Tom Lowe


Psalm 101

(A psalm of David)



Title: The King’s Song

Theme: The king’s purpose for himself and his associates.


Jesus said: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).


  • Numbers in brackets, {z] correspond to “Special Notes” at the bottom of the last page.
  • KJV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.



Psalm 101 (KJV)


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

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

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.




Psalms 93 and 95-99 are royal psalms. "Royal" means "as a king,” and in these psalms it is God that is the king. But there are other psalms about the kings of Israel and Judah. They include Psalms 2, 18, 20 and 21, 45, 71 and 101. We could also call these "royal psalms, though each is about something different. For example:

  • Psalm 2 is about the king (of Israel) ruling over his enemies.
  • Psalms 20 and 21 are about the king going to war and coming home.
  • Psalm 45 is about the king getting married.


Psalm 101 is about the king ruling in his own country. Many Bible students think that it is what the king said when he became king. It was a promise that he made to God and his people. We do not know which king wrote the psalm. Maybe it was David. Maybe it was a king that ruled after David and He called himself "David" because he was David's son, grandson, or grandson's son, and so on. In other words, he was someone in David's family.


In the psalm, the king says two things:

  • he will sing about God, and God’s kind love and justice (God is kind and fair);
  • he himself will try to be as kind and fair as God is. He will not let bad men work with him.


A LIKELY BACKGROUND FOR THIS PSALM: David had just recently ascended the throne. The abuses and confusion of Saul’s last troubled years had to be reformed. The new king felt that he was God’s viceroy{1]; and here he declares what he will strive to make his monarchy-a copy of God’s.


David was anointed king three times. Samuel anointed David in his boyhood, in actual fact as a prophecy of his calling and destiny (1 Samuel 16:13). After Saul’s death he was anointed king over the tribe of Judah at Hebron (2 Samuel 2:4). Seven years later he was anointed king over all the tribes of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3). Before he took the throne over all Israel, he had a lot of time to think about what kind of king he should be.


When David became king, first in Hebron and then at Jerusalem, he inherited a divided land and a discouraged people whose spiritual life was at low ebb.  Asaph described the situation in 78:56-72 and named David as God’s answer to Israel’s problems.  Everything rises and falls with leadership, but many of King Saul’s officers were fawning flattering “toadies” who were unable to work with a man like David.  Once David was established on the throne in Jerusalem he had a consuming desire to bring the ark of God back to the sanctuary so that God’s throne might be near his throne.  His question in verse two, “O when wilt thou come unto me?” reflects this desire.  The ark had been in the house of Obed-Edom for many years (1 Samuel 6:1-7:2) and then in the house of Abinidab after David’s aborted attempt to relocate it (2 Samuel 6:1-11).  This psalm of dedication was probably written early in his reign in Jerusalem.  We could accurately call this psalm “Leadership 101” because in it David spells out the essentials for successful leadership in the work of God.





(Psalm 101:1-4) The Kings purpose for himself. The first part of the psalm has more direct bearing on the personal life and conduct of the king.  His psalm, addressed to the Lord is about mercy and judgment.


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


The king of Israel was God’s representative on earth and was expected to rule the way God commanded (Deuteronomy 17:14-20, and see 2 Kings 23:1-3.) The emphasis here is on the heart, for the heart of leadership is the leader’s devotion to the Lord.  This devotion results in a life lived blamelessly to the Glory of the Lord.  David was determined to be that kind of leader, and he opened the psalm with “I will” and repeated this promise eight more times.  He made it clear that there must be no separation between the leader’s personal life and his or her official life, both the private and the public.  David wanted his reign to be characterized by loving kindness (mercy) and justice, for this is the way God rules the world (89:14{2]; Isaiah 16:5).


“I will sing of mercy and judgment” has also been rendered “I will sing of loving kindness and justice.” (WEB) “Loving kindness” (or, “kind love”) is a special Bible word. It is the love that God has for His people. It means that He will not stop loving them. "Justice" is a word that means "being fair.”


David sang this song exalting the mercy and justice of God.

I will sing of mercy and justice;

To You, O Lord, I will sing praises.

The two go together; mercy can only be properly understood in light of justice. When justice pronounces its righteous penalty, mercy may grant relief. As king, David was concerned with mercy and justice. He knew these principles were not rooted in man, but in God. Before he could exercise mercy and justice in His kingdom, he had to understand and extol the mercy and justice of God. He has himself been the object of God’s mercy and righteous judgment, and must in turn minister the same to those for whom he is responsible. “Mercy and judgment” would temper the administration of David. His mercy encourages the greatest of sinners “to hope”; his judgments forbid the best of men “to presume.”


