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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Psalms 101

 

 

Verses 1-8

EXPOSITION

Tins psalm describes the rightful conduct and proper principles of action of an Israelite king. It is regarded by some as a portrait of an ideal ruler, dramatically put into his mouth; by others, as an actual address to God by a real ruler, making profession of his intentions, and asking God to aid him (Psalms 101:2). The "title" of the psalm, both in the Hebrew and the Septuagint, which ascribes it to David, favours the latter view. Ewald and De Wette, who maintain the Davidical authorship, note the simplicity, depth, and concentration of the thought as wholly worthy of the reputed writer.

Metrically, the psalm divides itself into two stanzas, each of four verses. In the first stanza (Psalms 101:1-4) the writer declares the principles on which he intends to act in his private life. In the second (Psalms 101:5-8) he enunciates those by which he means to be guided in his government of the people.

Psalms 101:1

I will sing of mercy and judgment. The writer does not mean that he is about, in this present psalm, to sing of God's mercy and justice, but that he will make it one of the rules of his life to do so. Unto thee, O Lord, will I sing; or, "will I make melody" (Cheyne, Kay).

Psalms 101:2

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way (comp. Psalms 18:22; Isaiah 26:7). The psalmist aspires after "perfectness." Then feeling his inability to walk in the perfect way by his own strength, he cries to God for aid—O when wilt thou come unto me? "Unless," i.e; "thou come unto me, I cannot keep one of these resolutions. O Lord, come quickly." I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. It is not only the "way," or conduct, that requires to be "perfect," but the "heart" also, or the motives from which the conduct springs.

Psalms 101:3

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes; or, no base thing (Revised Version); "no villainous thing" (Cheyne, Kay); comp. Deuteronomy 15:9. I will set before me nothing of this kind, "as an object either of imitation or of attainment." I hate the work of them that turn aside; literally, the doing of acts that swerve; i.e. "that depart from the right way." It shall not cleave to me. If such a thing "seized on him unawares, he would shake it off as a thing accursed" (Kay); comp. Deuteronomy 13:17.

Psalms 101:4

A froward heart shall depart from me; i.e. I will put away from me all perversity of heart; I will root it out and rid myself of it. I will not know a wicked person. This is a possible meaning, but it is better to translate, with our Revisers, "I will know no evil thing." The "principles of private conduct" may be summed up under the four heads of

Psalms 101:5

Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I out off. (On the heinousness of slander, see Psalms 15:3; Psalms 31:13; Psalms 50:20, etc.) It is probably not meant that the slanderer will be put to death, but only that he will be banished, at any rate from the court, and, so far as possible, put down. Him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. "Lofty looks" and a "proud heart" are again conjoined in Proverbs 21:4, Solomon showing that he paid attention to his father's lessons. David himself disclaims both in Psalms 131:1.

Psalms 101:6

Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land; i.e. "my favour shall be shown to them; I will give them help and encouragement." That they may dwell with me; i.e. "frequent my court," either as officials or as simple courtiers. He that walketh in a perfect way (see the comment on Psalms 101:2). He shall serve me; i.e. "shall be promoted to office under my government."

Psalms 101:7

He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house. It is the duty of a king to see, not only that his own ways are blameless, but that his entire household is well ordered, and consists of righteous persons (comp. Job 1:5). "Deceit" here means "wickedness" generally. He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight; literally, shall not be established; i.e. shall not keep his position in my court, but be banished from it. "Lying" is one of the sins which the psalmists denounce most frequently (see Psalms 31:18; Psalms 40:4; Psalms 52:3; Psalms 58:3; Psalms 59:12; Psalms 62:4; Psalms 63:11; Psalms 119:163, etc.).

Psalms 101:8

I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; literally, each morn will I root out all the wicked of the land; i.e. "day after day I will make it my endeavour, not only to keep my palace free from evil doers, but to cleanse the whole land of them." David is determined to exercise that just severity which is a part of the duty of kings (Romans 13:4), and not to be that curse to a country—a weak and over-indulgent ruler (see Calvin, ad loc.). That I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord. So long as there were "wicked doers" in the land, they would be sure to flock to Jerusalem, since the capital always attracts the criminal classes. David is especially anxious that Jerusalem, which he has made "the city of the Lord" (2 Samuel 6:12-19), shall be kept free from the pollutions of evil doers, but, to effect this object, he must purge the whole land. The spirit breathed is that of Psalms 15:1-5.

HOMILETICS

Psalms 101:1-8

Four features of true piety.

The psalmist has before him the fashioning of his future life; he records his purpose of heart as he cherishes it before God. Applying his words, not to his own royal estate with its peculiar obligations, but to the ordinary conditions of human life, we have four features of all genuine piety.

