Psalm 101:1
I will sing of mercy and judgment: to you, O LORD, will I sing.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Mercy and judgment—or, as some render, grace and right—are the especially requisite attributes of a good monarch, or of magistrates generally. (See Matthew 23:23, where the failure to practise them is charged on the ruling class in Judæa at that time, though, of course, also required in the conduct of every man; Micah 6:8.) Here, no doubt, as almost all commentators have seen, they are first regarded ideally as attributes of the Divine King.

“And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,

When mercy seasons justice.”

Will I sing.—Better, will I play.

On the question of the connection of this verse with the rest of the psalm, see Introduction.

Psalm 101:1. I will sing of mercy and judgment — It is doubtful whether David, in thus determining to make mercy and judgment the subjects of his song, intended the mercy which God had shown him, and the judgment which God had executed on his enemies; or the mercy and judgment which he himself purposed to dispense in his dominions, according to the different characters of his subjects. Possibly he might include both, and the purport of his resolution may be this: I will praise thee, O Lord, as for all thy other excellences, so particularly for those two royal perfections of mercy and justice, or judgment, which thou hast so eminently discovered in the government of the world, and of thy people Israel; and I will make it my care to imitate thee, as in other things, so especially in these virtues, which are so necessary for the discharge of my trust, and the good government of thy and my people. “The Psalm,” says Dr. Dodd, “has a double reference, and describes the manner in which David intended to act toward his subjects, under their different denominations, as they were good or bad ones. Toward the faithful in the land he would show חסד, chesed, benignity, and favour; toward the wicked, and such as obstinately violated the laws, he would exercise משׁפשׂ, mishpat, judgment, as he would judge and punish them according to their deeds. And as this was his fixed purpose, he consecrated this song to God; appealing hereby to him for the sincerity of his intention, to make mercy and judgment the great rules of his administration; and agreeably hereto it is observed of him, that he executed justice and judgment to all the people, 2 Samuel 8:15.”101:1-8 David's vow and profession of godliness. - In this psalm we have David declaring how he intended to regulate his household, and to govern his kingdom, that he might stop wickedness, and encourage godliness. It is also applicable to private families, and is the householder's psalm. It teaches all that have any power, whether more or less, to use it so as to be a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well. The chosen subject of the psalm is God's mercy and judgment. The Lord's providences concerning his people are commonly mixed; mercy and judgment. God has set the one over against the other, both to do good, like showers and sunshine. When, in his providence, he exercises us with the mixture of mercy and judgment, we must make suitable acknowledgments to him for both. Family mercies and family afflictions are both calls to family religion. Those who are in public stations are not thereby excused from care in governing their families; they are the more concerned to set a good example of ruling their own houses well. Whenever a man has a house of his own, let him seek to have God to dwell with him; and those may expect his presence, who walk with a perfect heart, in a perfect way. David resolves to practise no evil himself. He further resolves not to keep bad servants, nor to employ those about him that are wicked. He will not admit them into his family, lest they spread the infection of sin. A froward heart, one that delights to be cross and perverse, is not fit for society, the bond of which is Christian love. Nor will he countenance slanderers, those who take pleasure in wounding their neighbour's reputation. Also, God resists the proud, and false, deceitful people, who scruple not to tell lies, or commit frauds. Let every one be zealous and diligent to reform his own heart and ways, and to do this early; ever mindful of that future, most awful morning, when the King of righteousness shall cut off all wicked doers from the heavenly Jerusalem.I will sing of mercy and judgment - That is, In the psalm which he was about to compose, he would make these the burden of his song; he would, in fact, by stating his views as to the regulation of his own conduct, commend these virtues - mercy and justice - to mankind, and celebrate their value. He who himself "adopts" the principles of mercy, kindness, truth, and justice, as his own guide, commends these virtues to mankind in the best way possible. No language can do it effectually, unless a man practices these virtues himself.

