vanquished. Dwelling on that which we know to be true—the holy character of God and, therefore, the holy character of His works—establishes stability in our heart. We may not know much about what God is doing at the moment, but we will know that His unchanging nature guarantees that His plan is perfect in all respects.

This is the pattern seen in the writings of David. He reveals the anxiety that has filled his mind and he confesses his doubts regarding God’s activity in his present crisis. But as these Psalms continue, David turns to the nature of God and quickly finds that place of peace and assurance as he reviews the truth of God’s holy character. David creates a proper perspective from which to analyze his trial and that results in a dramatic change in his demeanor.

Simply put, there are times in our lives when faith must overrule sight. There are circumstances in which our perception is flawed and, therefore, we need to find steady ground on which to stand as we consider our predicament. Faith, which is grounded in the trustworthiness of God’s revelation of Himself, is the element that allows us to place our burden of uncertainty before God and wait for His will to run its course.

Remember this important verse: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1, emphasis added) Your ability to perceive the intentions of God has nothing to do with the stability of your soul during a trial. Your stability, your confidence, your hope, and your expectation rest in the truth of God’s holy nature.

In the book of 2 Samuel, the story of Absalom’s rise to power is recorded. Rather than launch an attack against his father, David, Absalom exercised great patience and quietly secured a following that eventually joined him when he made his move against the king. Absalom’s tactic involved sowing seeds of discord among the king’s citizens. In 2 Sam. 15, we read some of the details: “Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, ‘From what city are you?’ And he would say, ‘Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.’ Then Absalom would say to him, ‘See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.’” (vv. 2, 3) Before the visitor had a chance to take his concerns before the king’s counselors, Absalom encouraged doubt regarding the fairness of the coming encounter. “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land,” Absalom declared, “then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.” (v. 4)

Whenever someone “sides” with us in a dispute, we automatically have a favorable opinion of them. Absalom used flattery to gain the confidence of visitors. By that I mean that he agreed with the person immediately, indicating approval of their opinions, and made himself out to be an ally. And, admit it or not, we all like to be told our perspective is right, our cause just, and our input needed. Little by little, Absalom won over a sizeable group of supporters. The Bible summarizes Absalom’s accomplishment in this manner: “Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.” (v. 6)

When the time seemed most advantageous, Absalom made final preparations for the overthrow of the throne. He sent spies throughout the kingdom with this message: “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” (v. 10) Shortly thereafter, David learned of his son’s treachery; he chose to protect the lives of all who were with him and fled Jerusalem.

This is the story of how a wicked man undermined the integrity of a leader by putting thoughts of distrust in the minds of many people. Rather than challenge Absalom’s assertions, it appears that the majority accepted as fact whatever Absalom said and promised. David was represented as untrustworthy and unconcerned about the needs of his people. Although David had served with distinction for many years, Absalom managed to destroy the king’s reputation simply by speaking to people who foolishly and selfishly believed whatever they were told. They wanted to prevail in judgment and Absalom promised that, if he were in charge, they would certainly win their case. That sounded too good to be bothered with God’s commands regarding the establishment of truth and His warnings about the foolishness of deciding on a matter before hearing all available testimony (cf. Pro. 18:13, 17)

Two elements led to Absalom’s success. The first was Absalom’s own willingness to lie and defame. Since a lawful occupation of his father’s throne was highly unlikely, Absalom resorted to deception and manipulation. And that brings us to the second element, which was a willing audience. As I already noted, those who heard Absalom speak had the option of ignoring him or at least investigating his claims against David. Most chose to accept Absalom’s word without any proof. When you combine a man like Absalom, who is willing to do such things in order to achieve his goal of power, with people who readily set aside God’s commandments for the sake of personal gain, the outcome is all but certain. David’s kingdom was taken from him without him even perceiving a threat until the very end.

It is a disturbing fact that the behavior of Absalom can be observed in the struggles of contemporary churches. One man, with the determination and patience of Absalom, can create enough doubt about a pastor’s integrity to destroy his ministry. He will need a willing audience, of course, just like Absalom, but if he has that, the outcome, as I said before, is all but certain.

Jesus once said: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” (Matt. 13:57) After nearly three decades of service as a minister, borrowing from the wisdom of the Savior, I would say: “A pastor is not without honor except in his own congregation.” David served as king for a very long time and you would assume that his faithfulness would have resulted in the people’s confidence and support. But that was not the case, as we know. Our fallen natures sometimes cause us to take secret satisfaction in the downfall of another even though he has done nothing wrong to us personally. This is a sign of our corruption as God’s creatures. We feel better about ourselves when we see another person being taken down, especially if that person occupies a position of leadership.

Although there is a great deal of blame to be placed on the shoulders of those people who hear an evil report and choose not to verify it or seek a response from the accused, such ecclesiastical coups would never take place without the mastermind—that man who desperately wants control and has convinced himself that his tactics are acceptable because of his self-determined righteous goal. For many months, even years, this man may toss out criticisms of the pastor—nothing scandalous, but assertions designed to entice willing souls and slowly alter the general perception of a congregation.

Eventually, these criticisms, distortions, and half-truths become “facts” in the minds of many. And, just like Absalom, when the time seems most advantageous and when sufficient preparation has been made, this man acts decisively by suddenly unleashing a barrage of accusations against his pastor in a short period of time. Those who have been groomed for months or years to think badly of their pastor react with unquestioning loyalty to their new leader; they even admire him for his courage. They seem blind to the fact of their own transgressions and the pastor, stunned by this development, has his ministry taken away and his reputation destroyed. In the end, evidence shows that the Absalom Initiative has been utilized perfectly.

Most of those reading this post will never be in the position of the instigator described above. But all of us, at one time or another, will be told damaging things about another. Even if what is said is mild, we have a duty at that very moment to respond Biblically. We can simply refuse to hear anything more outside the presence of the one being criticized. We can remind the one bringing the accusation of his Biblical obligation to take his opinion to the person himself, instead of speaking to others who have no business being involved. If more believers would just obey the simple commands of God, if more of us would commit ourselves to protecting the reputations of others with as much enthusiasm as we sometimes exhibit in the destruction of reputations, the Church would be a much more peaceful place and much more effective in accomplishing the mission given to us by the resurrected Savior.