PSALM 101 OVERVIEW.
Title. -- A Psalm of David. This is just such a psalm as the man after God's own heart would compose when he was about to become king in Israel. It is David all over, straight forward, resolute, devout; there is no trace of policy or vacillation, the Lord has appointed him to be king, and he knows it, therefore he purposes in all things to behave as becomes a monarch whome the Lord himself has chosen. If we call this THE PSALM or PIOUS RESOLUTIONS, we shall perhaps remember it all the more readily. After songs of praise a psalm of practice not only makes variety, but comes in most fittingly. We never praise the Lord better than when we do those things which are pleasing in his sight.
Verse 1. I will sing of mercy and judgment. He would extol both the love and the severity, the sweets and the bitters, which the Lord had mingled in Iris experience; he would admire the justice and the goodness of the Lord. Such a song would fitly lead up to godly resolutions as to his own conduct, for that which we admire in our superiors we naturally endeavour to imitate. Mercy and judgment would temper the administration of David, because he had adoringly perceived them in the dispensations of his God. Everything in God's dealings with us may fittingly become the theme of song, and we have not viewed it aright until we feel we can sing about it. We ought as much to bless the Lord for the judgment with which he chastens our sin, as for the mercy with which he forgives it; there is as much love in the blows of his hand as in the kisses of his mouth. Upon a retrospect of their lives instructed saints scarcely know which to be most grateful for -- the comforts which have, or the afflictions which nave purged them.
Unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. Jehovah shall have all our praise. The secondary agents of either the mercy or the judgment must hold a very subordinate place in oue memory, and the Lord alone must be hymned by our heart. Our soul's sole worship must be the lauding of the Lord. The psalmist forsakes the minor key, which was soon to rule him in the one hundred and second psalm, and resolves that, come what may, he will sing, and sing to the Lord too, whatever others might do.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The contents of this psalm show that it was written at some remarkable period of David's life. Three different times have been fixed upon as respectively giving occasion for the solemn resolutions which are announced in it. The first is supposed to be when David, immediately after the death of Saul, succeeded to the government of a part of the kingdom; the second, when the whole kingdom was united under the dominion of David; and the third, when he removed the ark from the house of Obededom to Zion, and placed it in the vicinity of his own abode. It is certainly of little importance which of these periods we select, but the second verse of the psalm has some appearance of relating to the last mentioned. The psalmist here says,
When wilt thou come to me? which seems to intimate that when he was to have the symbols of God's presence so near to him, he experienced a solemn sentiment respecting the holiness that was now more than ever incumbent upon him -- a sentiment which induced him to form the sacred purposes and resolutions which he has specified. These purposes relate to the character of the persons whom he would select for his household, and those whom he would employ in carrying on his government, which appeared to be more firmly established by the divine condescension that was manifested to him, in having the earthly residence of God placed so near to himself. It was quite in agreement with David's character to form purposes of more fervent and steadfast obedience, in proportion to the advantages and favours which the divine goodness bestowed upon him. --William Walford.
Whole Psalm. This psalm has been appropriately called "The House- holder's Psalm"; and assuredly if every master of a family would regulate his household by these rules of the conscientious psalmist, there would be a far greater amount, not merely of domestic happiness and comfort, but of fulfilment of the serious and responsible duties which devolve on the respective members of a household. David in some measure may be supposed to speak of the regulation of a royal court and household; and of course with such we in our humbler sphere can have but little in common; yet though there may not be the same duties and the same requirements, yet the same principles should actuate all alike, and the same virtues that adorn the lowlier station may shed a radiance even on the highest. --Barton Bouchier.
Whole Psalm. This is the psalm which the old expositors used to designate "The Mirror for Magistrates"; and an excellent mirror it is. It would mightily accelerate the coming of the time when every nation shall be Christ's possession, and every capital a "City of the Lord", if all magistrates could be persuaded to dress themselves by it every time they go forth to perform the functions of their godlike office. When Sir George Villiers became the favourite and prime minister of King James, Lord Bacon, in a beautiful Letter of Advice, counselled him to take this psalm for his rule in the promotion of courtiers. "In those the choice had need be of holiest and faithful servants, as well as of comely outsides who can bow the knee and kiss the hand. King David ( Psalms 101:6-7 ) propounded a rule to himself for the choice of his courtiers. He was a wise and a good king; and a wise and a good king shall do well to follow such a good example; and if he find any to be faulty, which perhaps cannot suddenly be discovered, let him take on him this resolution as King David did, `There shall no deceitful person dwell in my house.'" It would have been well both for the Philosopher and the Favourite if they had been careful to walk by this rule. --William Binnie.
Whole Psalm. Eyring, in his "Life of Ernest the Pious" (Duke of Saxe Gotha), relates that he sent an unfaithful minister a copy of Psalms 101:1-8 , and that it became a proverb in the country when an official had done anything wrong: He will certainly soon receive the prince's psalm to read. --F. Delitzseh.
