Psalm 101 (NRSV)
A Sovereign’s Pledge of Integrity and Justice
This psalm is titled A Psalm of David. Alexander Maclaren described a likely background for this psalm: “He had but recently ascended the throne. The abuses and confusions of Saul’s last troubled years had to be reformed. The new king felt that he was God’s viceroy; and here declares what he will strive to make his monarchy – a copy of God’s.”
David was anointed king three times. Samuel anointed David in his youth, really as a prophecy of his calling and destiny (1 Samuel 16:13). After Saul’s death he was anointed king over the tribe of Judah at Hebron (2 Samuel 2:4). Seven years later he was anointed king over all the tribes of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3). Before he took the throne over all Israel, he had a lot of time to think about what kind of king he should be.
“In Europe the psalm came to be known as the ‘prince’s psalm,’ owing to the concern for the proper conduct of a Christian magistrate, prince, or king.” (Willem VanGemeren)
“I was startled to find that Martin Luther had done an exposition of the psalm that ran to eighty pages. The reason, I discovered, is that he was deeply concerned about civil government and wanted to expound the psalm as a listing of qualities toward which every Christian prince or magistrate should strive.” (James Montgomery Boice)
“Eyring, in his ‘Life of Ernest the Pious’ (Duke of Saxe-Gotha), relates that he sent an unfaithful minister a copy of the 101st Psalm, and that it became a proverb in the country when an official had done anything wrong, he would certainly soon receive the prince’s Psalm to read.” (Franz Delitzsch, cited in Charles Spurgeon)
1I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing.
2I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways
To keep His statutes still!
Oh, that my God would grant me grace
To know and do His will!
3I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
This psalm is a carefully balanced psalm of decision. Carefully formed positive decisions are balanced equally with the negative decisions that enable the positive decisions to be carried out.
4Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
Order my footsteps by Thy Word
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
5One who secretly slanders a neighbor I will destroy. A haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not tolerate.
Making a choice involves two things. It is the rejecting of one thing to do another.
6I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, so that they may live with me; whoever walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.
Assist my soul, too apt to stray,
A stricter watch to keep;
And should I e’er forget Thy way,
Restore Thy wandering sheep.
7No one who practices deceit shall remain in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue in my presence.
“The psalm is doubly moving: both for the ideals it discloses and for the shadow of failure which history throws across it. Happily the last word is not with David nor with his faithful historians, but with his Son. There, there is no shadow.”
— Derek Kidner
8Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all evildoers from the city of the Lord.
Make me to walk in Thy commands,
‘Tis a delightful road;
Nor let my head, or heart, or hands,
Offend against my God.
“This Psalm can be understood on one level as King David wanting to walk in a way that is pleasing to his heavenly Father. This means obedience, when we truly love God. Working out our salvation in Yeshua (Jesus), allowing Him to change us into being that which we were created to be. At the second level it is YHWH speaking to us, showing us what is unacceptable to Him, because He is holy and how He longs for us to be in a righteous relationship with Himself. This confirms Acts 13:22 “After removing him [Saul] He raised up David to be their king. He also testified about him and said ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do My will.’ ” [TLV]. Although David fell short time after time, he always repented and sought forgiveness. This is encouraging for us for the times when we also fail the Almighty. He forgives us through His Son when we turn back to Him with a contrite heart. It encourages us to strive to live a life worthy of our Saviour, being empowered through the Holy Spirit, if we are humble and allow ourselves to be changed, becoming more beautiful as the Creator intended us to be from the beginning of time.”
HERE is Psalm 101 put to music by Jason Silver.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.