As political campaigns have come and gone throughout the years there have been many promises made and few promises kept. Some of them have been made out of good will and upright intentions while others, no doubt, have been made out of complete absurdity. For example Ferdinand Lop, who ran for the French presidency in 1938, promised he would relocate Paris to the countryside so that the people could enjoy fresher air. In 1963 Lord Sutch, running for a parliament position in the UK, promised he would put joggers to good use by forcing them to run on treadmills that would power the city.Or perhaps we remember more recent promises made like building a large wall on our southern border and getting Mexico to pay for it.
All these promises, whether noble or absurd, seem to function as little more than political props to get one elected. Because of this we look on most political promises through a lens of suspicion. In a manner of speaking it’s the reverse of our legal system, to us most politicians because of these unkept promises are guilty until proven innocent. We ought to recognize such things about our natural distrust of those in authority because of our text in view this morning. Many believe the context of Psalm 101 was near the beginning or just after the beginning of David’s rule as King. Because of this the Psalm is known as the ‘Prince’s Psalm’ or the Psalm of ‘Pious Resolutions’ as Charles Spurgeon put it.In it David states his declaration of and determination after a holy walk, a holy rule, and a holy house.David did long for holiness and labor to keep these promises. This Psalm is one of the reasons David is called a man after God’s own heart. And it’s right for Psalm 101 to be where it is, for after many Psalms of praise it is fitting to have a Psalm of practice because “we never praise the Lord better than when we do those things which are pleasing in His sight.”
Aiming at these things this morning, Psalm 101 portrays the following to us: David’s holiness in private (v1-4), David’s holiness in public (v5-8), and lastly we must look further than this Psalm itself to see David’s Failure.
Holiness in Private (v1-4)
There is much to point out in these four verses. David will speak of five things here: his mouth, his mind, his feet, his eyes and his heart.
First, his mouth.v1, “I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to You, O Lord, I will make music.” Six times in v1-4 we read the common refrain ‘I will’ and before he promises to do anything else he promises to sing. This is of worth to note. David was known as a man who could handle himself. He had killed a lion and a bear in the wilderness, He knocked down Goliath, the champion of Gath, with a just a single stone. He knew his way around the battlefield and did not shrink back from it. He was a man who had a reputation of killing tens of thousands of the Lord’s enemies. He was a man’s man, the likes of which makes Chuck Norris look like a toddler. See what this man’s man is employing all of his strength to do here? Not to fight, not to chase down enemies, no. He promises to sing to the Lord, sing of the Lord, and sing about the Lord. This not only shows us that true manliness is spiritual in nature, it shows us that everything in God, when thought about deep enough and long enough, will become in us a song. And we haven’t thought about Him or His glory deep enough until it becomes a song. David sang of God’s steadfast, devoted, covenant love as well as God’s justice and judgment because there is as much wonder and delight in God’s comforts that cheer us as His afflictions which purge us.
So, in all the holiness put forward for us to see in Psalm 101 do you see where it begins? With song! God will have all David’s praise, will He have all of yours?
Second, his mind.v2a, “I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will You come to me?” David is not content to merely sing of God, he wants to walk in a way pleasing to God such that his holy song is joined with a holy life. This word ponder indicates a desire to press into and come to understand something in order to gain wisdom. What will he ponder? What will he think over? The blameless way, the holy life. Yet again we come to the theme of mental activity and holiness. Last week we saw, in 1 Peter 1, God’s command to be sober-minded, to gird up the loins of our minds in an effort to be holy as God is holy. Here is David’s way of saying the same thing, ‘pondering the way that is blameless.’ Think Church, what subjects run through your mind day by day? It’s likely that those things you think upon most are the things you love deepest. What is that for you? God called out to His people through the Hosea in this very regard rebuking them in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.” He then pleaded with them in Hosea 6:3, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord…” But they remained unwilling to press into true knowledge so God told them in Hosea 8:12, “I have written to him the great things of My Law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” Spurgeon warned his hearers of the same things when he said, “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers…the science of Jesus Christ is the most excellent of sciences…would you know astronomy? It is here: it tells you of the Sun of Righteousness and the Star of Bethlehem. Would you know botany? It is here: it tells you of Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon. Would you know geology? It is here: it tells you of the Rock of Ages. Would you know history? It is here: it tells you of the most ancient of all the records of the human race…Wise and foolish, babes and men, gray-headed saints, youths, and maidens, I plead with you…respect your Bibles and search them out…Church, did you forget to eat any meals this past week? I doubt it. Eating is a priority for you to remain alive, is it not? Yet, how many of you forgot to eat spiritually this week? I fear that too many of us are thriving physically while deteriorating spiritually. How can you know God or know how God would have you live if you don’t ponder His ways revealed in His Word?