Unto thee, O Lord, will I sing - As commending and approving these things; as having put it into my heart to practice them; as displaying them in thine own higher administration: for a father of a family, or a magistrate, is but the representative of God.

PSALM 101

Ps 101:1-8. In this Psalm the profession of the principles of his domestic and political government testifies, as well as actions in accordance with it, David's appreciation of God's mercy to him, and His judgment on his enemies: and thus he sings or celebrates God's dealings.

1 I will sing of mercy and judgment; unto thee, O Lord, will Ising.

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.

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 Whose privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not Isuffer.

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.

Psalm 101:1

"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 his 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 cheered them, or the afflictions which have 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 our 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.

Psalm 101:2

"I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way." To be holy is to be wise; a perfect way is a wise way. David's resolve was excellent, but his practice did not fully tally with it. Alas! he was not always wise or perfect, but it was well that it was in his heart. A king had need be both sage and pure, and, if he be not so in intent, when he comes to the throne, his after conduct will be a sad example to his people. He who does not even resolve to do well is likely to do very ill. Householders, employers, and especially ministers, should pray for both wisdom and holiness, for they will need them both. "O when wilt thou come unto me?" - an ejaculation, but not an interruption. He feels the need not merely of divine help, but also of the divine presence, that so he may be instructed, and sanctified, and made fit for the discharge of his high vocation. David longed for a more special and effectual visitation from the Lord before he began his reign. If God be with us we shall neither err in judgment nor transgress in character; his presence brings us both wisdom and holiness: away from God we are away from safety. Good men are so sensible of infirmity that they cry for help from God, so full of prayer that they cry at all seasons, so intense in their desires that they cry with sighs and groanings which cannot be uttered, saying, "O when wilt thou come unto me?" "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." Piety must begin at home. Our first duties are those within our own abode. We must have a perfect heart at home, or we cannot keep a perfect way abroad. Notice that these words are a part of a song, and that there is no music like the harmony of a gracious life, no Psalm so sweet as the daily practice of holiness. Reader, 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 good king whose palace is the haunt of vice, nor he a true saint whose habitation is a scene of strife, nor he a faithful minister whose household dreads his appearance at the fireside.

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm was composed by David between times of God’s promising the kingdom to him and his actual and plenary possession of it, as appears both from Psalm 101:2, and from the contexture of the Psalm, wherein he speaks not of his present practice, but of his purpose for the future, and solemnly declares his resolution, and obligeth himself to these things when he shall be in a capacity to put them in execution.

David maketh a vow to praise the Lord, Psalm 101:1; to walk perfectly for an example, Psalm 101:2 to destroy all the wicked, Psalm 101:3-5; and to delight in the faithful of the land, Psalm 101:6-8.

Of mercy and judgment; either,

1. Of God towards me: of God’s mercy towards me, and of his just judgments upon mine enemies. Or,

2. Of mine towards my people; I will in my song declare my obligation and full purpose to execute mercy and judgment in my dominion; which are the two pillars of government; of which he speaks in the, following verses. Interpreters are much divided which to choose. Possibly both may be joined together, and the sense may be this, I will praise thee, O Lord, as for all other excellencies, so particularly for those two royal perfections of mercy and justice, or judgment, which thou hast so eminently discovered in the government of the world and of thy people Israel; and I will make it my care and business to imitate and follow thee, as in other things, so especially in those virtues which are so necessary for discharge of my trust and the good government of thy and my people.

