The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 101

Psa 101:1


SETTING: If it were not for one very unusual phrase, the obvious time of composition of this psalm would be when David first came to the throne. That phrase is: "When will you come to me?" This is surely to be linked with 2Sa 6:9,11: the outcome of the Uzzah disaster (Psa 30n). Carried away by success, David -- even when bringing the Ark to Zion -- had not really made his God the center of all his plans. Now, after three months (during which David himself had suffered), a fresh start is made. This psalm now expresses the resolve that in everything the reign of David, who has newly come to Zion and to leadership of all twelve tribes of Israel, is to be the rule of God. Although David failed to fully implement the high resolution of this psalm (what man short of Christ would not have failed in some degree?), he still recognized the validity of such ideals. It was his recognition of, and striving after, such ideals -- not his perfect attainment of them -- that made him a man after God's own heart (1Sa 13:14; Act 13:22). Late in his life, David passed along similar advice to his son and heir Solomon: see 1Ch 28:9. Note correspondence between these words and Psa 101 -- which doubtless formed part of David's legacy to Solomon. Would God that the son had truly heeded his father! But, alas, the last words of the father's warning stand still as a memorial to the failed promise of Solomon's life: "If you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever."

"Justice" in the stroke upon Uzzah and the punishment of himself. "Love" in his own recovery and in God's forgiveness, shown in the acceptance of his sacrifices. So David sang of both these divine virtues as he danced before the Lord with all his might (2Sa 6:14).

I WILL SING OF YOUR LOVE AND JUSTICE: "There is a subject for song even in the judgments of God towards us. For, first, the trial is not so heavy as it might have been; next, the trouble is not so severe as we deserved to have borne; and our affliction is not so crushing as the burden which others have to carry. Faith sees that in her worst sorrow there is nothing penal; there is not a drop of God's wrath in it; it is all sent in love. Faith discerns love gleaming like a jewel on the breast of an angry God. Faith says of her grief, 'This is a badge of honour, for the child must feel the rod'; and then she sings of the sweet result of her sorrows, because they work her spiritual good. Nay, more, says Faith, 'These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.' [2Co 4:17,18] So Faith rides forth on the black horse, conquering and to conquer, trampling down carnal reason and fleshly sense, and chanting notes of victory amid the thickest of the fray" (CHS).

Psa 101:2

I WILL BE CAREFUL TO LEAD A BLAMELESS LIFE: Confession that, in his first attempt at bringing the Ark to Zion, he had not so acted. And at the second and successful venture his godly behavior was judged by his empty-headed wife Michal to be that of a shameless reveler (2Sa 6:16,20). But this was vehemently denied by David (v 21) -- he had in fact behaved himself perfectly in serving his God joyously and without heed to the pointless dignity of Gentile kings.

WHEN WILL YOU COME TO ME?: Explained by Exo 20:24, with a special ref to acceptable sacrifice: "Thou... shalt sacrifice... thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen... in all places where I record my name... [and then] I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee." And David did insure that God would "come" unto him, by taking care, on this auspicious occasion of the processional of the Ark, to offer oxen and fatlings (2Sa 6:13,17).

I WILL BE CAREFUL TO LEAD A BLAMELESS LIFE: It was in his house where the first test of his new resolve came, with the haughty challenge of Michal, the pampered daughter of Saul (2Sa 6:16,20-23); and this he came through with flying colors. But it was not to be so in later days. True godliness must begin at home, and it was here where -- despite the best of intentions -- David was later to fail dismally. Bathsheba, Uriah, Absalom... such names impart a keen dramatic irony to these words of early promise.

BLAMELESS: Heb "tam", or "upright" -- used three times in this psalm (v 2 twice, and v 6) -- is a favorite word of David (Psa 15:2; 18:23,25; 37:37). Cp also God's words to Abraham in Gen 17:1: "I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be perfect."

Psa 101:3

Vv 3-5: (NT) All during his ministry, Jesus scrupulously avoided any and all alliances and entanglements and accommodations with the men of power, for whom duty to God took a backseat to political intrigue. In his messages to the seven churches, he likewise expressed a hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6) -- another batch of pseudo-religious political schemers. And when he reigns as King, how very pronounced this will be in his judgment!