 “unto thee, O Lord, will I sing.” To You, O Lord, I will sing praises: David could only sing of mercy and justice in reference to songs of praise to Yahweh. David knew that the Lord was the source of all mercy and justice.


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.


The second verse speaks of a righteous life and the presence of God.

“I will behave wisely in a perfect way.
O when wilt thou come unto me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”


“I will behave wisely in a perfect way:” These words have also been interpreted thus: “I will give heed to the way of integrity, deliberately and of set purpose make whole-hearted devotion to God and perfect uprightness towards men the rule of my conduct.”  David’s longing for the Lord was connected to his desire to live a wise and holy life (the perfect way). He determined that his reign would be marked by integrity and godliness. The NIV translation reads: “I will be careful to lead a blameless life.” “Blameless” does not mean “sinless,” for David was a sinner like the rest of us.  However, unlike David, we have not seen the account of our sins written down for the entire world to read!  “Blameless” is another word for integrity, cultivating wholeness of heart and singleness of mind, instead of a double heart and a double mind (15:2; 18:23, 25; 26:1, 11; 78: 70-72; 86:11; Genesis 6:9; 17:1).  Believers today should have integrity whether we are leaders or not (119:1; Matthew 5:8; Ephesians 1:4; Philippians 1:10; 2:15).  Faith is living without scheming, and the way of faith is “the blameless way.” David vows to live a godly life in his “house” (palace) and have an administration characterized by mercy, justice, and integrity.


As David came into a position of greater power it became even more important that he focus more on personal godliness and “behave wisely in a perfect way.” Power often exposes the flaws in ones character, if it does not actually help create them. He begins with himself. He will bring his own character and conduct into conformity with the way and will of Jehovah to whom he offers his praise. Then he will govern according to the same standards.


When David came to royal power, he didn’t say:

  • “Now I can live the good life.” He said, I will behave wisely.
  • “I’ll have the biggest party ever.” He said, I will behave wisely.
  • “I’ll show them all how important I am.” He said, I will behave wisely.
  • “I’ll punish my enemies and show my power.” He said, I will behave wisely.


“O when wilt thou come unto me?” David understood that under the Old Covenant blessing, the sense of God’s presence was connected to obedience (Deuteronomy 28). He feels the need not merely of divine help, but also of the divine presence, so that he may be instructed, and sanctified, and made fit for the discharge of his high vocation. He longed for a more special and effectual visitation from the Lord before he began his reign.


David understood the principle later stated in 1 John 1:6-7 in connection with the New Covenant: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”


“I will walk within my house with a perfect heart:” Before it could be lived in the courts of his kingdom, David’s righteous life had to be real in his conduct within his own house. This was a standard that David only imperfectly lived, much to his own hurt. The idea denoted by the phrase “within my house” may be expressed as, “I will begin the intended reformation with myself, and then set things right in my family.”


Reader, how are you seen by your family; a saint at work and a devil at home? That’s a shame! What we are at home, that we are indeed. Or it could be just the opposite; a saint at home and a devil when you have gone to a place where you are not known. In any event, you may say like me, “The hardest place to walk (live) perfectly is at home in front of your family.” It seems easier to walk perfectly among strangers than in one’s own house. But you may rest assured that a man is really no better than he is to his own family. You must not gauge your worth by what the outside world thinks and says.”

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.

“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes:” may also be stated, "I will not let wicked (very bad) people be before my eyes.” The word "before" means "in front of". Also, in verse 7, "tarry in my sight" is "stay before my eyes". Why are these two words important? Because David (or any other king) wanted to be as kind and fair as God is, (verse 1). In other words, he wanted nobody to say that he (the king) had done wrong. To use another word, nobody could blame him for doing anything bad. In the psalm, the name of God is always LORD. This is a special name that his servants used. They agreed that they would love and obey him. Then he would protect them (stop people hurting them). David wanted to be kind and fair. But he wanted the people in his government to be kind and fair also. So wicked people could not be in that government. They could not be "in his eyes", or where he could see them.


David knew that one measure of a righteous life was what one chose to set before the eyes, and he knew that a righteous life must have some sense of determination about it. Though he did not perfectly fulfill this determination, his life was undeniably godlier with this determination than without it. David’s words remind us of Job 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” Like Job, David did not regard discipline over the eyes as the only measure of godliness, but as a primary one.