I will sing of mercy and judgment,.... Either of mercy and justice, exercised by him towards his people, which he resolved to do, and did, 2 Samuel 8:15 which are two very principal points in government, are the glory of a reign, the support of the throne, and the happiness of a people, Proverbs 20:28, or rather of the mercy of God to himself, in delivering him from his enemies, and raising him to the throne; and of the judgment of God in maintaining his cause, and avenging him on those that hated him: every good man has reason to sing of the "mercy" of God; not only of his providential mercy, but of his special mercy, prepared in council and covenant for him, displayed in regeneration, in the pardon of sin, and in his everlasting salvation: or of "grace" and goodness, as the word (f) signifies; of the grace and goodness of God laid up in Christ, shown forth through him, and to which the whole of salvation is owing; singing of this shows a sense of it, thankfulness for it, and a cheerful disposition of soul, in a view of interest in it: and he may also sing of "judgment": of righteous punishment inflicted upon his enemies, and the enemies of God, and Christ, and true religion; not as taking delight in the misery of fellow creatures, but as rejoicing in the glory of divine justice displayed therein, and in a deliverance from them; as Israel did at the Red sea; and as the church will, when Babylon is destroyed: moreover, a good man may sing of mercy and judgment together, with respect to himself; there being, in the course of his life, a mixture of prosperity and adversity, of merciful and afflictive dispensations, which work together for his good; and he has reason to be thankful for the one as for the other, as Job was, Job 1:21, so the Targum,

"if thou renderest mercy to me; if thou exercisest judgment on me; for all I will praise thee:''

judgment sometimes signifies chastisement, Jeremiah 10:24, it may be understood of Christ, who sung of the mercy of God, as shown in the mission of him into the world to save men, and which was glorified in their redemption by him; and of the justice of God exercised on him, as their surety, on whom judgment came unto condemnation for their sins; and when the sword of justice was awaked against him, the hand of mercy was turned on the little ones, Zechariah 13:7,

unto thee, O Lord, will I sing; on the above subjects.

(f) "gratiam", Gejerus, Michaelis.

<> I will {a} sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.

(a) David considers what manner of King he would be, when God would place him in the throne, promising openly, that he would be merciful and just.

1. I will sing of mercy and judgment] Lovingkindness and judgement are characteristics of the Divine rule (Psalm 89:14), which are to be reflected in the true human ruler (Isaiah 16:5). They are the fundamental principles of right life and conduct, the bond of fellowship between man and God (Hosea 2:19), and between man and his fellowman (Hosea 12:6; Micah 6:8; Matthew 23:23). If in these opening words the Psalmist is referring to the Divine attributes which are the archetype and model for human conduct, he passes on at once to speak of their imitation and embodiment in his own life and the life of his courtiers.

unto thee &c.] Unto thee, Jehovah, will I make melody (Psalm 57:7).

1–4. By purity of purpose and integrity of heart David is resolved to prepare for Jehovah’s coming to dwell with him.Verse 1. - I will sing of mercy and judgment. The writer does not mean that he is about, in this present psalm, to sing of God's mercy and justice, but that he will make it one of the rules of his life to do so. Unto thee, O Lord, will I sing; or, "will I make melody" (Cheyne, Kay). The vision of the third Sanctus looks into the history of the olden time prior to the kings. In support of the statement that Jahve is a living God, and a God who proves Himself in mercy and in judgment, the poet appeals to three heroes of the olden time, and the events recorded of them. The expression certainly sounds as though it had reference to something belonging to the present time; and Hitzig therefore believes that it must be explained of the three as heavenly intercessors, after the manner of Onias and Jeremiah in the vision 2 Macc. 15:12-14. But apart from this presupposing an active manifestation of life on the part of those who have fallen happily asleep, which is at variance with the ideas of the latest as well as of the earliest Psalms concerning the other world, this interpretation founders upon Psalm 99:7, according to which a celestial discourse of God with the three "in the pillar of cloud" ought also to be supposed. The substantival clauses Psalm 99:6 bear sufficient evident in themselves of being a retrospect, by which the futures that follow are stamped as being the expression of the contemporaneous past. The distribution of the predicates to the three is well conceived. Moses was also a mighty man in prayer, for with his hands uplifted for prayer he obtained the victory for his people over Amalek (Exodus 17:11.), and on another occasion placed himself in the breach, and rescued them from the wrath of God and from destruction (Psalm 106:23; Exodus 32:30-32; cf. also Numbers 12:13); and Samuel, it is true, is only a Levite by descent, but by office in a time of urgent need a priest (cohen), for he sacrifices independently in places where, by reason of the absence of the holy tabernacle with the ark of the covenant, it was not lawful, according to the letter of the law, to offer sacrifices, he builds an altar in Ramah, his residence as judge, and has, in connection with the divine services on the high place (Bama) there, a more than high-priestly position, inasmuch as the people do not begin the sacrificial repasts before he has blessed the sacrifice (1 Samuel 9:13). But the character of a mighty man in prayer is outweighed in the case of Moses by the character of the priest; for he is, so to speak, the proto-priest of Israel, inasmuch as he twice performed priestly acts which laid as it were a foundation for all times to come, viz., the sprinkling of the blood at the ratification of the covenant under Sinai (Exodus 24), and the whole ritual which was a model for the consecrated priesthood, at the consecration of the priests (Leviticus 8). It was he, too, who performed the service in the sanctuary prior to the consecration of the priests: he set the shew-bread in order, prepared the candlestick, and burnt incense upon the golden altar (Exodus 40:22-27). In the case of Samuel, on the other hand, the character of the mediator in the religious services is outweighed by that of the man mighty in prayer: by prayer he obtained Israel the victory of Ebenezer over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:8.), and confirmed his words of warning with the miraculous sign, that at his calling upon God it would thunder and rain in the midst of a cloudless season (1 Samuel 12:16, cf. Sir. 46:16f.).

