Scripture: Psalm 101
Let’s have a show of hands. How many people here ever heard their Momma or their Daddy say, “Do what I say, not what I do!” When I was about ten or twelve I absolutely hated that phrase. I was at that age where I really wanted to act like and be treated like an adult, and I hated there were two sets of rules: one for parents; one for kids. In school I was learning about the Magna Carta and the Rule of Law which made the idea of two sets of rules that much worse to my 12 year old mind. Plus I had just been elected Senior Patrol Leader of my Boy Scout troop. My Dad impressed upon me the idea I cannot ask another boy to do something I am not willing to do myself. So there it was. I was being forced – well maybe be not forced. Let’s call it strongly encouraged to live out the basic tenants of Scouting in the hopes others would follow my example. And I was to live out those tenants for no better reason than because it was “the right thing to do.” When I caught my parent’s not doing the same <and called them on it; as a teenager is want to do> I would hear that familiar phrase, “Do what I say, not what I do.” What I learned is Integrity tells people without words who we are and who is our King.
Psalm 101 is called a “Royal Psalm,” because it describes what a king of Israel is supposed to be like. The most important thing a king of Israel is supposed to do is love God and be eager to defend Israel from injustice both inside and outside of Israel. To fight against injustice the king must be blameless, or at least as blameless as the king knows how to be. After all, who is going to follow a king who isn’t willing to do what he commands others to do? According to Deuteronomy 17:18 a king of Israel is supposed to, “[…]write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from the Levitical priests.” The idea is if the king writes a copy of the Law of Moses for themselves then they will “know” the law for themselves. By this method the king will ponder and discover the way that is blameless. When the author of Deuteronomy says the king is to write for himself a copy of the law, arguably the Biblical Author is talking about the first five books of the Bible. Can you imagine the time it would take to copy down the first five books of the Bible without a copier; without a computer; without a type writer? We are talking about writing the Law of Moses down long hand with a quill pen on rough parchment or papyrus. And you have to get it right because the priests are going to double check what is written. (pause) Only in Israel can the king be held accountable by the priests and the prophets.
Let’s think about this for a minute. How much love must a person have for God to be willing to spend that much time with God’s word every day? How many of us even think about God’s word more than once a week when the Pastor reads it to us on Sunday morning? Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you want to know what is most important to someone figure out what they spend the majority of their time doing out side of work. I’m not talking about scrubbing the dishes, paying bills or washing the laundry. I’m talking about what is most important to that person. For a king of Israel, the love of God spread abroad in the heart of the king is key. Understanding God’s law is the key to understanding how to govern Israel wisely. There are so many things which come up in life that are not specifically written down in Scripture. Only those who are actively working out their own salvation with fear and trembling have a chance of honoring God on issues of abortion, homosexuality, and countless injustices related to bigotry, race and gender which are not specifically listed in the Bible because they were not an issue at that time. It stands to reason if we want to live our lives wisely then we need to consider for ourselves what is most important to us. Is knowing God better a priority? If so how much time do we spend praying and studying the Bible in order to know God better? Does what we spend time doing give glory to God? If not should we still be doing it? If so, what are we doing to share what we love to do with others? The way we spend our time can say volumes about our integrity and God’s.
The Psalmist has dedicated their lives to living with integrity. They walk in a way that is blameless when people are watching. They walk in a way that is blameless when no one is around. Perhaps you have heard the true measure of integrity is what a person does when no one is looking. (pause for reaction) I need to quickly tell you the story of Jason Humble. My first year of seminary Karen and I were dating long distance, and I was living in the male dorm at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Jason Humble was my RA, and while we were all in grad school to be pastors, deacons or missionaries, we were all still guys in a male dorm. Jason Humble stood out to me. Never mind the fact Jason’s legs looked like crooked little sticks while his upper body showed every bit of the body builder he wanted to be. Jason stood out because of Jason’s integrity. This may sound like a small thing, but when Jason would watch TV every time a scantily clad woman came on the TV or a Victoria’s Secret commercial, or even a love scene in a movie, Jason would change the channel. When I asked Jason about this he said, “I know myself, and I do not need the temptation.” I thought, “Wow!” I had heard of the idea if you are struggling with temptation in your heart, change the channel and think about something else. However, Jason was actually doing it. Jason’s integrity was something we all appreciated and respected. We respected Jason so much we followed his lead. I remember the night President Obama was elected. Most of us on our floor were taking a break from studying to watch the results come in on the TV in the common room. Once it was clear Barak Obama would be President a student from Georgia spoke up and said, “He’s a dead man.” The student from Georgia intended to pass through the common area on his way to his room with his laundry basket; However, whether you like President Obama or not that comment could not be allowed to stand. There were many in the common area who were quick of tongue and perhaps too quick of temper that night. However, it was Jason Humble who spoke up to give the Georgia student a chance to clarify what he meant. Then Jason acted as mediator so that everyone felt heard and no one left hurt. We didn’t respect Jason because he could probably whip every one of us. We respected Jason because of his integrity.
As I look at the list of things the Psalmist intends to do to bring integrity to Israel by doing away with slanderers, and destroying those who plot against their neighbor, and throwing out of his house those who practice deceit – when I look at this laundry list of measures for cleaning up Israel I think of Jesus. How many times did Jesus resort to violence to resolve a problem – Just the one time with the money changers in the temple. All of the other times Jesus challenged the ruling authority with words, and offered compassion to those who carried regret for the terrible things they had done. Jesus is fully human and fully God. As such Jesus is powerful and mighty to save carrying his power like a gentle lamb. While the burden of judgment is Jesus’ to carry, more often than not Jesus’ judgment comes in the form of firm but gentle grace.
Now, in my life I have never had a hero, or a role model. I fully accept everyone on some level to be a broken, fallen mess. However, when I think of people from my life who walk with an integrity which reminds me of Jesus Christ I think of Jason Humble. No; Jason is not perfect. Jason is an Ohio State fan. But thinking of Jason reminds me living a life of integrity through Christ Jesus draws people to Christ Jesus. The integrity of the true King of Israel, Jesus Christ, is an integrity built on love and respect, and grace. Through mutual respect, love and grace those who squabble against neighbor stop squabbling. Those who look down their noses at others realize just how small they really are. The blameless find company. Those who practice deceit look for others to scam because they can see those who walk with integrity are beyond reproach. Through this love and grace the wicked in the land are destroyed; but not by the sword. Love conquers their wicked hearts, and they are forever changed. I know this to be true, because I know salvation is here.
In the name of Jesus Christ,