This morning I read Psalm 26, and the first verse stopped me in my tracks.
Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. [ESV]
Help! I can’t declare this about myself in all good conscience. I have walked at times without integrity, and my trust in the Lord is often wobbly. I’m in danger, when I read a Psalm like this, of being struck and paralysed by guilt.
But in my inability to say these words, Jesus steps in. He, who sang these songs in His time on earth and lived them perfectly, will one day return and take me to sing perfectly with Him.
I am also currently reading John’s gospel, and this has specifically helped me to walk in integrity without wavering. I have been struck by God’s bountifulness as shown to us by Christ. I’m only at Chapter 4, but have noticed afresh so many examples of our Father’s generous character.
In the prologue we’re reminded of the true light that gives light to everyone (1:9), that all who believe will receive life (1:12), that He is full of grace and truth (v.14), and that from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace (v.16). There is an astonishing plenitude that overflows from the Father, through the Son, to us.
Then we see the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (1:29) and who changes water into fantastic and abundant wine (2:9). He also drives out the sellers and money-changers in the temple (2:15). This Lamb of God, at the end of his time on Earth, will show us God’s staggering generosity as He freely offers redemption. Then He walks into the temple and sees the ungenerous sale of an inferior redemption and His anger at the grave misrepresentation of God’s generous character is aroused.
As the gospel of John continues, we also hear about the Son of Man being lifted up to offer eternal life for the whole world (3:15-16). A Father who gives the Spirit without measure (3:34) and the offer of springs of living water so we will never thirst again (4:14). The opportunity to worship not in a place, but fully, in spirit and in truth (4:24) and finally, a powerful restoration to health in the face of death (4:50).
When I forget God’s magnanimity towards me, my faith in the Lord wavers. My trust in his goodness falters when I measure his generosity in my own circumstances: for example the likelihood of my flight back to Australia being cancelled. My complaints when my city goes back into quarantine and I face another semester of online teaching. Or my anxiety when I realise my internet is too unstable to support my video feed as I teach.
Yet, looking at Jesus, my heart is realigned with His. When I doubt his goodness, I’m reminded by the apostle John of God’s true character. He doesn’t change. He cannot not be generous to me. Whatever my travel situation is, he is good to me. When I’m discouraged about online teaching, he provides enthusiastic and diligent students. Surely this can only be a work of the Spirit after a whole year online! When I am anxious about the students not being able to see me as I teach, He convicts me of my pride and self-absorption, after all it is more important for them to see Jesus than they see me on their screens.
Even in this moment of conviction, God is generous. He leads me to confess my sin, and to turn to the true light, the Lamb of God. Through Him I have received grace upon grace, streams of living water, and eternal life. My doubts about His character, my discouragement, and my anxiety are attenuated as I view them through the lens of what God has done and is doing. My wobbly trust finds its base on level ground, and through belief in Jesus, I can confidently say with the Psalmist,
But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
In the great assembly I will bless the Lord.
Psalm 26:11,12 ESV
I am indebted to Dr Iain Duguid for his teaching on seeing Jesus as the representative, supreme, and returning singer in the Psalms