PSALM 101: A Commitment to Excellence

The psalm, entitled “A psalm of David,” is really “the Davidic ideal.” It describes the right conduct and proper principles of leadership expected of the King of Israel. That the king of God’s people was expected to live, behave, and rule in a godly fashion was so important, we read this in Deuteronomy:

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18—20)

The ideal king of Israel was to consider himself as ruling in God’s stead, and as such was to do as God would do, executing the will of his God for God’s people.

The qualities of the ideal king of Israel bear an uncanny resemblance to the qualities of Jesus the Messiah, as enumerated in Isaiah 11:1—5,

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

So, right away, we see that there really are two lines of thought in this psalm. First, the immediate context concerns Israel’s earthly kings and their dedication to God. Second, this psalm looks ahead to Israel’s final king, the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, there is a third strand of thought, which I want to examine. As followers of Jesus, we are to conform to the same high standards set forth in this psalm. Barton Bouchier, author of Manna in the House and other works, calls this psalm “The Householder’s Psalm.”

Assuredly, if every master of a family would regulate his household by these rules of the conscientious Psalmist, there would be a far greater amount, not merely of domestic happiness and comfort, but of fulfillment of the serious and responsible duties which devolve on the respective members household.

In other words, in language modern people can understand, if we abide by the admonitions in this psalm, life would simply be better in every way. If modern Christians could manage to adopt the age-old truths outline in Psalm 101, their average, mundane, and mediocre lives would be literally transformed into lives of excellence.

1. Committed to God’s kingdom, verses 1—3a

This first part of this psalm concerns itself with the direction of the king’s personal life. His psalm is addressed to the Lord but it’s mostly about himself and his decision to be loyal to God. That loyalty comes from the Lord’s acts of love and justice on behalf of the psalmist. It is as though David looked around and saw how God interacted, not only with him but with the people of Israel, and out of gratitude for that, he decided to live a life of excellence.

Verse two deserves a second look because it says more than it appears to on the surface:

I will be careful to lead a blameless life.

That whole phrase indicates an intense desire to live according the traditions of wisdom; the teachings of previous godly generations. It indicates a deep-seated concern for living the kind of life that results in having studied how the godly have lived in the past and personal education on that subject. Or to put it another way, the believer who desires to live a God-pleasing life does not live in a haphazard manner. He does not go through life aimlessly, without a plan, or without direction. He does not “make things up” as he goes along. His life is carefully and purposefully based the Word of God. Jesus used a different kind of metaphor to say the same thing:

As for those who come to me and hear my words and put them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But those who hear my words and do not put them into practice are like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:47—49)

David wanted to build his house on the solid foundation of God’s Word. But David went even further than that because not only did he revere God’s Word, but he also was wise enough to see God in action all around him. Isaiah put it another way:

[God speaking] I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it. (Isaiah 41:19—20)

So, with the utmost care and diligence, having studied God’s Word and observed God’s ways, David decided it was time to make the conscious decision to live a life completely committed to “kingdom living.” In fact, not only did David make this decision for himself:

I will be careful to lead a blameless life (verse 2a)

David went even further to make this decision for his whole family:

I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. (verse 2b)

Here is the man of God, father and king, pledging to live a godly life himself and pledging that same kind of dedication on behalf of his family. You may wonder what right anybody has to make a pledge on behalf of somebody else. But consider this: what would family life look like in America if Christian fathers actually took their proper place as high-priest and head of their families and took the same care and had the same concern with and dedication to the rearing and training of their children as they have for their careers and hobbies? How can a godly father or leader hope to live up to such a pledge? The answer is found in the six-word prayer:

When will you come to me? (verse 2b)

David was no fool! He knew he needed God’s help in fulfilling his pledge. There is not one believer with the strength within himself to live a God-pleasing life all the time; he needs the help of the Holy Spirit continually.

The word “blameless” is used twice here and comes from a Hebrew word that means “without a blemish or defect.” Oddly enough, this word is used of God’s character and conduct the same number of times as of man’s. Do you know what that suggests? It suggests the very real possibility of man resembling his God! It’s possible, but it takes dedication and help from above.

2. A hatred of evil, verses 3b—5

Part of living a blameless life is adopting a hatred of evil. The true godly person makes it a practice to shun evil in all its deceptive forms. This kind of Christian learns how to have a pure mind, a pure heart, and pure associations. Look at the wording:

  • I will not look…
  • I hate…
  • I will have no part…
  • I will have nothing to do with…
  • I will put to silence…

That is not a tolerant attitude! However, when it comes to sin, Christians are not to be tolerant in any way. When it comes to sinners, Christians are not to be tolerant. That flies in the face of the current political correctness craze that has gripped the church, but it is God’s way. The Lord demanded that His people put Him before their eyes, to cling only to Him, and to know Him through knowing His Word:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 11:18—20)

When God’s Word is always in front of you, how can you tolerate sin? God’s Word is God’s presence in the life a believer; fill your life with the Word and your life will be full of God’s presence and you will have victory over sin and temptation to sin.

Verse four is really shocking in its implications, because if we take it seriously, then it calls for a drastic change in the way a lot believers think and live in relation to the world:

The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil.

It’s not that the devoted, committed Christian needs to go out of his way to avoid “the perverse of heart,” it’s that “the perverse of heart” will avoid devoted, committed Christians! It’s not that the devoted, committed Christian is a better human being that “the perverse of heart,” it’s that the devoted, committed Christian has nothing in common with “the perverse of heart.” Or at least they aren’t supposed to.

When a Christian gets serious in his walk with God; when he takes to reading and studying his Bible, his life will be changed, his way of thinking will be changed, his preferences will have changed. All of a sudden, as David wrote, this kind of Christian “will have nothing to do with what is evil.”

3. A love for God’s people, verse 6

The negative side of David’s commitment to God was his hatred of evil. The positive side was a love for God’s people.

My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; those whose walk is blameless will minister to me.

This single verse stands in stark contrast to what came before. The true believer is one who chooses whom he will associate with carefully. He wants to be around the faithful because “those whose walk is blameless will minister” to him. Is that not a purpose of the church? According to the writer of Hebrews, Christians are to gather and worship the Lord together, “to spur one another on in love and good deeds,” and “to encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24, 25)

Of course, this does not mean that devoted Christians should have nothing to do with the unsaved. For one thing it’s impossible to completely avoid them, but how can you witness and share your faith with them unless you associate with them? This was said of Jesus:

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” (Matthew 11:19)

So our Lord had no problem being around sinners, but His inner circle—His closest friends—were carefully chosen men of faith. That’s an example for all believers to follow. And there is a good reason for surrounding yourself with strong people of faith: they will minister to you! They will benefit you; they will bring you up when you are down; they will encourage you when your hope dries up. In a sense, surrounding yourself with strong believers is the most selfish thing you can do!

This psalm is one of the most determined psalms in the Bible. The phrase “I will” occurs no less than 10 times in eight verses and it shows us the importance of our wills in shaping our lives. We are able to determine how to live best based on God’s Word. We are able to set the direction our lives should take with guidance from the Holy Spirit. And what we determine to do and how we determine to live is possible with God’s enabling as long as our lives reflect the realities of God’s Word.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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