There are many wicked things to set the eyes upon, and the lust of the eyes is a significant aspect of the lure of this world―“For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16).


The recesses of an Eastern palace were often foul with lust, and hid extravagances of desire and self-indulgence; but this ruler will behave there as one who has Jehovah for a guest.  We wish that David had lived this principle more consistently. Instead David took several wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5{3] and 5:13) in a seeming inability to restrain his sexual desires, and was led astray by the lust of his eyes (2 Samuel 11:2{4]). Yet, we shouldn’t think David was a hypocrite because he came to fail in completely living up to these high standards. It isn’t hypocrisy to have a standard so high that you can’t completely meet it. Hypocrisy is when you have one standard for yourself and a higher standard for others.


"I hate the work of them that turn aside,” has also been stated thus “Apostates and their practices I hate.” David knew he wanted to live a godly life; it was wise, then, to keep some distance from those with a wicked heart. He knew what would be later stated in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” The idea behind “them that turn aside” has been explained in this way: “It is the exact opposite of the “covenant love” (hesed) idea introduced in verse 1.”


“it shall not cleave to me,” has also been stated thus; “It shall not gain a hold on me.” “Sin, like pitch, is very apt to stick.”


David moved from the heart of the leader to the hearts of the sinners (4-5) and turned the emphasis to the leader’s eyes and what he saw (3, 5, 6, 7; [tarry in my sight,”]).  The heart and the eyes work together, for what the heart loves, the eyes will seek and find (Ecclesiastes 2:10; Jeremiah 22:17).  This section parallels Psalm 15 where David describes the ideal worshipper whom God welcomes to His dwelling.  David did not want anyone in his official family who was not walking with the Lord.  “I will set no worthless thing before mine eyes (3a) means more than beholding vile things “the lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16).  It also means setting worthless goals and seeking to reach them.  Leaders must set the best goals, guided by God’s will, for outlook determines outcome.  The spiritual leader not only sets the best goals but he or she also uses the best methods for achieving those goals (3b).  “Faithless” people are apostates, people who have abandoned God’s way for their own way and the world’s way.  David had his eyes on the faithful, not the faithless (6).



4 A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.


“A froward heart shall depart from me:” “A froward heart” is a perverse (wicked) heart. The term stands for a person who is impatient and lacking restraint, having unbridled passions and is headstrong and ungovernable―and here it describes one trampling on all the obligations of religion and virtue.


“I will not know a wicked person” means “I disown evil men.” He does not want anything to do with a person that has a perverse heart; that is, a “wicked person” that does not conform to God’s will (Proverbs 3:32; 6:16-19; 11:20), and a twisted heart produces a deceitful tongue (v. 7; Matthew 12:34-35; see Proverbs 17:20{5]).


(Psalm 101:5-8) The Kings purpose for his court. The second part of the psalm is with regard to those he associates with.  “I will destroy the man who maligns his friend secretly.  I cannot tolerate the supercilious and haughty person.”


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


“Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off:”

"Privily" means "in a secret place,” so very few people know about it. The people David (or the king) did not like had wicked ideas. They talked about these ideas where only a few people could hear them. David said, “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor” has committed a significant and grievous sin, for it is wicked to lie or speak in an evil way against another. The worst of this slander is done secretly, and David was determined to oppose all who did so (“him will I cut off”). What did they think they would gain by giving secret and false information and making false accusations against others and ruining them? They sought to gain the king’s favor, and advance themselves by tarnishing the good name of others. The term “cut off” will often be used to signify "destruction," but in Hebrew it really means "made quiet.” This may mean that he asked his servants to kill them. Or just to stop them talking. We do not know. But they did not stay "in the city of the LORD" (v. 8), which was Jerusalem.


The tail-bearer and the conceited quickly work havoc in any organization.  In contrast, those who are faithful and who walk in a perfect way shall serve the king and his nation.


There is a Chaldean translation of this verse that says: “‘He who speaks with the triple tongue against his neighbor.’ That is, the tongue by which he slays three persons: 1. the man whom he slanders; 2. Him to whom he communicates the slander; and, 3. Himself, the slanderer. Every slanderer has his triple tongue, and by every slander inflicts those three deadly wounds.” According to western movies the Indians have a saying; “White man speaks with a forked tongue.”


“him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.”

The people David (or the king) did not like were those that had wicked ideas and those who acted on them. They had proud eyes and hearts. "Proud" means that you "think that you are more important than you really are.” Only a “proud heart” thought this way. Proud eyes looked at other people as if only their proud eyes were important.


