A Meditation on Psalm 101

Kevin J Youngblood
I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
(Psalm 101:2-4)
Psalm 101 is an incredibly intimate prayer of David that has come to mean a lot to me over the years. It hits on all of my vulnerabilities, and, for this reason, it is a psalm that I have often avoided and tried to forget about, though it is one that I should read and recommit to daily. The psalm opens with a series of pledges each one more serious and specific than the previous. Between the second and third, however, there is a surprisingly soft, sad, wistful question: “When will you come to me?” The psalmist is lonely, longing for communion with God who seems distant and aloof.


How often I have known that feeling – the feeling that something has come between me and God, driving a wedge between us that leaves me feeling isolated and empty. And when that feeling comes, I like the psalmist wonder why and begin making promises of purity, pledges to do better, as if YHWH’s presence and companionship were offered and withdrawn strictly on the basis of my performance. Such thinking reduces God to a manipulative lover who dangles intimacy before us as an incentive to do what he wants. I’m not suggesting that the psalmist necessarily suffered from the same distorted view of God that I do, just that reading his words here remind me of the misplaced motives of my own heart when I recite the same series of pledges that he does here which is probably why reciting them is so staggeringly ineffective.

The truth is that God hasn’t gone anywhere when my sin disrupts our intimacy. Rather, sin has blinded me to God’s presence and hardened my heart against his love, against the Spirit’s wooing words. It is not that God needs to return so much as it is that I need to return my attention and affections to him whose attention and affections have never left me. Perhaps this is why the psalmist pledges to ponder the way that is blameless. The way is not a regiment or a program, it is a person. As Jesus so poignantly and powerfully reminds us “I am the way . . .” (Jn 14:6), and in saying this he invokes the name YHWH revealed to Moses at the burning bush, indicating that YHWH has ALWAYS been the way, the truth, and the light. This is not a function of the incarnation, but an eternal reality emanating from the triune love of Father, Son, and Spirit – the prototype and archetype of all true, healthy intimacy. The answer then, is not to ponder Bible verses, spiritual disciplines, or religious routines, but to ponder God himself. All these other things are means of pondering God not themselves the objects of meditation.

To ponder the way that is blameless is to ponder God himself, not to commit to flawlessly following a set of rules, something I could never do anyway. Then what does it mean to walk in integrity of heart within my own house? It means to give God the same priority and attention at home that I give him when sitting in a church service or when teaching a course in the psalms or when praying with a hurting parishioner, or a confused and worried student.

What then does it mean to set nothing worthless before my eyes? It means to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith rather than on my own performance. Anything I set before my eyes other than the triune God made visible in Jesus of Nazareth is worthless. Of course, this includes the world’s seedy entertainments, but it also includes a host of “innocent” pleasures enjoyed in isolation from the God who is the source of all delight, pleasure, and refreshment. How foolish to think I need to get away from God in order to rest when in fact it is only in God that I find any rest at all that is worthy of the name! Have I reduced God to my ministry, to my work as a preacher and Bible professor? Have I confused God with Pharaoh and turned him into a cruel taskmaster from whom I must take my leave to catch my breath? God forgive me!

When the psalmist says that a perverse heart will be far from him and that he will know nothing of evil, he is basically saying that nothing will occupy his heart so much as God and he will know nothing so intimately and so frequently as he knows God. Had I always read Psalm 101 with this understanding, I probably would not have run from it so much.


Forgive me for thinking so little of you – not only in the sense of not acknowledging your presence and engaging with you frequently enough, but also and more so in the sense of reducing you in my mind to a manipulative lover, to a demanding taskmaster. Varied and vicious are the effects of idolatry, the schemes of the enemy. Help me to begin this day by pondering you, for you are the way that is blameless. Lord Jesus, thank you for making God visible in your incarnation that we might understand that you truly are the way, that YHWH has always been the way. Sweet Holy Spirit, lead me in the way, for you are the way. You do not point the way, your ARE the way. You do not give us directions, you lead us, personally, deeper and deeper into Christ until we truly know the heart of the Father.