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According to the superscription, this Psalm was composed by David. Three different times in his life have been suggested as the occasion to which the Psalm refers. First, when, upon the death of Saul, David began to reign in Hebron over Judah; second, when he began to reign “in Jerusalem over all Israel and Judah;” and third, when he brought up the ark of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David. It is impossible to determine which, or whether either of these suggestions, is correct. Perowne thinks that the Psalm was written in the early part of David’s reign, whilst the ark was in the house of Obed-edom. The Psalm baa been entitled, “The godly purposes and resolves of a king;” and “Speculum Regis,” a mirror for kings. Matthew Henry calls it “The Householder’s Psalm.” In it David gives us the rules which he laid down for the regulation of his household and court. In this aspect the Psalm has a universal application; for the principles which are good in a palace are good also in a cottage, and the virtues which adorn a peasant’s humble household will increase the lustre of a king’s brilliant court.
A PICTURE OF A PIOUS HOME
In this picture of a pious household the Poet gives prominence to three of its main features.
I. Its worship. “I will sing of mercy and judgment,” &c.
1. Praise for the Divine providence. “I will sing of mercy and judgment,” &c. Here are two ideas—
(1) God’s providence is varied in its dispensations. He visits us with both mercies and judgments. He makes us acquainted with “the dark and stormy day;” and “He maketh us to lie down in green pastures, and Ieadeth us beside the still waters.”
(2) God’s providence is benevolent in its character. Both “mercy and judgment,” rightly understood, are themes for praise. “What,” inquires Stowell, “is judgment itself but mercy with a sterner aspect? And what are the chidings of judgment but the sterner tones of the voice of a Father’s love? For even judgment is one of the ‘all things’ that ‘work together for good to them that love God.’ ”
2. Prayer for the Divine presence. “Oh when wilt Thou come unto me?” David longs for the presence and help of God. “The question bursts forth from the heart, moved and stirred to its inmost centre, as it thinks of all the height and depth of that resolve to ‘walk in a perfect way.’ How shall a frail son of man keep his integrity? The task is too great for his own strength, honest and sincere as the resolution is, and therefore he cries, ‘When wilt Thou come unto me?’—come to be my abiding guest—come not only to dwell in Zion, in Thy tabernacle, but with me Thy servant, in my house and in my heart, giving me the strength and the grace that I need.”—Perowne. Great and blessed is the influence of family worship. Thrice blessed is the home in which the presence of God is graciously realised.
II. Its head. The head of the family, as sketched by the Poet, manifests—
1. Circumspectness of conduct. “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.” “And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him.” He resolves to exercise “prudence, not sapience; not wise contemplation, but wise action. It is not wise thoughts, or wise speaking, or wise writing, or wise gesture and countenance, will serve the turn, but wise behaviour: the former are graceful, but the other needful.” It behoves heads of families to “walk circumspectly.”
2. Integrity of heart. “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” Literally: “In the perfectness, or integrity, of my heart.” Again he says: “A froward heart shall depart from Me.” עִקֵּשׁ= perverse, perverted; with לֵבָב (as here) = a corrupt heart.—Fuerst. The heart in this place is the centre of moral life. The Psalmist resolves not to tolerate corruption in his heart; but to walk within his house with an upright heart, “in the blamelessness of his heart.” He who would order his household wisely should cultivate purity in his feelings, intentions, motives.
3. Righteousness of aim. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.” Margin: “Thing of Belial.” Perowne: “Vile thing, lit. ‘thing of villany.’ The noun is that which is wrongly rendered in the A. V. of the historical books, ‘Belial,’ as if it were a proper name. It is really a compound noun meaning ‘that which profiteth not.’ ” The head of the pious home will not entertain evil projects, or follow wicked aims, or imitate morally worthless examples. When the aims of the head of a house-hold are righteous and noble, and are worthily followed, his influence in this respect is unspeakably and immeasurably good.
4. Hatred of evil. “I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Perowne: “I hate the sin of unfaithfulness.” The idea of the words, and also of, “I will not know a wicked person,” is hatred of evil. Sin he abhors. “Hatred of sin is a good sentinel for the door of virtue.” The Psalmist knew that he might be tempted, but resolved that he would not yield to temptation. Evil might be presented to him, but it should not cleave unto him. He refuses to listen to the suggestions of the tempter, and frees himself from his hold. Such are the outlines of the portrait of the head of a pious home. This is how he appears in his own family. “How fares it with your family? Do you sing in the choir and sin in the chamber? Are you a saint abroad and a devil at home? For shame! What we are at home, that we are indeed. He cannot be a true saint whose habitation is a scene of strife, nor he a faithful minister whose household dreads his appearance at the fireside.”—Spurgeon.
