In Psalm 25, we encounter one of the continual refrains of the psalmists: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness”. However, God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is only “for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.” There is a condition here to God’s love that I do not find in the New Testament. In the Gospels, we see Jesus healing people and even forgiving people who do not ask for it (Mark 2). Even Paul says that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God (Romans 8). However, in the context of the way the psalmist thinks, it should come as no surprise that when he thinks of the conditions attached to God’s love he should say, “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” This penitent attitude is certainly better than self-righteousness, but there is also a certain fear here, fear that the psalmist might be left out in the cold, outside of God’s covenant love. We who have the blessing of the New Testament know better. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” (1 John 4:18)
In Psalm 26, we return to self-righteousness. Perhaps one thing the psalms offer us is a window into our own souls. We are often like drunks trying to drive; we swerve from one side of the road to the other, from fear of losing God’s love to self-righteous overconfidence. Regarding the self-righteousness in the Psalms, C. S. Lewis has this helpful note….
For many people it will not much mend matters if we say, as we probably can with truth, that sometimes the speaker was from the first intended to be Israel, not the individual, and even, within Israel, the faithful remnant. Yet it makes some difference; up to a certain point that remnant was holy and innocent compared with some of the surrounding Pagan cultures. It was often an “innocent sufferer” in the sense that it had not deserved what was inflicted on it, nor deserved it at the hands of those who inflicted it. But of course there was to come a Sufferer who was in fact holy and innocent. Plato’s imaginary case was to become actual. All these assertions were to become true in His mouth. And if true, it was necessary they should be made. The lesson that perfect, unretaliating, forgiving innocence can lead as the world is, not to love but to the screaming curses of the mob and to death, is essential. Our Lord therefore becomes the speaker in these passages when a Christian reads them.
To my mind, Psalm 27 poses none of the difficulties to think through that are present in Psalm 26. It is a psalm that “works” almost perfectly for the devotion of Christians today because, though David’s circumstances were different, we can still identify with the emotions expressed here. Even David’s enemies have receded somewhat into the background. He is no longer concerned with their judgment. Rather, he is concerned mainly with the Lord coming to his rescue and not casting him off. The psalm ends on a note of encouragement that we often need to hear: "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
By the way, Psalm 27:1 is the motto of The University of Oxford and can be seen, emblazoned in Latin, on the university crest. Imagine what the educational world would be like today if not only Oxford, but colleges and universities and schools around the world, took this motto sincerely as their own: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
In Psalm 28, the wicked are back at David’s heels and he is concerned for God’s judgment of them. “Repay them according to their work, and according to the evil of their deeds; repay them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.” For some reason, in this psalm, it does not occur to David what would happen if the Lord repaid him according to his work. A sense of self-righteousness, and almost entitlement, has returned. Much better is the attitude of the believer who sees himself or herself simply as “one beggar telling other beggars where to find bread”.