How could David be blameless?

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jpfrench81

Puritan Board Sophomore
In Psalm 26:1 David says:

1 Vindicate me, LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
and have not faltered.

How could David say this? He did not lead a blameless life and surely faltered in taking the census, murdering Uriah, sleeping with Bathsheba, not dealing with his children properly, etc.

Obviously, this is inspired scripture and is not in error. The question is, what does this really mean since it doesn't seem like it can mean the obvious?
 

ChristianHedonist

Puritan Board Freshman
The Psalms often speak, in a prophetic manner, about Jesus. Also, though David himself was not blameless, he was counted as blameless and righteous by God, through faith, because of the blamelessness and righteousness of Christ.
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
ChritianHedonist's must be the real answer - but if David could perceive himself as blameless, perhaps the psalm was written earlier in his life...?
 

jason d

Puritan Board Freshman
In Psalm 26:1 David says:

1 Vindicate me, LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
and have not faltered.

How could David say this? He did not lead a blameless life and surely faltered in taking the census, murdering Uriah, sleeping with Bathsheba, not dealing with his children properly, etc.

Obviously, this is inspired scripture and is not in error. The question is, what does this really mean since it doesn't seem like it can mean the obvious?
That's a good question and something I have wondered myself because it is also mentioned here:

Job 1:1:
There was a man in the land of a Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Job 1:8:
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Job 2:3:
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”

Genesis 6:9:
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Genesis 17:1:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless
I think we think of "blameless" or "upright" as having to mean "perfectly holy" or "positionally justified & sanctified" but I think in these context "blameless" and "upright" mean something different.

Notice all the times it declares one "blameless" or "upright" it goes on further to explain (or qualify) what that means:
- "fears God"
- "turns away from evil"
- "holds fast his integrity"
- "walked with God"

I think this is consistent when we see the qualification for an elder in 1 Tim 3, "Therefore an overseer must be above reproach..."

We know that noone is sinlessly perfected and all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory so these must be talking about a life that is "above reproach". We are too walk worthy of the gospel and don't do anything to bring reproach to Christ. So I believe these cases where it says they were blameless means there lifestyle was in line with God (though they fell at times like we all do) but overall their lifestyle was not marked out by sin, but rather walking in the light (1 John 1)

At least that is how I think of this for now but I am open to criticism for my view, I've never really heard anyone address this question in much detail that was satisfying.
 
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BobVigneault

Bawberator
I think the answer is in the parallelism between the first and second part of the first: I have led a blameless life = I have trusted in the Lord.

The believer is not blameless but Christ is. We need the weekly reminder that our sins are atoned for by Christ and that the Father sees the 'robe' of the righteousness of Christ surrounding us. In Christ, by grace through faith I am blameless and have led a blameless life. There is no guilt of sin, there is no penalty for sin, there is a presence of sin but it doesn't change the finished work of the Cross.

We cannot over cultivate our identity in Christ. Justification makes us blameless and gratitude will sanctify us.
 
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Nathan Riese

Puritan Board Freshman
A Psalm of David.
1 Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity,
And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
2 Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
3 For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
4 I do not sit with deceitful men,
Nor will I go with pretenders.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers,
And I will not sit with the wicked.
6 I shall wash my hands in innocence,
And I will go about Your altar, O Lord,
7 That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving
And declare all Your wonders.
8 O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells.
9 Do not take my soul away along with sinners,
Nor my life with bmen of bloodshed,
10 In whose hands is a awicked scheme,
And whose right hand is full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I shall awalk in my integrity;
Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on a level place;
In the congregations I shall bless the Lord.

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 26:1-12.

The KJV, NKJV, and ESV agree with the NASB and they, especially the NASB, are more literal than the NIV, so the problem, I would guess, is actually in the translation.

I would also agree with Jason that there is definitely a qualifier here. The whole chapter explains how he is walking in integrity and continuously trusting in the LORD.