III. Its servants. Psalms 101:5-7. We have here—
1. The rejected. These comprehend three classes.
(1) The Slanderer. “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off.” “In order to constitute slander,” says Robertson, “it is not necessary that the word spoken should be false—half truths are often more calumnious than whole falsehoods. It is not even necessary that a word should be distinctly uttered; a dropped lip, an arched eyebrow, a shrugged shoulder, a significant look, an incredulous expression of countenance, nay, even an emphatic silence, may do the work; and when the light and trifling thing which has done the mischief has fluttered off, the venom is left behind, to work and rankle, to inflame hearts, to fever human existence, and to poison human society at the fountain springs of life.” The wise householder will keep the slanderer out of his family. The cowardice, malice, and terribly pernicious influence of slander are potent reasons for doing so.
(2) The proud. “Him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.” Literally: “Whoso is wide of heart,” i.e., inflated with pride, haughty, arrogant. A man of overbearing conceit and “vaulting ambition” is foolish; he is ignorant, unreal, blown out with empty pretensions. He is wicked. Pride is sin as well as folly. “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” He is mischievous. “Only by pride cometh contention.” Therefore the haughty and ambitious are excluded from the pious home. Humility is essential both to piety and to peace.
(3) The deceiver. “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house, he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” Hebrew, as in margin: “Shall not be established.” Hengstenberg: “Shall not continue beside me.” “Liars,” says Epictetus, “are the cause of all the sins and crimes in the world.” From the pious home deceivers must be excluded, whether they deceive by telling lies or by acting lies, whether simulators or dissimulators, all insincere persons must be kept without the sacred precincts of the godly family.
2. The accepted. “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.” The servants of the pious home, as described by David, are characterised by
(1) Fidelity. “The faithful of the land;” the true and trustworthy. It is implied here that those who are faithful to God will be faithful to man. David says, “His eyes shall be upon them.” “There is an eye of search, and an eye of favour: the one is for the seeking and finding them out, that they may serve; the other for countenancing of their persons, and rewarding of their service.”
(2) Integrity. “He that walketh in a perfect way.” This does not signify a sinless or perfect man, but one who is sincere and upright. There is an obvious reference to the second verse. The Psalmist would have for his servants those who were actuated by the same pure motives, and pursued the same upright course as himself. “A godly servant,” says Gurnall, “is a greater blessing than we think on. He can work, and set God on work also, for his master’s good (Genesis 24:12), ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray Thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master.’ And sure he did his master as much service by his prayer as by his prudence in that journey.”
IV. He who is the head of a pious home will do his utmost to banish wickedness from the world. This we may fairly infer from the last verse. Piety begins in the heart, extends to the home, then goes out to bless the world. “I will early destroy,” says the Psalmist, “all the wicked of the land,” &c. Perowne: “Every morning will I destroy,” &c. There is here probably an allusion to the Eastern custom of holding courts of justice in the morning. (2 Samuel 15:2; Jeremiah 21:12; Zephaniah 3:5.) The “every morning” indicates the persistency of the efforts of the Poet-King to uproot evil from society. With unwearied zeal he would seek to purge the land of its iniquities.
CONCLUSION.—The Psalmist in this Psalm sets us an example we shall do well to imitate.
1. In his intolerance. The Psalm “is full of a stern exclusiveness, of a noble intolerance, not against theological error, not against uncourtly manners, not against political insubordination, but against the proud heart, the high look, the secret slanderer, the deceitful worker, the teller of lies. These are the outlaws from king David’s court; these are the rebels and heretics whom he would not suffer to dwell in his house or tarry in his sight.”—Dean Stanley. Let us copy him in this respect.
2. In his piety. His was piety in the heart, in the home, in the world. His religion was sincere and thorough. Let us imitate him in this, especially in showing piety at home. “To Adam,” says Hare, “paradise was home. To the good among his descendants, home is paradise.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 101". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent