(NOTE: This sermon was preached at Franklin Community Church on Sunday, February 21, 2021. Here is a video link to the entire virtual worship service that day. You can listen to the entire service or fast forward to the sermon.)
We are 8-weeks into a new year. Or, if you are cynical, we are in the middle of the 14th month of 2020. In the words of the great philosopher, Thomas Paine (d. 1809), “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
How are you doing?
How are you feeling emotionally?
Are you depressed?
Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, life is what you make it. Someone said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% your attitude about what happens to you.” In the words of Pastor KB, after almost 30 years on death-row, “Today is the best day of my life.” Zig Ziglar puts it this way, “No one has ever gone blind looking on the bright side.”
Once upon a time there were two boys who were twins; one was an incurable optimist, the other was a pessimist. The parents, who were worried about the extremes of behavior and attitude, finally took the boys in to see a psychologist. The psychologist observed them a while and then said they could be easily helped.
The psychologist told the parents he had a room filled with all the toys a boy could want. He suggested they put the pessimist in that room and allow him to enjoy life. He said he also had another room that was filled with horse manure. He suggested they put the optimist in that room. So that is what they did.
The psychologist and parents then observed both boys through one-way mirrors. The pessimist continued to be a pessimist, stating he had no one to play with. When they went to look in on the optimist, they were astounded to find him digging through the manure.
The psychologist ran into the room and asked what on earth the boy was doing. He replied that with all that manure, he was sure there was a pony in the room somewhere.
Maybe you are doing well. Maybe you are not. The good news of the gospel is that every day is a new day. Every day is a new beginning. Every day is a chance to start over. God’s grace and mercy are new every day. Your past doesn’t have to define you. Your future is still to be determined. It’s never too late for a new beginning.
I imagine there were times in David’s life where he doubted if things would ever get better. Being a shepherd-boy wasn’t easy and there was danger all around. But sometime, between the ages of 10 to 15, the Prophet Samuel anointed him and said he would one day be the king of Israel. However, it would be another 15-20 years before that prophecy became a reality. But even at a young age David strived to do right, but there were trials and temptations and pressures all around.
Sometime between the ages of 16 and 19, David fought and killed Goliath. I’m sure he thought after he defeated Goliath things would be better, but instead, things got worse. Instead of being famous, he was infamous. Instead of making friends, he made enemies. His biggest enemy, of course, was King Saul. King Saul wanted to kill David when David had been nothing but loyal to him. David had to literally fight for his life and flee his home country. David dreamed of being a great musician. He was told he would one day be a king. Instead, he became a refugee in a strange country, fearing for his life.
Eventually he was able to return home, and at the age of 30, became King of Israel. He remained king for 40 years (2 Samuel 5:4). But the nation was at war the entire time and King David had conflict after conflict with his children and family. Around the age of 70 to 71, King David died. In spite of his difficult life the Bible says, “He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor” (1 Chronicles 29:28).
David was far from perfect. He was a complicated individual who accomplished incredible things but also did evil things. His life is a study of how power corrupts, and yet God’s grace and mercy endures. Even though David wasn’t perfect, we get a glimpse into what he desired to become in Psalm 101. He may not have always lived up to his own ideals, but we see a little of his heart in this beautiful psalm. As we read Psalm 101, keep this thought in mind: It is better to try and fail then to fail to try. You are never too young, or too old, for a new beginning and because of God’s grace and mercy every day is a new beginning. No matter where we are in life, the lessons learned from this psalm will move us forward to a brighter tomorrow.
David was actually anointed king three times. Samuel anointed him in 1 Samuel 16:13. David was a young boy (10-15 years old) and this first anointing was really a prophecy about his destiny. After Saul’s death he was anointed as king over the tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4). Seven years later he was anointed king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3). Psalm 101 is titled “A Psalm of David,” meaning he wrote the psalm. Many Bible scholars believe David wrote this psalm at the beginning of his reign as King of Israel. In this psalm, at the beginning of his reign, David outlines how he wants to live and how he wants to govern God’s people. By doing so, David makes two vows to God. The challenge is for us to declare that today is a new beginning of my life following Jesus. Today is the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Today is a new day, and a great day, to commit or recommit our lives to God. To show your commitment, you are being challenged to make these same two vows to God. Remember, it’s never too late for a new beginning, and today is that new beginning.
David begins with an introductory verse of praise. He writes, “I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will sing praise” (Psalm 101:1). The NASB translates verse 1 this way, “I will sing of your mercy and justice…” God’s love for us is seen in the mercy He continually show us. “Mercy” and “justice,” are the two words that best describe God’s holiness. God is holy (Leviticus 19:2) and we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), which means our lives should be characterized by mercy and justice. God’s mercy is what He extends to individuals (personal). God’s justice is His expectation for society (social). When you place your personal faith in Jesus, you have been shown mercy. As a result, you are committing yourself to fight for social justice. Personal conversion must result in societal transformation. Mercy and justice are the underlining themes to David’s entire psalm. So, at the very beginning, He praises God for His mercy and justice.