From pondering this blameless way David cries out to God “Oh when will You come to me?” because after pondering and learning of the high and holy calling God calls us to he is aware that he can’t do it on his own and needs God’s help to do it. May we feel so dependent as well.
Third, his feet. v2b, “I will walk with integrity within my house.” David promises to walk within his own home with integrity. Literally, he promises to walk blamelessly in his home. His holiness will, therefore, begin in private before it ever goes public. This is hard for us because today there are so many avenues to promote whatever kind of public persona we please, so much, that we often don’t give much attention to what our private life is like. And yet, a holy life begins there before anywhere else. If the walls of your home could testify about you, would they proclaim the life of a holy man or a blameless woman? Or would they call out clear contradictions? Are you patient in public and angry in private? Are you disciplined in public and unrestrained in private? Are you loving and gracious in public and rude and ill-tempered in private? Do not be deceived, what you are in private that you are. This deals not only with David at home and us at home, it also deals with David and all the company he kept or allowed in his home. So, do you do life with the Church publically while doing life with the world privately? What you do at home and who you do those things with speaks volumes about who you really are. It would be a tragedy if your private life were unsaying all that your public life boasted of. May there be a deep harmony in you, more so, may all that you are in public come from and be formed by what you are in private.
Fourth, his eyes and heart.v3-4, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” David knows the actions of the hand come from the inclinations of the heart, which come from the decisions of the mind, which come from what we see with our eyes. Remember, it was Eve who saw the fruit, counted it as a delight to her eyes as she and Adam reached for it, and ate it. We thus have a need to guard our eyes and hearts because worthless and evil things abound around us. Proverbs 4 calls the heart the wellspring of life, and in Matthew 6 Jesus calls the eyes the windows of the soul. So those who see to the eyes and heart see to the source of all that enters into man. Last year we we’re watching the movie Zootopia at home with the boys. It’s a funny movie with animals living in ordered cities and horrendously slow sloths working all the government offices. Anywho, we enjoyed the movie until the ending scene when the whole city broke out in a celebration singing Shakira’s song Try Everything. That of course was the point of the movie, that in order to find out who you are you must look inside you and try everything, even those things that are not usually welcomed in society. Holly and I picked up on some of these undertones, the boys most likely did not. But we decided to address some of the larger issues presented in it later during our family worship for the evening and we had a good discussion about how we find out who we are in Jesus and not in us. Yes, try all sorts of things, indeed! But stay away from pursuing as a goal the very things the Bible tells us will ruin our souls.
So we guard our eyes and guard our hearts because there are many things around us that aren’t good for us. Or, we cannot love and practice that which is holy if we do not hate and flee that which is sinful.Let’s ask a question. How do we define what is worthless? Rather than dying the death of a million qualifications here, I’ll just say this. Anything that leads you away from God and closer to sin is worthless. Anything that makes worldliness seem normal and holiness seem strange is worthless. Of course spiritual maturity, Christian liberty, context, and culture determine a lot of what’s in view here but these overarching principles remain fixed and firm in all times, all places, and among all peoples. More so, notice David includes worthless people here? Not only are worthless things to be far from us, worthless people are to be far from us as well. This means for the believer, our closest companions must share our deepest convictions. Why? Because the company we keep eventually determines who we are. Of course pursue the lost, take them to lunch, have their families over for dinner, and get to know them for the sake of winning them to Christ. However, are these the people you want giving you counsel in hard times in any area of life? No way. Scripture warns us of this for a reason. We will become corrupt if our closest company becomes corrupt. Are we willing to do as David says here? To set nothing evil before our eyes, to guard our hearts, and to know nothing of evil? Church, a pursuit of holy living isn’t passive. No one becomes holier by accident. “If you do not resolve to do well you will likely do ill.”This is what we’re called to.
Holiness in Public (v5-8)
We now transition in v5 from David’s longings for private holiness within his house, to his longings for public holiness within his kingdom. He has determined to lead an upright life, and now he determines to lead an upright administration. As the King David promises to punish the wicked in v5, v7, and v8 while David promises to bless the faithful in v6.
This second group of promises can be summarized in one word, David promises to be a just King.
v5-8 says, “Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes. Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the Lord.”