Whole Psalm. Psalms 101:1-8 was one beloved by the noblest of Russian princes, Vladimir Monomachos; and by the gentlest of English reformers, Nicholas Ridley. But it was its first leap into life that has carried it so far into the future. It 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. --Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, in "Lectures on the History the Jewish Church", 1870.
Whole Psalm. Such a hymn of praise as the grand doxology of Psalms 99:1-9 could not die away without an echo. Accordingly Psalms 100:1-5 may be regarded as forming the chorus of the church, and this as taking up and applying that part of the doxology which celebrated the present manifestation of the "King in his beauty." --Alfred Edersheim.
Whole Psalm. Mr. Fox reports that Bishop Ridley often read and expounded this psalm to his household, hiring them with money to get it by heart. --Thomas Lye, in "The Morning Exercises."
Verse 1. I will sing. If thou bestowest mercies upon me; or if thou bringest any judgment upon me; before thee, O Lord, will I sing my hymn for all. --Chaldee Paraphrase.
Verse 1. I will sing. The manner of expression imports a cordial resolution; heart and will are engaged in it; there is twice I will in the text. The manner of expression imports a humble resolution; I cannot sing of merit; but I will sing of mercy, and through mercy I will sing of mercy. To sing of mercy must be a humble song, for mercy towards a miserable sinner is a melting word; and to sing of judgment must be a humble song, for judgment in every sense is an awful word. The manner of the expression imports a skilful harper, a dexterous musician, even in a spiritual sense; he knew what should be the subject of the song, and he says, "I will sing of mercy and judgment"; and he knew what should be the object of the song, or to whom it should be sung, and therefore says, "To thee, O Lord, I will sing"; he knew who should be the singer, and therefore says, "I will" do it; he knew what should be the manner; and therefore says, "I will sing of mercy and judgment; to thee, O Lord, will I sing." It is before the Lord he resolves to sing, as he did before the ark, which was a type of Christ; and so is it s song to the praise of God in Christ. The manner of the expression imports a firm, fixed, and constant resolution; so the redoubling of it seems to import; "I will sing, I will sing." He had a mind this exercise of singing should not go down, but be his continual trade, "I will sing, I will sing"; I will sing on earth and I will sing in heaven; I will sing in time and I will sing in eternity. And, indeed, all on whom the spirit of praise and gratitude is poured out resolve never to give over singing... David had heard once, yea, twice, that mercy as well as power belongs to the Lord; and therefore not only once, but twice in a breath he resolves to sing unto the Lord. The word hath a great deal of elegancy and emphasis in it; I will sing of mercy, I will sing of judgment; O, I will sing, O Lord, I will sing; and I will sing unto thee. -- Ralph Erskine.
Verse 1. This song of the sweet singer of Israel is peculiar to earth; they do not sing of judgment in heaven, for there is no sin there; they do not sing of mercy in hell, for there is no propitiation for sin there. Time was when the song was not heard even on earth; for in Paradise man walked in innocence, and walking in innocence he walked in the light of his Father's face. --Hugh Stowell, 1856.
Verse 1. I will sing of mercy and judgment. It comes all to this, as if the psalmist should say, "I will sing of merciful judgements"; for judgment is mercy, as it is the matter of the song: or, to take them separately, "I will sing of mercy in mercies, and, I will sing of mercy in judgment"; and so I will sing of my blinks and of my showers; I will sing both of my cloudy and my clear day; both of my ups and downs. --Ralph Erskine.
Verse 1. Mercy and judgment. As the pedge of the ship S.Paul sailed in was Castor and Pollux, twin brothers, so the badge of this Psalm is Mercy and Judgment, inseparable companions; of whom it may be said, as our prophet sometimes spake of Saul and Jonathan, "They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided." These are the two brightest stars in the firmament of majesty; the two fairest flowers, and choicest jewels in the imperial crown; like the carnation and the lily, the ruby and the sapphire, or the carbuncle and the diamond, yielding a mutual and interchangeable lustre each to other. They resemble not unfitly the two supporters of the king's arms, or the two seraphim stretching out their golden wings over the propitiatory, or the white and red rose in the same escutcheon.
We read that Solomon set up two goodly pillars in the porch of the temple, the one called Jachin, the other Boaz, which signify stability and strength; such pillars of the state are mercy and judgment. The throne of the King is borne up by them, as Solomen's was with lions of ivory on each side. Therefore I as in one place it is said that "the throne is established by justice" ( Proverbs 16:12 ); so in another that it is "upheld by mercy" ( Proverbs 20:28 ); justice being as the bones and sinews in the body politic, and mercy as the veins and arteries. They are the two hands of action, the two eyes of virtue, and the two wings of honour. And as the eyes, if they be rightly set, do both look one way; so do mercy and judgment, however in the apprehension of the vulgar they seem to look contrary ways. And as the treble and the bass accord best music; so do they in managing the commonwealth. Wherefore David promiseth to make them both sound tunable in his song without jar or discord: "I will sing of mercy and judgment." ...
