Psalm 101 – My Little Psalmist: Friendship is Morality

Psalm 100 Bible With Theo Orange Dark Chocolate

Today’s Chocolate: Theo Orange 70% Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 101

Welcome to another exciting installment of Chocolate Book: Paper Towel Airport Edition. As I write this, I’m in the Fort Lauderdale Airport, and in an hour I’ll be heading to Columbus via a layover in Atlanta. As usual, you will be reading this much, much later in the day than all that. On the menu today is Psalm 101, a Psalm of David–and the first psalm in awhile with the author explicitly stated. Like Psalm 26, one of its major themes is the psalmist’s uprightness. However, Psalm 26 asserts the psalmist’s uprightness as grounds for vindication and protection by God. In contrast, Psalm 101 is more along the lines of, “Hey, God, I’m gonna be a good man because being good matters to me.”

David isn’t really looking to gain anything from his moral integrity here, except possibly access to God himself. He begins with a brief word of praise, then asks God, “When will You come to me?” (101:2). As usual, just about the only thing he wants from God is God. Having asked God when he’ll come near, David spends the rest of the psalm discussing how it’s good to be a good guy, whereas to be a bad guy is bad, and he’ll have no part of that.

For David, moral integrity is inherently social and communal. Refusing to associate with evil men, he says, “I hate the work of those who fall away…A perverse heart shall depart from me” (3-4). He doesn’t explicitly state what the evil men have fallen away from, but considering that this is David speaking, we can reasonably infer that they’ve fallen away from God, and then from everything that comes with him: his Torah, his love, his forgiveness, and everything else about God that compels David to desire his presence.

David declares his hatred for the work of these fallers-away, not the men themselves–apparently avoiding a moralistic approach to his pursuit of morality. But moments later, he states: “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy” (101:5). Holy death penalty! If David’s response seems harsh, it’s worth noting that the verb “destroy” (Heb. tsamath) may also be rendered “silence,” and we’ve discussed it before. Still, with my limited knowledge of Hebrew, I think it’s worth respecting that the NASB translators have chosen “destroy” as the primary rendering of the verb here. David is saying: “If I catch anyone talking crap about his neighbor, one way or another I will make sure he shuts up.”

But while David shuns the company of men with twisted hearts, he’s eager to keep company with those who pursue integrity. He vows, “My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me” (101:6). In contrast to the fallers-away, David welcomes as his countrymen those faithful to God and humankind. He’s eager to receive teaching and help from keepers of God’s blameless path; he wants to do the right thing with other people who want to do the right thing.

 

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