I. A FULL, INTELLIGENT GRATITUDE. "I will sing of mercy and of judgment [righteousness]" (Psalms 101:1). We are to cultivate and express ("I will sing") thankfulness for all that God does for us—for his mercy and for his judgment.

1. Forevery kind of mercy; for all forms of kindness and benefaction—creation, preservation, provision; for forgiveness and reception into his kingdom; for long continued patience with us through the years of an immature and imperfect Christian life; lop the promised inheritance he offers us, which is immeasurably beyond our desert.

2. For all his ways of righteousness; for the justice he has done to us in bringing our integrity into the light, and establishing us in the confidence and favour of our brethren; in honouring our industry and fidelity; also for the righteousness he has shown in overturning the designs, or in humbling the pretences, or in overthrowing the institutions, of the guilty; and even for his righteousness as shown in his chastening of ourselves, purging us of our folly and error and impurity. Perhaps at first we can go no further than silently submit to this last form of Divine judgment; but "afterwards," when "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" has been gathered (Hebrews 12:11), we can open our lips and "sing."

II. A DEVOUT SENSE OF DEPENDENCE ON GOD. "Oh when wilt thou come unto me?" (Psalms 101:2). It is significant that the psalmist interjects this petition between two utterances of his purpose. It is as if he said, "I will do the thing that is right and wise; but I know I cannot accomplish anything without thy helpful, thine effectuating power." He felt as Moses did when he said, "If thy presence go not with as," etc. (Exodus 33:15). It is a deep sense of our dependence which is the essence of our devotion. If we have not this, prayer is an act of mere formal obedience; if we have it in our heart, prayer is the certain, spiritual, and acceptable outcome. In the prospect of the future, in the conduct of our life, in the prosecution of all Christian work, it is essential that we hold fast, and that we appropriately express, this consciousness of our need of the presence and the power of God.

III. A FIXED PURPOSE OF INTEGRITY. It is vain indeed to sing and pray, if we do not intend to depart from all iniquity (see Psalms 66:18). But if the purpose of our heart is toward God and righteousness, we may be sure that the faintest cry is heard. The psalmist here resolves to act uprightly; he will walk within his house with a perfect heart—he will "show piety at home;" he will discharge his kingly duties with all conscientiousness; he will uphold and honour the faithful (see Psalms 101:6); he will remove the wicked from place and power (see Psalms 101:4, Psalms 101:5, Psalms 101:7, Psalms 101:8); he will spare no one, he will spare nothing, that he may build up "the city of the Lord" (Psalms 101:8). True piety will manifest itself in these three directions:

1. It will be seen at home, in all purity, guardianship on the one hand or obedience on the other, kindness, patience, unselfishness, forgiveness.

2. It will be exercised in the daily occupation, and show itself in fidelity, honesty, truthfulness, thoroughness, equity, considerateness.

3. It will shine, with clear and steady light, in the sanctuary, revealing itself in constancy of worship, activity in service, heartiness in cooperation.

IV. SACRED SELF-RESPECT. The psalmist was resolved that nothing wicked should "cleave to him;" he would not have it "before his eyes" (Psalms 101:3); he would "destroy all the wicked" (Psalms 101:8), so that neither his own presence nor his country should be dishonoured or contaminated. Piety will have a supreme concern for its own purity; it will guard its heart most carefully against every one and everything that would hurt or would defile; it will extirpate the thoughts which stain the soul; it will burn the books which pollute the mind; it will not allow anything which is unholy and unworthy of a Christian disciple to enter the sanctuary of the soul; it will know how to be merciless to the flesh, that it may be true to the spirit (Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30); it will "keep the heart beyond all keeping," knowing that "out of it are the issues of life."

HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY

Psalms 101:1-8

The secret of a happy life.

The psalm is evidently one composed on the occasion of the setting up of a new order of things in the home or in the State, or in both, and it tells of the psalmist's holy resolves in regard to himself, and his conduct in his household and amongst men generally. And they are wise resolves.

I. THEY CONCERN HIMSELF. (Psalms 101:2.) "I wilt behave myself," etc. Here we must begin if our life is to be worthy and happy. Therefore:

1. The psalmist consider his ways. He will behave himself wisely. It was not enough that he had full and clear knowledge, and frequent good purposes and desires, and just opinions and true beliefs; what he was concerned about was as to his conduct, his behaviour. And that is the all-important thing; the others have their value as they influence that.

2. And his desire and purpose were that he should behave himself "wisely." In what vast and such variety of ways men—especially those in high station—behave themselves! "Man, vain man, dressed in a little brief authority," etc. But here was one who would sink mere self-pleasing, and the suggestions of pride and power which his high station would bring to his mind, and, like Solomon, his one desire was to behave himself wisely.

3. And his conviction was that the way of righteousness, the perfect way, was alone the way of wisdom.

4. And that for all this he needed the abiding presence and blessing of God. "Oh when wilt thou come," etc.? (Psalms 101:1). Surely this man began well!

II. HIS HOME LIFE. "I will walk within my house," etc. He would "show piety at home." If it be not there, it does not matter where else it is. There, where it is more difficult, because we are more off our guard, and contact with wife, children, servants, is so close that there is more peril of friction and irritation than in the more distant and guarded intercourse with the world outside. A man has need of "a perfect heart," upright, faithful, and true, if his home life is to be what it should be.

III. HIS DEALINGS WITH HIS FELLOW MEN. He divides these into three classes:

1. Those whom he will avoid. They are the froward, the slanderer, the proud, the deceitful. Woe to the man whose companions are of such a sort! sorrow and shame will be his lot.

2. Those whom he will choose. "The faithful of the land;" they who walk with God. Such companions and servants do minister much to our peace and happiness.

3. Those for whom he will have no tolerance. The wicked doers. Kindness to them, whilst they persist in wickedness, is cruelty and wrong to the innocent, the godly, and to the city of the Lord. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil"—so we are told (Psalms 97:10). And, indeed, if there be not such intolerance, it is because the love of God is weak within us (cf. Revelation 2:6, Revelation 2:15). The psalmist may have meant by "cutting off" the putting of them to death. A monarch such as David would have deemed that quite right. But it is a power too great for human hands to wield. Our part will be to cut off the prompters to sin in our own hearts, to slay evil passions and unholy desires there; then, by earnestly seeking the conversion of the ungodly, to cut them off from their sin.—S.C.

Psalms 101:1

Mercy and judgment.

The psalmist says he will sing of these; and if it were David who wrote this psalm, he had good reason for such song. And who of us is there that, in looking back over our life, has not reason for the like song? But—

I. THERE WAS A TIME IN MAN'S LIFE WHEN THERE WAS NEITHER MERCY NOR JUDGMENT.

1. In Paradise, before sin had entered, there was no occasion for mercy; for mercy implies unworthiness and guilt. But these there were not. Man received love, bounty, goodness, but not mercy. Only a sinner can receive that. This is why the redeemed sinner will sing more loudly than the angels, who have never known what sin is.

2. And so, too, there was not judgment. No anger darkened the face of God; no need for the chastisements and disciplines of life. But this time will never come again.

II. THERE WILL BE A TIME WHEN MEN WILL KNOW BUT ONE OF THESE.

1. Mercy only will be known in heaven. The time for chastisement and punishment will be gone. God will have wiped away every tear. It will be mercy without judgment.

2. But judgment only will be known in hell. Mercy comes not there; for hell is a state of mind rather than a place, and the mind that has its fit place there must be forsaken ere mercy can come and do its work. The father's welcome was not given to the prodigal until he had come away from the "far country."

3. But here judgment and mercy are blended. They are the warp and woof of life; but yonder they will stand apart; where the one comes, the other cannot.

III. AT PRESENT MEN ARE THE SUBJECTS OF BOTH. This is a certain fact. It was true of David, of Israel, of our Lord Jesus Christ, for because of both mercy and judgment he came into the world. And it is true of God's dealings with humanity generally.

IV. AND BOTH ARE TO BE THE SUBJECT OF OUR SONG.

1. For think what would have been the consequences had man received nothing but mercy. See what prosperity often does now, and always will, unless diligently guarded against by faith and prayer. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" (and cf. Psalms 17:1-15.). But:

2. Had God dealt with man only in the way of judgment, the results would have been no less disastrous; men would have hated God, broken out into wild rebellion, or laid down in despair.

3. And think of the service both render. The mercy of God brightens all our life, and makes up in us the love of God. "We love him because he first loved us." This is especially true when we behold the mercy of God in Christ. But his judgments also are blessed for us. "Before I was afflicted I went astray" (Psalms 119:1-176.). They bridle and curb the lawless will; they make manifest to our souls the bitter evil of sin. "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest"—so said the saints of old; and it is true still.

4. And of the characteristics of both. Of mercy—so free, so great, so abiding, so seasonable, so undeserved. Of judgment—its purpose, its profitableness, its alleviations, its limit to the present life and never beyond our power to endure.

5. But some sing of neither. Not of mercy, for they regard not God as its giver; not of judgment, for they deem it only ill fortune.

6. Some sing only of one. Of mercy, for that is easy to sing about. Some only of judgment,—they believe only in a God of judgment, not in "our Father."

7. Let us sing of both.—S.C.

Psalms 101:2

Showing piety at home.