As mercy is here set in the first place; so shall the sentence of mercy and absolution be first pronounced at the last day. And it is a laudable custom of princes, at their first entrance to their kingdoms, to shew mercy, by hearing the mourning of the prisoner, and delivering the children of death, by loosing the bands of wickedness, by taking off the heavy burdens, by letting the oppressed go free, and by breaking every yoke of former extortions. Thus, our prophet himself, as soon as the crown was settled on his head, made inquiry if there remained yet alive any of the house of Saul, on whom he might shew mercy ( 2 Samuel 9:1 ). O how fair a thing is this mercy in the time of anguish and trouble! It is like a cloud of rain that cometh in the time of drought. But this mercy, here spoken of in the first part of our prophet's song, stretcheth further; unfolding itself in clemency, in courtesy, and in compassion. In clemency, by pardoning malefactors; in compassion, by relieving the afflicted; in courtesy, towards all. --George Hakewill, or Hakewell, 1579-1649.
Verse 1. Mercy and judgment. What is the history of every poor sinner, plucked as a brand from the fire and brought to heaven in peace at last, but a history of "mercy and judgment"? Judgment first awakes to terror and to fear; mercy meets the poor, trembling, returning prodigal, and falls on his neck, and kisses, and forgives. Then, through all his chequered course, God hems up his way with judgment, that he may not wander, and yet brightens his path with mercy, that he may not faint. Is there a child of God that can look into the varied record of his heart or of his outward history, and not see goodness and severity, severity and goodness, tracking him all his journey through? Has he ever had a cup so bitter that he could say, "There is no mercy here"? Has he ever had a lot so bright that he could say, "There is no chastisement or correction here"? Has he ever had any bad tidings, and there have been no good tidings set over against them to relieve them? Has he ever had a sky so dark that he could see in it no star, or a cloud so unchequered that he could trace no rainbow of promise there? ...
What a beautifully woven web of judgment and mercy does every man's secret history, in his way through the wilderness of life to the land of promise, present! and how good, and how wholesome, and how kindly, and how gracious is this blessed intermingling of both! How do we need the judgment, to keep us humble and watchful and pure! and how do we need the mercy to keep us hopeful, and to nerve our efforts, and to stir our hearts, and to sustain us in patience, amid life's battle and struggle, and disappointment and vexation! Oh, how good it is for us, that we should thus, therefore, have the rod and staff together -- the rod to chasten, and the staff to solace and sustain! How good it is for us, that we should have to "sing of mercy and judgment!" And yet, what 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, to them that are the called according to his purpose." --Hugh Stowell.
Verse 1. Mercy and judgment. God intermixeth mercy with affliction: he steeps his sword of justice in the oil of mercy; there was no night so dark, but Israel had a pillar of fire in it; there is no condition so dismal, but we may see a pillar of fire to give light. If the body be in pain, conscience is in peace, -- there is mercy: affliction is for the prevention of sin, -- there is mercy. In the ark there was a rod and a pot of manna, the emblem of a Christian's condition, mercy interlined with judgment. --Thomas Watson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Whole Psalm. -- This is a psalm of wills and shalls. There are nine wills and five shalls. Resolutions should be made,
- With deliberation; not, therefore, upon trifling matters.
- With reservation. "If the Lord will," etc.
- With dependence upon divine strength for their fulfilment.
Verse 1. --
- The sweet work that is resolved upon is to "sing."
- The sweet singer that thus resolves, namely, David, "l will sing."
- The sweet subject of the song, "mercy and judgment."
- The sweet object of this praise, and the manner in which he would sing it -- "Unto three, 0 Lord, will I sing."
Verse 1. -- What there is in mercy that affords ground of singing.
- The freeness and undeservedhess of mercy.
- The unexpectedness of mercy. When I was expecting a frown I got a smile; when I was expecting nothing but wrath, I got a glance of love; instead of a stroke of vengeance, I got a view of glory.
- The seasonablehess of mercy is a ground of singing -- grace to help in time of need.
- The greatness and riches of mercy make the recipiants there of sing.
- The sweetness of mercy makes them sing.
- The sureness and firmness of mercy make them sing -- "The sure mercies of David."
--From Ralph Erskine's Sermon, entitled "The Militant's Song".
Verse 1. --
- The different conditions of the righteous man in this life. Not all mercy, nor all judgment, but mercy and judgment.
- His one duty and privilege in reference to them: "I will sing," etc.
- Because they are both from God.
(b) Because they are both from love.
(c) Because they are both for present good.
(d) Because they are both preparative for the heavenly rest.
Verse 1. -- The blending of song with holy living. The bell of praise and the pomegranate of holy fruitfulness should both adorn the Lord's priests.