I HAVE SET BEFORE MY EYES NO VILE THING: "Thing of Belial": mg -- or "wicked person": RV mg. The sw (Belial) occurs in Psa 18:4; 41:8; Deu 15:9. So is this a ref to a worthless political schemer -- like Joab or Ahithophel or Absalom?

THE DEEDS OF FAITHLESS MEN I HATE: This translation is guesswork. Nobody really knows the meaning of this obscure Heb word; other guesses are: "those who fall away" (RSV), "disloyalty" (NEB).

Psa 101:4

See Psa 18:25,26.

I WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EVIL: That is, 'I will shake it off like a poisonous serpent.'

Psa 101:5

Vv 5-7: Cp Psa 24:4, a psalm which belongs to the same occasion; also, note the similarities in Psa 15. The kind of individual that Saul had ill-advisedly had at his side.

Psa 101:6

MY EYES WILL BE ON THE FAITHFUL IN THE LAND: Men like Nathan, Obed-edom the Gittite, and Heman the Ezrahite, in ct to the wicked of the land (v 8). Yet David never completely ridded himself of Joab, and he perhaps tolerated men like Shimei and Ahithophel long past the point when they should have been dismissed.

HE WHOSE WALK IS BLAMELESS WILL MINISTER TO ME: This word "serve" means: 'serve as priest'. The incident that led to the stroke upon Uzzah was evidently the culmination of other unworthy service by the priesthood. Did Abiathar begin to demonstrate a lack of dependability at this time? It was about now that Zadok became co-High Priest(1Ch 15:11,12), eventually to take over full office (2Sa 15:24,25; 1Ki 2:26,35).

(NT) Here is the King making his choice of those in whose fellowship and service he will rejoice during the age to come.

Psa 101:7

NO ONE WHO PRACTICES DECEIT WILL DWELL IN MY HOUSE: After the use of "priestly" language, one would expect here: "Thy house". But at the time the psalm was written, even the Tabernacle had not been fully re-inaugurated.

(NT) Judas Iscariot, who because of the deceitful work he had to do, left early from the house of the Last Supper (Joh 13:25-30).

NO ONE WHO SPEAKS FALSELY WILL STAND IN MY PRESENCE: That is, he shall not stand as a courtier in the royal presence.

Psa 101:8

EVERY MORNING: Manna given (Exo 16:21). Fire on the altar (Lev 6:12). Incense offered (Exo 30:7). Praise offered (1Ch 23:30). Service offered (1Ch 9:27). Sacrifice presented (2Ch 2:4; 13:11). God visits (Job 7:18). God is their arm (Isa 33:2). His compassions new (Lam 3:23). The Philistines present themselves (1Sa 17:16). God silences the wicked (here). Judgment (Zep 3:5). Administer justice (Jer 21:12).

EVERY MORNING: Lit, "morning by morning". The phrase suggests painstaking and continuing attention to judgment and rulership (cp Exo 18:13-26; Jer 21:12). It was by similar arduous and patient (though far less worthy!) effort, morning by morning, that Absalom sought to steal away the hearts of the men of Israel from David while he was laid up with a serious illness (2Sa 15:1-6).

I WILL CUT OFF EVERY EVILDOER FROM THE CITY OF THE LORD: Psa 46:4; 48:1,8; Isa 1:26. Now that the Ark has come to Zion, David refuses to call it the city of David, as he had done shortly before (2Sa 5:9). How effectively this psalm begins and ends with the name of Yahweh! It is precisely because Jerusalem is the city of Jehovah that all evildoers should be cut off from it!

(NT) See Mat 25:31,41. All peoples are exhorted to enter through the gates of Zion into the courts of the Lord (Psa 100:4), but they are not to forget that there are, ultimately, exalted standards for admittance. In the judgment day, many will seek to enter only to be turned aside (Mat 7:21-23; 25:11,12), for there may not enter into the city of the Lord "any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but [only] they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev 21:27).

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