Psalm 101- Mercy and Judgment

INTRODUCTION: In the five divisions (or books) that contain the total of 150 Psalms, there are 63 psalms that have David's name at the beginning or close of the psalm. In book 4 which contains psalms 90 through 106, only 101 and 103 are linked directly to David in this manner. Psalm 101 is a brief psalm of only eight verses, but it describes a strong commitment for personal purity, and for ruling in a manner that will constrain those who might have a deleterious effect on maintaining integrity in the governing of the people. David goes a step beyond constraint by declaring that he will actually purge out from the nation those who are defiantly living in opposition to the one true God. This may be an expression of a true heart's desire of David, but some things can only be accomplished by the unique son of David whose absolute rule and reign will never end.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the 1769 King James Version. Numbers enclosed by angle brackets <>, indicate the original Hebrew words that have been translated into various English words.


A - A PSALM BY AND FOR THE KING

“1 ¶ «A Psalm of David.» I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. 2 I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”

COMMENTS: The Hebrew words translated as "mercy" and "judgment" in the opening verse of this psalm appear numerous times throughout the Old Testament, but are found together in a single verse less than a dozen times. The same is true for the pair of Hebrew words translated as "within" and "house" in verse two. There are two different Hebrew words translated as perfect in these first two verses, but they have very similar meanings. These factors are part of my study of this psalm.

The LORD's mercy (kindness, lovingkindness, goodness, favor, pity) and Judgment (justice, ordinances) are inexorably linked together because if not for his mercy, no one could be found guiltless under his righteous judgment or requirements. When we have been saved by his mercy, our love for the LORD should compel us to strive to keep his ordinances, and to joyfully sing praise along with the psalmist. Moses gave this instruction to the people after the LORD, through many miracles, had brought them safely out of bondage in Egypt. Deuteronomy “7:11 You shall therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments <04941>, which I command you this day, to do them. 12 Why it shall come to pass, if you listen to these judgments <04941>, and keep, and do them, that the LORD your God shall keep to you the covenant and the mercy <02617> which he swore to your fathers:”

The mercy (or goodness) of the LORD can never cancel or set aside the application of his righteous judgment. Psalms 33:5 "He loveth righteousness and judgment <04941>: the earth is full of the goodness <02617> of the LORD." The Deuteronomy passage set the pattern before Israel entered the land promised to Abraham, but centuries later Assyrian and Babylonian captivity of the children of Israel came to pass due to their national unfaithfulness to the LORD. After the northern kingdom had already fallen, the prophet Jeremiah in the southern kingdom wrote down the words of the LORD about the unchangeable nature of the one true God. Jeremiah 9:24 "But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness <02617>, judgment <04941>, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD."

David opened with praise to the LORD in Psalm 101, then he said he would behave wisely in a perfect (<08549> without spot or blemish, upright, sincere) way, then asked when the LORD would come unto him. We can read from scripture about many trials in David's life that could cause him to desire the more perfect kingdom of God to be established by the coming of the Lord, thus bringing him to ask when the LORD would come. What would David plan to do, and what should we do, while waiting for the LORD to come?

After David has asked the unanswered question of when the LORD would come, he made it clear that he intended to conduct himself with a perfect (<08537> with integrity of, an upright) heart within (in the midst, among, or in the sight of others) of his house. David's "house" as a king could have been extensive; to include family, other relatives, advisors, and servants; or it could have been an even more generalized reference. The Hebrew word translated as house can vary in meaning, even as the English word can vary according to context. Joshua "24:17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house <01004> of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:" Joshua spoke of the land of Egypt as being a house, and Jeremiah spoke of a people group. Jeremiah 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house <01004> of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people."

King David was right to keep his determination to be upright as he waited for the Lord, even though he did not know the time the LORD was waiting to come. Another prophet of God has written centuries after David's time, about waiting. Isaiah "30:18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD [is] a God of judgment: blessed [are] all they that wait for him.” Though no one has ever known the day of the Lord, because the LORD is making extra time for the working of his mercy, every child of the one true God should confidently await the things reserved for those who are kept by the power of the Lord, by faith unto salvation. 1 Peter “1:3 ¶ Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”


B - DAVID DESPISED GODLESS SYMBOLS AND GODLESS MEN

“3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; [it] shall not cleave to me. 4 A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked [person]. 5 Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.”

COMMENTS: Before the LORD called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees, idol worship was present among the people of that land and of many other lands all around. Idol worship persisted down through all the history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament among surrounding nations, and idol worship often led many of the children of Israel astray from the one true God. David was described as a man after God's own heart, and his descendents on the throne of Judah were often characterized by stating whether their heart was perfect with the LORD their God, as the heart of David had been. In verses 3 through 5, David pledges his efforts to keep idol worship out of his domain, and even the more subtle practices related to the failure to follow the commandments of the LORD.

The LORD had said you shall have no other gods before me, and David said he would set no wicked (or godless) thing within his eyesight. He hated things made by those who did so as they turned aside from worship of the only true God. This turning aside was of course, no surprise to the LORD as Moses had spoken to the children of Israel. Deuteronomy "31:29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands."

