Psalm 101 - An Upright Administration
“Annually, the president of the United States brings his State of the Union address before a joint session of the Congress. Here the nation’s leader outlines his domestic policies for the coming legislative year. At the same time, he also raises foreign policy issues and gives his vision for the future of America. Similarly, in this psalm, we have a State of the Union address by the king (David). His concern, however, is not with domestic policy or foreign relations” (Mastering the Old Testament, Psalms 73-150, Donald Williams, p. 220). David’s concern in this psalm is with his own integrity and the integrity of his administration. He knew very well that God’s blessings upon Israel were dependent upon her moral obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1,15). In fact, this was true of any nation (Jeremiah 18; Psalm 9:17 “The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God”; Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people”).
The Vow to Obey: 101:1
“I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to Thee, O Lord, I will sing praises”
Observe the combination of love and justice. “Besides, we need both if we are to manage other people well, whether in government, business, the church, the home, or whatever. Mercy and justice operate as checks on one another. Justice checks love that might otherwise be wrongly indulgent and therefore harmful. Love checks judgment that might otherwise be unduly harsh and therefore also harmful. David wanted his rule to be marked by both of these. Hence, they are the theme of the song” (Psalms 42-106, James Montgomery Boice, p. 819). In addition, lovingkindness or steadfast love connected the people to God; they were to be loyal to Him and faithful to the covenant. Justice would apply to their relations to one another. If these two qualities are present, then other blessings will have room to flourish. Kidner notes, “It would be, perhaps, illuminating to consider how this verse would be currently rewritten by various politicians” ((Psalms 73-150 p. 358). Also note that David loves lovingkindness and justice because both of these qualities have their source and standard in God.
Personal Integrity: 101:2
“I will give heed to the blameless way. When wilt Thou come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart”
The words blameless and integrity have the idea of “wholeness”, that is, something which no corruption or compromise is allowed to eat into. The statement “when wilt Thou come to me” indicates that the godly walk is often a “prolonged and lonely struggle, and of a faith which is ardently personal” (Kidner p. 358). “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart”: Accountability must begin at home. David’s empire will not survive unless he is first godly while around those closest to him. Sadly, David’s reign will unravel when he forsakes this principle (2 Samuel 11ff). Living the Christian life is only meaningful if my family sees it! “What strikes me as significant about David’s description of blameless moral conduct at this point is how he assumes its existence naturally, apart from any puzzle as to what leading a blameless life is. This is entirely different from how people approach ethics in our relativistic times. There is none of that moral escapism with David. There is no excusing himself for not knowing what the right way is. He did not always walk in that right way, but if he did not, he acknowledged that it was he who had deviated, not that the standards were unclear” (Boice p. 820).
The War Against Evil: 101:3-5
Now we come to the things that David was determined to repudiate, here are his personal standards which are based on God’s justice and mercy.
“I will set no worthless thing before my eyes”:
David does not hesitate to call evil what it is - it is “worthless”. It is a complete waste of one’s talents, time, mind, affections, life and eternity. There is absolutely nothing redeeming or beneficial about sin.
“I hate the work of those who fall away. It shall not fasten its grip on me”:
David makes no excuses for apostates, and he is determined to resist the pull of their bad influence. Being an apostate is the complete opposite of the steadfast love mentioned in 101:1. “Those who abandon the Law abandon him” (Williams p. 223).The work, attitudes and “accomplishments” of apostates will not “cling” to David. He refuses to follow them, envy them, dabble in their attitudes, or defend them.
“A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil”:
David knows that fellowship tends to take care of itself. If he remains pure and refuses to compromise then men with twisted minds, who hate the plain truth and the straight path, will not be able to stand David’s company. When David says that he willknow no evil, he isn’t talking about being naïve. David is fully aware of the evil that people commit; rather he is saying that he refuses to participate in experiment with evil.
“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy”:
Here David speaks of the people that he will reject as either being his friends or members of his administration. He will reject men that jockey for position and who smear the reputations of their rivals. In addition, he has no use for the arrogant as well (101:5). David cannot stand people who think that the world revolves around them and who think that they can handle everything and are entirely self-sufficient, having no need for others or God in their lives. David understood that “standing for right” means nothing if one compromises and turns a blind eye to the actions of evil men. This is one reason why church discipline is so essential (Matthew 18:15-17). It demonstrates to the world that we are actually serious about doing the right thing and battling evil. Therefore, David will do his utmost to drive from positions of power in his administration the perverse, slanderers, the power-hungry, and the arrogant.
Honoring the Faithful: 101:6
“My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me”
Loving mercy and justice includes loving people who share the same outlook. The intensity that David has against the wicked is only matched by an equal intense affection for the righteous. Apathy will destroy us at both ends; one cannot be zealous for God without equally being disgusted with evil. “David will be built up in his obedience as he surrounds himself with those of like character. David staffs his court with those who embrace his lifestyle. We are not only known by the company we keep; we are kept by that same company” (Williams p. 224). “Sometimes, when people are in positions of power or responsibility, they turn to those who can ‘get the job done’ and do not ask questions about how they do it. It is worldly wisdom to say, ‘No one can rule effectively who cannot close his eyes and ears to some of the things that are going on around him’” (Boice p. 822). In like manner, sometimes we hear the complaint that someone is “too good” to be a ruler, or he would never make it because his standards are too high, yet morally upright leaders is the very thing needed in this world.
Keeping a Clean House: 101:7
“He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me”
David will not put up with evil in his administration—no matter how “effective” or “talented” such a person might be. True leaders not only need the courage to stand by the faithful, but to equally fire the unfaithful.
Remaining Diligent: 101:8
“Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land”.
Here is the picture of David dispensing justice on a daily basis. He will be no dilatory judge, whose citizens are frustrated that they cannot get a fair hearing or that nothing is being done about crime or injustice in the land.
“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” (Kidner p. 359). David started out well, with the right intentions and the right standard. He would fail, not because the standard was unrealistic or unworkable, but because he purposefully violated it. Among men even the best administrations often find themselves tending towards corruption in their later years, yet with Christ, there is no corruption, nor compromise. What David says in this Psalm will be practiced in heaven, for no one unclean will be allowed to enter there (Revelation 21:27).