The poet designedly says: Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel among His praying ones. This third twelve-line strophe holds good, not only of the three in particular, but of the twelve-tribe nation of priests and praying ones to which they belong. For Psalm 99:7 cannot be meant of the three, since, with the exception of a single instance (Numbers 12:5), it is always Moses only, not Aaron, much less Samuel, with whom God negotiates in such a manner. אליהם refers to the whole people, which is proved by their interest in the divine revelation given by the hand of Moses out of the cloudy pillar (Exodus 33:7.). Nor can Psalm 99:6 therefore be understood of the three exclusively, since there is nothing to indicate the transition from them to the people: crying (קראים, syncopated like חטאים, 1 Samuel 24:11) to Jahve, i.e., as often as they (these priests and praying ones, to whom a Moses, Aaron, and Samuel belong) cried unto Jahve, He answered them-He revealed Himself to this people who had such leaders (choragi), in the cloudy pillar, to those who kept His testimonies and the law which He gave them. A glance at Psalm 99:8 shows that in Israel itself the good and the bad, good and evil, are distinguished. God answered those who could pray to Him with a claim to be answered. Psalm 99:7, is, virtually at least, a relative clause, declaring the prerequisite of a prayer that may be granted. In Psalm 99:8 is added the thought that the history of Israel, in the time of its redemption out of Egypt, is not less a mirror of the righteousness of God than of the pardoning grace of God. If Psalm 99:7-8 are referred entirely to the three, then עלילות and נקם, referred to their sins of infirmity, appear to be too strong expressions. But to take the suffix of עלילותם objectively (ea quae in eos sunt moliti Core et socii ejus), with Symmachus (καὶ ἔκδικος ἐπὶ ταῖς ἐπηρείναις αὐτῶν) and Kimchi, as the ulciscens in omnes adinventiones eorum of the Vulgate is interpreted,

(Note: Vid., Raemdonck in his David propheta cet. 1800: in omnes injurias ipsis illatas, uti patuit in Core cet.)

is to do violence to it. The reference to the people explains it all without any constraint, and even the flight of prayer that comes in here (cf. Micah 7:18). The calling to mind of the generation of the desert, which fell short of the promise, is an earnest admonition for the generation of the present time. The God of Israel is holy in love and in wrath, as He Himself unfolds His Name in Exodus 34:6-7. Hence the poet calls upon his fellow-countrymen to exalt this God, whom they may with pride call their own, i.e., to acknowledge and confess His majesty, and to fall down and worship at (ל cf. אל, Psalm 5:8) the mountain of His holiness, the place of His choice and of His presence.

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