Beginning in verse 2, in an attempt to apply the concept of “mercy/love” to his life as king of Israel, David makes his first vow to God, and that vow is personal integrity. David writes, “I will be careful to lead a blameless life—when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart” (Psalm 101:2). I like the word “careful” here. David was admitting he wasn’t perfect. He was admitting that he probably would not always be blameless. But he was saying his desire was to always do the right thing. The idea behind “blameless” is integrity.
I think this is important. We put too much pressure on ourselves when we try to be perfect; perfect parents, perfect spouse, perfect friend, etc…In reality, people don’t expect you to be perfect. You can’t be perfect, but you can be consistent. If you were to make a huge mistake, and get caught, would people say, “I always knew he/she were like that. I’m not surprised at all.” Or, would they say, “That doesn’t sound like the person I know. That is so out of character for him/her?” If you are striving to “be careful” and “lead a blameless life,” people will think the latter instead of the former. That’s personal integrity!
Young King David continues, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing…” (Psalm 101:3a). Why? Because “The deeds of faithless men I have; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me…” (Psalm 101:3b-4a). Wow! What an incredible and convicting verse. If you want to live a consistently blameless life, be careful what you watch, read, and listen to. Be careful what you allow to enter into your mind through your eyes. That’s personal integrity! David, then concludes this section of his psalm by emphatically stating, “I will have nothing to do with evil” (Psalm 101:4b).
At the beginning of this new chapter in his life, King David praises God for His mercy and justice. His desire is that his life, and his kingship, be defined by mercy and justice as well. King David then makes a vow to God that he will strive to be a person of integrity. His desire is to be consistent in his personal life by staying away from even the appearance of evil.
But that’s David. What about you? Do you praise God for His mercy and justice? Do you try to live a life characterized by mercy and justice? Are you striving, in your personal life, to be a person of integrity? Remember, it’s never too late for a new beginning.
Beginning in verse 5, in an attempt to apply the concept of “justice” to his life as king of Israel, David makes his second vow to God. A vow of public morality. In the following verses, David describes what he will do as king at a societal level. David sings, “Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence…” (Psalm 101:5a). On the day of his inauguration, at the very beginning of his presidency, Joe Biden told his new appointees, “If you’re ever working with me, and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts. Everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity.” I pray he keeps that commitment. Only time will tell, but in a very real sense, that is what King David is saying. Justice, a commitment to public morality, demands everyone be treated with decency and dignity.
Pride is often the reason one person slanders another, so David continues, “…whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure” (Psalm 101:5b). Humility is an extremely important characteristic of any leader at any level. Servant leadership is the leadership of Jesus. Justice, a commitment to public morality, demands leaders practice humility because justice demands everyone is treated fairly, without prejudice and partiality.
After telling us what type of people he will get rid of in his administration, King David tells us the type of people he will seek. He writes, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me” (Psalm 101:6). You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I think that is what David is saying. In order for there to be justice in any society, the leaders of that society must strive to be faithful and blameless, and must surround himself/herself with people who share his/her values. Again, the idea is not perfection, but consistency. Are they serving the people, or are they serving their own interests? Justice, a commitment to public morality, demands leaders serve the people.
David continues, “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house (I think he is talking about his administration); no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence (again, his administration)” (Psalm 101:7). Imagine that! No one who deceives and lies are worthy to govern. David’s desire is his kingship be characterized by truth and honesty. He then concludes, “Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD” (Psalm 101:8). Is this even possible? Not in a perfect sense. But justice, a commitment to public morality, demands we stand up, and speak out, against evil people and evil policies.
At the beginning of this new chapter in his life, King David praises God for His mercy and justice. His desire is that his life, and his kingship, be defined by mercy and justice as well. After making a vow to God that he will strive to be a person of integrity. David makes a vow to strive for public morality. He boldly states he will not stand for people in his administration who slander others or who are arrogant. He will look for people who are true servant leaders and he will surround himself with people who share his values. Furthermore, David says public morality means always being open, truthful, and honest to others, and speaking out against evil people and evil policies.
But that’s David. What about you? Do you praise God for His mercy and justice? Are you striving to make a difference in society? Publicly, is your life characterized by morality? Remember, it’s never too late for a new beginning.
Mercy (personal integrity) and Justice (public morality) should be the goals of every follower of Jesus Christ. Another way of saying this is, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). I believe this is what Jesus meant when He said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). Those two saying of Jesus are what it means to practice personal integrity and public morality; to practice mercy and justice.
How are you doing?
How are you feeling emotionally?
Are you depressed?
Thomas Paine was right, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” But you don’t have to give in to the negativity. You don’t have to let all the stress and chaos of modern life to defeat you. In Christ you have the victory. It’s never too late for a new beginning.
Right now, today, commit your life to Christ.
Right now, today, recommit your life to Christ.
Right now, today, strive to live a life of personal integrity and public morality.
It’s never too late for a new beginning.
 NASB is the New American Standard Bible.