I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. … I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. [Psalm 101:2,4 (NLT)]
Starting with Solomon, Psalm 101 was sung at the kings’ coronations. Believed to have been written by David, the psalm has several “I will” statements in which the king resolves to reign righteously, sing of God’s mercy and justice, and live a blameless life in his home. Pledging to refuse to have anything to do with wickedness, he promises not to tolerate crooked dealings or evil and to be so careful about the character of his associates that only those above reproach would serve him. He vows to be intolerant of slander, conceit, arrogance, deceit, and falsehoods and he pledges that his daily task will be to search out the wicked to free the city from all evil.
Perhaps because the psalm describes the proper conduct for a Christian king, it was known as the “prince’s psalm” in Europe. Ernest I (1601 –1675), the Duke of Saxe-Gotha (and known as “Ernest the Pious”) is said to have sent an unfaithful minister a copy of the psalm as a subtle way of voicing his reproach. It soon became a popular saying that whenever an official did something wrong, he would receive a copy of the “prince’s psalm” to read! With his deep concern about civil government, Martin Luther wrote an 80-page discussion of the psalm in which he expounded on the qualities of a Christian prince or magistrate. Those leadership qualities haven’t gone out of style and 21st century Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe suggests we simply call the psalm “Leadership 101.” Indeed, the psalm is an excellent plan both for virtuous living and good governance.
The psalm’s lofty goals, however, were written by a man who didn’t live up to them and sung for other kings who couldn’t either. I’m sure David had every intention of walking in a way that pleased God. He never envisioned raping Bathsheba, committing adultery, plotting with Joab to murder Uriah, having to deal with Amnon’s rape of Tamar, nor the family and political intrigue that comes with at least eight wives and nineteen sons. When sung at Solomon’s coronation, the new king probably was filled with good intentions, as well. He never pictured having a harem of 1,000, building pagan shrines for Chemosh or Molech, or worshipping those foreign gods. Like David and Solomon, we usually start out with good intentions but seem to lose our way when it comes to achieving them. Even the Apostle Paul admitted difficulty in putting his good intentions into practice when he said, “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” [Romans 7:18-19]
In spite of our high ideals and lofty goals, sin loves to rear its ugly head. If people like David, Solomon and Paul couldn’t live up to their good intentions, what chance is there for us? Not much if we hope to do it on our own, but the good news is we’re not alone! “Thank God!” said Paul, “The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Romans 7:25] The rest of the answer is found in Romans 8. Today, don’t just read a portion of this beautiful chapter—please read it all.