David added another sin to the “proud heart,” which is “him that hath an high look (a haughty look).” Pride will show itself in the eyes as soon as anywhere. The face communicates arrogance and the proud heart behind the haughty look. To all such who thought themselves better than their neighbors, David said “Him I will not endure.”


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.


“Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me:” When David looked for leaders, he looked for “the faithful of the land.” David refused to look to or at those who thought themselves better than others. Instead he looked at the faithful, deciding that they would dwell with him. We need people who can get the job done; we need “the faithful of the land” to do it. It is a wise leader who seeks out such people and then puts authority into their hands.


Is it not true that Jesus, like David, has his eyes alert for the faithful in the land, for those will serve now and also dwell with him in glory at the end of time?


“he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

The phrase, “He that walketh in a perfect way” reveals the king’s strong commitment to excellence and implies a difference in administration from the manner in which kings ruled in the ancient Near East. The godly king affirms that his loyalty is to Yahweh and not to the ways of this world. He would not make excuses and he would not delay making decisions. But some of those decisions would be difficult to make and perhaps more difficult to implement.  He wanted associates who were not defiled by sin, whose walk was blameless, and who would treat people with fairness. Perhaps David said this as he came to the throne, vowing to find the right people to appoint to his government. He would reject them who are deceitful and them who tell lies. He would look for the humble, not the proud, knowing they were much better to trust with authority and responsibility. Yet, we understand that David didn’t fulfill this desire completely. For its perfect fulfillment we are forced to look beyond our conjecture, to the Messiah himself.”


7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.


“He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house:” He knew that no king could build a lasting government on “deceit.” Deception is the devil’s tool, and Satan goes to work whenever a lie moves in―“I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:1-3).  Eastern kings often administer justice in the mornings at the city gate” (2 Samuel 15:1-3{7]; Jeremiah 21:12), so David promised to hear these cases patiently, consider them carefully, and render judgment wisely.


“he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.  He vowed to God that he would punish offenders according to God’s law, silencing the liars and expelling the evil doers.  Jerusalem was known as “the city of God” (46:4; 48:1), “the city of the great king” (48:2), and “the city God loved the most” (87:1-3), and in verse 8 it is called “the city of the Lord”―David did not want to blemish that reputation.


“Tarry in my sight” means stay before my eyes.


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.


“I will early destroy all the wicked of the land;” The “I will” statement gives evidence of David’s determination to serve God and God’s people successfully and be a man of decision. “Early” probably refers to early morning and the idea is that each day David judged bad (wicked) people, meaning that he decided whether they were bad or not. If they were bad, David destroyed (cut off) them. David’s determination to rule in such a way that favored the godly and opposed the wicked was so fixed that he was determined to do it early. As He ruled in “the city of the Lord,” the wicked would not prosper.


“that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.” His ambition is to have Jehovah’s city worthy of its true King, when He shall come and dwell in it.  Day by day he will exercise His work of righteous judgment, purging out all the ungodly from the Holy City . . . .  It is a hope which finds its accomplishment in the apocalyptic vision of the New Jerusalem into which “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, either whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.” (Revelation 21:27).


There is a question which may arise: “Was David successful in maintaining the high standard of this declaration?  No, not completely; but what leader besides Jesus Christ has ever maintained an unblemished record?  David failed in his own family.  His sin with Bathsheba set a bad example for his sons and daughters (2 Samuel 11-12), and David failed to discipline Amnon and Absalom for their sins (2 Samuel 13-15).  He had problems with his generals Joab and Abishai, and his trusted counselor Ahithophel betrayed him.  But David reigned for forty years, during which time he expanded the borders of the kingdom, defeated Israel’s enemies, gathered the wealth used to build the temple, wrote the psalms, and established the dynasty that eventually brought Jesus Christ into the world.  Like us, he had his weaknesses and failings, but overall, he sought to honor the Lord and be a good leader.  Jerusalem is known as “the city of David” and Jesus as “the Son of David.” Could any compliment be higher than that?



[1} A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, city, province, or sub-national state, in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory.

[2} “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14; NIV).

[3} “Sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; and his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David at Hebron” (2 Samuel 3:2-5; NIV).

[4} “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2; NIV).

[5} “The crooked heart will not prosper; the lying tongue tumbles into trouble” (Proverbs 17:20; NLT)

[6} “Now it came about after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses and fifty men as runners before him. Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king” (2 Samuel 15:1-3)