In the NIV, when it says "and have not faltered," it gives one the sense that David is living a perfect life without ever falling into sin. "I have led a blameless life...and have not faltered." This is not what he actually said though, so I think the NIV led to some confusion in this case (not that the other versions are perfect either). He is saying that he does not have a wavering faith, but a firm faith in the LORD.

The Hebrew word of which you question has other derivatives:
integrity (there are two derivatives for integrity)
perfect
complete
entire

Harris, R. Laird, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980.

This instance is not perfection, but integrity. It has the meaning of "perfect freedom from all sinful intent, purity of character, pureness, guilelessness...[David] does not self-righteously hold himself to be morally perfect, he appeals only to the fundamental tendency of his inmost nature, which is turned towards God and to Him only."

Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 5:222.

Hope that helps.
 

Amazing Grace

Puritan Board Junior
In Psalm 26:1 David says:

1 Vindicate me, LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
and have not faltered.

How could David say this? He did not lead a blameless life and surely faltered in taking the census, murdering Uriah, sleeping with Bathsheba, not dealing with his children properly, etc.

Obviously, this is inspired scripture and is not in error. The question is, what does this really mean since it doesn't seem like it can mean the obvious?
Perhaps there is such a thing as a 'character righteousness' in the saints. Not some sinless perfectionism according to Law, but as a whole a 'decent Jew' according to Law. A life devoted to God, repentant, faithful. This is some sort of vindication against other men, perhaps along the lines of how james uses the word justify.

And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.


There is a legal righteousness and blamelessness.

amemptos in the Greek.

Psalm 26 uses the hebrew word Tom. I honestly do not know how some translate as blameless anyway.
 

jason d

Puritan Board Freshman
Over @ the Sola Panel blog they just wrote on this very subject:


By Lionel Windsor

This is a postscript to my biblical word power series, responding to an excellent question from a bloke at my previous church:

Ecclesiastes 7:20 states that there is not a righteous man on earth. Psalm 14 states that there is no one righteous. So why does the Bible say that Noah, David and others were righteous? It seems to be a contradiction.

This is a very deep question, and a complete answer would be much too long! Nevertheless, I think that the definition of righteousness that I've provided so far in my series can go a long way to help us answer this question. We saw that:

Righteousness = being in line with a standard.

Which standard are we talking about? Well, it depends. What does it depend on? You guessed it: on the context!

Righteousness will mean different things according to the context in which it is used. Whenever you see the word ‘righteous’ in the Bible, a good first question to ask is, “Which standard is being referred to?” You should be able to get a reasonably good idea by looking at the verse itself—or at least by looking at the verses and chapters surrounding the verse. So let's look at the various uses of the word ‘righteous’ referred to in the quote above.

First, Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9). The verse itself would suggest that the standard of righteousness is whether a person ‘walks with God’. This makes even more sense when you look at the previous verses, which says that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). In Noah's day, people had turned away completely from God and were morally wicked; by contrast, Noah walked with God. He was in line with this standard, and so he (in contrast with everyone around him) can be called ‘righteous’. Note that the standard of ‘righteousness’ here is not absolute moral perfection.

Now David: there are a lot of examples here, but let's go with Psalm 7:8: “The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me” (Ps 7:8). Here, David pleas for justice against his enemies. He claims that he is righteous—that is, he is in line with some moral standards that are particularly important for the king (see Ps 7:4 and Deut 17:14-20). Therefore, he deserves to be rescued. In contrast, his enemies deserve judgment, because they are wicked (Ps 7:9). David isn't claiming that he is absolutely morally perfect, just that he is (at this point) generally in line with these moral standards.

By contrast, Ecclesiastes 7:20 says: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins”. This verse is talking about a much bigger and tougher standard: the standard of absolute moral perfection—sinlessness. The claim is that there is nobody who meets this particular standard (a claim that's backed up by other parts of the Bible, e.g. 1 Kings 8:46, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13). There is nobody who is righteous according to the standard of absolute moral perfection.

