Psalm 101 (NIV)
1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.
I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
5 Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret,
I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.
6 My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
the one whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.
7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.
8 Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the Lord.
Psalm 101 is an amazing pronouncement of David regarding his desire for his personal life, his home, his people, and the land under his rule to be blameless before God. For all who know the narrative history of David, the description given here may seem incongruous with the facts of his life, but actually, here we meet, in very convicting terms, the reality and tension of our sanctification.
The amazing contrast between the expressions of integrity in Psalm 101 and the shocking confessions of guilt and sin in Psalm 51 give us a picture of the tension we all experience before God. In the one, David expresses the deep commitment of his heart: to walk in blameless ways, to keep sin from having any grip in his life, to live in integrity, and to keep any perpetrators of evil far from him and his reign. In the other, David confesses that the very wickedness he would purge from all around him is, indeed, found within his own heart and life. The outward expressions of evil, when properly evaluated, run right through the heart of every man or woman from our day of birth. In the tension of those two realities, portrayed so vividly in these two psalms, lies the seed of the gospel, which provides the only answer to the dilemma.
This psalm, especially when read next to Psalm 51, helps to highlight two truths that the church must remember. On the one hand, we must never lessen or compromise the high standards of holiness to which all of God’s people are called. On the other hand, we are painfully aware of our own sins, and we relate to others with grace and compassion, knowing that, as John Bradford wrote in the sixteenth century, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Psalm 101 gives us a beautiful vision for the sanctified life and desires of the heart. The Spirit-filled life does not mean that we have eradicated all sin from our lives. What it does mean is that we no longer have a divided heart. Our lives have been reoriented toward the Lord. This is sanctification: the reorientation of all desires and behavior, joyfully directed to the Lord’s glory and goodness. It doesn’t mean that we won’t still have the need for confession and forgiveness; but our hearts will no longer be divided—our longings will be congruous with the Lord’s goodness and holiness. This psalm beautifully pictures what that sanctification looks like, when the heart is fully reoriented toward holiness and love.
Christ, who alone is the truly righteous One, invites us into the full embodiment of that reality as we abide in him through the power of the Holy Spirit. David’s plea in the second verse of the psalm (“when will you come to me?”) gives voice to that longing for God’s pervasive presence. David sought it through the efforts outlined so earnestly in this psalm, but it is ultimately realized through abiding in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.