Psalms 100:1-5. is all about praising the Lord. This psalm is all about a holy life. The sequence of the two seems to teach that the best way of praising the Lord is by such a life as this psalm tells of. The time of the psalm's composition seems to have been when David was crowned king of all Israel, and his new government was about to begin. It has been well said that in this psalm David was both merry and wise. We have here—

I. A WISE AND HOLY RESOLVE. "I will behave myself," etc. See:

1. It begins with himself. If only everybody would begin there! But so many are for trying to put others right before they are right themselves.

2. It refers to his conduct. "I will behave." How we behave—not how we talk, think, profess, desire, but how we behave—is the all-important thing. That is what men will judge us by, and by which we shall influence others.

3. It declares his deliberate resolve. That he would behave himself wisely. Some would have said, "grandly," or "merrily," or "just as I please;" but this man says, "wisely." Oh that we all would make such choice as this, especially those who are in the morning of their lives! David made this choice because he felt it so necessary. He was a king, and a foolish king is a nation's trouble. And he was a king surrounded by many perils. And the same resolve suits all sorts and conditions of men. Moreover, David felt that he would be wise only as he walked in a perfect way. The right way is the wise way, and vice versa. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Turn to the right, and keep straight on.

4. And that he made up his mind about it. "I will behave," etc. See what a number of "I wills" and "shalls" there are in this psalm. You may say, "He did not keep his resolve." That is true; but probably he would have fallen yet more deeply had he never made such resolve as this. Such resolves are good to make. They commit you on the side of God; especially the resolve to be openly and always on the Lord's side.

II. A FERVENT CRY FOR GRACE TO KEEP IT. "Oh when wilt thou come unto me?"

1. This is an interruption, but no hindrance. Holy thought and prayer may interrupt, but they do not hinder, our work. The haymaker, stopping to whet his scythe, does not hinder his work, but helps it. So does such a prayer as this.

2. It is a confession of utter weakness in himself apart from God, and a cry for God to come and abide with him. The holiest resolves, without much cry to God for grace to keep them, come to nothing.

III. THE TEST LAID DOWN whereby it should be known whether he was keeping it. There should be such test.

1. David lays down this—his conduct at home. "I will walk within my house," etc.

2. We are truly what we are at home. In the world we have to be reserved and cautious; in the Church we show our best side; but at home our true character is revealed. And, alas! some people can be saints at church and devils at home, and hence are no saints at all.

3. But we cannot be right at home unless our heart be right with God. It is a matter of the heart, and the heart given to God. Let parents remember this. If you would have a happy, heaven like home, let your hearts be perfect with God.—S.C.

Psalms 101:3

Wicked things.

I. WE CANNOT HELP SEEING WICKED THINGS, BUT WE ARE NOT TO SET THEM BEFORE OUR EYES. That is:

1. He will not think of them. They may be where he cannot but see them; but he will turn away his eyes from them, and his thoughts likewise.

2. He will not sympathize with or desire them. They have a fatal attraction, and appeal to our nature where it is most susceptible of temptation.

3. He will not strive after them. However gainful they may be, their wickedness shall bar all endeavours after them.

II. WE ARE TO HATE THEM. There is to be, not the mere negative grace of not choosing them—that is much—but there is to be the further positive grace of hatred towards them. Now, to help us herein, think of:

1. The harm wickedness has done to men generally. What havoc it has wrought, and is working still! Could the world be but rid of its sin, its sorrows would not trouble us much.

2. The harm wrought in your own soul.

3. The dishonour done to Christ.

4. And let your hatred of wickedness take practical form. Attack the fortress of sin, fight against it wherever you find it, make aggressive effort against it and for the cause of Christ. So will this hatred blessedly grow.

III. WHEN WICKEDNESS SEEKS, AS IT WILL, TO CLEAVE UNTO US, WE ARE TO CAST IT OFF.

1. See how our Lord did this. "Get thee behind me, Satan!" Sin will try to adhere to you; but spurn it at once.

2. Consider how to do this. Prayer will greatly help; for sin is its direct antagonist. One must destroy the other. They cannot coexist. Plead and trust the promises of God to help you. Avoid the occasions of sin. Carry the war into the enemy's country; not merely resist, but attack. Military writers all insist on the advantage against a foe of attacking, not waiting to be attacked. And, without doubt, aggressive work for Christ, a fighting faith, is an immense advantage and safeguard.—S.C.

Psalms 101:5

Slanderers.

I. THERE ARE SUCH PEOPLE. David had to do with many of them—Doeg, Cush, Ziba, etc. And such ever haunt the precincts of courts. And they exist still. Note their characteristics.

1. They are not men who merely speak evil of their fellow men. No good man likes to do this. But sometimes it has to be done—in giving evidence in courts of law; for the sake of vindicating or warning others. Our Lord spoke evil of the scribes and Pharisees. But he did so because, not only was his witness true, but it was necessary to be given, for the people at large were deceived by them. And he spoke freely before their face, and never because of mere personal dislike and antipathy, though he could not but have felt that, but for the sake of the many whom they were leading astray. And he affirmed only what he knew to be true. When, then, we have to speak evil of another, let us speak only as Christ did—faithfully, openly, and for the sake of others rather than our own sake. Such evil speaking is not slander.

2. What, then, is slander? It is the speaking evil on hearsay rather than proof, or on half knowledge; it is generally cowardly, "backbiting" Psalms 15:1-5. calls it. The man would be ashamed to say it openly. The motive is malignant—seeking to do evil, or, if not that, there is a culpable carelessness as to the truth, which is almost as bad. This is what the psalmist seems to mean when he says, "Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing."

II. GREAT IS THE EVIL THAT THEY DO.

1. Often to the victim of their slander. (See Edna Lyall's 'Autobiography of a Slander.') Cf. Shakespeare, 'Othello'—

"Who steals my purse steals trash …

But he that filches from me my good name,

Robs me of that which not enriches him,

And makes me poor indeed."

There are men in every rank of life whose whole career has been blighted by some cruel slander, which, often carelessly rather than maliciously, has been set going.

2. To the hearer of them. A shadow has come over your intercourse with the slandered one; confidence is destroyed or much shaken; you are drawn nearer to that mad state of mind which led David to say, "All men are liars." You don't know whom to trust.

3. To the slanderer himself most of all. If it has been spoken carelessly, as it so often is, and he comes to know of the evil he has wrought, it will be a lifelong regret to him. If it has been done out of malice, then he has done not a little to harden his conscience, to sear it as with a red-hot iron. Furthermore, he has incurred the anger of God, to whom slander is abhorrent (Psalms 5:6), and one of whose chief commands is, "Thou shalt not bear false witness," etc. And he loses his own self-respect; he carries about with him the consciousness of his crime and shame, and, when found out, as he is all but sure to be, he is the object of the merited scorn of his fellow men.

III. HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM. "Him will I cut off," says our text.

1. No doubt David would deal with such men in the ruthless, despotic way of an Eastern king. There would be but short shrift for such with him.

2. And so God will deal with them, unless they repent.

3. And so, in principle, should we deal with them. Be stern with the man who brings the slander; shun the company of such; warn others against him; compel the man to say openly what he has said in secret.

4. Such stern treatment necessary, for we are all prone to this sin. A burning coal thrown out in the road soon becomes dead; but cast it into a heap of straw, and then what conflagration ensues! The first pictures the fate of a good report of your neighbour—nothing comes of it. The second pictures the fate of an evil report—how that spreads fast and far! And slander is destructive of all brotherhood and confidence between man and Imam It flagrantly violates our Lord's golden rule, "Do unto others as you would," etc.

CONCLUSION.

1. Are you the victim of slander? Pray for your enemy, and forgive him; then go and tell him of his fault.

2. All are in danger of this sin. Therefore seek to have your heart filled with love; let the mind be in you which was also in Christ, then slander will become impossible to you.—S.C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Psalms 101:1

The Divine mercy and judgment.

This "king's song" may reasonably be associated with the beginning of David's reign. Then we must regard "mercy and judgment" as attributes of the Divine King. David desired to frame his own rule, and his own kingdom, after the Divine pattern. He meditates on the mercy and righteousness of God till his heart glows with the thought of their surpassing excellence, as seen in the Divine government; and he longs to have these kingly virtues transferred into his own life and reign. That seems to be the first connection of the text, and such thoughts and desires are in every way suitable for a king. But we are not kings; and so we are set upon finding associations with the king's words which may fit them to our circumstances, and make them expressive of our feeling. Reviewing God's dealings with us—

1. WE CAN SING OF MERCY. That is a very comprehensive word. It includes the Divine compassions, forbearances, long sufferings, and considerations. But there is a special tone in the word. It fits exactly into God's ways with us frail, sinful men. It would hardly be fitting to speak of God's mercy to the angels who have "kept their first estate." It is not the term we should choose by which to express his relations with them. We know the word in our human spheres. It expresses the clemency of the king towards rebel subjects. The guilty man sues for mercy. When the royal rights are vindicated, we hope that justice will be tempered with mercy. We know the word in our own home spheres and relations. Fathers and mothers are merciful towards their wayward, wilful children, considerate, patient, gentle, pitiful, hopeful. And "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." Many of us have now no father or mother in these earthly spheres; but could we put our idea of the old child relations in the old home into a single word, that word would have to be "mercy." No other word would worthily gather up their patient, pitiful gentleness. And that word best expresses our sense of our heavenly Father's dealings with us. It is so suitable because it always carries with it the assumption of the frailty and wilfulness of those to whom it is shown. Only when people try us do we show them mercy. Then let us see if we are not really needing God's mercy.

1. It is now a good many years since you discovered your easily besetting sin. Then it ought to have been done with long ago, driven out altogether. But it is there still, spoiling your best things, making trouble for yourself, and for all around you. Then you know what is meant by God's mercy.

2. When this year began you made high resolves; but after the first flush of feeling passed, you never made any really earnest effort to carry them out. Verily God has a call to be merciful.

3. God's mercy to us ought to have made us merciful to one another. And just in this we are constantly failing. Who could bear to think of the life he has yet to live, if he might no longer hope in God's mercy? Mercy bears with us. Mercy is pitiful and kind. Mercy in God is not mere good feeling; it is active, ever doing for us something kind.

II. WE CAN SING OF JUDGMENT. This may stand for "righteousness," or justice finding practical expression. We can always have this satisfaction—God's mercy is righteous. It is never weak indulgence. God never steps aside of the right in order to do a kindness. But that is hardly the precise association of the word that we want. It is rather "the corrective recognition of our faults." It is our holy joy, that our Father-God will never leave our faults and failings, our waywardnesses and self-willednesses, alone. He is ever correctively dealing with them. Punishment, as a vindication of violated law, and as the firm reassertion of defied authority, is almost entirely a human conception; it can only be applied to the dealings of our heavenly Father with extreme caution. It is far safer for us to think of God's punishments as always paternal; and paternal punishments are, primarily, corrective. And what child could do well without corrections?

1. Divine corrections may come as the natural results of our wilfulness.

2. They come as testing losses; or as wearying strain; or as painful sickness; or as that long, long enduring which is the supreme soul test.

III. WE MUST TAKE CARE THAT WE SING OF THESE TWO TOGETHER—"MERCY" AND "JUDGMENT." It is the blending of them that so brings out the charm of the Divine ways with us. Illustrate by the bright light made by combining the flames of oxygen and hydrogen gas. Never can God's full glory shine out until we learn to blend his mercy and judgment. Mercy that cannot judge cannot be the mercy of our heavenly Father. Judgment that is not tempered with mercy cannot characterize our heavenly Father's dealings.—R.T.

Psalms 101:2

Home religion.

"I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." The royal author may be using the term "house" as a figure for the kingdom he rules; but it is better to keep the term to his private and domestic sphere. Only he who can rule his own house is fit to rule the Church of God. Whatever a man's professions may be, and whatever the exactness and abundance of a man's ritual observances may be, a man's religion is never really a better thing than it shows itself to be in his own home. The home is the first and nearest sphere in which the religious life finds expression. In the home sphere it should have its fullest force. Religion begins at home. It always should expand outward from the home. "It is in vain to talk of holiness if we can bring no letters testimonial from our holy walking with our relations." "It is easier for most men to walk with a perfect heart in the Church, or even in the world, than in their own families"

I. HOME RELIGION OUGHT TO BE EASY. Because usually the atmosphere is healthy and inspiring. If we are the heads of the house we can give the tone to the house. If we are but members, still our well being is the care of all, and if religion is our concern, we are, usually, at least unhindered. For our religious habits and duties we can easily make or find fitting time and place. But this ease of home religion may come to be a temptation and peril. Men, in every sphere, reach their noblest things, by mastering opposition. They tend to lose nobility and enterprise when a thing is easy. Easy religion very readily becomes weak religion. Religion cannot bear indulgence; it needs the bracing of hardship.

II. HOME RELIGION OUGHT TO BE STEADFAST. Because there are no suddennesses, and no great variations, in the experiences and temptations of home to sway the religious barometer. The psalmist means by a "perfect heart" one quietly, steadily, persistently set on the right, the kind, and the good. The finest thing we can say of the pious man at home is that he is "always the same." It is in homes we can most fully exhibit that great grace, "patient continuance in well doing."

III. HOME RELIGION OUGHT TO BE BEAUTIFUL. Because home is the sphere in which natural amiability and personal affection find their freest expression. And these, when sanctified by sincere and earnest piety, cannot fail to make attractive characters. Appeal to all experiences thus. Are not the Christians you most admire and love those who were beautiful for Christ in home spheres?—R.T.

Psalms 101:4

The feeling of pious souls concerning self-will.

"A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person." The idea in the word "froward" is "twisted,", or "perverse." The idea in the word "wicked" is "wilful," "self-willed," "lawlessness." "What David, therefore, disclaims is the reckless self-will, acknowledging no law of right, which is the temptation of despotic royalty, and was hereafter the secret of his own great sin."