Here David makes it plain that as King he will wield the sword of his office strongly in two directions. On the one hand, David promises he will come down hard against those who give themselves to vices of every kind (the slanderer, the haughty, the arrogant, the deceitful, the liars, the wicked, and the evildoers). He will bring them swift justice and the punishments they rightly deserve. He will not let them get away with wicked works, and as he appoints people in every area throughout his administration he will see to it that none of the wicked will labor alongside him in positions of power over the people. For David a sinful life blocks a person from public office. Or we could say that David in v1-4 not only sets out the pattern of life he will endeavor towards, but by so doing is himself recommending the pattern of life he wishes everyone in the kingdom would live by, and those who don’t are guaranteed his Kingly wrath not his Kingly favor.
On the other hand, David promises to look in favor or look with a wholehearted trust on the faithful in the land. It is this group who live lives characterized by virtues not vices. It is this group of people who live life as he does, according to the ideals in v1-4. The language given in v6 portrays David having a searching eye seeking out all those who are faithful within the city and bringing them near him. These people are not only fit for positions beside him, they are fit to dwell with him in his house, and fit to even minister to David himself. It is these people who make up his closest companions, his inner court, his counselors, his generals, and his mighty men of renown.
Taking both his public promises toward the wicked and the faithful into account we can conclude that David, as he begins his reign deeply desires and promises to be a just and holy King.
Psalm 101 is David’s determination to live a holy life. David endeavored to live a distinct and holy life as he led God’s distinct and holy people. This Psalm has been a favorite throughout Church history. It was read at marriages as new families and households were formed in the Puritan era.It was loved and prized by Nicholas Ridley (an English Reformer) who said the Psalm carries a stern exclusiveness, a noble intolerance, not against theological errors but against the proud heart, the secret slanderer, deceitful worker, and the teller of lies. It is said he loved this Psalm so much that he would pay anyone within his own home who memorized it.This Psalm must be loved and prized by every Christian as well, because in it we find holy resolutions for both private and public life that we should be eager and willing to make ourselves. We need to be reminded of such things. That we can and ought to be aiming at pleasing God by our obedience to His commands.
But we also need to be reminded that ultimately David’s initial determination diminished into disobedience as he failed to keep these promises. 1 and 2 Samuel could be called A Tale of Two David’s because while he’s upright, virtuous, humble, obedient, brave, and bold in 1 Samuel…2 Samuel tells a different story. Sure it’s the same David but he is now comfortable being King, growing lazy in his discipline, staying at home during the time when kings go out to war, committing adultery, lies, murder, not to mention the family strife that plagues the back half of the book!
Shall we then throw out the Psalm as a phony and a fraud or view it as another list of empty political promises? Of course not. Ultimately it isn’t King David in view in Psalm 101, for as soon as he wrote this Psalm of Pious Resolutions he would have to write a Psalm of Repentance, as we would have to do as well. Ultimately it is Christ the King being described here, who alone is able to fully uphold these ideals and fit the character described here. The study notes in the ESV Study Bible are very helpful here when they say, “Christians can sing this Psalm, rejoicing that they have in Jesus the perfect embodiment of the Davidic ideal; this can lead them to reflect on what kind of people they should aim to be, with such a King over them.”So Church, with such a King over us in Christ, what kind of people ought we to be? A people who long for holiness in private and in public. How does this happen? Well it surely doesn’t happen with our effort or our work does it? We, like King David, must be aware that our sins are many. So how do we become holy? From Christ the King who has already declared us to be what He is now making us into. Let me explain. At the moment of our conversion Jesus, by His own work, declared us to be what we we’re not – righteous. This is stunningly gracious, but there is more. From that point on as He grows us in His grace He actually makes us into what He has declared us to be – righteous. So from recognizing that we can’t, recognizing that He has, and recognizing that He is now making us holy is what moves us toward a greater holiness.
So Church, leave by hearing Peter call you to this in 2 Peter 3:11-14, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
All these promises and more can be found on thoughtco.com, A Brief History of Weird Campaign Promises, accessed on 6.19.18.
Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David – Vol. 3, page 239.
Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament – Vol. 5 Psalms, page 108.
Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons in Ten Volumes – Vol. 1, page 33 and 43.
W.S. Plumer, Psalms – Geneva Series of Commentaries, page 902.
Spurgeon, Treasury of David – Vol. 3, page 239.
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, quoted in Spurgeon, Treasury of David – Vol. 3, page 243.
ESV Study Bible, introductory note on Psalm 101, page 1064.