David did not want to allow any to be around him if they had a perverse heart, one that would lead them in a perverse or perverted lifestyle that distorted the right way to live before the LORD. It seems that David did not want to go the way of King Saul before him, but desired to follow what Moses had recorded in the book of the law regarding a king for Israel. Deuteronomy “17:14 ¶ When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that [are] about me; 15 Thou shalt in any wise set [him] king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: [one] from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which [is] not thy brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. 17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. 18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of [that which is] before the priests the Levites: 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, [to] the right hand, or [to] the left: to the end that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” David desired in his spirit to keep devious people from among his contacts, to cut off those who even privately slandered others, and those who were characterized by a haughty and proud heart.


C - THE KING WHO REIGNS FOREVER WILL ACCOMPLISH THESE GOALS

“6 Mine eyes [shall be] upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. 7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. 8 I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.”

COMMENTS: King David had many faithful advisors and supporters, but there were limits to his successfulness in reaching the high standard he set for the realm of his kingdom. Through his own lustful desire for Bathsheba, he carried out a series of events that were contrary to the righteousness he wanted to maintain. There arose problems within his own family, and he found that his resolve to deal justly was very weak with his sons. David's son Amnon raped his own half sister Tamar, and about two years later was murdered by her full brother Absalom. David eventually allowed Absalom to return from the country where he had fled, but Absalom began to build up followers to violently seize the throne from his father. Even when Absalom was killed by those loyal to David, he mourned deeply for the loss of his son. At the end of David's forty year reign, when he planned to install his son Solomon as his successor, another son, Adonijah tried to usurp that transition and take the throne with the help of Joab, David's former army commander.

For all of David's human weaknesses, he never tolerated the worship of any false gods, but always directed confession and praise to the LORD God. His own words in another psalm reveal his heart, Psalms “103:10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, [so] great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like as a father pitieth [his] children, [so] the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we [are] dust.”

David's greatest desire was to see the name of the LORD magnified, but he was not permitted by the LORD to build the temple. He made great preparations with materials to pass on to Solomon, and gave charge for the building. 1 Chronicles “22:6 ¶ Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel. 7 And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God: 8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. 9 Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. 10 He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I [will be] his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever. 11 Now, my son, the LORD be with thee; and prosper thou, and build the house of the LORD thy God, as he hath said of thee. 12 Only the LORD give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the LORD thy God. 13 Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfill the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed.”

The LORD appeared to Solomon as recorded in the next passage. 1 Kings “9:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he was pleased to do, 2 That the LORD appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared unto him at Gibeon. 3 And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. 4 And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, [and] wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: 5 Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel. 6 [But] if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments [and] my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: 7 Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: 8 And at this house, [which] is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house? 9 And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the LORD brought upon them all this evil.”

The name Solomon means peace, and the LORD did give the greatest period of peace and prosperity to the Nation Israel during his reign as king, but. Solomon's many wives turned his heart aside to allow pagan worship into Israel before his reign ended, bringing about the loss that had been spoken by the LORD. The peace of Israel ended with Solomon's reign, and the kings in the line of David continually brought national deterioration until the temple was destroyed and the land was ruled by other nations, with no king in Israel.

The history of Israel in scripture may seem to contradict the word of the LORD that a king would reign forever. Some scripture gives prophecy that is fulfilled as a type in history, before complete fulfillment is realized through God's miraculous means. When sin abounds in men, God's grace abounds even more, and the LORD will always bring about his promises in a just manner. As we look back at the word of the LORD first given to David about his descendent who would be king forever, we can see that the fulfillment could come only in the King of Kings, which came about, indeed many years after David's death. . 2 Samuel “7:12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: 15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took [it] from Saul, whom I put away before thee. 16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. 17 According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.”

Solomon was not chastened with the stripes of men, but our Lord Jesus was, as our transgression was transferred onto him. The mercy and justice of the LORD assures that the unique descendent of David, son of man and Son of God, will rule and reign forever. Psalms "10:16 The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land." Isaiah "9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." The gospel of Christ demonstrates the zeal of the LORD of hosts for his glory, as the opening of two of the gospel accounts affirm Christ Jesus as the son of David and the son of God. Matthew "1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Mark "1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;"

Through his mercy he took our penalty and purged our sins to satisfy the justice of God. Hebrews “1:3 Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” Peter declared this good news after the resurrection. Acts “13:32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” Since Christ has cancelled the curse of death, he will reign as our king forever. Hebrews "1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." So this takes us back to the beginning of the psalm as we praise the LORD for his mercy and justice. 1 Timothy "1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."


--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord Jesus, as I have studied this psalm of David, and many related verses throughout scripture, I can much more appreciate why David wanted to sing praises to you for the way you have set mercy in perfect balance with your holy judgments. I am so thankful that by your lovingkindness you provide an upright heart to those who place their trust in you. My Savior Jesus, you have satisfied your just ordinances in my behalf, that I might be part of your eternal kingdom. As I wait for you to come to set up that kingdom and eliminate all ungodliness, I ask that you increase my faith and my resolve to live in a manner consistent with your holy commandments. I believe that you are the one true God, and I want my life to give no other impression than my complete belief in you Lord Jesus. Keep my heart from any other idols, and help me to take a firm stand if I find myself in the company of those who deny you as Lord. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.

Published 30 April 2011