I. PIOUS SOULS SEE SELF-WILL AS THE ROOT OF SIN. Take man as the creature of God. Manifestly he is dependent on God. He has no independent rights, and no independent will. He has a free will within the necessary limits of the creature, but as that free will finds exercise, it can get no better standard than the sovereign and perfect will of the Creator. The supreme triumph of man's free will is his full, loving, hearty acceptance of the Divine will. Adam sinned when he put his self-will in opposition to God's will. Describe how you may the various forms that human iniquity can take (Galatians 5:19-21), the informing spirit of them all is self-pleasing, self-will. Therefore pious souls see clearly that their witness and work is not the mere cleansing of conduct, but the rooting out of the very fibres of self-will, which thread their souls as couch grass threads the fields, or cancers thread the body. Parents must deal with self-will in their children; kings must deal With self-will in their officials; Christians must deal with self-will in themselves and in the world.

II. PIOUS SOULS SEE SELF-WILL AS THE ONE THING TO RESIST. Many may be occupied with special forms of temptation, and with what they discover to be their "easily besetting sins." So they are occupied with the expressions of things rather than with the causes. Illustrate from the various treatment of skin diseases. That treatment alone is hopeful which deals with the fountain of mischief. But the psalmist is dealing with self-will in others rather than in himself. There is a self-reliance which is good, if kept within due bounds. It is the spring of enterprise; it is the spirit of the man who conquers circumstance. But it may easily become masterfulness, tyranny, pursuit of ends irrespective of means, and then pious souls feel repugnance, and may rightly show repugnance. The self-willed man is not a God-fearing man.—R.T.

Psalms 101:5

The sin of the slanderer.

"Privily slandereth his neigbbour." Modern law cannot reach the slanderer unless his slander has produced pecuniary loss to him whom he has slandered. Eastern kings judged on principles of equity, and not according to written rules or established precedents, so they could punish all slanderers. To a king the term includes the jealous informer who tries to breed suspicion, and the sycophant who flatters the king, and speaks evil of others in order to obtain place and favour.

I. THE SLANDERER IS A MISCHIEF MAKER. HIS interest is taken not by anything good, but by something evil. Every true and good man covers over, hides, smothers down, the evil, because it is like fire—let it spread, and it will do a world of mischief. The slanderer fixes on the tiny spark of evil, fans it until it flares, and consumes reputations and ruins lives. Gossip is the slanderer's weapon. Malice is his inspiration. Self-conceit is his guide. Often pure devilry makes a man start the evil suspicion which makes the mischief of broken hearts and untold misery. It is no excuse for the slanderer, when made to face the consequences of his slander, to say, "I did not mean it." As mischief makers, gossiping women are worse than men.

II. THE SLANDERER IS A THIEF. He does not steal men's goods; he steals what is of far more value to man than what he has—he steals his reputation. Estimate the difficulty every man finds in building up a character. It may fall, like a house of cards, before the suspicion started by the slanderer; that suspicion may stick to a man for life, and he may find it impossible to recover his place. The robbery of the slanderer is oftentimes irremediable.

III. THE SLANDERER IS A DETERIORATOR OF HIMSELF. The most serious injury a man can do to his own moral nature is to give expression to the suspicious, or malicious, temper. If a good man or woman ever find themselves betrayed into becoming the originators of a slander, they feel the bitterest regrets and most searching humiliations. The had man who finds he has slandered, and will be humbled by no regrets, belongs to the devil, and will have to find his home with him.—R.T.

Psalms 101:5

The sin of the arrogant.

"Him that hath an high look and a proud heart." Prayer book Version, "a proud look, and high stomach;" literally, "puffed up heart;" "wide of heart;" "puffed up and blown out." Perhaps the idea includes the "ambitious men," who think so much of themselves that they are jealous and mischievous if any one seems to be preferred before them. Trapp says, "Pride will sit and show itself in the eyes as soon as anywhere." Horne has this good note: "Detraction, ambition, and avarice are three weeds which spring and flourish in the rich soil of a court. The psalmist declareth his resolution to undertake the difficult task of eradicating them for the benefit of his people, that Israelites might not be harassed by informers, or repressed by insolent and rapacious ministers. Shall we imagine these vices less odious in the eyes of that king whose character was composed of humility and charity; or will Christ admit those tempers into the court of heaven, which David determined to exclude from his court upon earth?"

I. THE ARROGANT MEASURE THEMSELVES BY A WRONG STANDARD. A man may seem to have fair reason for being proud who compares himself with his fellow men. It may be honest truth that he is better bred, more refined, better educated, and more intelligent than they. But then the standard is so poor. Let him appraise himself by comparison with those who are better bred and better educated than himself. Nay, let him measure himself by the proper, the Divine, standard; then will the loftiest minded man be compelled to say after the psalmist, "My goodness extendeth not to thee, only to the saints that are in the earth."

II. THE ARROGANT BOAST THEMSELVES AGAINST GOD. Pride is the open claim to independence; the declaration of conscious self-sufficiency. The proud man needs no God, and knows no God. He never can come into right relations with God until he can get rid of that pride. All who do boast themselves against God may be reminded of that day when the "lofty looks of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted."