Psalm 14 is a little bit more complicated. It's complicated because it doesn't quite say that nobody at all is righteous (actually Psalm 14:5 presumes that there are some righteous people around!). The standard of righteousness in Psalm 14 is about acknowledging and following God. Psalm 14 seems to be saying that nobody in the nations around Israel is righteous according to this standard, but that there are some ‘righteous’ in Israel who will be rescued because they acknowledge God, follow God, and trust in God's salvation.

Nevertheless, in Romans 3:10-18, Paul uses bits of Psalm 14 alongside a whole bunch of other Old Testament quotes as part of his overall proof that there is nobody at all who is righteous (including those within Israel after the exile, see Isaiah 59:1-16)! That's because the standard of righteousness Paul is speaking about at this point in Romans is actually the big, most important standard of all: the standard used in God's final judgment, where every act and thought will be judged by the holy and perfect God of all (Rom 2:1-16). We're talking here about ultimate forensic righteousness. According to that standard, nobody (Jew or Gentile) is righteous in themselves. Psalm 14 by itself doesn't prove this point, but according to Paul, when you see Psalm 14 as part of the Bible's overall story, the picture adds up that there is no-one who conforms to the ultimate standard. Nobody on earth is righteous. In fact, even in Israel, no-one is righteous. No-one at all is righteous.

And that's why, in the final and ultimate sense, you and I (and Noah and Abraham and David) need Jesus, the only truly righteous man according to God's ultimate standards, who provides justification through atonement and whose righteousness is imputed to us.

I hope that goes some way towards answering this huge question!
 

Michael Doyle

Puritan Board Junior
Davids upright walk and blameless way come from, as has been attested to here, an alien righteousness.
David had faith in the Messiah to come and God counted it to him as righteousness. This is the crux of all Old Testament saints and for that matter all saints, only those in the new covenant witnessed the death burial and resurrection of the lamb of God. David believed covenantaly in the promises of God. You will crush his head and he will bruise your heel. (Genesis 3:15) He trusted in the Abrahamic covenant that Yahweh will redeem the children of Abraham. He attested to God`s deliverance out of Egypt and Yahweh`s condescension on Sinai in creating a royal priesthood and holy nation. He trusted in the kingly promises of Samuel 7

All in all, David was witness to Yahweh`s covenant to humanity in that He promised to be our God and we will be His people.
 

carlgobelman

Puritan Board Freshman
In Psalm 26:1 David says:

1 Vindicate me, LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
and have not faltered.

How could David say this? He did not lead a blameless life and surely faltered in taking the census, murdering Uriah, sleeping with Bathsheba, not dealing with his children properly, etc.

Obviously, this is inspired scripture and is not in error. The question is, what does this really mean since it doesn't seem like it can mean the obvious?
How is anyone blameless? It's only by the blood of Christ, right?

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. (Colossians 1:21-22)
David seems to be basing his "blamelessness" on his trust in the LORD. That's the pattern in all of Scripture.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
As I taught through the first 15 chapters of Proverbs in the last 8 months or so, I repeatedly pressed this point (as many others):

**The righteous (or blameless) man is the forgiven man.**

Men like David knew this.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
Davids upright walk and blameless way come from, as has been attested to here, an alien righteousness.
David had faith in the Messiah to come and God counted it to him as righteousness. This is the crux of all Old Testament saints and for that matter all saints, only those in the new covenant witnessed the death burial and resurrection of the lamb of God. David believed covenantaly in the promises of God. You will crush his head and he will bruise your heel. (Genesis 3:15) He trusted in the Abrahamic covenant that Yahweh will redeem the children of Abraham. He attested to God`s deliverance out of Egypt and Yahweh`s condescension on Sinai in creating a royal priesthood and holy nation. He trusted in the kingly promises of Samuel 7

All in all, David was witness to Yahweh`s covenant to humanity in that He promised to be our God and we will be His people.
I believe this sums it up.
 
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