Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Psalm 26:1
In My Integrity – Would you be able to make this request of the Lord? Can you honestly say you have walked with integrity and trusted God without wavering? That scares me. I know myself too well. So, how could David say such things? His life seems to have had its own share of disobedience. Is he so much different than I am?
When I read this verse in English, I stagger under the implications. How can I expect God to vindicate me? I go away discouraged and disillusioned. I’ll never make it. My sins overwhelm me. But when I read this verse in Hebrew, things change.
The Hebrew word here is tom. It’s an unusual word because it apparently comes from two distinct verbal roots. The first meaning of tom is to see something come to an end. You will find the word in Ezekiel 15:5, for example. Basically, it means to be completed or finished. It is commonly translated in Greek with teleios. That’s important because of the connection to Matthew 5:48. You’ll see why in a minute.
The second verbal root of this word describes moral uprightness or blamelessness. It’s used in the sacrificial system to describe the offering brought to the temple. Sometimes it’s applied to human beings, as in Song of Songs 5:2 where it describes the faultless beauty of the beloved. Of course, there is the very strange object called the thummin (Exodus 28:30), a word that comes from this same root.
What’s important about this word is that it is essentially ambiguous. You can only tell which meaning should be used from the context. Sometimes it’s about completion; sometimes it’s about blamelessness, and there’s no way to tell which one unless we examine the context of the passage.
David certainly uses the word in the sense of blameless. He claims that he has faithfully trusted the Lord and that his manner of life is blameless. Wait! What about Bathsheba (and a few other notable events)? David’s use of this word must mean his manner of life is in the direction of God, not that he has never fallen along the way. In other words, he has walked with integrity because he has not allowed sins to permanently derail him. He knows repentance and forgiveness, and on that basis, he claims blamelessness. David stands before the Lord a forgiven sinner, not a faultless saint.
Now let’s look at that difficult passage in Matthew 5:48. Have you ever wondered why the Greek translation of Yeshua’s reference to Leviticus is so messed up? Leviticus doesn’t say, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It says, “Be holy for I am holy.” How could the translator make such an enormous error? Why did he use teleios instead of agathos? Do you suppose he chose this Greek word because Yeshua used the Hebrew word tom in His commentary on the Leviticus passage? If He did, then the inherent ambiguity would allow the translator to choose either teleios or agathos and still be correct. Did Yeshua tell us to be fully complete or to be blameless – or maybe both at the same time? Maybe walking toward the Lord with a forgiven heart is the same as being complete. What do you think?
Topical Index: tom, blameless, complete, teleios, agathos, Psalm 26:1, Matthew 5:48
For today’s picture, click here – Antigua, Guatemala