III. THE ARROGANT ARE OUT OF RIGHT RELATIONS WITH MEN. The right relations are thus expressed: "By love serve one another." The arrogant man serves nobody, only expects everybody to serve him. So he never gains love, and never receives love service.—R.T.

Psalms 101:6

The encouragement of the upright.

"Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land." Such only would the king seek for; such only would he gather to his court.

I. THE UPRIGHT ARE ALWAYS WANTED. Men of probity and integrity are ever being sought for. For all service character is the supreme fitness. If it seems otherwise, and we find isolated instances in which the unprincipled seem to prosper, let us think of the thousand cases in which character even triumphs over ability, and much more over unscrupulousness. If a man has character, he has a commodity that is always marketable.

II. THE UPRIGHT ARE ALWAYS TRUSTED. Illustrate by Joseph in Egypt, Nehemiah at Susa, and Daniel at Babylon. In that trust is the fullest recognition of the value of character.

III. THE UPRIGHT ARE ALWAYS REWARDED. Depend upon it, kings always know when they have good counsellors, and masters know when they have faithful servants. And it is always the aim of masters to encourage those who serve them well. Say what men will, it is most largely true that the best things of this world come to the good. And it can always be said, with absolute confidence, that God is on the side of the upright, "the Rewarder of all those who diligently seek him."—R.T.

Psalms 101:7

The sin of the untruthful.

"He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight." There is no sin that is more difficult to deal with, when once it has become established. Many children are untruthful because they have vivid imaginations, and though their words match what they see, what they see does not strictly accord with the actual facts. These cases require the most careful and judicious treatment at the hands of parents and teachers, if the child habit is not to develop into a confirmed untruthfulness. But there are some children who seem to be born liars—their word can never be trusted. Only the sternest discipline can correct an evil which, if left unchecked, must inevitably ruin the life. And some children are made untruthful by fear; and by their statements always being treated suspiciously; and by their being constantly set upon inventing excuses.

I. THE UNTRUTHFUL MAN SINS AGAINST HIMSELF. He confuses his own sense of right and wrong; destroys his moral sense, until he discovers that he cannot trust himself.

"To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man."

II. THE UNTRUTHFUL MAN SINS AGAINST HIS FELLOW MAN. For only truth can guide us aright. If those whom we trust and obey are not true, our way cannot be safe. Illustrate by the man who goes an unknown road, and receives untruthful directions. See in business affairs what mischiefs untruthfulness can make. Every man has an absolute right to demand from his fellow man a precise accordance between statement and fact. Show that secrecy, withholding, may be as effectually untruthful as any statement. We are bound to be true in every form in which we express ourselves to our fellows. Point out what self-restraints are required, if we are to be absolutely true in tones, and looks, and silences, and speech.

III. THE UNTRUTHFUL MAN SINS AGAINST GOD. Who "requireth truth in the inward parts." This introduces familiar considerations, on which no special suggestions arc needed.—R.T.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 101:1-8

The ideal of a royal life; or, David's mirror of a monarch.

I. HIS PERSONAL LIFE.

1. He sought the union of loving kindness and right in his own character. (Psalms 101:1.) As a Divine union found in the King of kings, and therefore the subject of his song.

2. He would seek to follow the perfect way with or by means of a perfect heart. (Psalms 101:2.) He would give earnest heed to whatever was right, and pursue it with an undivided heart.

3. He would live in the closest fellowship with God. (Psalms 101:2.) "When wilt thou come unto me?"

II. HIS DOMESTIC LIFE. (Psalms 101:3, Psalms 101:4.) How he would walk in "his house."

1. Will not allow himself to think of any wicked design or action. (Psalms 101:3.) Nothing in his home life that is unworthy of a king.

2. He will be guilty of no unfaithfulness. (Psalms 101:3.) They who "turn aside" are the unfaithful. Delitzsch says he "hates excesses;" all temptations to this he will shake off from himself.

3. He will not know fellowship with a false or "froward" heart. (Psalms 101:4.) No commerce with those whoso policy is one of craft and deceit.

III. HE WILL MAINTAIN A PURE COURT LIFE. (Psalms 101:5-7.)

1. He will discourage all forms of untruthfulness and pride. Slander and deceit and lies he will not tolerate (Psalms 101:5-7).

2. Those who serfs him in high offices must be faithful men. (Psalms 101:6.)

IV. HE WILL RULE THE CITY AND THE STATE SO AS TO BRING IN THE REIGN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Psalms 101:8.) "Early," equivalent to "in the morning." Courts of law were held in the early morning. A dream which has its fulfilment in the vision of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:27).—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 101:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-101.html. 1897.

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