Psalm 101: A Royal Prayer

I will sing of your love and justice;
    to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
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.
I will not look with approval
    on anything that is vile.

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Psalm 101

Psalm 101 is entitled ‘Of David’ and it very much seems like the sort of thing that a ruler might pray but, as we shall see, the Psalm is not just for monarchs (though according to the New Testament (1 Peter 2:9) we’re all royalty anyhow!).

The prayer begins with the twin characteristics of God’s love and justice (v. 1) which have featured so prominently and so frequently in the Psalms. Those characteristics of God are not only to be sung out loud (v. 1) but are to be lived out loud in David’s own life. We are all made in the image of God and we are meant to reflect his character to the rest of creation, especially his justice and love!

Another characteristic of the king is that of integrity. Verse 2 speaks of both his outward actions (‘the affairs of my house’, meaning his court) and his inner attitude (‘a blameless heart’). He will not condemn himself by what he approves nor by that to which he turns a blind eye. Specifically, David mentions those who slander their neighbour, who stir up trouble and who think that they are superior to everyone else (v. 5). Such people will not be kept in David’s employment (v. 7) and had better pack their bags and look for work elsewhere.

Instead the king will ensure that there is justice for the ‘faithful’ and for ‘those whose life is blameless’. All too often they are the people who are ignored but here the sovereign himself promises to have his eyes on those who are overlooked and who go unnoticed (v. 6).

David’s aspiration is that his kingdom, his sphere of influence, will be one where there is no wickedness and no more evildoing. It is a lofty ideal and one that sadly neither David nor his son, Solomon, lived up to. It’s all too easy for us to find fault with others but we need to have a good look in the mirror at ourselves (Psalm 19:12). 

Derek Kidner is surely right when he says that, for the perfect fulfilment of David’s desire for a realm of justice, ‘we have to look to the Messiah himself.’ In Jesus we see the rule of God come to earth and we see what it’s like when God’s will is done. All our attempts to do good, to do what is right, will ultimately fall short of the mark, but that doesn’t mean that they are not worth making, and at their best they foreshadow and point to the Kingdom that will one day come in all its fulness with Christ’s return.

Psalm 101 is a good prayer to pray for those in government (and for those in opposition who hold them to account). It is a good prayer to pray for all sorts of leaders in our society. It is also a good prayer for ourselves in the responsibilities we have, whether in our families or at work or in the fellowship of God’s people.