“I Will March Around Your Altar, O Jehovah”
“I SHALL wash my hands in innocency itself, and I will march around your altar, O Jehovah.” (Psalm 26:6) With these words King David of old proclaimed his devotion to Jehovah. Why, though, would he “march around” Jehovah’s altar, and in what sense?
For David, the center of Jehovah’s worship was the tabernacle with its copper-covered altar of sacrifice, which during his reign was located at Gibeon, to the north of Jerusalem. (1 Kings 3:4) The altar was only about seven feet [2.2 m] square, much smaller than the magnificent altar that would be erected in the courtyard of Solomon’s temple.* Still, David found great delight in the tabernacle with its altar, which was the center of pure worship in Israel.—Psalm 26:8.
Burnt offerings, communion sacrifices, and guilt offerings were made on the altar, and the annual Atonement Day featured sacrifices offered in behalf of the nation. The altar and its sacrifices have meaning for Christians today. The apostle Paul explained that the altar represented God’s will, according to which He accepted an appropriate sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. Paul said: “By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.”—Hebrews 10:5-10.
When about to minister at the altar, priests customarily washed their hands in water to cleanse themselves. Appropriately then, King David washed his hands “in innocency itself” before ‘walking around the altar.’ He acted “with integrity of heart and with uprightness.” (1 Kings 9:4) If he had not washed his hands in this way, his worship—his ‘walking around the altar’—would not have been acceptable. Of course, David was not a Levite and did not have the privilege of performing priestly service at the altar. Although a king, he was not even allowed in the courtyard of the tabernacle. Still, as a faithful Israelite, he obeyed the Mosaic Law and regularly brought his offerings for presentation on the altar. He walked around the altar in the sense of centering his life on pure worship.
Can we today follow David’s example? Yes. We too can wash our hands in innocency and march around God’s altar if we exercise faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and, ‘innocent in hands and pure in heart,’ wholeheartedly serve Jehovah.—Psalm 24:4.
That altar was some 30 feet [some 9 m] square.
[Picture on page 23]
The altar pictured Jehovah’s will, by which he accepts a proper sacrifice for the redemption of mankind